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United Punish the Goalposts

 Posted by on October 24, 2013 at 1:10 pm  Blogs/Media, England, Europe, Manchester United
Oct 242013

Manchester United 1-0 Real Sociedad
Manchester United celebra 008 United Punish the GoalpostsNo doubt about it. The fans and pundits who complain about the lack of general ruthlessness in David Moyes’ new version of Manchester United do have a point. On a night when both Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa were both brilliant, their general inability (them and their teammates) to fire that final coup de gráce was shocking. The margin of error in a 1-0 home is stressful to all and sundry concerned, especially when United really were so dominant throughout most of the match. The scoreline was surely not the one a deeply cautious Moyes would have liked after throwing caution to the wind during so much of the match. Nevertheless, United gritted their teeth and performed with verve enough to get the necessary three points.

Having been mauled by the pundits over his admittedly odd substitutions against Southampton in the PL at the weekend, Moyes came off as more of a jolly populist for starting Javíer ‘Chicharito’ Hernandéz and Shinji Kagawa. With Robin van Persie still suffering soreness from toe and groin injuries, the dour Scot had Hernández partnered with Rooney up front while Kagawa took over on the left from Adnan Januzaj and Ryan Giggs partnered Michael Carrick in central midfield. As the Basque team is small and built for speed, it was surely a relief for the tackle-shy Carrick to deal with the tricky but more finesse-oriented Sociedad and not have to hide behind Marouane Fellaini.

United’s nerves were soothed early as they got a second minute gift thanks to some Sociedad comedy defending. Indeed, it was wonderful to watch as a slick Wayne Rooney turned Markel Bergara inside-out deep in the penalty area, setting himself up exquisitely before blasting a bazooka which rebounded off the upright straight into the uncoordinated path of a panic-stricken Iñigo Martínez, who reached out tentatively with his right foot only to tip the spinning ball into his own net. Ten minutes on, United almost made it two as their goalie, Claudio Bravo made his first save of the game, stopping a Rooney shot on the line after a fine cross from Rafael Da Silva had set him up.

Passing with confidence, attacking relentlessly and running out every ball over each blade of Old Trafford grass, United really were sincerely in it to win it on the night. They were not, however, into the same kind of bullet-velocity wing play many of us have grown used to. Moyes is much more cautious than Ferguson when it comes to transitional play on the flanks, probably due in part to Patrice Evra’s inability to adapt his old legs to new realities. Atypically, Rooney was too high up the pitch to cope properly with an early Valencia cross. His cleverly improvised extemporaneous attempt at a scissors-kick to reach Valencia’s ball almost paid off, but a miss is good as a mile no matter what the cliché. And something identical almost happened again with minutes as Valencia let fly early with yet another shock early pass and finding an offside Hernandez. The Mexican assassin headed home, but was clearly adjudged to be offside.

Real Sociedad were not invisible, though. Luckily, the gifted shot-stopping abilities of David De Gea grow and grow. His one-handed save to prevent a Haris Seferovic shot from scoring definitely saved United because the whole team was standing around arguing, after the referee allowed the match to continue despite a blatant Martínez a foul on Giggs. United got even more fortunate as De Gea clearly wasn’t quick enough to reach a terrific free kick from Sociedad’s best player Antoine Griezmann which exploded off the crossbar. Why our defense keeps downing tools in these moments seems to defy all common sense! United survived a further scare at the start of the second half when Seferovic left Evra in the dust. His wicked shot fooled Evans, whose ugly clearance almost flew into his own net. 70674281 javierhernandezandwaynerooney United Punish the Goalposts

A quick caveat here. I can’t remember any game ever ever where the goalposts were hit so often. by both sides. Kagawa and Rooney both hit the goal posts three times. Valencia, Hernandez and Rafael once each. Bizarrely, early in the second half, Alberto de la Bella almost caught De Gea out of position with a shot that grazed the bar at one end while a wide-open Valencia badly hit a wide-open sitter against the post at the other. Valencia sensibly tried to make sure with his next opportunity, unselfishly squaring for a wide-open Kagawa goal. Unfortunately, the chance went begging once more as the Japanese took a soft touch in front of Bravo’s goal instead of shooting for power.

By the time Rooney blasted over the bar from six yards out in the 72nd minute, followed by Phil Jones header blocked by Bravo and Antonio Valencia’s low, angled shot ricocheting back off the post, United just seemed cursed. Exhausted, Sociedad barely put up a defense toward the end of the game and both Rooney and substitute Ashley Young failed to profit from a clean two-on-one situation four minutes from time, and, then, after squandering that one, as Giggs’ lovely chip found Kagawa flying again; unfortunately, alone and isolated, with only the goalkeeper in his way, the Japanese lost proper control of the ball and clipped it softly to Bravo.

Beyond Rooney’s whizz-bang display and his praise for the new manager after the game, and the voices of United’s brand-new ‘singing section,’ it’s also crystal-clear that Mr. Moyes can no longer afford to ignore Shinji Kagawa’s innate brilliance. Forced to start on the left wing, Shinji made do, working well with Ryan Giggs as they alternated positioninng in both central midfield and on the flank. When Chicharito was pulled late in the game for Ashley Young, Moyes moved Rooney front-center and put Kagawa in his favorite position, in the hole behind the striker. For the last fifteen minutes or so the industrious Japanese was an unstoppable force of nature.

It will be interesting to see if Moyes gives Robin Van Persie another chance to rest this weekend against Stoke. If the Dutchman is fit,I wouldn’t be at all averse to the boss putting a slightly withdrawn RVP on the left wing and Rooney as center-forward with Kagawa in the hole.
70674284 martinezowngoal United Punish the Goalposts

Sep 102013

Brian Sanders, Adam Uthe, and Sean Maslin review the Champions League Group stage draw picking out the winners and losers

Click here to listen

Morning Papers in Spain

 Posted by on January 21, 2013 at 11:14 am  Liverpool, Real Madrid, Spain, The Ball is Flat
Jan 212013

newspapers 300x169 Morning Papers in Spain We have returned!: the Madrid of 100 points reappears in Mestalla. 5 goals in t he first half was unforgettable. Valverde: “You can’t surprise Madrid twice consecutively.” Karanka: “there has never been a debate about Casillas amongst the technical staff.” A Steamroller: Velocity, intensity, anticipation and punch: Madrid has returned. A white recital with a 0-5 in the first half. Cristiano, Di Maria and Ozil are immense. The German participated in all 5 goals. 10,000 Valencia supporters abandoned Mestalla in the first half because of the dour game of los che. Courtois, objective #1 . the Atletico keeper is the preferred replacement for Valdes by the Barca technical staff. Villa decided to leave in the winter. The striker asked to leave because of his lack of minutes. Tito left with an embrace. The coach leaves for his cancer treatment in New York.

Mundo Deportivo: De Gea/Reina: an exchange! Barca are preparing for Valdes leaving and United put the ex-Atletico keeper (De Gea) on the market. Rena would be well-received in  the Camp Nou, but Ferguson has tempted him with De Gea’s position. In England they put Courtois at Barca.

The Ball is Flat: I am not sold that either the dip in Barca’s form nor the sudden, rampant play by Real Madrid is permanent. Real Madrid still have plenty wrong in their set-up, difficulty with set-pieces, inconsistent play from players like Di Maria and Ozil, etc., so the Madrid press are being a little premature. You also need to blame Valencia for allowing Madrid to play their game and praise Real Sociedad for pushing Barcelona around tactically.  As for the bombshell that Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes is looking for new challenges and leaving Barca in the lurch then the obvious answer in the short-term is Pepe Reina. He learned at Barcelona, knows the system and plays the ball excellently around the back. De Gea is younger but I still don’t think United are prepared to rid themselves of the young keeper, and Courtois is owned by Chelsea not Atletico Madrid. Looks dubious to me.

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