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Nov 062013

Real Sociedad 0-0 Manchester United
article 0 19370E8400000578 807 634x431 Frustration in Spain

Not a bad result, to be sure, especially if you’re part of the “wouldn’t you have gladly settled for a draw?” crowd. After all, United are still top of their Champions League group. Sociedad ground out an ugly draw and the rest is conjecture. Had the red devils scored from Robin Van Persie’s missed penalty after yet another sleazy dive from Ashley Young, fans might have kinda/sorta felt bad about it, but the three points would have taken the club into the next round. Indeed, there was a lack of both moxy and luck on the night. Gaping sitters were missed by Van Persie (twice). Rooney (twice) and Hernandez (thrice), Young and Valencia. After winning at Old Trafford via an early Inigo Martínez own goal in the first dull battle between the two teams two weeks ago and Shakhtar Donetsk and Bayer Leverküsen also playing to a draw, United could rue their squandering of at last a dozen missed chances to reach the last 16.

Ashley Young has finally used up his last ounce of personal respect and forgiveness from fans after one dive too many. Having ignored the remonstrations of at least a half-dozen quality coaches over the years, it’s time for David Moyes to rip off the red shirt he disgraces and encourage him and his agent to ply their trade elsewhere. And for those of you out there who think he’s no better or worse than the likes of Sergío Busquets or Luís Suarez, please point out exactly what he’s done for his team over the last two years. The fact is that the incredibly arrogant and selfish Young brings more unnecessary and unwanted scrutiny Manchester United do not need.

It was a poor a first half. Only Kagawa really stood out early on for United. Playing on the left wing is not exactly an ideal showcase for him to show off his considerable skill set, but he was nevertheless the only visiting player who truly troubled Sociedad’s anemic defense. Kagawa linked well with Patrice Evra, and the French left back, mostly untroubled by Pardo or Prieto, did well to set up number of slick combinations with his temporary partner. Indeed, after a flick from Rooney, Evra’s screen presented fast-footed Shinji with a delicious chance. Unfortunately, his low shot flew wide of Claudio Bravo’s goal. Minutes later Kagawa turned provider when he beat Carlos Martínez to the byline and fired a very precise cross towards Hernández at the near post that Inigo Martínez intercepted. Minutes later, alone, unmarked and only six steps from the goal line, Hernandez smashed the ball over the bar after a perfect Valencia set-up. For all of United’s ability to control the the game in the first half, those attempts and a couple of weak efforts from Rooney proved to be the sum total of their somewhat indifferent threat .

70933725 70933721 Frustration in SpainClearly chewed out by their boss Jagoba Arrasate in the dressing room, Sociedad were far less subdued in the second half. Miguel Vela, once the pearl of Arsenal’s academy, gave center-back Rio Ferdinad much trouble. Released by Inígo Martínez, Vela nipped in behind Evra but was exquisitely dispossessed inside the area by a Nemanja Vidic tackle as he waited in vain for support from Agirretxe. Alberto de la Bella also went close after fooling Antonio Valencia on the left, but his shot was beautifully saved by De Gea.

United improved a lot after Van Persie and Young came on for a tired-looking Rooney and Hernandez in the 63rd minute, allowing Kagawa to move into a more central position. The Dutchman hit the post almost as soon as he came onto the pitch after receiving an Ashley Young cross. Only minutes later, Van Persie hit the same section of goalpost from the penalty spot after Young recycled his infamous diving swan act after a bit of glancing contact with Bergara directly in front of the referee, Nicola Rizzoli.

Ultimately, United really were indeed their own worst enemies. Beyond Young’s unseemly behavior was the red card United’s central stalwart Marouane Fellaini received in injury-time. Although he’s still settling in at United and having difficulties with his passing game, the big Belgian played the Basque team tough, putting in his share of rough borderline tackles and body blocks. Booked early for a so-so challenge on Markel Bergara, Fellaini received repeated verbal warnings from a reasonable Rizzoli. Fortunate not to get sent off earlier, Fellaini took his lumps late. There is no doubt that Moyes loves his new, expensive guard dog simply because United are distinctly lacking in aggression when he’s not placing. Having received a red card for a foul on David Zurutuza, though, Fellainii will definite be missed in their next ECC match against the bigger, brawnier Bayer Leverküsen. With Phil Jones dressed and ready to play, the question really does need to asked: Why Moyes didn’t substitute him much earlier? It’s beyond me.

The game against Arsenal at Old Trafford looms large on Sunday. Can our weak midfield cope? Arsenal are in a rich vein of form right now, having only lost their opening match of the season To Aston Villa in August. Always psychologically fragile, however, they will be counting on overrunning the least talented midfield United have put out in two decaclose tyodes. The situation is serious, but not hopeless. A quarter of the season in, Moyes owes it to the fans that the team be better prepared than they were on Tuesday night.
article 0 1936F80D00000578 629 634x405 Frustration in Spain

Sep 232013

Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United
Marouane Fellaini David D 001 Hammered in AncoatsManchester United have now mustered only seven points from their opening five games. It’s the club’s worst start since their 2004-05 campaign when they had six and ended up finishing third, 18 points behind Chelsea. A downcast David Moyes put it this way to the gathered jackals of Fleet Street. “I just told the players the way I would have told players at any other club if I don’t think they’re doing it. They’re good players, they’re good pros, they know when they’re bang at it and when they’re not.” Say oo-what? “Every manager has bad results. I’m no different. Manchester City were the better team, they got control in the early part and we found it difficult to contain them. I thought as the first half edged on we started to get back into the game a little bit more but unfortunately lost the second goal right on half-time. I’m disappointed we didn’t perform because there was no reason.”

Nemanja Vidic confessed that United were “Never in it. From the first minute, City tried to be aggressive and had more possession in the first 20 or 30 minutes,” the United captain said. “We didn’t really get in the game from the first minute. This is what we have to try to learn from. We can’t look back. It’s horrible to lose the derby. It’s always horrible. It’s worse when you lose in this way, 4-0 down. We were never close to winning the game.”

With striker Robin van Persie begging off with a groin problem, and Moyes choosing not to call upon Shinji Kagawa, Wilfried Zaha or Adnan Januzaj, there was the atmosphere of one of those ecstacy-fed zombie rave parties in the United camp after the match. Aside from Wayne Rooney and a captain who never once walked his talk in the slightest, United seemed neither upset nor humiliated. City’s captain, Vincent Kompany put it best,”Maybe the game meant a little bit more to us than for them. We were looking forward to this fixture. We need to win these kind of games. There was no reason why we should fear the opposition.”

The truth is that City’s key players on the day, Yaya Touré, Fernandinho, Jesús Navas, Samir Nasri, Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Agüero, simply humiliated United. In United’s new ‘system,’ featuring a pair of central holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation, is the notion that each one, depending on the vicissitudes of the game, will exchange roles when it comes to being more attack-minded. This was okay against Crystal Palace last week and even the fair quality midfield of Bayer’s Rolfes and Bender in the midweek ECC match, but was utterly useless against City. Moyes must clearly make his mind up in big games just who exactly will be his main holding midfielder. In these early days of Fellaini’s career at the champions, he appears to be a first choice for Moyes over Carrick. Fellaini who, in many ways, was bought as an antidote to the likes of Yaya Touré and Mohammed Diamé of West Ham United, who boss their teams as holding midfielders and yet are able to shift gears and exchange roles with Fernandinho and Mark Noble, there’s no comfort in this position yet. He’s a natural square passer, whereas Carrick is one for long probing balls on the days when his game is working. This will obviously take a while to gel, or, in a bad scenario like tonight’s match, may never work at all. Doubtless, City performed really well, especially in the first half, but Moyes needs to fasten his seat belt and place an airbag over his groin area because he is about to undergo a lot of serious scrutiny over the next few days, not the least of which will involve Sir Alex Ferguson as he finally enters the boardroom after recovering from hip surgery. The aforementioned baying jackals of Fleet Street who have already torn Paolo Di Canio to pieces, now have Jose Mourinho and Our Moyesie in their sights.

City played with great energy from the get-go. They were all movement and penetration, something United could not find. They pressed and harassed United when they didn’t have the ball and made their careful passing count, performing like a team who were embarrassed to have gifted the title of champion United’s way last season. They harried and chased and, when they had the ball, made great use of it. The humiliation began in the 16th minute with a fine example of Kun Agüero’s extemporaneous craft. When a lazy Antonio Valencia did not notice Aleksandar Kolarov’s overlapping run from left-back. Nasri’s clever little flick left a slack-jawed Chris Smalling marooned on his own in a ton of space at right-back. The clever little Argentine striker then twisted himself like a pretzel, raised his left foot and somehow volleyed home Kolarov’s cross.

United’s skipper, Nemanja Vidic, raged righteously at Valencia for making the most fundamental of errors, but then he did exactly the same thing himself as he and his sidekick, Rio Ferdinand, like an aging burlesque slapstick team trading custard pies to the mush made a bollix out of it all. With both repeatedly repeatedly losing the ball through risky passes executed in the six yard box, the lion’s share of coverage fell to the shell-shocked Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick, who, instead of shielding United’s defense, came a cropper in every clash with Fernandinho and Touré.

Yet, somehow, United hung in there. Playing like a Sam Allardyce team, making long boots out from the box and giving away scores of throw-ins. A second goal was inevitable, however, and in the 46th minute, just into injury time, they gave away their sixth corner. Nasri aimed for Alvaro Negredo and Smalling leapt sideways to intercept. Instead, he blocked off a jumping Vidic while Fellaini, who was supposed to be marking Touré, also leapt high for the ball. Free as a bird, Yaya Touré sprinted to the far post, and had no trouble tapping home Alvaro Negredo’s knockdown.

2-0 down at the interval, United were expected by all and sundry to come out with a war face for the second half. Instead they collapsed and capitulated. Three minutes in, Ferdinand seemed to be in the midst of a conversation with Samir Nasri, leaving Agüero completely unmarked in the midst of a packed box to make it 3-0. Then, seconds later, Evra lost Nasri, who had the presence of mind to feint on Smalling before meeting Jesús Navas’s cross and curving it home past a stranded David De Gea.

City took their foot off the accelerator then and were content to gum up the midfield and stage sporadic counterattacks. Luckily, David Silva was injured and City’s new striker, Alvaro Negredo, who took turns giving fits to both Vidic and Ferdinand, missed at least four sitters. Their heroes for the day, beyond the unstoppable presence of Yaya Touré, was the shifting partnership of Jésus Navas and Nasri who traded positions at will. While Chris Smalling, clearly uncomfortable at right-back, simply quit early on, poor Patrice Evra simply played like an Alzheimer’s victim, unable to compute Navas and Nasri’s adaptability. As Moyes clearly doesn’t trust Alexander Büttner or Fabio to play at left-back, Evra is just as clearly now sport for even the weakest clubs in the PL.

United did get one back from an exquisitely taken Rooney free kick late on, but his lack of celebration said it all. His beautiful free kick made him the leading scorer of all time in Manchester derbies with eleven. Rooney carried United’s burden alone and no one was surprised when he got too emotional and was booked for an unnecessarily hard challenge on City captain Vincent Kompany. Rooney has been criticized a lot over the past few months, not least by yours truly, but he burned with an overt desire absent in everybody else on the team.

Although there was a certain kind of one-off freaky-deakiness about United’s horrible 6-1 loss at Old Trafford two seasons ago, there was no such aura here. Manchester City and its new boss, Manuel Pellegrini, gave David Moyes a nose-rubbing in his own poo. Moyes, who never won a derby at Liverpool in all his eleven years as Everton manager, will surely prove to own a few virtues in the coming weeks against more ordinary opposition. Clearly also, unless the club makes a complete nose-dive, he will not be fired in the immediate future. The minority of fans who already have a Facebook page demanding his ouster will not get much attention or satisfaction for the time being. What concerns me far less than losing to good teams is the team’s lack of bottle and grit for the games against Liverpool and Manchester City. It really is worrisome!
David Moyes 008 Hammered in Ancoats

Sep 032013

On the Transfer Debacle
fellaini marouane david moyes manchester united signing transfer carrington 2997534 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.I won’t belabor this and jump on the bandwagon that’s already piling on David Moyes. After signing only Marouane Fellaini for way more than original estimates said he was worth, United seem to have perfidiously gone about sticking it to their fans. Clearly there’s something more at stake than money and legal paperwork when a multitude of things have gone wrong in the so-called pursuit of Tiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas, Ander Herrera, Wesley Sneider, Daniele De Rossi, Sami Khedira, Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw and Mehsut Ozil. Players may indeed be pieces of meat in the eyes of so many agents, owners and managers, but there is already a kind of in-crowd protocol that Messrs. Moyes and Woodward are clearly clueless about. The Glazers were wise enough to leave well alone when Sir Alex Ferguson was running the club. As he was personally responsible for so many of the machinations that allowed the Glazers to step in and make a leveraged purchase, the Gaffer was a good soldier, espousing Knoxian rhetoric about “value in the marketplace” as long as they let him have a little money now and again for players like Berbatov, Van Persie and Kagawa.

An extraordinary man-manager and the last of a breed–along with Arséne Wenger at Arsenal–who was trusted by ownership, Ferguson was a beloved buffer between a bewildered fan base who really wanted to believe the cockamamie fodder he fed them about having the last word in transfers and our being the kind of mortal zombie fans who support Arsenal and other clubs who simply don’t give a shit what they think. None of it matters now, anyway. Clearly the money is there to spend on for someone like Cristiano Ronaldo, who will pay back whatever the club forks out for him back in merchandizing spades. Even the likes of Gareth Bale or Radomel Falcao would work for the gluttonous Glazers. Unfortunately, shopping for perceived ‘water carriers’ and prospects seems beyond the scope of Moyes and Woodward.

To be fair to Woodward–a man who has the kind of Mad Men flair that the Glazers can understand and has shown the ability to raise hundreds of millions in sponsorship money–he seems to have been thrown into the deep-end in rooms full of the kind of capricious oligarchs who inherit oil kingdoms, trust funds and laundered money and their lawyers. Woodward’s bargaining mentality, honed and sharpened in boardrooms, but still schooled in a world of old-fashioned bargaining that’s been going on in the Armenian carpet bazaar since the time of Genghis Khan, is out of his league when dealing with the modern football club. In Spain, for example, where clubs were confiscated after the civil war and their ownership given as prizes to amigos who were fellow soldiers or supporters by the dictator Generalisimo Francisco Franco, American-style buy low/sell high rules do not necessarily rule the football marketplace. Team lawyers expect suitcases full of laundered oil cash and drug money. Players are more often owned in percentages, not just by clubs who only nominally have their contracts, but also Russian and Colombian gangsters. It’s complicated. Whatever secrets the Gaffer is privy to, he has yet to pass them on to Moyes and company.

Depending on who you believe, United’s credibility has now been smashed into a million pieces. This may be so, but Juventus, for example, and now Monaco have survived far worse. Woodward would probably be fired by most clubs, but as he makes money for his friends (The American golden rule–see The Godfather), I’m sure he won’t. Next time Mr. Woodwood, you need to do your homework properly. Personally, I like Ander Herrera as a player and admire him for keeping his trap shut. Perhaps he’ll still go for it if we try again in January.

As for Marouane ‘Bogbrush’ Fellaini. It warms the cockles of my heart when a player really really wants to play for us, as was also the case with Robin Van Persie. He may be a bit slow, but he’s a gamer with a pair of elephant cojönes who likes contact, can score goals and will protect our sometimes awesome, but positively gutless, Michael Carrick. He’s brave and hard, and, although we let ourselves be suckered into paying 28m quid for him, will prove well worth the investment.

Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United
Liverpool v Manchester Un 006 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.It was right out of the Ferguson textbook. “I could see why we were champions today,” Manchester United’s new manager David Moyes said while his head panned the room like a Gorbals thug looking for a wee bit of aggro. “I thought we played really well.”

Right you are, Davey! Better in spades than putting four past Swansea on the opening weekend. Of course, he insisted upon being “more than happy” with the state of the squad. Indeed, should any dealings fail to happen at the close of the transfer window on Monday night he reassured the gathered Fleet Street Sports mavens. “After that performance, I wouldn’t be worried,” he said. “I thought we were really good today.”

“Pull t’other one,” my Gran used to say. “It’s got bells on it!”

Sure, the Gaffer always got dead prickly after a mediocre team performance, but Davey doesn’t own the moxy or luck to be able to run his mouth so contemptuously. Well, not yet. Even though they were clearly the far superior team in the second half, United lost because their central midfield is non-existent. This has been more or less the case since Roy Keane retired and the Champions Cup win of 2007-08 looks, in retrospective, like the Gaffer’s masterpiece, the finest job of papering over the cracks since Chamberlain announced ‘Peace in our time!”

Beyond the frustration United fans feel over the club’s dithering in the transfer market was the gobsmackingly nonchalant, vanilla display of pride in their own mediocrity shown by a gutless Michael Carrick and a painfully overmatched Tom Cleverley in central midfield. Indeed, although a different perspective might say that Carrick’s lack of physical courage may well be solved as a team problem if an enforcer-type player like Marouane Fellaini is signed from Everton to serve and protect him, there is no such hope for Cleverley. Inept in every way, devoid of courage and energy, he is just what the likes of Glasgow Rangers need in their bid to return to the SPL, but is not a Manchester United player.

Soccer Barclays Premier 002 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.All is not lost, however. Liverpool were driven on the day. Led by a ruthless, hatchet-faced Steven Gerrard in a way he never has for England, the red scouters were were completely amped up, especially in the first half, quicker to the ball and crunchingly harder in the tackle. Simply put, this fixture meant much more to them because they genuinely hate Us and Our relentless success over them for years.. Over the first 45 minutes, they attacked United relentlessly to which our only recourse was to simulate injury and repeatedly appeal to a disinterested Neville Marriner, who seemed to mistake them for Arsenal or Spurs or Chelsea. Yes, we were better in the second half, but when your two best performers are a knackered old Ryan Giggs and a pumped up Nan, you have no ammunition. Indeed, Nani, who seemed totally delirious just to actually be on the pitch, was so completely pumped up that he blasted a beautiful free kick opportunity high into the crowd. Due to sign a new contract and clearly feeling renewed by having Mr. Moyes woo him, he may yet be kinda/sorta like a new signing.

For a good proportion of the match, United were vapid. Strangely inhibited, unable to get any real momentum going: This kind of listlessness has become something of a recurring theme in their visits to Anfield over recent seasons. Truth be told, United have now lost six of their last seven visits to Anfield, and, as with Moyes’ Everton, they have flinched in just about every one of those matches. Derby rivalry? United just don’t get it! Giggs showed up, but he can’t hold the ball like he used to when faced with a hacking hyena like Lucas Leiva. Poor Paddy Evra tried so hard, but, was repeatedly, unavoidably legless on a day when the usually reliable tandem of Ferdinand and Vidic looked equally elderly and repeatedly made errors. United’s giving up of only a single goal was miraculous. Well, slightly miraculous, but mostly due to the cold-blooded bravery of goalkeeper David De Gea who took a hammering from Sturridge, Aspas and a host of others who were casually allowed a state of nonchalant carte-blanche in United’s box.

How did the pea-brained Ashley Young come to make the the fourth minute mistake that led to the corner for Liverpool’s goal, allowing Daniel Sturridge to celebrate his 24th birthday with his third successive winner of the season after steering in a close-range header off a Gerrard corner? Young has worn the United shirt for nigh upon three years now. He has not improved one bit since leaving Aston Villa. Like Cleverley, he does not deserve to wear that shirt. Indeed, when Nemanja Vidic tapped a soft back pass toward goal, it was a minor miracle that De Gea beat a thundering Glen Johnson to the ball. Only twice, you say. That’s not so bad. Better yet, minutes away from the whistle, Carrick passed the ball straight to Daniel Sturridge. The whole stadium gasped. Sturridge seemed so shocked that he hesitated and flubbed it.

Doubtless, United would have been better if Wayne Rooney’s forehead had not been split open by Phil Jones in training the previous day. Yet Rooney’s history at Anfield is not good. Where was Shinji Kagawa when we needed passion and ball control? Robin van Persie was well muffled by Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel throughout, squandering United’s best chance late on.

Reticent congratulations to Liverpool are due after they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of their legendary Scottish manager Bill Shankly. Their current boss Brendan Rodgers is, I read, looking for a top four place fourth place this season and when suspended striker Luis Suarez returns they will be even tougher to beat.
As for United, let us all collectively pray for a few good breaks as the transfer window shuts.Liverpool vs Manchester U 007 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.

Reds Soar at Swansea

 Posted by on August 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Manchester United, Swansea City
Aug 202013

Swansea City 1-4 Manchester United
69342044 69342043 Reds Soar at SwanseaIt was a lovely day for the new Gaffer! In spite of driving wind and rain so thick it felt like sleet, David Moyes enjoyed a perfect start, his much criticized team making light work of a quality Swansea City side at the Liberty Stadium. Even Wayne Rooney, despite his sad-sack body language and the facial expression of a child forced to drink a pint of castor oil, made a fine 30-minute substitute appearance and was very clearly given a warm round of applause by United’s traveling entourage. Any idea that Our fans were going to encourage Rooney’s desire to leave the club did not show itself on the night.

It was a scrappy game and United were forced to play off the back foot for the first half hour of the match as the Swans attacked relentlessly. The Welsh club’s new signing Jose Cañas was particularly combative from the beginning, attempting a long shot and then careening into United’s winger Antonio Valencia for which he drew a booking. Soon after,Valencia , his hackles well and truly up. drew his own yellow for a reciprocal foul on his Spanish marker. What followed was a very sloppy, but very exciting introductory comedy of errors.

Minutes later, a sloppy clearance by United’s keeper David De Gea allowed Swansea’s burning-hot striker Michu an easy chance, which he botched. Seconds on, an equally careless back-pass by right back Phil Jones fell to Nathan Dyer, whose weak shot was smothered by De Gea. At the other side of the pitch, Jones, who was very aggressive in running the overlap with Valencia, had a fine shot finger tipped over the bar by Vorm.
It was all very tit for tat and somewhat slipshod until Swansea’s early industry came a cropper as Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck struck twice inside two minutes just after the half-hour.

The industrious Robin Van Persie, who seemed to be everywhere around the Swans’ box, picked up the ball after the cagy veteran Ryan Giggs found him with a superb lob. Out of nothing, with two Swansea defenders blocking his sightline, the Dutch genius fired off a fantastic rising strike in the 27th minute that had all the devastating beauty of a Roberto Duran uppercut. Two minutes later, Van Persie looked even more impressive as a creator when, fed by Giggs again, he supplied a long, loping curved pass which Danny Welbeck only had to slot home past a marooned diving Vorm.

69342048 69342047 Reds Soar at SwanseaUnited were never again under serious threat. With Welbeck and Van Persie playing with such passion, everybody else’s performance seemed a mere afterthought. Vidic and Ferdinand, who both seemed happy to turn back the hands of time looked genuinely chuffed to be playing in tandem again. And Ryan Giggs, in spite of being beaten to the ball a number of times in 50/50 tackles that he would once have sped away from, still showed some sublime moments of skill, not to mention jinking runs that almost got goals on two separate occasions. First, he broke clear of a lead-footed Ashley Williams, but his speed has deserted him and he was caught by the Welsh pivot just as he was about to shoot and, even better, he was able to slalom around three Swansea defenders before firing across the face of goal after Vorm did a fantastic job saving a vicious Welbeck shot.

A third goal was inevitable as United completely dominated the second half and Robin Van Persie fired another rising, awe-inspiring beauty past Vorm in the 72nd minute after he was cleverly played in by substitute Wayne Rooney.

Minutes later, United, having become a little sloppy, allowed Swansea’s new striker, their record £12m signing from the Ivory Coast, Wifried Bony, on as a substitute, to gather a small degree of recompense when he picked up one of Danny Welbeck’s more idiotic attempts at a clever back-pass before bulldozing his way into creating a little room before firing a fifteen-yarder home past De Gea in the 82nd minute.

Yet United did not allow themselves to fall into the same lax patterns they showed last season. The defense tightened up again and the red devils added a fourth goal in injury time as the conundrum that is Danny Welbeck–brilliant at times and then error-prone in others–had an exquisite moment of creativity, showing off some incredibly subtle technique as he beat two defenders before firing a difficult chip at an extremely obtuse angle over an advancing Michel Vorm.

Though United still have the same passing and possession problems in midfield that will clearly be tested next Monday against Chelsea, there was much to cheer about in the team’s level of commitment and effort. Atypically, Patrice Evra, whose legs are now more or less gone, still showed his usual penchant for tackling and getting into the opponent’s box that will surely make Davie Moyes ponder deeply before selling him. With some wicked fixtures upcoming against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, United’s squad will definitely show what it is made of over the next month, one way or another. This was an excellent start!69342321 utd pa Reds Soar at Swansea

Sloppy in Sweden

 Posted by on August 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Manchester United
Aug 082013

AIK 1-1 Manchester United
1071027 17095790 640 360 Sloppy in SwedenForgive your old mum, but she’s right when she says this is not your father’s Manchester United. This is a different one! With all the gossip before the match focused on an ‘injured’ Wayne Rooney and the capricious flirtations of Cesc Fabregas, the match seemed to be barely an afterthought, which was a shame because the stadium was packed with Swedish United fans in their red devil regalia. United weren’t altogether bad, per sé, but their collective disorganization against a far less talented but tactically savvy AIK team already well into their season, did not lift the heart. With so many coaching changes, yet so few alterations in the basic playing squad, the pressure to succeed often and early in a season which begins with matches against their big rivals Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City piled up early, fans are very very nervous.? What they saw from Sweden was not comforting.

When the game finally started, it was played at a surprisingly frenetic tempo with both sides keen to exploit the flanks and AIK’s wingers particularly focused on exploiting Patrice Evra’s aging legs and lack of mobility. Their Kenyan workhorse, Martin Kayongo-Mutumba, repeatedly switched flanks and gave both Evra and his partner Rafael a terribly torrid time. Ironically, United were using the same tactics and Nani–the subject of thousands of transfer rumors these days–was at his sharpest. Dribbling hither and thither and more aggressive than he’s been in years, the Cape Verdean tortured his markers also and was the first to create a chance as he found Wilfried Zaha inside the box. Unfortunately, the nervous new boy blasted his shot way wide of the goal.

A hungry Robin Van Persie then came close, zipping in off the right flank after being found by Rafael, but chipped a low shot inches wide of the post. Another beautiful run by Nani then set up a speeding Van Persie, but his left-footed shot was brilliantly saved by a flying Kenny Stamatopoulos. Then, with the game going end to end, it was United’s keeper, Anders Lindegaard’s chance to make a spectacular save as the bothersome Martin Kayongo-Mutumba did good work to pick up a long clearance from his goalie before firing a vicious corkscrew of a shot which the Danish custodian had to stretch his full body to stop. In turn, Lindergaard’s long clearance was then carried into the box by Evra, who passed neatly to a lone Van Persie who fluffed a simple chance by hitting it off his laces.

AIK v Manchester United Robin van Persie 2983432 Sloppy in SwedenAs the first half came to a close, United’s midfield triumvirate of Anderson, Carrick and Giggs seemed to lose their energy. And when a sloppy Giggs allowed Kennedy Igboananike, to steal the ball off his toe and make a fine, jinky run into their penalty area, United’s back four looked slow and exceedingly weak. Luckily, with Lindegaard advancing to block him and with all the time in the world to score, Mutumba blasted the ball way wide. Indeed, AIK carried their aggression into the second half and took a shocking lead out of nowhere as Robin Quasion swiveled around from twenty yards out and let loose a stunning howitzer of a shot which left United’s substitute goalie Ben Amos stranded before hurtling into the net.

At this point, United woke up from their nap. The goal appeared to snap United into action and they responded almost immediately when Vidic rose to meet a clever Giggs corner. missed scoring by just a whisper as Vidic rose to head home. His powerful header bounced on the six yard line before ricocheting back into the upright and over the crossbar. Then after, Davie Moyes brought on three different substitutes, United tied the match up as a Zaha pass across the face of goal was forced home by a sliding Angel Henriquez. And minutes later, the Chilean wunderkind almost scored his second as, all set up by Robin Van Persie, he tried to switch feet before shooting and got his footwork mixed-up before flubbing a weak shot.

Ultimately, despite seizing the initiative, United’s late pressure game could not produce the expected winner as substitute Danny Welbeck botched a simple toe prod past sub goalie Patrik Carlgren and Persie overdid a simple header from six yards out that went over the AIK bar.

Thus far toothless up front and exceedingly lead-footed at the back, United’s brain trust of Phil Neville and Steve Round behind David Moyes has its work genuinely cut out. Losing Jonny Evans and Nani to injury during this game was not useful, especially as Nani looked like a player who has finally decided to put aside his predilections for cynicism and selfishness. There’s never been any doubt about his talent, but, on the night, he genuinely looked like a committed member of the team who does not want to ply his trade elsewhere. An injured Jonny Evans means more playing time for Chris Smalling and Phil Jones next to Rio and Nemanja. With money clearly not available to buy Ezequiel Garay, these two need to turn it up a notch or two if they wish to remain at the club.AIK v Manchester United Anderson 2983434 Sloppy in Sweden

Apr 182013

W e s t H a m United 2 -2 M a n c h e s t e r U n i t e d
67074426 robin vanpersie getty1 De Gea Gets Hammered!Is there anything left for Manchester United to play for? United only need some combination of their own wins and losses and Manchester City losses and draws that make seven points to clinch the Premier League championship. Rhetorically, however, the players say that they want to win the Premier League in historic style–despite these dropped points–and overtake Chelsea’s record of 95 points in 2004-05. So there was plenty to play for when Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils stepped out from the tunnel at the Upton Park Cockney noise cauldron against the claret-and-blue kings of the Mile End Road. The fact is that’s never easy at the Boleyn Ground. Those who think Planet Ingerland goes soft South of Wolverhampton need to think again.

West Ham were definitely intent on making it difficult for the Red Devils. Well managed by the veteran Sam Allardyce this season, they have bounced back from a season in the Championship Division with a visible hunger. Performing with a consistently visible edge, the Hammers play consistently well at home, maintaining a position in mid table. Allardyce, maintaining his same-old predilection for putting teams of overachieving, long-ball bruisers out there, just as he has previously done in stints at Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers and much less successfully at Newcastle United, gets the job done by recruiting cheap veterans and young big club rejects. And although West Ham are not at all easy on the eye for their fanatic fans, their lack of finesse has been countered by the kind of ruthless acumen which keeps the fans fear of relegation at bay. A lot of Hammer fans don’t like Allardyce’s style but beggars can’t be choosers in the ruthless jungle that is the Premiership and, more importantly, his players are behind him. Big Sam’s tactics against his old friendly rival, Sir Alex Ferguson saw Mohammed Diamé and Kevin Nolan play high and hard against United’s defensive midfielders, Phil Jones and Michael Carrick, while their loan striker, big Andy Carroll, used his huge body as a battering room against United’s goalkeeper David De Gea and an aging center back combination of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Allardyce has made West Ham both truculent and competitive. With the referee Lee Probert not even the slightest bit interested in blowing his whistle, Carroll went ruthlessly about feeding the three a diet of head-butts, elbows and WWF-style grappling. Accompanied by an aerial bombardment from wingers Ricardo Vaz Té and Matty Jarvis, who took turns humiliating United’s past-it left back Patrice Evra to the point where he resembled the Gimp in Pulp Fiction, United realized they were truly up against it from the get-go.

Indeed, Carroll lads put the stick out there so ruthlessly well that Ferguson spent much of the match verbally haranguing the match’s fourth official, André Marriner, and his cloth-eared boss, the referee Lee Probert, especially after Carroll rendered him glassy-eyed with a sucker-elbow after a 45th-minute corner. Indeed, De Gea had his busiest day ever in a United kit after an early Carroll shot smashed the outside of the far post and venomous snakelike machinations of Vaz Té saw the Spanish custodian make two brilliant saves.

United were not so much on the ropes as being calculatedly lazy and laid back early on. Such tactics are always risky for a team schooled to play in a run-and-gun-style, however. Seventeen minutes in, after a lackadaisical Rooney lost the ball in the opposition box, Diamé stole away with the ball, and played a pair of one-twos with Jarvis, who fed Carroll. Carroll steamrollered Ferdinand, simply shrugging the veteran defender off before slipping the ball back out to Jarvis on the wing. The clever ex-Wolves winger then fired it back toward De Gea’s far post. Diamé met the ball, but fired only a mistimed chip toward goal. Meanwhile, brushing aside Evra, Carroll charged in, pushing the loose ball low toward Vaz Té, who dived to ground and forced a header past a flailing De Gea..

United were never on the ropes. per sé, but with Rooney poor up front and seemingly much less comfortable than in his masterful midfield display against Stoke at the weekend, Phil Jones and Michael Carrick were simply out hustled by Diamé and the ageless Kevin Nolan. When the equalizer did come, in the 30th minute, it was a bit of a surprise and definitely against the run of play. Mostly wasted on the left wing, Shinji Kagawa was finally cheeky enough to dance his way inside and pirouette hither and thither with the ball before flicking a perfect dish for a simple side-footed finish by Antonio Valencia from two feet out

In the second half, clearly coached by Ferguson to maintain their slow-build tactics with a view to wearing the Hammers to a frazzle, United slowly began to dominate the rest of the match. Yet football is a game full of ironies and despite owning the lion’s share of quality and possession, Fergie’s boys walked into a custard pie in the 55th minute when Vaz Tê and Guy Demel shucked and jived past a jelly-legged Evra before working the ball to a waiting Mohammed Diamé at the corner of the penalty area. Diamé spun in and around Rooney before casually firing an exquisite curved left-footed shot past De Gea to make it 2-1.

Dominant from then on, it was just a matter of time before Van Persie scored his 25th goal of the season. Just how Shinji Kagawa managed to nip into the box in the 77th minute and give Reid, Collins and Nolan the slip it’s difficult to tell. Nevertheless, a Kagawa shot bounced off James Collins, ricocheting off both posts before a marauding ever-so-slightly offside Robin Van Persie blasted home the equalizer. It was a bad call from the assistant referee but clearly far less shocking than the decision by the collected officials to repeatedly let Andy Carroll try to turn David De Gea into a vegetable. Indeed, it was sort of amusing to watch Sam Allardyce impersonate a red-faced toddler dispossessed of his toys in a way that we are more used to seeing happen with the Dark Lord Ferg on occasions.

With a Monday home game looming against Aston Villa at Old Trafford, United will be facing yet another team fighting for survival with its back to the wall. Coupled with a looming trip to the Emirates to face another favorite of the officials in a schizophrenic Arsenal side. Reaching a goal of 96 points still, somehow, seems to the least of our worries.

Most encouraging of all on a so-so day, however, was the splendid bravery of David De Gea. Battered and humiliated by Everon’s Marouane Fellaini in the first match of the season, the young Spaniard has gone through the process of a ruthless apprenticeship this season. Well and truly bullied by the gorilla-style tactics of Andy Carroll, De Gea took his punishment well, avoided retaliation and stood his ground. Still doubted by a few cynical blowhards, no doubt, De Gea looks to now have earned his laurels as an apt successor to the legendary Edwin Van Der Sar.

Apr 152013

Stoke City 0-2 Manchester United
Robin van Persie celebrat 010 Ferguson Clinches 900th Win!A joyful late afternoon’s work for Manchester United at the Britannia Stadium despite biting, gusting winds. Having lost three points off their 15-point lead in a loss to Manchester City a week ago, their relaxed victory over a Stoke City side that has stumbled badly toward the end of the season soothed a lot of frayed nerves. Additionally, Robin van Persie, a powerhouse for United throughout the season, ended what has been a two month long long late-season goal drought after scoring with a penalty kick. Now that United only need seven points to clinch, matches on Wednesday against West Ham United and a week Monday at home versus Aston Villa loom large. Indeed, the Red Devils may well already know their destiny by the time they visit Arsenal at the Emirates on April 28..

For Sir Alex Ferguson, for whom it was the 900th career victory, there was a certain kind of redemption after a number of his match stratagems in recent team losses to Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City had failed miserably. Simply unable to drop his exhausted talismanic central midfielder Michael Carrick, but clearly distrustful when it came to the input of squad midfielders Tom Cleverley, Anderson or veterans Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, the Gaffer moved his stocky star English striker Wayne Rooney back into central midfield alongside Carrick. Carrick who has definitely been spooked by the physical tactics repeatedly and ruthlessly used against him by the opposition, was visibly much comforted by the protective proximity of Rooney. Meanwhile, behind them, United’s center backs, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic dominated at the back against Tony Pulis’ Potters. This was a bit of a surprise in that Stoke are easily the tallest team in the division, custom built for scoring off the long ball and set pieces. Unfortunately, lacking their tricky winger, Matty Etherington, and his box of tricks full of lobs and clever passing because of injury, Pulis’ team were toothless

Stoke were dreadful from the get-go. Giving up a set piece goal in only the fourth minute, the tall Stoke back line fell into an instantaneous state of malfunction. After Ryan Wootton gave up a corner, Van Persie’s inswinging corner glanced off Kenwyne Jones as Geoff Cameron blocked Phil Jones’s deft second attempt before Carrick was on the spot to prod the loose ball past goalie Asmir Begovic.

Only Robert Huth came close to equalizing for the Potters with a header off a Glenn Whelan free-kick but that was a rare Stoke chance during a slow first half in which United coasted and stayed relaxed on their back foot. And although veterans Evra, Fedinand and Vidic all started to look more than a tad leggy late on, the high work rate of Rooney and Phil Jones made light of their deficiencies. Consequently, 65 minutes in, after the number of hacking fouls showed just how much more tired the whole Stoke team were by comparison. With United slowly, grindingly backing Stoke up toward their own box, and, after Nzonze unnecessarily hacked down Rooney, the Scouser’s pass to Van Persie set the Dutchman free in the box. Nevertheless, RVP was in no way close to putting himself into a scoring position while dribbling the ball. This did not stop a worn-down Andy Wilkinson from panicking and ruthlessly hacking him down, however, and the referee, Jon Moss, showed no doubt whatsoever in pointing to the penalty spot. Guessing correctly, goalie Amir Begovic came close to stopping Van Persie’s spot kick, but the veteran striker hit it just perfectly to the lower left corner where it squeezed home to make it 2-0.

In what was definitely one of the more joyous moments for Manchester United this season, an ecstatic Robin Van Persie heard the touring Red Army singing out his name as he did a jig before running toward his manager while he stood gesturing happily on the sidelines. What followed was a spontaneous bear hug from the burly Netherlander that almost knocked the canny old Scot off his feet. “He nearly killed me! He forgets I’m 71,” Ferguson said after the match. It was a lovely moment. All the more resonant to me because no one who loves the game could conceivably imagine Van Persie ever doing the same thing to his old manager Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.
66999180 017737973 1 Ferguson Clinches 900th Win!

Feb 182013

article 2278420 179030B9000005DC 993 634x388 I was wrong about De Gea

There, I said it.  Over the past two seasons, I have been one of the most vocal about De Gea not being good enough for Manchester United.  He has very visible weaknesses.  He struggles when a physical presence is required on crosses and set pieces, and his inability to speak English fluently greatly impairs his ability to command the back line.  These are obvious, and were clear from the first big game against Manchester City in the community shield.  The problem is, many people (myself included) never took the time to re-evaluate.  Over the last couple of months though, I’ve come around.  Not only do United have the best young keeper in the world right now, but they most likely have the best shot stopper in the world, period.

When evaluating goalkeepers, you have to also look at their supporting cast.  When you look at United, you naturally would think that De Gea is surrounded by the best players possible.  The problem with that theory is that it ignores the injuries and father time, which have wrecked havoc on United over the past two seasons.

Here are the appearances for Manchester United’s top defenders in the premier league so far this year: 26 total games played (starts)

Patrice Evra: 25 (25)
Rafael: 21 (20)
Rio Ferdinand: 20 (19)
Jonny Evans: 17 (16)
Chris Smalling: 12 (7)
Nemanja Vidic: 11 (10)
Phil Jones: 9 (5)

Nemanja Vidic has never really made it back to the every week starter, and defensive rock, that he was before his injury against Basel in the Champions League last season.  With only 11 appearances so far this season for Vidic, De Gea has been deprived of not only his best defender, but the undoubted leader of this squad.  Its clear to anyone watching that United are a much different animal when Vidic is in the lineup.  It also speaks volumes that Evra is leading the way in appearances, and starts, while he is also seen by many as a weak link in the United defense.  Far past his prime, its well known that Fergie was looking to bring in Leighton Baines as a replacement over the summer.  The one bright spot has been the play of Jonny Evans.  The player that pushed Pique out the door to blossom at Barcelona, has often been a disappointment to many United fans, but he’s been probably the most consistently good defender this season.  With Vidic working his way back to full health, Rafael maturing into a world class right back, and Rio seeming to defy time, De Gea is set up to finally have some consistency in front of him for the rest of this season.

Now, getting to the man himself, one major argument in De Gea’s favor is to simply look at the stats.  The below stats are from and show the comparison between David De Gea and Joe Hart.  Hart is widely considered to be the best keeper in the EPL, more reliable, more mature, and generally favored by the media.  Upon closer inspection though, De Gea is the clear winner.  De Gea has obviously had to work more, 68 shots compared to 44, and over double the amount of saves per game.  The one huge stat that took me by surprise was the aerial duels.  De Gea won an astonishing 83% of his aerial battles, which flies in the face of everything you’ve have heard from people like me over the past 2 years.  Clearly he doesn’t look the most confident, but its obvious that whatever he does works.

Saves: Hart – 44, de Gea – 68
Saves per game: Hart – 1.7, de Gea – 3.8
Saves to shot %: Hart – 65, de Gea – 77
Successful clearances: Hart – 26, de Gea – 24
Successful clearances per game: Hart – 1, de Gea – 1.3
Aerial duels won %: Hart – 75%, de Gea – 83%
Passing accuracy %: Hart – 60%%, de Gea – 56%
Total loss of possession: Hart – 224, de Gea – 188
Errors that lead to goals: Hart – 4, de Gea – 1

This plays into the other aspect of his game, his complete unorthodox style.  This was on display for all to see in Madrid for their Champions League match against Real Madrid.  Right off the bat, in probably his biggest game yet for United, De Gea made a save with his fingernails to dive and divert Coentrao’s wicked curling effort, that traveled through multiple players before being forced onto the post, in what was probably the save of the season. Later in the same match De Gea displayed what is quickly becoming his trademark, a glorious kick save of Coentrao’s effort. De Gea said: ”It all happened so fast, I got across and was lucky enough to save it with my feet. Overall, I am very happy with my performance. I am improving every day at Old Trafford and I am very happy.”  Which has to make every Manchester United fan very happy to hear.  De Gea has proven already that when it comes to pure shot stopping, he has very few peers … if any.

It speaks volumes that coming out of a Champions League knockout match between two of the biggest clubs in the world, where Ronaldo (arguably the world best player) faced his former team Manchester United (which he’s still in love with), the major talking point was not about any of that, but it was all about the greatness of De Gea.  Well done sir, you’ve proved a lot of us wrong and for once, I am glad to admit my mistake.


 Posted by on February 1, 2013 at 3:49 pm  England, EPL, Manchester United, Southampton
Feb 012013

Manchester United 2-1 Southampton
article 2271000 174258BC000005DC 843 634x424 Sanctified!Manchester United made hard work out of what should have been an easy victory at Old Trafford against Southampton. We have won pretty and won ugly this season. This win was something in between, a sort of zombie walkabout broken into periodically by Southampton’s awkward young team of blossoming journeymen. Like a sleep-deprived medical intern coming to the end of a 96-hour shift, United seemed to punctuate long bouts of shiftless indolence with flashes of inspiration and urgency. Nevertheless, they somehow got the job done, putting themselves seven points ahead of an even more lethargic Manchester City, who were held to a draw by Queen’s Park Rangers. Indeed, poor Mike Phelan, who seemed to spend the night shuffling between the Gaffer’s throne and the team technical area, spent a lot more time than usual barking out orders and looked just as knackered as his players when Lee Mason blew his final whistle. Better yet, with Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur also being held to draws, the status quo of two weeks ago was restored and Fergie’s boys find themselves well and truly in the driver’s seat.

United were stunned only two minutes in when a dreadful Michael Carrick back-pass was stared at and dithered upon by David de Gea as the Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez took control of the errant ball, swerved around the Spaniard and fired the visitors into the lead with a nice diagonal effort. Caught, bang-to-rights in the middle of singing ‘Glory Glory Man United!” the Stretford End went deathly silent for a pregnant minute before regrouping impressively. At that awful moment, the body language of De Gea, who has been relentlessly vilified by .his former teammate Gary Neville and an army of football journos was sad to behold.

Not that the Saints’ had long to enjoy their precious lead, though. Five minutes later United went level as Carrick wiped the sleepies from the corners of his eyes and, stole the ball away from Gaston Ramirez with a an uncharacteristically crisp, snapping tackle.He then executed did the kind of zigzag sprint fans are unused to seeing in our midfield these days and fired off a pass that was intercepted by Schneiderlin, but bounced away into the path of an advancing. The fleet-footed Japanese then slid a clever pass in behind their defense that Rooney confidently ran into before shooting gently past Artur Boruc and Carrick was redeemed.

Temporarily wide awake, United simply overran their opposition . And when a stupid Ramirez foul inside the box gifted Robin Van Persie a free kick 26 minutes in, Rooney was in the exact perfect spot to tap home the result of the Dutchman’s perfect high pass to Evra for him to head down.

Little can be said about the rest of the match which is worthwhile. Kagawa, Evra, Van Persie (twice) and the perpetual-motion-machine which is Danny Welbeck, all squandered easy-peasy chances, both before and after Rooney’s second. And when Kagawa hit Boruc’s right post from close range after Rooney dinked the ball through to him, Rooney’s verbal barrage of red-faced clearly vented frustration at the wanton, wastefulness of his colleagues was clear for all to see and hear. Of course, Southampton owed a lot to the first-rate goalkeeping of Artur Boruc, but United never seemed quite ruthless enough on the night to go beyond their two early goals. Indeed, the chorus of oohs and ahhs reached a frustrated crescendo as brilliant pirouette followed by a slick layoff from Kagawa fed Van Persie, only for him to put his foot through the ball, blasting it way high over the bar.

Mauricio Pochettino, in only his second game as boss of the Saints, must be well aware that his weak young squad is deeply mired in and around the bottom four teams in the the Premier League. Well aware that his side truly had their backs to the wall, the Argentine rang the changes at half time, replacing Jason Puncheon and Gaston Ramírez with Steven Davis and Adam Lallana in midfield. Very much encouraged by the reticence of both Carrick and Anderson to tackle in their own half, a speedy young Southampton side suddenly began exuding confidence as Rickie Lambert had a shot brilliantly saved by De Gea. Schneiderlin, Lambert and Rodriguez all took advantage of Patrice Evra’s inability to double-clutch and run. Luckily all three were equally inept at executing the final coup-de-grace. After Welbeck conceded a corner to Evra’s master, the brilliant young Natty Clyne , Rooney was forced to concede a second. Having shrugged off Smalling, Lambert leapt high over United’s defense but somehow miraculously conspired against himself to head down Schneiderlin’s beautiful floating corner ball and, still unmarked, with all the time in the world, blast wide of the goal.

With United truly on the ropes for the first 30 minutes of the second half, De Gea almost bollixed his job up again as Schneiderlin’s lightly hit 25-yard free-kick was bobbled and six Southampton players charged toward him for the rebound. Luckily, he recovered and when, minutes later, Robin van Persie looked to have put the Red Devils’ 3-1 up with a strike off a superb Wayne Rooney cross, there was a chorus of boos as the referee blew for a controversial offside after consulting with his assistants.

Last, but not least, was the moment of nail-biting drama as, with seconds to go, the gazelle-quick De Gea well and truly redeemed himself for Southampton’s opener with a fine reflex save off a superb Rickie Lambert free-kick.

“The truth is that they were the better side,” Sir Alex Ferguson said after the match. “They actually did us a service, because they showed up all our defensive deficiencies all at once.”
65609326 hi017083116 1 Sanctified!

Jan 212013

Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Manchester United
Vidic clears a Spurs free 001 The Blame Game!The secret, they said, was to contain Gareth Bale and Moussa Dembele. Sounded good. Contain those two, every so-called pundit and expert insisted and, just like always,  you’ve got the same old weak-willed bunch of North London sob sisters. What every one hadn’t counted on, however, distracted by the obnoxious desire for attention of the club’s abrasive, street hustler/ Spiv Chairman Daniel Levy. is that the club has finally hired a brilliant , worthy manager in Andres Villas-Boas.

Late in the game, with an exhausted Manchester United team no longer able to control the match’s tempo, Sir Alex Ferguson gambled on playing rope-a-dope from the 80th minute on. Knowing exactly what Dembele and Bale do is intellectually do is one thing, dealing with it in practice is something else again. Left to his own devices, Aaron Lennon is the most predictable overrated winger in the Premier League. Carefully marked, he has been little but an ooh-ah distraction against the likes of Stoke City and Bolton Wanderers for years. One on one in a foot race with the stubborn Peter-Panish Patrice Evra, Lennon got his own bit of pay back for at least seven seasons of getting his head handed to him, by rubbing the faded French left back’s nose in a giant pile of poo for final thirteen minutes. Revenge, in the case of Aaron Lennon, is sweetest when served dim-witted and cold!

For those who appreciate footie ironies, both started playing in the Premier League in January 2006. Lennon, eighteen at the time, one of Levy’s usurious bargain purchases from the diseased bankrupt body of Leeds United and Evra to United from Monaco as a replacement at left back for the brilliant, but constantly injured Gabriel Heinze. In combat for six seasons, it was never any contest. The foot race rivalry for fastest-but- least brightest between Jermaine Jenas, Jerome Thomas, Matty Etherington, Ashley Young. Theo Walcott and Lennon was always won by the spring-heeled latter.

Despite the onset of early senility in many athletes, however, Evra at the age of 31, has finally been gobsmacked by the vicissitudes of time and fate. As the French say,   “?Cette fille sexy et jeune est maintenant une grosse, négligée femme au foyer!” A team-player of the first order, a hard worker, and a real gentleman, Paddy is much loved by the fans, the Gaffer and most of his United teammates. Unfortunately, although he still succeeds with many aspects of his attacking game, including his admirable leapimg ability for corners, his legs have gone. When you can no longer run with a player who has no more to his game than speed, sudden stops, and step-overs, the end is no nigh. The prospect of Paddy facing the combined switcheroo antics of Angel DiMaria, Mesut Ozil and CR7 against Real Madrid has me reaching for my trusty bottle of Johnny Walker Black!

Consequently, United exposed themselves to the cruelty of a late late dagger into its tubercular defensive underbelly, when United’s thus-far heroic goalie, a partially blocked David De Gea weakly punched a cross towards Lennon and Evra. The speedy little Yorkshire pocket-rocket simply had to skip around the knackered veteran before tapping the ball into Clint Dempsey’s path. Poor De Gea, awesome all afternoon, was totally exposed as the whole back line, petrified of Gareth Bale, shifting right with the Welshman and the one who likes to have himself called ‘The Texacutioner,’ despite being utterly, toothless throughout the rest of the match was there on the spot to spare his club defeat and destroy United’s seven point lead over the Abu Dhabian rent boys of Manchester City.

Sir Alex Ferguson Manches 006 The Blame Game!Sir Alex Ferguson may have barked at the officials and the press about the dreadful refereeing of Chris Foy and his awful assistant Simon Beck, but it just seemed to be more of the same of what the fiery old Scot always does after tight draws and losses. Doubtless United did deserve the penalty call they did not get when Steven Caulker blatantly upended Wayne Rooney to the turf in the penalty box in the 61st minute. The truth is, however, that despite often being surprisingly imperious in midfield and deserving a one goal lead from a superb Robin Van Persie effort in the 25th minute, United just did not take advantage of the scores of counterattacking breaks they had in both halves.

In spite of the incompetence of Chris Foyle, United should have been leading by three or four goals, so dominant and brilliant was their counterattacking play. Unfortunately, chance after chance was squandered. For me, however, despite the dreadful ineptitude of Evra, this was the best team performance by Manchester united this season. If the team’s major weakness on the left flank can be solved, however, the big picture is much improved for the club.

Of course, the obvious will hold true if you look at Spurs’ statistics,. The north Londoners controlled possession for close to 60% of their home match, but their finishing was so repeatedly, inexcusably dreadful that United always looked the more likely to get a second goal throughout. With David De Gea pulling off three fantastic saves from Defoe, Bale and Lennon (and Emanuel Adebayor off playing for Togo in South Africa), striker Jermain Defoe simply never seemed truly up to the task against Rio Ferdinand. After what was probably his worst display ever in a United shirt in the 3-2 loss to Tottenham at Old Trafford in September, the Peckham Kid has learned to keep his perimeter tight of late and the proximity of a fit Nemanja Vidic didn’t hurt, either. The way Ferdinand has adjusted to doing less better of late ought to have been both a lesson and a warning to Patrice Evra, but the Frenchman has not yet adjusted to the cruelties of time.

For one of the few times this season, United played truly well for 80 minutes and were always dangerous. Danny Welbeck, although not much of a scoring threat these days, was a worker-bee throughout, and, along with the twinkle-toed Shinji Kagawa, who was in his element in a winger-less midfield next to a frolicsome Tom Cleverley and a marvelous Michael Carrick who, although he always plays well against his old club, seems to be at a career high level of confidence.

And just how good is Robin van Persie? RVP’s 22nd goal of the season midway through the first half was a little bit of burglary out of Mission Impossible. After Kagawa picked the ball up in midfield, he pushed it into Carrick’s path. Carrick hit an exquisite Pirloesque cherry to Danny Welbeck on his left and the young Manc striker cut inside, seeming to dither a moment about taking a shot before cleverly locating Cleverley. Just how Cleverley’s cross was found by the flying Dutchman, who was double-marked by both Dawson and Caulker, managed to get to the ball is a miracle us mortals can only contemplate upon. Once the cross reached Van Persie there was an inevitability about where it would finish. Shrugging the Spurs center backs aside, Van Persie headed the ball home. Wow! He now has 10 goals in his last 10 league matches.

Just how well both teams performed is the snow is to their credit as professionals. The pitch was only passed fit for play an hour before kickoff. Two of the more amusing sights on the sidelines were Spurs’ boss Andres Villas Boas, swathed in blankets, attempting to remain warm and still and Sir Alex Ferguson, so absorbed in the game’s second half, that he didn’t notice his woolly club tam was then wrong way round on his head.

In the cruel postmortem which  has followed this match, the Bury accent of Gary Neville has communicated itself loud and clear. The tying goal is the fault of an eccentrically passive/aggressive David De Gea, he insists in all of his pundit gigs for television  and radio. His opinion does indeed count for something and he’s gone out of his way to show how the ‘body language’ of Vidic and Welbeck after the equalizing goal was scored showed ‘anger’ at the Spanish custodian. At the same time, another teammate, Javíer Hernandez, has been Twittering that he and other teammates beg to differ. Coupled with Rumor Mill-mongering from the usual pool of hacks who make their bread and butter out of conjecture, the repeated word is that the Gaffer has fallen out of love with the young goalie.  This is inevitably bound to become a self-fulfilling prophecy; and, ultimately, perhaps one which will be best for all concerned, if a more seasoned veteran is signed. Mark my words, however, David De Gea will eventually be a superstar! Such is life lived in the goldfish bowl of playing for Manchester United and the need to be in the good graces of a London=biassed, barracuda-like press.

*”That sexy young girl is now a fat sedentary housewife!”