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Tactics? Just Attack!

 Posted by on October 29, 2013 at 9:15 am  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Manchester United, Stoke City
Oct 292013

Manchester United 3-2 Stoke City
Manchester Uniteds Wayne 006 Tactics? Just Attack!Drama of the first order at Old Trafford. In spite of United’s Three Stooges-like slapstick defending from Smalling, Jones and their fearless Laird of the custard pie, Jonny Evans, United still battled and clawed their way to a 3-2 victory over Sparky Hughes’ thuggish pseudo-neo version of the same old Stoke City. The only thing lacking was a more suitable outfit for the referee, Lee Mason, who ought to have been wearing outsized yellow Docs and a big red nose. It was a particularly gormless outing from Mason, as he repeatedly ‘cautioned’ the same players with what amounted to a nod and a wink. Mason spent much of the match bantering, winking and laughing so much with the thuggish pairing of Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross that I kept expecting him to ask one of the pair to pull his finger. Mason’s biggest victim was poor pitiful Tom Cleverlerly. Probably the most tackle-shy United player since the days of Iain Moir. El Clevs spent much of the match trembling and wincing, not just in the vicinity of Stoke’s back line, but whenever he came in the vicinity of N’Zonzi, Palacios or the ultra-intimidating shaven-headed Stephen Ireland. Indeed, my friend Edgar who was in the third row for the match, messaged me that Cleverley did manage to deposit some vomit on both Palacios and Ireland in separate incidents as the game went by.

Nevertheless, to all you United haters out there, it’s not over till the obese lady sings her aria! Rumors of the imminent demise of the red devils are very much hyperbolically exaggerated. We have won the Premier League without a defense more than once and it is still within the realm of fathomable plausibility that many of the other clubs are still flawed enough that we can do it again! Sure it was only Stoke City led by Sparky Hughes–the Typhoid Mary of our club alumni–but with Moyesie finally having the wherewithal to get his substitutions right (“It’s our attack, stchoopid!”), the quick-quick frontal juggernaut of Chicharito, Rooney and Van Persie proved simply too much for Stoke’s knackered thugs as the clock ticked down. All United have to do now is keep doing the same thing consistently and the rest will be like falling off a bicycle!

Last Wednesday Our Dear Lads were a goal up in two minutes. This time we were one down after three. It all began when Stoke’s left back Erik Pieters picked up the ball, eased casually past Smalling and Cleverley and crossed to the ungainly Crouch. Crouch botched his shot and De Gea made a nice reactive save, before trusting Evans with a pass. Forever positionally challenged, Jonny Evans’ ineptitude as he attempted a point-blank panic ‘pass’ back in the direction of his stunned goalie really did seem like a slapstick gag when it somehow bounced off the bamboozled Spaniard into the goalmouth, crossed the goal line, got kicked away by Evans, but then ended up back in goal after hitting an equally stunned Peter Crouch.

70731692 70731689 Tactics? Just Attack!Minutes later, Nani completely overcooked a half-decent shooting chance from the edge of the box and began to be the subject of a torrent of verbal abuse from a section of United fans. The booing became even more vociferous after he made a dud pass outside his own box to Walters, who came close to setting up a Crouch volley that narrowly missed. Now with Nani clearly showing how genuinely upset he felt at being the butt of the cruel home crowd’s abuse, he almost caused another away goal as he gave away a sloppy ball to N’Zonzi, whose exquisite, precise diagonal ball was chested down by Crouch, before trickling away to Walters, whose hard effort was brilliantly saved by De Gea. Minutes later, De Gea pulled off one that had the whole stadium buzzing as he dived to his right to keep out a fifteen-yard thunderbolt from Marko Arnautovic.

Then a couple of real shockers. The second goal came three minutes before the interval as Van Persie scored his eighth goal of the season with a follow-up after Begovic had produced a one-handed save to keep out a Rooney header. But in only two minutes Stoke stole their lead back as Phil Jones fouled Arnautovic on the edge of the box. The Austrian then fired a free kick with the movement of metal-tipped whip. De Gea dived in time to reach the hard curving ball, but it was so accurately placed that it carried on off his fingertip into the top right corner of his net.

Just how desperately the team needs Adnan Januzaj showed the second he arrived on the hour mark of the match, simultaneously accompanied by boos for Nani as the Portuguese winger made a sad exit. With Antonio Valencia now slotting in nicely at right back, the Ecuadorian second wave began to make the Potters defense bend in too many directions at once. He won a corner for Van Persie and Wayne Rooney was able to leap high and nod a hard, glancing header which the up to then perfect Asmir Begovic misjusged and allowed in over his head. Two minutes later Patrice Evra, barely noticeable for much of the match, charged all the way down the left flank and served up a delicious cross for Chicharito Hernandez to also nod home.

It wasn’t pretty and United in no possible way looked like champions. They did, however, pull themselves together enough to show a definite sense of determination and desire. It turned out to be the 25th Premier League game in which Robin van Persie has scored. United have won 20 of those matches and drawn the other five. This seems to be be a lot more than an omen.
Manchester Uniteds Javier 001 Tactics? Just Attack!

Scousers Stymied At Old Trafford

 Posted by on September 26, 2013 at 11:24 am  Blogs/Media, Liverpool, Manchester United
Sep 262013

Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool
Manchester United v Liver 004 Scousers Stymied At Old TraffordNo doubt about it. Manager David Moyes was ecstatic after this win. Seconds after the referee Mark Clattenburg blew his whistle, Moyes was out on the pitch, shaking hands with every single Manchester United player before standing in front of the Stretford End nodding, bowing and grinning in a manner that bellied his usual gruff, Caledonian reserve. No. No doubt about it. Losing to both Manchester City and Liverpool in four days would have been unbearable.

Moyes certainly bollixed up the night for the ravenous jackals of Fleet Street. The big story was supposed to be Luis Suárez’s comeback after a ten match suspension, but the Premier League’s most press-worthy racist cannibal, although clearly very fit, was not at all sharp. Instead, a more collectively gutsy United abandoned the self-absorbed kind of sloppiness that has stunted so much of the football they’ve played thus far this season for something more disciplined. Led by captain Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, who is a few weeks short of 40, they hustled and pressed. Indeed, they reminded me of a hustling pressing team like Swansea City… playing against Manchester United. “The whole club were hurt by the game on Sunday,” Moyes said.

Let’s get this straight, though. This is not a great United side. Hustle can only go so far when your technique is limited by the quality of true soldiers you have available. The same old problems still show themselves off at the back like galvanized neon and though it was nice to see a fit Jonny Evans back at the back, his lack of positional sense, along with the relentless panic that repeatedly seizes Chris Smalling, did the hard working full back pairing of Rafael and Alexander Büttner no favors. Liverpool were allowed way too much possession in United’s penalty box and, although the tricky dribbling of Sturridge and Suarez plagued Evans and Smalling as we knew it would do, the usual supply of killer passes they get to feed on from Coutinho were sorely missed. Having Phil Jones around as a sweeper didn’t hurt either. Evans and Smalling are faster than the usual pairing of Vidic and Ferdinand. Both fine athletes, they could be a marvelous pairing if they had just a little more savvinness about them. With Jones playing the fixed role of water boy between them, neither of the Liverpool strikers got the kind of time or space they tend to feed upon like vampires.

70123949 70123948 Scousers Stymied At Old TraffordUnited made eight changes from the Sunday team, but this was not the usual cobbling together of reserves and youth-team kids that all the top six of the PL normally put out for this competition. Too many problems for that. Moyes used the fixture well. Nani can drive you crazy, but he was mostly full of derring-do and energy. Clearly superior to either Valencia or Young, Nani looked positively majestic later in the match when he was joined on the field by Adnan Januzaj. And although Moyes moans about his not being fit and in spite of being played totally out of position on the left, Shinji Kagawa can do so much in small isolated spaces, engineering chances out of nothing, that it’s essentially Moyes finds a way to play him more. Atypical was an exquisite bit of business where Kagawa, boxed in by three defenders, still gave them the slip, managing to make the space and time to flick an absolute ooh-ah 20-harder beauty that, sadly, hit the bar.

Manchester United v Liver 005 Scousers Stymied At Old TraffordSizzling up front and competent at the back, United always looked like they had it in them more to score than the Red Scousers. Having ceded the middle to Liverpool, United relied on stifling Liverpool’s misfiring attack and cavalry-like speedy counterattacks performed with gusto by Rafael and Nani and the constantly dangerous pairing of Wayne Rooney and– substituting effectively for Robin Van Persie–Javíer Hernandez. Indeed, with Rooney captain for the night, the groove he has now found, even against City, may be the best football he has ever played. Rooney, always at his best when allowed to roam all over the pitch and given no help whatsoever by an ineffective Anderson, was United’s best player throughout.

There were a number of near-misses for both sides, but when Hernández struck, a minute into the second half, it was a clever, beautiful goal. Rooney’s corner was not especially well taken, but it was clear that this was a play he and the Mexican assassin had worked on before. As the ball arced its way in, Hernández spun away from his marker, José Enrique, altered his body to suit the trajectory of the ball, rose, his instep all the way up to his chest and fired his shot past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. A striker of his ability, underrated even by his own boss, Chicharito only needed the one moment of being unmarked by a generous Liverpool defense to administer the dagger. His beautiful coup-de-grace will surely give Moyes food for thought after observing too many episodes of Danny Welbeck’s dithering.

Liverpool fans will surely moan that they played well and lost. The brilliance of David De Gea had something to do with that and more than a few chances were wasted by Sturridge, Henderson and Suarez. The Spaniard’s fine save from a fantastic Victor Moses header certainly showed what an innately brilliant a shot-stopper he is. Liverpool losing after controlling the ball for more than 60% of the game surely shows that United did something right, too. The next fixture against West Bromwich Albion, a decent but very beatable opponent, will also offer Moyes the opportunity to tinker with his line-up.

Manchester Uniteds Mexica 004 Scousers Stymied At Old Trafford

Apr 032013

Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United
cesc 1702785a The Wages of Apathy: Manchester United Stumble Out of the F.A.Cup at Stamford BridgeAfter playing a dire, miserable game of low-risk football, Chelsea and their manager Rafael Benïtez look forward to an F.A. Cup semifinal against Manchester City while a yawning Manchester United, clearly complacent about having the Premier League Championship completely locked up, looked hungrily toward returning home to their Cheshire mansions where they could text-message their brokers and read travel brochures. Outplayed and intimidated in equal parts, the whole nightmare scenario for millions of United fans worldwide was repeatedly personified in the way which both Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley winced and turned their bodies aside rather than challenge Chelsea’s dynamic midfield enforcer, Obi Mikel Jon, who gave neither one any quarter in midfield. To fold, mutilate and spindle an old cliché: It’s not the fight in the poodle, but the poodle in the fight! And this poodle was a pussy!

Did somebody say this was going to be a classic dog fight? With Chelsea only 22 points behind United in the P.L.? As Russell Brand put it, Roman Abramovich had a harder time getting a crew of his thugs to help Boris Berezovsky hang himself than United gave Chelsea. Indeed, having given away a two goal lead to United in the first F.A.. Cup Quarterfinal game at Old Trafford, they deserve a lot of kudos. Such endurance is applaudable in a young team in transition, especially considering the disheartening loss of its fine young manager Roberto Di Matteo. and despite the hiring of a sad-sack yes-man hack manager in the rotund shape of Rafael Benitez, they have persevered. More often than not left to try and fail minus the presence of old-school leaders Frank Lampard and John Terry, they have found a new backbone in the tough-mindedness of Brazilians David Luiz and Ramires, who perform with a passion alongside the underrated Mikel. I mention all this not because I’m a Chelsea fan but because, by comparison, although United have a more or less an equal number of high-quality performers to the much celebrated Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata, we have no warriors of our own save a worn-down, psychologically-troubled Patrice Evra and the tiny Rafael Di Silva who can be admired when there is so much negativity swirling around the club.

Although others my disagree and find the winning of a 20th championship plenty of reward, any absurd notion that this United squad is up there by comparison with the treble-winning team of 1998-1999 is imbibing opiates.

One thing is for sure. It was an absolutely out of this world goal by Demba Ba which turned Stamford Bridge’s Easter Monday into a party and basically saw United instantaneously throw in the towel. Thus, four minutes into the second half, Juan Mata, who had looked tired and jaded throughout the first half, shimmied about with the ball in the left central corner of the box before firing an exquisite tumbling floater as he simultaneously ghosted his way around Rio Ferdinand. As good as this chipped beauty was, just how Ba managed to stretch his full body diagonally to reach the ball and manage to hook it on the volley past a fully extended David De Gea is amazing to contemplate.

Just how totally United capitulated after the goal was scored is shocking to contemplate, yet no more surprising than the aftermath of surrender against Real Madrid after the issuing of a red card by a nakedly biassed referee. The incident, although it’s only a few weeks back. seems like it has turned into United’s customized version of the movie Groundhog Day.Is it possible that our beloved club has been overwhelmed by the ascension of a dominant group of weak-minded quitters? Indeed, the post-match rantings of the team’s captain Patrice Evra, “I was certain we could not lose and I still do not believe it,” are the words of a man unfit for leadership, not the skipper of one of the world’s top football teams.

My bread and butter comes from analysis, so looking back at the first half surely offers clues. One is that Chelsea’s goalie, Peter Cech, made a stupendous save off Javíer Hernandez that defied the laws of gravity. How so sweet a cross from the otherwise consistently awful Nani reached little Chicharito after some deft interaction was put together by Carrick and Cleverley was marvelous to behold. The little Mexican’s header was an arching work of art, so how could it be that vast bulk of Cech was able to twist like a one-handed reflexive human pretzel and, miraculously, save the day(dare I say it?) like a captain.

And thus it was Cech’s monstrous hand that wrote on Sir Alex Ferguson’s wall. United have not won the F.A. Cup since 2004 and this showing has to have yanked the old man’s reality chain. I am not one for using the tiredness excuse but both Cleverley and Carrick have been forced to play too much now that Scholes seems to have finally lost the ability to play more than twenty minutes and Anderson suffers from the same problems of stamina and repeated injury. No wonder Carrick looks wiped out! Valencia, too, looked exhausted and Nani seemed intent on acting the fool, a sort of Cape Verdean manifestation of latter-day Mr. Beane. Phil Jones, who always looks like he’s on the verge of somehow doing something seemed lost in midfield, perhaps so intimidated by the effortless power and bullying assurance of Obi Mikel Jon that he became a passive observer.

Our brilliant puppy striker Danny Welbeck was all enthusiasm and no bite. As with playing for England earlier in the week, every time the lad would scoop up the ball and enter into his long stride, it felt like this time would be different. A lot is being made of Robin Van Persie’s run of bad luck in front of goal and perhaps he shouldn’t have started against Sunderland, but the kind of hard work and pure graft his attacking teammates put out there for him in the first two-thirds of the season is gone. Indeed, although there are already whispers that he will not be missed by the Gaffer if he leaves, the passion of the injured Wayne Rooney is irreplaceable. Without Rooney on his shoulder and no consistent service from Carrick, Young, Nani or Valencia, RVP seemed lost in search of balls that were never coming his way me. His one good chance was a volley which he blasted over the bar into the crowd in the 87th minute. Too little, too late.

Thus, a week from now, the derby game against Manchester City looks like it looms more important in the minds of its fans than their team. A loss to the sky-blue Abu Dhabian rent boys would definitely, at this point, hold more dread in it for those who truly love the club rather than those ho see it as just a receptacle for a paycheck.
cesc 1702785a The Wages of Apathy: Manchester United Stumble Out of the F.A.Cup at Stamford Bridge

Mar 062013

Manchester United 1-2 Real Madrid
66220586 alex ferguson The Gaffer Rages As United See RedFor anyone who hates Manchester United, the pleasure principle really kicked in last night at Old Trafford. In spite of a glorious Spring night and at least two-thirds of a brilliant Manchester United display that was, at moments, the apotheosis of perfection and grace, United’s stunning, late 2-1 loss to Real Madrid may well be the saddest single moment of Sir Alex Ferguson’s long, brilliant career. In spite of a number of controversies before, during and after the game, the Gaffer’s team gave its all in a vain effort to overcome both Jose Mourinho’s team of neuvo galacticos and a shockingly biassed group of EUFA-sactioned officials. Unfortunately, their all was simply not enough to overturn the capricious will of either the football Gods, or Michelle Platini and his caporegimes at EUFA.

After the fact, EUFA officials have called a disciplinary meeting concerned with the manner in which Ferguson was seen jabbing his finger in front of the nose of the game’s pip-squeak Turkish referee, Cuneyt Cakir, and seconds later as Rio Ferdinand gave the officials face a sardonic round of applause. Yet the fact is that a  bomb went off 53 minutes in when Cakir took his sweet time to show the Red Devils’ winger Nani a red card for what he later explained was the act of embedding his studs into Alvaro Arbeloa’s midriff as he went to control a high ball. And although multiple viewings from different angles of the incident show that a careless Nani actually makes contact with Arbeloa’s elbow before the Spaniard falls over as if machine-gunned, rolls over three times and then springs up on his foot, none the worse for wear and tear, Cakir’s decision stands and life goes on. Of course, a careless Nani really could indeed have hurt Arbeloa, but he didn’t. Notions of “intent” versus “accident” will be discussed for weeks . Now they’re moot.

More questions about the referee later, but, finally there’s a devastated, apoplectic Ferguson who, in over 26 years at the club, has never previously sent one of his assistants–in this case Mike Phelan–to face the press at the post-match conference. “It speaks volumes I am sat here,” a tight lipped Phelan said.

Superb throughout. United let Real keep most of the possession. Rather than locking in nine men behind the ball, United defended effectively in small groups, restricting Real’s desperate desire for usable space. At the same time, when United got a chance to break they took it repeatedly and were faster and more effective than their favored opponents, outplaying them at their own specialty.

Sadly, Danny Welbeck, who more often than not creates his own chances out of nothing, is a shockingly erratic erratic finisher and, his partner on the night, Robin Van Persie is either suffering through a barren spell or is turning out to be the prodigal son of Eric Cantona: An assassin in the Premier League, but less effective on the European stage. At any rate, although the team looked fluid, confident and had the lion’s share of quality, Sir Alex Ferguson’s gamble in leaving Rooney and Kagawa out may have hurt the team fatally. Clearly armchair hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it’s an undeniable fact that, over two legs, United squandered way too many genuine chances. Indeed, when United actually scored they were extremely fortunate as Sergío Ramos accidentally touched a Nani cross, deflecting the ball past an otherwise superb Diego Lopez, who had a dream match.

Only six minutes later, while United kept up the kind of neat passing patterns that reminded aficionados of the brilliant lateral and diagonal  A.C. Milan stylings utilized to great affect seven seasons against us, Nani raised his studs in an effort to catch up with an over hit, high Carrick pass. Nani’s boot was definitely raised and whether there was malice in his heart, or not, the consequences were fatal. That said, there was still palpable shock when the red card was brandished. Once Nani was removed by Cekir, Jose Mourinho instantaneously threw the dice, bringing on Luka Modric.

Manchester United v Real Madrid Nani Jose Mou 2910130 The Gaffer Rages As United See RedModric, having been labeled Real Madrid’s ‘worst ever buy’ by the local press and riding the bench pretty much all season, proceeded to play thirty minutes of absolutely brilliant virtuoso football. Normally dependent on the industry of Angel Di Maria, Mehmet Ozil, Gonzalo Higuain and Fabio Coentrao, Real’s Portuguese superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, was smothered by the selfless hard work of United’s whole starting team, the hard running Rafael Da Silva in particular. But once the tiny Croatian arrived, the passing lines were narrowed and with United’s full backs always aware of the danger posed by Modric’s lightning turn-on-a-dime footwork to aging center backs Ferdinand and Vidic, Ronaldo suddenly had more time to sprint, surf the angles and pick his spots.

Modric’s equalizer was fantastic. Taking a leaf out of Arjen Robben’s book, Modric gave no inkling of his intentions as he dipped down before straightening up and slotting a bullet off a diving David De Gea’s left-hand post from 23 yards out. Accompanying this dagger to United’s jugular was a an audible whooshing sound. With the Stretford End holding forth at its loudest in years, the pure shock of it was inescapable. And less than three minutes later, with United’s defense trying to regroup and adjust to Modric, the mighty Croatian flea struck again. While holding off a visibly exhausted Evra, Modric fed Gonzalo Higuain. And although Higuain’s attempted diagonal rocket missed the target ,Rafael Da Silva somehow lost his fix on Ronaldo. Whippet-quick the ex-United Wonder Boy made up for all his previous near-misses and failures by arriving at the far post to push Higuain’s errant drive home and give Real the lead.

Despite United being disappointed by the lack of ruthlessness on the part of Van Persie and Welbeck, there can be no doubt that goalkeeper Diego Lopez, bought in as defensive cover for an injured Iker Casillas in January by Real, has in the past week, twice against Barcelona and against United, been playing out of his skin. With Welbeck dominating both Ramos and Varane, Lopez was forced to make save after brilliant save from Nani, Vidic, Welbeck and Carrick. Without their two unlikely heroes, Lopez and Modric, Real Madrid would be headed back to Spain bereft of any hope for silverware this season.

Despite the loss, there are bright spots. Ryan Giggs 1, 000th game is an awesome achievement. 39-years-old and soon to be forty, he is the consummate British professional. David De Gea, Rafael Da Silva and the Reds’ pugnacious captain, Nemanja Vidic were all world-class at the back. Doubtless, because of the loss, Ferguson will be relentlessly criticized by some for leaving out Wayne Rooney. Depending upon which historian you read, it was either Wellington or Napoleon who said: “It was a near run thing!” Sometimes, it seems, you can get it wrong while you’re getting it right!

Finally there’s Cuneyt Cakir, the creepy referee. Having witnessed his card-happy persona previously in games featuring Manchester City, Chelsea, the Republic of Ireland and England, and the very dramatic shows which accompanied red cards for Keith Andrews, John Terry, Vincent Kompany, and Mario Balotelli, I think it’s pretty clear that this referee has political (or other issues) with the British and Irish. Life is like that, of course, and British referees surely own some bigotry’s and prejudices of their own. What rankles, however, is that other powerful managers like Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have protested and won appeals through EUFA against certain referees they feel hold grudges against them before matches are played. Sir Alex Ferguson seems to have missed out on his homework vis-a-vis Mr. Cekir. It will surely not be a mistake he makes again.

66221999 66221303 The Gaffer Rages As United See Red

Feb 052013

Fulham 0-1 Manchester United
65669985 rooney ap Ruthless Rooney Helps United Retain MomentumOften fragile this season, Manchester United showed a strong sense of confidence and resilience while helping themselves to a narrow 1-0 away victory over a determined, diligent Fulham side at Craven Cottage. Despite a massive twelve minute power brownout, the Red Devils’ shrugged off the difficulties of flickering floodlights, the bitter cold and a stuttering strike force to create an intimidating 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League over their main and local rivals at Manchester City. On a night when even United’s talisman striker Robin Van Persie seemed hesitant and slightly off-kilter, job number one was carried out with a ruthless acumen and efficiency by Wayne Rooney.

With the wind-chill off the Thames registering temperatures way below zero, United arrived in southwest London in an attacking mood. With both Antonio Valencia and Nani having both been a disappointment this season, it was a surprise to see Sir Alex ferguson throw the dice and put both wingers on the field simultaneously as part of a 4-4-2 lineup. And it only took eight minutes for United to twice come close as a Carrick corner ricocheted off Brede Hangeland’s shoulder and an unmarked Patrice Evra somehow botched firing home in front of an open goal. His anemic shot was blocked by Philippe Senderos, followed by a brilliant block on the part of John-Arne Riise on the goal line from a blistering  Rooney volley.

But this was a completely different Fulham side to the one which had faced United at Old Trafford in the F.A.. Cup a week back. Unburdened of the presence of their shiftless, ball-hogging striker Dimitar Berbatov, the Cottagers’ warmed up their freezing fans with a surprisingly untypical game of pressing, fast-break counterattack. Led by the big Norwegian redhead John-Arne Riise down United’s left flank, United were caught with their pants down more than a few times. Only a brilliant reflex save from the much maligned David De Gea saved United from falling behind. Then, only minutes later, De Gea’s reflexes were successfully tested again as he tipped another Bryan Ruiz shot away off the post.

Consequently, the pattern of the game was set as Fulham kept ten men behind the ball while double making and pressing Carrick and Cleverley. Yet just as Fulham were holding their own, United executed a lovely bit of business in midfield as Nani dribbled into the box, located Cleverley and he set the table for Rooney to smash another unstoppable shot that somehow hit the post.

Then:, out of nowhere, darkness on the 42 minut mark as, just when Rooney was taking a corner, there was a brownout. After a tedious, cold ten minutes, the teams played out the game’s last four minutes before trooping off the field for a second time.

United carried on dominating possession in the second half, but with Carrick and Cleverley repeatedly unable to bolster up action through the middle, the Gaffer forced a tactical change on Fulham’s defense when Chicharito Hernandez replaced Valencia and Rooney took over the left flank in front of Patrice Evra. Yet, just as United looked to be at both their most casual and comfortable, Fulham squandered a couple of fine opportunities as Ashkan Dejagahteed set up Sascha Riether for a low drive, which De Gea did well to save before a brilliant flying Rafael leapt to deflect Ruiz’s header off the line.

Finally, in the 79th minute, Fulham’s slow-footed Philippe Senderos overran a long Evra pass. Then came Rooney’s moment: a clearance by Patrice Evra was misjudged by Senderos, allowing an unmarked Rooney tons of space to hoover the ball up on his left side and shift on the fly to his right, before coolly slipping the ball past a an oncoming Mark Schwartzer.

The one goal, proved to be just enough to suffice for United. Having kept a clean she without any slight sign of nervousness, David De Gea’s ownership of the goal keeping position looks to be back on track. With an in-form Wayne Rooney crackling like bacon in a cast-iron frying pan, England’s international team ought to give Brazil a run for the money on Wednesday.
65669904 rooney hernandez pa Ruthless Rooney Helps United Retain Momentum

Nov 022012

“I hate to lose more than I love to win.”———-Jimmy Connors

224075hp2 The Kids Are All Right!

“When he was good…”

Chelsea 5 -4 Manchester United
Wednesday night I needed oxygen and cold shots. It’s been a wild wild week thus far and there’s still Saturday’s match against the Arse coming up! Now let me see. Thus far. Two brilliant games against the royal blues of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The one we ought to have lost, we won because of bad officiating and a lot of luck. The one we definitely deserved to win we lost because of mistakes made out of simple exhaustion and a complex act of stupidity by a single hubris-ridden player. Either way, both were brilliant, breathtaking spectaculars which showcased the beautiful game at its spectacular best and mediocre worst.

Having thrown all their expensive toys out of their gold-plated perambulator on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday accompanied by much rhetorical hysteria about racist corrupt referees, Chelsea did not care too much about the refereeing that went against Manchester United’s favour on the part of Lee Mason on Wednesday. To their credit, Chelsea were brave, worthy warrior opponents, behind three times, stumbling into extra time with the gracious gift from United of a 94th-minute penalty before, finally, nicking a spot in the Carling Cup quarterfinals by the odd goal out of nine.

In all fairness to the referee, Lee Mason was under a microscope from the get-go. He yellow-carded nine players and Eden Hazard’s penalty spared him what was clearly going to be a vicious post-mortem after, minutes before, a Juan Mata pass clearly hit Michael Keane, United’s 19-year-old center half, on his arm. Worse than the pressure on Mason was the stress piled upon Keane and his partner, Scott Wootton, 21, which saw each deteriorate out of a state of sheer exhaustion as the game passed into extra time. Nevertheless, despite what most of the pundits and bloggers have to say about how Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to play two raw and inexperienced center-halves killed the team, they both acquitted themselves respectably until their tired bodies gave out. Wootton, 21, gave away the penalty Hazard converted when he tripped over Ramires in his own box in the 94th minute. The same player then gave Sturridge the chance to put Chelsea ahead for the first time when he failed to get enough on his header back to the goalkeeper, Anders Lindegaard. These are the cruel facts. I, for one, have been hollering for the Gaffer to play the kids repeatedly simply because both Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand are clearly both mentally and physically exhausted. Nevertheless, over the whole of a physical no-quarter type duel of the titans, Wootton and Keane played well.

Football is a cruel game. All things considered, Chelsea did not ‘deserve’ to win, just as United had not ‘deserved’ to win in the P.L. on Sunday. In both matches both teams were achingly guilty of dreadful defending. What made the difference this time, in spite of Mr. Mason, was the fine art of substitution practiced by Roberto Di Matteo. Clearly, the Chelsea manager, who, by bringing on his three marquee midfield players, Hazard, Ramires and Oscar, has affected their fitness levels for this coming weekend’s match against. Swansea City. It was a throw of the dice, to be sure, but Chelsea’s psychological need for a victory far outweighed the Gaffer’s need to keep his best squaddies fit for Saturday’s Arsenal visit.

Things went well for both sides as they cautiously probed at each other early on. Then, 22 minutes in, goalie Petr Cech stumbled as he made a short goal kick to Oriol Romeu. The Romanian expatriate out of the Barcelona academy panicked, lost the ball to Anderson and stood frozen as Giggs picked up the ball and casually fired home to make it 1-0.

Eight minutes later, the game was back on a knife-edge again as David Luíz’s penalty barely beat Anders Lindegaard who guessed right but was a second too late after rookie left back Alexander Büttner’s ill-advised tripping of a fast driving Victor Moses. This was a sad mistake on the young Dutch left back’s part because Moses was barely in control of the ball and most likely would not have scored. For the rest of the half the game went entertainingly back and forth until two minutes before half time. Why David Luiz decided to start a dribble out of his own box no one knows. At any rate, Rafael was there to pick his pocket and chip to Anderson. Ando, playing his best game since the 8-2 humiliation of Arsenal at Old Trafford a year ago, put in an exquisite pass to the spring-heeled Javíer Hernandez who fired home on the diagonal to make it 2-1.

After an excellent first half, both managers must have ranted up a dressing room storm about defensive lapses, but with so many youth players representing their clubs, sloppiness was surely to be expected. Chelsea brought on Ramires and Hazard at the break and Ferguson could clearly see that Di Matteo was in it to win it. Making a rare appearance, Daniel Sturridge missed three beautiful chances before a fantastic Juan Mata corner found Gary Cahill in the 52nd minute. Rafael was there behind the line inside the goal mouth to head it away, but Mason had no doubt that the ball crossed the goal line and the game was tied again.

Chelsea dominated for the next few minutes but then United struck again. Wing substitute Nani slipped inside, dummied two defenders, did quick give-and-goes to Hernandez and Anderson, before getting the ball back and chipping over a diving Cech. It was a beautiful goal and reminded fans as to just how good the Cape Verdean can be.

Now with Büttner much troubled by Hazard, Ferguson took him out, moved Darren Fletcher to right back and Rafael to the left flank. This was when things began to fall apart. With Fletcher still not fully fit and Wootton and Keane often unsure of their positioning, Rafael tried too hard to be everywhere. As the clock ticked down all Manchester United had to do was hold the ball. Why Nani chose to act cocky against the Belgian flash Eden Hazard is beyond all common sense. Hazard stripped Nani clean and took off before feeding Ramires. A goal bound Ramires was then clearly tripped up by a desperate Scott Wootton and Hazard fired home the penalty to tie it 3-3 and drag the game into extra time.

Exhausted now and worn to a frazzle, neither side seemed to pay much mind to defense. And eight minutes in, Sturridge, who had squandered at least a half-dozed gilt-edged opportunities, took advantage of a soft, patty-cake header from a stumbling Wootton, casually walking the ball around Lindegaard to give Chelsea their first lead. of the match at 5-3. Hazard then set up Ramires with another lightning run to make it 5-3.

Seconds later Giggs made it 5-4 . It was yet another another penalty after Chicharito was brought down by César Azpilicueta. With seconds to go, Sturridge clearly tripped Giggs off the ball as he sprinted in the box in a run that defied his looming 39th year and 121 minutes. The referee Lee Mason and his crew clearly missed it, but it’s fair to say that everyone was running on empty at this point.

I shall refrain from talking about Mark Clattenburg and the first game from now on until all the facts are in. As I write, Sir Alex Ferguson has been angrily savaging Nani for his act of selfishness in losing the ball to Eden Hazard in the 94th minutes with, literally, fractions of a second left on the referee’s watch. Such public vilification of one of his own players is rare for the wily old Scot. Despite scoring rather a tasty goal, Nani, as in a crucial losing game against Liverpool three seasons back, went AWOL at the wrong moment. It’s a cliché to say “ There’s no ‘I’ in team!” but Nani has crossed the line one time too many this time. Let’s hope we don’t sell him too cheaply!

155063325 The Kids Are All Right!

“Oh Nani! Nani! Nani!”

Ferguson’s New Comeback Kids!

 Posted by on August 8, 2011 at 9:02 pm  Uncategorized
Aug 082011
1656975 w2 1 Fergusons New Comeback Kids!

Manchester United 3 -2 Manchester City

This was the first Charity/Community shield match with any meaning to it since Liverpool and Leeds went at it like barbarians in 1974. Vincent Kompany can insist it was all meaningless after the fact, but, from the very first whistle by referee Phil Dowd, the match between the Premiership and F.A. Cup winners  was, for City, a war with no quarter given, nor asked for. Although they were less frantic, almost calm to the point of zen. In fact, United dominated in the possession and style stakes for approximately 80% of the match, yet it took  until they were 2-0 down on the cusp of half-time, for them to  realize their summer tour of the United States was over and living fat in the past.

City’s coach made sure each of his players tested Mr. Dowd one at a time as they repeatedly fouled United’s three perpetual menaces, Ashley Young, Nani and Wayne Rooney. Roberto Mancini may say that he feels his side is only five paces behind the red devils, but his tactics concentrated on a relentless policy of stifling United’s creative force with  bullying and counterattacks. This worked over the final  ten minute period in the first half, but exploded in their faces in the second. Clearly, as this tactic has worked so well for Liverpool against United over the past few seasons,  it makes sense to use.  for  a  coach as clearly devoid of intellect and confidence as Mancini, the tried-and-true tactics used by Rafa ‘the Tapas Waiter’ Benítez and Kenny Dalglish. How frustrating must it be, one wonders, for City’s baby blue brothel boys, a squad which features brilliant individualists like Yaya Touré, Adam Johnson, David Silva and Mario Balotelli, when their coach won’t let them play?

At any rate, although this was  not a great game — City play too blandly for that — it was a marvelous drama!  2-0  down: Manchester United were the comeback kids, scoring a fantastic winner in injury time. Football, they say,  is a funny game, but the joke wa on Manchester United in the first half. They attacked City relentlessly for 35 minutes and City’s answer seemed to be little but to foul and surround Wayne Rooney. Using his speed and size well, right back Micah Richards was City’s outstanding player, and he had no trouble reading  the mechanical passing of Michael Carrick to left winger Ashley Young and repeatedly nipped it in the bud.

Manchester Uniteds Nani c 007 Fergusons New Comeback Kids!

Meanwhile, the new Nani model, one which features less diving and drama, was more controlled and direct. Always ready to take off on jinking, diagonal runs into the box from the right flank, all of which were repeatedly squelched by hard-core borderline tackles perpetuated by Nigel de Jong, James Milner and Yaya Touré. Dowd let all three get away with murder, but it was also quite clear that, ultimately, unless one of them was willing to break his leg, he was going to have his way.

Then, like a rude hiccup at your maiden aunt’s dinner table, with United just a little too casual about their means of domination, Fergie’s boys came undone. A quick dose of temporary hubris saw Smalling, Vidic and Ferdinand nonchalantly opt for zonal marking in the box as David Silva executed a divinely wicked curving free kick which allowed City’s comb-over kid, Joleon Lescott, time enough to launch himself into the air and nod past a frozen David de Gea into the net in the 38th minute.

Only eight minutes later, poor de Gea,  still berating himself for not coming off his line to counter Silva’s brilliant bit of left-footed magic, clearly made a botch job of anticipating a quick turn-and-shoot predator’s move from the otherwise toothless Edin Dzeko. A certain amount of blame must go to United’s skipper Nemanja Vidic over a second moment of lazy nonchalance, but, 27 yards-or so out, Dzeko took his chances and de Gea was two seconds too late to react to a fairly tame shot.

 2-0 down at  half-time, Feguson  made three surprising substitutions.  Leaving Chris Smalling at right back, the Gaffer brought on Jonny Evans and Phil Jones for Vidic and Ferdinand. This was a genuine surprise. A real throw of the dice on the boss’ part and definitely a message to the squad’s old guard that  he is going to be ruthless this season. Less surprising, however, was the substitution of the frustrating Carrick,  who repeatedly telegraphed all his passes and retained that irritating look of beautitude while remaining constantly stationary. In his place came Tom Cleverley. Under as much pressure as the dithering de Gea to channel Van der Sar an Schmeichel, Cleverly surely  feels the pressure to both fend off the ghost of a retiring Paul Scholes  and the uncertainty of whether the club will buy Wesley Sneijder to usurp him.  Indeed, a fair weather fan might be forgiven for thinking that Fergie was throwing in the towel to “go young” for the second half. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Indeed, the second half began with more of the same. Run after run from Ashley Young frustrated by Micah Richards. Seven minutes in, however, it all started to come together for United. A petty foul by de Jong gave away yet  another  free kick. This time, however, Young put in a delicious floater which seemed to hypnotize Touré, Lescott and Kompany as a surprisingly speedy Chris Smalling charged in to beat the offside trap and fire calmly past a static Joe Hart into the net.  

Shocked by a set-piece, City were suddenly in chaos. Foul after foul allowed  United to take quick free kicks and overwhelm City’s midfield. Five minutes on, United were an unstoppable force. Rooney, Cleverley and Nani looked like they’d been playing together for years. Despite two crunching tackles by Touré, the tiny Cleverly refused to allow himself to be dispossessed and won the ball back. Seven exquisite passes were strung together by the three before Nani dribbled his way into the box, slipped into a lateral run past the goalie before chipping the ball into the net from an almost impossible angle.

With the game tied and United dominating, City fans were surely hoping for the ouster of Dzeko or Balotelli and the debut of  Kün Aguéro. Well, Mancini did get rid of that crazy mixed-up kid, Balotelli, but the defensive-minded Italian opted instead for one more master of the dark arts of defense in Gareth Barry. Indeed, it was after an anemic attack into United’s box led by the painfully slow Dzeko in overtime that Rooney  booted a loose ball clear. As it  died just by the center spot, City’s captain Vincent Kompany hesitated in engaging a charging Nani. The Cape Verdean hoovered up the ball and sprinted toward the City goal. Allowing the slow advancing Joe Hart no time to think, a wise Nani simply avoided the England keeper as he closed in and slotted home the winner.

There will be those who are underwhelmed by the sheer verve of United’s victory. After all, the game was played without Aguéro or the soon to be returned talismanic striker Carlos Tevez. Yet, one can’t help but ponder how these two can conceivably carry City to a Premiership title with goals scored in counterattacks. Such negative strategies beggar belief.

United fans, of course, are familiar  with their heart attack-inducing comeback kids. Still, whether Ferguson adds another midfielder or not to the mix between now an September 1, we have witnessed  yet another edition of United’s youth movement  with an average age of 22. Indeed, the shining star of the day, Tom Cleverley will turn 22 next Friday. Having paid his dues in United’s reserves, then at Leicester City, Watford and Wigan Athletic on loan, Cleverley has looked ready for the pressure cooker of the premiership and the E.C.C.. after sterling displays against Barcelona last week and at Wembley.  Comfortable playing deep in midfield, Cleverley looks to be more than  a converted winger. Jonny Evans may get the kudos for a fantastic tackle he laid on  Dzeko as he looked free to score midway through the second half, but the petite Cleverley’s repeated ability to dispossess the larger likes of Yaya Touré and Nigel de Jong were crucial, too.

One thing Sir Alex Ferguson knows for sure that Roberto Mancini and many of his players clearly haven’t learned yet is that every day in Manchester, it rains. You can’t stop it. It just rains and rains and rains!


Nani: Should He Stay, Or Should He Go?

 Posted by on June 21, 2011 at 12:40 pm  Uncategorized
Jun 212011

images 35 Nani: Should He Stay, Or Should He Go?

Yes. Nani is a pain in the butt. He doesn’t listen to coaching and makes a lot of bad decisions when left to his own devices.  A series of howlers against  Liverpool–particularly a ’header’ in his own penalty area which gifted a goal to Dirk Kuyt–are hard to forgive for many of the faithful. Tackling errors, where the Cape Verdean Adonis repeatedly does his best to imitate the worst excesses of Paul Scholes without channeling any of the best, have given away a number of crucial free kicks against opposition.  Indeed, just like the veritable boy who cried wolf one time too many over innocuous or non-existent tackles, when he finally did get carved up by Jamie Carragher’s filed-down studs, many of us thought that he was being a big baby again and laughed. The fans were wrong in that case, but the lad can be a donkey and has brought many of his problems upon himself.

Unlike many truly selfish player, like, say Tevez, Nani has worked hard to learn to speak decent English and make contact with fans. Indeed, I can say I’ve met him and he’s far more of a well-mannered  gentleman than many of his colleagues. Along with the mistimed tackling habits and fits of sensitive pique at the Gaffer  which he’s made the error of leaking to the Portuguese and Spanish press (probably at the behest of his ever manipulative slippery-eel of an agent Jorge Mendes), Nani really can be sublime.  He may not have much of a left foot, but those diagonal runs he makes off the wing provided a number of brilliant killer goals that any number of defences simply could not cope with. The problem, many so-called pundits will tell you, is that these runs are never the organic result of set plays; but, rather, the impish product of the kind of extemporaneous improvisation his teammates are not tooled to cope with.  I say pish-posh! Georgie Best did the same thing all the time. Maybe the difference is that Our Besty never ever even made an attempt at playing defense and Matt Busby never asked. The thing is, Nani has not peaked yet! And if he’s at Real Madrid or Juventus or Inter, they will not expect him to try and play defense.

Sell him? We paid £18M for Nani, so he was no bargain. Still, it’s all relative. £20M paid by Liverpool for Jordan Henderson? King Kenny wa surely coughing up a furball watching his new English investment repeatedly choke in Denmark last week. One more good season and  we’ll get close to Cristiano Ronaldo-type dosh for Nani. Good form and rave reviews will not, unfortunately, help him get along better with Sir Alex. Their relationship seems to be irreparably damaged. But still, even his clear and obvious potential ought to make him worth £35-40M now if Javier Pastore, another unfinished gem, is worth £50m.

Swap him? These swap rumors have been around for a while in the likes of, which is what I call an egg/omelette footie site: Fantasize enough rumors and at least one of them is going to stick!!! Today, however, The Manchester Evening News has joined in the speculation. Now I am wont to believe that Gilly and the Gaffer are indeed getting serious about cutting the somersaulting winger loose.

Nani to Real Madrid for Lass Diarra and Xabi Alono?
Why Mourinho wants another winger I don’t know. Cristiano Ronaldo may want Nani to join him in his sandbox, but Angel Di Maria is far more of a mature finished product than Nani. He’ll be benched there a lot, too. We surely do need  a class defensive midfielder, but is Lass Diarra up there with the dynamic likes of Daniele De Rossi? Additionally, Diarra suffers from the onset of Sickle Cell Anemia which is ultimately a fatal idiease n most cases. After taking on Owen Hargreaves with the knowledge of pre-existing  injury problems, it surprises me that Ferguson would allow something similar to happen again. Xabi Alonso–as much as I would love to see Liverpool fans get their knickers in a twist at seeing him in a United kit– is 29-years-old. And what has the Gaffer repeatedly said about older players? (We-ell, except for Berbatov!) He’s brilliant. A superb passer of the ball and would complement Wayne Rooney in midfield far more comfortably than Wesley Sneijder.

Nani to Inter for Wesley Sneijder? Stylistically speaking, it’s going to take a while for the little Dutch master to mesh with Wayne Rooney, but it would ultimately work on the field. Great players find a way! He’s a capricious little bugger, though, and tends to bring up his lovely wife’s shopping habits–You know, saying that she’d be far happier shopping in London or  staying in Milan–than in icky rainy Manchester,  At any rate, he needs to decide soon, Ferguson will not wait till August 31.

Nani to Juventus for Claudio Marchisio and Sebastian Giovinco? I have to say that, although Marchisio’s name has come up a lot, Giovinco’s hasn’t. As Giovinco is supposedly about to be flogged to Parma, I think United ought to step in.  Giovinco is a tiny terror capable of unstoppable dribbling brilliance and exquisite creativity. Claudio Marchisio would be a Manchester United midfielder in the hard-tackling, selfless tradition of Duncan Edwards, Bryan Robson and Roy Keane: A warrior and a star! With two warriors like Vidic and Marchisio on the team Manchester United can take on anybody!

images 34 Nani: Should He Stay, Or Should He Go?

images 33 Nani: Should He Stay, Or Should He Go?

The latter deal with Juventus I would make. The other two, I’m very unsure of.  Nani has been on the Gaffer’s ho-hum list because of how much he whinges like a wee schoolgirl and that howler of a header against Liverpool. Despite moments of sublime brilliance on his part, it’s clear  that he doesn’t listen to instructions and the boss doesn’t trust him. Now that Alexis Sanchez has chosen to join Barcelona and, common sense says, also  do a lot of time on the bench, maybe the Gaffer  will choose to give him one more go-around. Watching Nani in training last Summer, I couln’t help but notice just how plain physically powerful he is. Experimenting with him as an old-fashioned centre-forward might not be a ba idea, either.