Send us a message

Interested in being a part of the team? Get in touch with us today.

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

Bushido Football!

 Posted by on July 26, 2013 at 5:51 pm  Blogs/Media, England, Manchester United
Jul 262013

Cerezo Osaka 2-2 Manchester United
Wilfried Zaha 008 Bushido Football!The never ending soap opera that is Manchester United continued in Osaka. While the gossip factory back home in blighty belched out continuous yes/no rumor-mongering vis-a-vis Cesc Fabregas leaving F.C. Barcelona to become part of our brilliant crew, the Japanese celebrated the return of a native son as Shinji Kagawa was feted and celebrated to the uncomfortable point of idolatry. For anybody watching this match who doesn’t own a schoolgirl crush on Kagawa, the game took on all the bizarre glamor of a pay-per-view WWF grudge match. With 85,000 locals relentlessly making banshee-like shrieking noises, Our Shinji did it all: Scored a goal, missed a sitter, missed a penalty. I hope the crowd got what they wanted. The game was entertaining indeed, but it was hardly professional football.

At any rate, Our new young rising star, Wilfried Zaha, spared his more famous teammate Shinji Kagawa from much embarrassment when he scored an injury-time equalizer for Manchester United over J League heavyweights Cerezo Osaka just as it seemed like the Red Devils were about to suffer a third tour defeat against Prince Shinji’s old club. The grateful massed squeal of the crowd as Kagawa’s substitute tapped home n a low, beautiful cross from Anderson’s meant a final sense of yin equaling yang after Kenyu Sugimoto and Yusuke Maruhashi had scored either side of Kagawa’s equalizer.

United began with a lot of hustle and Cerezo’s South Korean goalie Kim Jin-hyeon was busy from the get-go after he made a flying save off a stinging left-footed Robin Van Persie shot inside the first minute. The Dutchman had been the victim all week of many panic ridden rumors about having an injured hamstring after being taken off early in the team’s loss to Yokohama. on Tuesday. Clearly, in spite of the Daily Mirror, he was okay! Indeed, Van Persie was in the mood for long-distance target practice as Kim was forced to make three diving saves off him in the first half. Quite a useful custodian, Kim made a string of fine saves, although he was extremely lucky that a spectacular diving Phil Jones header went over the bar.

It’s doubtful that they ever do this normally, but it was so humid and just plain hot that officials and coaches decided to take a drinks break midway through both halves. Meanwhile, as United began to wilt, Osaka improved. Anders Lindegaard was forced to make a series of quality saves before their forward Edno sent his header straight at the Dane from pointblank range. Any kind of nod in either direction would have put the hosts ahead, to be sure. But minutes later, clearly intent upon giving his blundering rival Jonny Evans a run for his money, Chris Smalling hesitated with the ball at his feet in the six yard box and a thieving magpie, Masahiro Sugimoto, was there to steal away the ball and fire home past Lindegaard to make it 1-0.

Late in the half, Van Persie picked up a loose ball after Danny Welbeck had failed with a beautifully powered rocket which hit the post. Normally, the lethal Rotterdam assassin would surely have surely scored himself. Instead, in some weird kind of reverse loyalty and Bushido to his teammate, RVP squared chivalrously toward Osaka’s venerated Home Boy Kagawa. Absurdly, ridiculously and almost unbelievably, Kagawa caught the ball on his instep and hit it with his laces high over the bar accompanied by Takashi Mike samurai-movie moans from the capacity crowd.

Still, United kept up their pressing game and that other legend, Ryan Giggs, narrowly failed with a chip shot over the bar before Welbeck came close as his shot beat Kim but curled wide by a bare inch or so. Kagawa then really blew everybody’s mind. After a sprinting Ashley Young was brought down in the box, Van Persie shrugged, bowed to his colleague and allowed Shinji to take the spot kick. Unfortunately, Kagawa hit it too softly and the goalkeeper guessed right, making a fine low save. This caused the embarrassed crowd to make even more bizarre keening noises. Luckily, ten minutes later, Kagawa was the recipient of a sweet lobbed Giggs pass into the box which Kagawa had all the time in the world to fire home.

Cerezo were not to be easily shrugged off, however, and after some sterling midfield work, Anderson lost the ball to Minamino. Minemino then executed a fine bit of dribbling, executing a deft run to the edge of the box before firing a bazooka which exploded into the top corner of the net.

With both sides clearly tired and wilted, the exhibition match began to take on the look of the final round of an old Rocky Movie as the two teams staggered all over the grass, the Japanese team desperately trying to hold the lead as United periodically worked toward a draw. Yet, after some marvelous dribbling artistry from Zaha, Cerezo almost scored a third as Lindegaard made a fine, flying. fingertip save to deny Maruhashi.

It was only in injury time that the Premier League champions managed to salvage their dignity as Zaha, the new young winger who has impressed the most on this three-week trip, ruthlessly took his chance from close range.

Yokohama Marinos 3-2 Manchester United
Read the usual blogs and you’ll see the usual fans are going at it, as per usual. The panic brigade is already considering collective seppuku while the usual Orthodox loyalism-obsessed jihadis want to behead anybody who hasn’t fallen into a state of instantaneous thrall to Davie Moyes and his new crew. All of it is stuff and nonsense, of course. As with any preseason match, much that’s useful can be learned by the coaching staff and pundits alike, but nothing significant; nevertheless, a vanity -beguiled Manchester United side suffered a second defeat out of three preseason matches when the J League’s Yokohama Marinos scored late for a well deserved win.

The good news is the same. Jesse Lingard scored another goal and, alongside the equally hungry Adnan Januzaj and Wilfried Zaha, United clearly own some impressive and potentially fruitful young attacking talent. Bad-news wise, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans were just as mismatched at center back as they were when paired together for Sir Alex Ferguson’s 5-5 farewell at the Hawthorns in May. Once Fergie’s blue-eyed Ulster boy–leading to the exit of a far superior talent in Gerard Pique–Evans, along with teammate Tom Cleverley, is the ultimate proof of the cliché that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Repeatedly positionally retarded, Evans is living proof that, no matter which videos you watch, or how much good coaching you receive, all the natural athleticism in the world can not render you intelligent. The opposite holds true for Cleverley. Although he is energetic and intelligent, he is shockingly slow and technically predictable. When scouts on the other side of the world can so readily prepare their less talented players to trivialize two of your starters, there’s a problem.

The United team which won the World Club Cup in its last appearance in the same stadium in 2008 clearly bears no resemblance to this one. Of course, the introduction to massive applause of Shinji Kagawa, was very moving for the locals and lucrative for the Glazers. Lots of Kagawa, Van Persie and Rooney replica shirts were sold. Yet Moyes started a youthful lineup. and was clearly happy early on as they fought back after suffering an early sucker-punch. Yokohama attacked straight away and David de Gea had to make an acrobatic save to deny Brazilian striker Marquinhos. But the ball was too desperately hacked-away by a leggy Patrice Evra, who is clearly just a shadow of his old self. Hanato then played the ball back into United’s penalty area for the 37-year-old Marquinos to streak past the flat-footed Evans, Jones and Evra, before slamming home. And all before a minute had ticked by.

But United tied it up after eighteen minutes as the 20-year-old Jesse Lingard played a pretty pass out wide to Wilfried Zaha,. Sprinting into Yokohama’s box, Lingard took a difficult return pass from the speedy Zaha. A desperate Masakazu Tashiro stretched to intercept the cross but Lingard was there to seize the loose ball and fire home

With United fairly bubbling with energy, Yokohama were not coping well. Repeatedly teased and trivialized by Lingard and Zaha, Tashiro went up to block a wickedly hit Adnan Januzaj free-kick. The ball glanced off Tashiro’s shoulder into the net and United took the lead in the 32nd minute.

Slowly but surely, however, the high humidity began to slow United down. With Michael Carrick injured, United have offered ample opportunities to Tom Cleverley and his partner Anderson to prove themselves. Their passing quality from central midfield proved to be awful, however. Yokohama seemed to pick off every pass. Steadily growing more and more fatigued. United still made more than a few good chances. only for the plodding Jonny Evans to squander them. How he missed a beautiful Zaha cutback which was dished right onto his foot, but which he blasted way wide despite an open goal.
Minutes later, United let it all slip as the crowd’s national hero Kagawa made his first appearance. In the midst of a wall of noise, Yokohama’s Brazilian defender Fabio leapt high and headed Nakamura’s precise curving corner home.

In the latter part of the match Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck each squandered chances repeatedly. Yet, instead of keeping up the pressure, United looked ready to settle for a draw
The Marinos tireless veteran midfielder Jim Hanato had other ideas. Hanato took the ball from the weak-tackling Cleverley and zigzagged his determined way toward United’s box. With United’s whole defense backing up, Hanato chipped a long ball straight to Yoshihito Fujita, who tapped the ball home past a a stranded David de Gea for the victory.

Aside from minor injuries to Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck, what Moyes called “wee worries,” United got away with no more than a loss. Yet with so much at stake back home in the world’s most lucrative league, and so many parallel changes in the Premiership at Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton, the new manager and his number two, Steve Round, have much to chew upon. With Vidic repeatedly injured, Evra’s legs gone and repeated lackluster ineptitude from Young, Cleverley and Anderson, they are running out of time to decide whether to cut them loose and sell them on the cheap or persevere with their presence. At worse,we should repeat last year’s Jekyll and Hyde model: Inspirational attack accompanied by a porous defense. If Moyes can find two or three pieces at the back and to bolster the midfield, United can still win it all again.

Jul 222013

A-League All Stars 1-5 Manchester United
No matter what happens in his career from now on, 20-year-old Jesse Lingard will always be part of the vaunted history of Manchester United football club having scored the first goal of David Moyes‘ tenure as manager before a huge noisy crowd of 83,127 fans. With the game only eleven minutes old, the fleet-footed Warrington whirlwind hoovered up a crisp Tom Cleverley pass following a Danny Welbeck dummy, beating two defenders before firing home. Collectively were United were looking way sharper than they had during last weekend’s 1-0 loss in Bangkok to the Singha All Stars in Moyes’s debut. Lingard’s crisply taken goal relaxed the red devils, and they were the happy recipients of standout performances from Wilfried Zaha and Danny Welbeck.

22 minutes later, Lingard pushed a sweet short effort to Ryan Giggs, whose own weighted pass was casually slammed home off the side of Welbeck’s boot beyond Ante Covic. The anemic A-Leaguers, who were constantly kept on the back foot by the speed of United’s transition game, were simply overwhelmed. the rowdy crowd, as in Bangkok, were mostly clad in United red replica kits and not at all disgruntled about losing.

Still, just as with last weekend’s Thai defeat, United looked ridiculously vulnerable to being turned. Somehow, with Cleverley and Carrick passively retreating before Tom Broich, the Australian journeyman was wise enough to lob a defense-splitting pass over the too casual center back pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones. Free and unmarked, their Albanian striker Besart Berisha, once Burnley’s property, picked up the ball, executed a one-two with Bruich before rocketing a shot over Anders Lindegaard’s goal which missed by only a fraction of an inch.

Ferdinand, huffing and puffing, clearly still feeling the effects of his vacation, was pulled at half-time for Michael Keane. Keane was clearly either too awed or intimidated by the occasion, however, and had the ball slipped off his foot by the marauding Berisha, who tapped a slow rolling flick past a flat-footed Anders Lindegaard to make it 2-1.

Two minutes later, the diminutive dynamo restored United’s two-goal cushion with a 25-yard bazooka which flew past new goalie Michael Theo. Then, five minutes later, Robin van Persie arrived like a hurricane. With his first corner, the veteran left-footed striker placed a perfect dish on on a high-rising Welbeck’s head for him to nod home. Then, as a last treat, Van Persie added a single flash of utter casual brilliance. After executing an elbows-out pirouette to make room inside the Aussies’ box to play home a hard-sprinting Anderson; unfortunately, the muscular Brazilian midfielder was too anxious and got caught offside.Still, the tall, ever-determined handsome Nederlander goal machine picked up a pass from Cleverley and missed with a soft shot at Theo. But the loose ball bounced back to him and he fired the fifth goal in the 86th minute.

Both Zaha and Adnan Januzaj showed off some dynamic footwork over the final five minutes, although Januzaj missed a wide-open sitter late on. Master David Moyes mat not have learned anything particularly new in this victory, although Wilfried Zaha looks good and ready to join the wing rotation featuring Valencia and Young. With Moyes’ making a statement at the pre-match Sydney press conference in which he insisted a preference for keeping the erratic, but sometimes brilliant Nani at the club, Andruzaj’s presence in the squad is questionable.

Football is rarely filled with genuine sentimental moments, but the post-match chit-chat with ever-aggressive Australian press saw Ryan Giggs at his most charming. Deftly avoiding their desire for banter about his personal and family life, Giggs raved about the local facilities and improvements since his previous visit. “Would you ever consider playing over here before you retire?” one journo asked.

“The only league for me is the Premier League,” he said boldly, “and my only club ever is Manchester United!”

May 222013

West Bromwich Albion 5-5 Manchester United
Jenkins Arsenal West Brom 004 A Crazy Goodbye At the Hawthorns!It wasn’t so much a Premier League football match as a circus. Before it began West Brom and Manchester United formed a guard of honor for the legendary Gaffer of Gaffers, Sir Alex Ferguson, as he beamed and bowed to all and sundry before kickoff. Yet by the time he tried in vain to scurry away from the pitch, close to two hours later, his face was like a traffic light. Boxed in by a scrum of journos and security personnel, there was an almost soporific expression of feigned relief on his sharp, old ruddy Celt face. How he psyched himself into giving the crowd a cheeky wink and a smile along with a final wave is beyond this witness. I doubt if he saw a white light at the end of the Hawthorns’ tunnel, but having lasted over 1500 United games, this last goofy, testimonial-style kick about must have almost blown his mind. Even for Him, the grand ringmaster, the last of his redundant kind in the neo-corporate world of professional football, this last bow must have seemed like waking up in the midst of a Fellini movie. When Ferguson took a warmly-received bow before kickoff, he exuded an aura of sublime majesty and paterfamilias. What followed was bound to be anticlimactic

Mostly disinterested at the beginning of the game, the Baggies were like a brood of wealthy kids invited to their über, hip big, brother’s birthday party. There, but only barely so, hoping for cake and watching United run around, they might as well have been in the crowd. United went ahead after six minutes as the all-action Shinji Kagawa nodded home a Hernández cross after he was the recipient of an exquisite diagonal seeing-eye pass from Alex Büttner. Three minutes on, they had a second goal as a panicked Jonas Olsson mistakenly diverted a dipping Valencia pass past United’s old mistake-prone goalkeeper, Ben Foster. What might have been going on in the head of Foster is interesting to conjecture upon because of the utter disaster which happened to United’s reserve goalie Anders Lindergaard in the second half. A custodian’s life, it seems, is a lonely one!

Excited by the first two goals, the old Scot barely reacted at all to marauding left back Alex Büttner’s 30th-minute Bangalore-style rocket of a goal from an obtuse angle after some fine setup work by Chicharito and Tom Cleverley. But then, three up, United collectively went to sleep. You can get a lot done in fifteen minutes or, conversely, not done at all. It was as if Carrick, Cleverley, Anderson, et al, decided to take a couple of conference calls to deal with their brokers and make Summer vacation plans before facing the old man in the dressing room for the last time. Consequently, the Baggies reduced the deficit before half-time after a fine shimmying run saw James Morrison ease past a casual Phil Jones before sort of accidentally/on purpose steering home a shot that looked like a cross from the right.

For the second half, however, Albion’s dour coach, Stevie Clarke, did what he should have done earlier, bring on Romelo Lukaku to play his last game in Brum as a loanee. Jonny Evans–the supposed Derry Hard Man–was true to form up against Lukaku as he is when the opponent is Kenwyne Jones, Carlton Cole, Marlon Harewood, Nile Ranger or Shola Ameobi. The Gaffer’s sentimental second-favorite after Darren Fletcher, Evans can do no wrong in Fergie’s eyes and so became, once again, completely persona non grata on the pitch. The reason Ferguson allowed Gerard Pique return to Barcelona, Evans ought to have acknowledged his own limitations, walked away and sat down next to Nemanja Vidic on the bench Instead, it only took five minutes for Evans to be reduced to a wreck, backing off on an advancing Lukaku until he was blocking off the sight-line of Lindegaard and it was child’s play for the Belgian-born Congolese striker to fire casually home.

Yet United were still totally, casually in control as both Robin van Persie and Hernández squandered sitters from six yards out. And Hernandez was set up for yet another goal by Giggs after a sweet jinking run through the Baggies’ keystone kops defense. Yet Chicharito deferred to the retiring Paul Scholes, whose timing was at least two seconds off as he stumbled and shinned the ball softly to Foster. Scholes then had a little bit of the kind of fun we expect of him when he unleashed a copyright Ginger Prince-style late tackle on Claudio Yacob. Still, there was relief on the horizon as Robin van Persie scored his 26th league goal of the campaign, after a slide-rule cross by Valencia to make it 4-2. And it to all be over in the 63rd minute when the tireless Hernandez added a fifth, cleverly steering home a Ryan Giggs cross.

It was then that United got sincerely rattled as Lukaku picked up a long ball from Malumbu and headed at speed toward Evans. While Jones and Lindegaard screamed at Evans to retreat no more, the ball was already soaring into a shuddering net. And then with a poker-faced Ferguson fuming from the bench, Mulumbu played a nice double one-two with Billy Jones. before firing home in the 81st minute to make it 5-4.

Too little too late as, for his last act as a manager ever, the dark Lord Ferg brought on Rio Ferdinand for Evans. Yet by now, Lukaku was burning hot and ratcheting up what was by now every United fan’s fear. Undeniable, Lukaku grabbed his hat-trick, his seventeenth goal of the season, completing his hat-trick after muscling his way through Jones and Ferdinand during a goal mouth scramble four minutes from time. Indeed, instead of bemoaning United’s porous defense., my instincts cried out that, if Wayne Ronny wants to leave so badly for Chelsea, that this Lukaku kid thrown into a partial swap deal along with Ramires and a healthy chunk of Abramovich cash.

At any rate, despite this crazy draw at The Hawthorns, United finished their season eleven points ahead of Premier League runners-up Manchester City. Unbelievably, it has been a total of 10,000 days since Alex Ferguson’s first match as the manager of Manchester United, a 2-0 defeat against Oxford United. Winning a championship in his final season will go a long way toward comforting him for failing to pick up a third European Champions club. Nevertheless, the Gaffer and the Ginger Prince will always be missed. I even salute Michael Owen after his much quieter last gasp and retirement at Stoke City. Adieu! Adieu! To you and you and you!
Jenkins Arsenal West Brom 007 A Crazy Goodbye At the Hawthorns!

May 142013

Manchester United 2-1 Swansea City
Sir Alex Ferguson 004 There’ll Never Be Another His Like: Goodbye Sir Alex!It was a lovely day at Old Trafford as the faithful gathered to celebrate the momentous retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and Paul Scholes and a 20th club championship. The genteel crowd was loud without being raucous and everybody seemed to have brought a banner to wave in lieu of becoming too drunk with passion on an obviously emotional night. Indeed, the only thing that threatened the Hollywood, fairy-tale-style story was the upstart-type rudeness of Manchester United’s guests Swansea City. Superior by far to United’s jaded team of played out carousers–especially in the second half., manager Michael Laudrap’s team almost stole away with the cup that had long since runneth over. Fortunately, United own more than one wizard and its Dutch one, Robin Van Persie, waved his magic wand in the 87th minute, supplying a fantastic pass that Rio Ferdinand, who rarely ever scores, was on the spot to volley home for the winner.

It was the kind of last minute coup-de-grace United’s fans have grown used to this season. Nothing surprising to Fergie and his Ginger Prince, of course, although both were jumping up and down in their seats.This had been Scholes’s 498th Premier League appearance, during which he helped the club win 11 titles during a brilliant career .Scholes, the quiet master of the probing midfield pass balls, has been a performer of integrity, lauded by the likes of his contemporaries Xavi, Edgar Davids, Kaka and Zinedene Zedane as the greatest English footballer ever, Scholes has always shrugged his shoulders and let his football do the talking..

Indeed, so momentous were these goings-on that Wayne Rooney’s Mother’s Day decision to announce that he wasn’t going to play and announce that he had just submitted a second written request for a transfer seemed to affect the proceedings not a whit. as Ferguson picked a mixture of old warriors like Ferdinand, Evra, Scholes and Carrick next to De Gea, Kagawa, Welbeck, Jones and Hernández. How funny it was to see our joyous Anderson conducting the Stretford End as they sang. “We won our trophy back now Mancini’s got the sack!”

At any rate, it was a fairly staid first half as United retained possession over a seemingly overawed Swansea team, and played a surprisingly slow kind of tiki-tak passing. Evra, Scholes, Van Persie and Welbeck all missed chances. It took until the 39th minute for United to finally execute. After an injury break to treat Welbeck and Neil Taylor after a clash of heads, United were awarded a free-kick. Van Persie’s kick landed awkwardly by Ashley Williams who pushed his clearance straight into Hernández’s path. Chicharito being Chicharito, he blasted the ball home from six yards out. Man Utd v Swansea 010 There’ll Never Be Another His Like: Goodbye Sir Alex!

After the break, united suddenly began missing their passes. With Jones playing right back, Carrick did not get the protection he likes from a tiring Anderson. Much harassed by De Guzman and Brittan, Carrick’s passing game evaporated. The first-rate Pablo Hernández helped himself to an Carrick feed and which forced Ferdinand to clear for a corner. Williams climbed high to nod Hernandez’s ball across goal where it landed at Nathan Dyer’s feet. The titchy winger’s inswinging pass was missed by a diving Jones before the fantastic goal-machine Michu managed to volley the ball past a stranded David De Gea.

If this caused disquiet in the United ranks, worse nearly occurred soon. Wayne Routledge got in behind – precisely where Ferdinand did not want him – but as the forward pulled the trigger Ferdinand got back close enough to make him miss to De Gea’s left. With the score tied, the Stretford End suddenly went quiet as City enjoyed almost twenty minutes of outright domination. Luckily De Gea made two great saves from the Spaniards, Hernandez and Flores.Man Utd v Swansea 013 There’ll Never Be Another His Like: Goodbye Sir Alex!

Luckily, having weathered the storm of an attacking single-minded. Swansea, United’s elderly brains-trust of Giggs and Van Persie were bound and determined to make a happy ending. And when Ferdinand volleyed home his first goal in five years in in the 87th minute, the victory/retirement party began in earnest.

After the match, Sir Alex Ferguson picked up the microphone and paid tribute to players, supporters, all of those, he said, those at United who had supported him in troubled early years Thus he segued into requesting We all give our full support to new manager David Moyes. the Gaffer then took off for ten minutes before returning with his triumphant squad (including Wayne Rooney) to celebrate this by-now familiar ritual of joyfully lifting the Premier League trophy, having reclaimed it from Our nemeses Manchester City.
Man Utd v Swansea 014 There’ll Never Be Another His Like: Goodbye Sir Alex!

May 052013

Robin Van Persie celebrat 003 Van Persie says no to number 9 so fans won’t feel ripped off

Robin van Persie intends to snub Manchester United’s number nine shirt and stick with 20 – to save fans having to shell out on another kit.

When Van Persie arrived from Arsenal, the number nine shirt was still worn by Dimitar Berbatov, who did not leave for Fulham until the end of August. Instead, the Dutchman inherited the 20 shirt worn by Brazilian defender Fabio prior to his loan move to QPR.

Ferguson has offered Van Persie the chance to switch numbers next season. However, the favourite to claim the Premier League Golden Boot prize for the second straight campaign intends to stick with what he has.

“I think I’ll keep it,” Van Persie told United Review. “I have the option to take number nine but I don’t think I will do that. I’ll stick with what is right and what feels good. Also, I don’t want to be harsh on the fans who have got number 20 on their kit. I don’t want them to have to buy a new shirt.

“It’s been a good number for me and now I can at least celebrate the 20th trophy for another year. I’ll stick with it.”

May 012013

Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United
Robin van Persie Arsenal 008 1 Arsenal: If it Wasnt For No Class, They Wouldnt Have No Class At All! The story behind the story. My dream. Friday at the Arsenal training ground. Theo Walcott is staring at his opened locker door. Scotch-taped to the door is a carefully cut out newspaper photo of Rio Ferdinand. Theo is making his war face.
“You talkin’’ to me?” he says in his thin Berkshire boy-soprano mockney. “Are you talkin’’ to me?”
Rio just stares back, which makes Theo madder and madder. “Are you talking to me?”
He feints and then throws a left hook just short of the photo. Doesn’t want to dislocate his shoulder again, does he?
“We-ell I don’t see anyone else in this room,” he says real Yardie-like. “So I’m gonna have to kick your arse.”
Next to him, on the left is Gervinho, his funny, string and real hair toupée-cum-extention do making funny noises as it taps against his forehead while he swears in French at a photo of Jonny Evans. To his right, Per Mertesacker, lovingly referred to as “Der Meatsack” by his teammates, keeps staring at Wayne Rooney and calling him “Shkausser Schweinhundt!”
Meanwhile, behind them, an old skinny Alsatian named Arséne is smacking a riding crop against a bench while his even dourer assistant sucks his teeth. “Zey got our little gift on Sunday, right Steve?” Steve Bould, nods repeatedly.
“Venez sur mes garçons de poupée lttle. Montrez-leur ce qui, dans le coeur d’une poupée, est un guerrier.!” *
Theo does not know what his silly French boss is talking about. He never knows what his silly French boss is talking about. But he does know he’s going to beat that bloody Rio Ferdinand all the way back to Pinner or Peckham, or wherever he comes from.
A dream? How else can one explain Sunday’s comic draw? Arséne Wenger, Nick Hornby and Piers Morgan with their simpering platitudes about their team being on its best behavior proved to be about as sincere as a pregnant nun. One more desperate, tragic attempt to seize an early advantage. Sure, the crowd booed at Robin Van Persie and, sure, the Dutchman looked sad. The full human comedy had to be played out, however, and, at the end of the game, Robin Van Persie had scored 25 league goals for Manchester United, 29 in all competitions, and taken over the lead for the Golden Boot from the hungry one, Luís Suarez of Liverpool. Arsenal fans went home even more miserable than they had when they arrived

Nevertheless, the goal he scored against Arsenal may turn out to have a truly resonant impact. Should Les Gooners miss out on a top four place in the Premier League and thus the Champions League next season, it will be the first time they have gone without the most lucrative of cash cows for the first time in fifteen years. Let me reiterate. You know the cliché–the one that says revenge is a dish which tastes much better when served cold–it was one Arsenal fans had to swallow in a state of deeply deserved anguish on Sunday. Having booed their former hero throughout the first half, they got their comeuppance. Yes, irony was well noted on all sides as Robin Van Persie stepped up to rocket home a well deserved, icily dispatched penalty in the 42nd minute while the fat lady sang.

United versus Arsenal matches are by their very nature ugly affairs. Not ugly in the vicious sense of United’s tactically ugly matches with Liverpool are. They are, rather, emotional, slapdash, petty, often badly behaved matches on both sides, full of sneaky off-the-ball encounters, relentless speed races, shocking mistakes and always always always too chock full of drama for mortal referees to handle. In this case, with Howard Webb’s favorite assistant Phil Dowd running things, veteran United fans were all well aware that if anybody was going to make sure He was going to be the star of the show, it would be Phil himself. And so it came to pass!

Arsenal were shockingly dominant for the first half hour. Testing Dowd with every single tackle, ankle-tapping and rabbit-punching off the ball, the Arse were the 2005 team temporarily reincarnated, minus the purity of talent and finesse, though. Much quicker to the ball, playing with width, sprinting to fill every space, repeatedly taking turns kicking Wayne Rooney as if he were a sort of Scouse Guy Fawkes dummy, they kept United pinned back while repeatedly, relentlessly daring them to retaliate for a series of cheap shots. Yet United did not retaliate. It all being part and parcel of a season of ridiculously good behavior. Yet the crew of officials seemed to blow everything Arsenal’s way. It became pretty clear once they’d received their fifth yellow card in a row after Rooney collided 50/50 with Arteta and Rafael Da Silva took umbrage after receiving a throw-in in the mush, that Phil Dowd was not in a state of empathy.

The one goal Arsenal did score came in the second minute and was so clearly offside that United actually took it well, seeming to sort of collectively shrug their shoulders. Ironically, Van Persie was the culprit as he carelessly gave the ball away to the thieving magpie Rosicky. The Slovak schemer was quickly off to the races before firing a fine pass into the box which Walcott sped onto from an offside position before firing a finish at an obtuse angle past a stranded David De Gea, who had no chance.

And from then on, until about the 40th minute, Arsenal played well. Still, led by Lucas Podolski in place of the suspended Olivier Giroud, although they attacked relentlessly, they were mostly ineffective. In spite of the relentless energy displayed by Rosicky, Arteta, Ramsey, Cazoría and, later. Wilshere, they were simply never looked capable of executing that effective last ball in United’s third of the field.

To say United took a long time to get going is a copious understatement. The boys were obviously hungover, many said. But these young millionaires really are quite fit and surely young enough to shrug off what might well hinder lesser men. Yet how did Rafael da Silva and Phil Jones both end up passing the ball to an invisible teammate and out of touch under no opposition pressure? Sure we expect De Gea to drop a clanger under pressure, but how did he simply drop a corner kick he caught cleanly and make a bollix out of a subsequent clearance? Wayne Rooney was fine in the second half, but in the first half he seemed to spend a lot of time admiring the hue of his boots. Nani and Valencia were more or less invisible beyond passively absorbing cheap shots from Arteta and Ramsey. With Ferguson letting loose a very audible string of invectives at the fourth official and a grinning Phil Dowd, United’s ‘hangover’ seemed to be more of a case of narcolepsy. The kind of body-snatched stupor associated with absinthe, not champagne!?

Yet, as bizarrely un-United as they so often seemed early on, they still created a couple of opportunities of their own before Van Persie’s equalizer. Phil Jones, as cumbersome and awkward as he seems, was a more and more of a menace in midfield as Arteta and Ramsey’s off-the-ball bullying upped his ire. Well set up by Evra and Rafael Da Silva, he headed two gaping sitters wide of the goal. Then, having botched a series of half-chances, Nani sold Arteta an exquisite dummy, lifted a breathtaking cross into the path of Van Persie as he sprinted into the box. How Szczesny saved his shot is hard to know.

But, minutes later, Van Persie shrugged off the cobwebs again. In fairness to Dowd, his judgment was impeccable for the penalty because, at the speed the actual play was made at, it was anything but a straightforward decision. Picking up a Valencia pass, Van Persie took off at speed down the left-hand channel, leaving right back Bacary Sagna flat-footed and humiliated. Having made a mistake, Sagna swiveled and gave chase. In an attempt to make up for his mistake, he slid in on Van Persie’s ankles and threshed him down well inside the box. Dowd, who had already forgiven an identical foul by Sagna on Evra earlier, grinned back at a caterwauling Ferguson, blew his whistle and pointed at the penalty spot. Many in the crowd were amazed. A wall of boos accompanied that penalty, but Robin Van Persie is made of strong stuff. His shot, a piece of raw, pure, beautiful left-footed power, beat Wojciech Szczesny easily.

Whatever did go wrong on the day for United, I think none of us or them have any idea of what it was. Absinthe drinking offers up as silly a reason as any. The sad reality is that they had a fine opportunity to set a record and overtake Chelsea’s 95 points, from José Mourinho’s first title-winning side in 2005, but that chance is now gone. The game could have gone either way in the second half but it was an erratic performance from the champions. Indeed as monentous as some of the bad moments have been this season, it’s rare occasion when they look as disheveled and disoriented as they had in the opening 40 minutes.

I don’t mean to belabor this issue again and again, but, really, how is it that, despite being so close to London, the ruling class at the F.A. and by virtue of always having their noses up in the air and always out of joint, and thus, by implication, closer to God, why do Arsenal have no dignity or class? Poisoning Spurs’ buffet on the night before a crucial last match of the season over fourth place in 2007 typifies how they operate. Their willingness to form a guard escorting the champions on to the field was, their manager said, a sample of just how sportsmanlike they were. Yet any good will ended there as, clearly having noticed what everybody else has also clearly taken advantage of this season, that this current United squad, although massively talented, is both physically and emotionally the weakest Manchester United have fielded ever. Indeed, having been beaten up plenty this season, winning the championship surely is even more of an achievement. Taking one’s lumps goes with the territory. We understand that. Nevertheless, the petty acts of sly, underhanded , off-the-ball skulduggery perpetuated by Les Gooners and willfully turned a blind eye to by Phil Dowd should be duly noted by United fans. No matter what, I pray that Sir Alex Ferguson buys at least one player who is familiar with the dark arts of the game for next season. Those who doubt me might tune in to Bayern’s Champions Cup steamrollering of Barcelona. The natural toughness and adaptability of a certain Javíer Martinez they bought for 50m euros from Athletic Bilbao had made a world of difference to them which the Gaffer shouldnote

And so, finally, picture Theo in his parents basement in Compton, Berkshire. Still staring at the same newspaper cutout of Rio, only now it’s attached to a mirror and he’s wearing boxing gloves.
“You talkin’’ to me? You talkin’’ to me, Rio? Offside? Rubbish.” He throws a combination at the mirror. “Is there anyone else in this room?”
Arsenal v Manchester United Premier League 1858663 1 Arsenal: If it Wasnt For No Class, They Wouldnt Have No Class At All!

*”Show them that inside the heart of my doll-boys is the heart of a warrior!”

The Beautiful Number 20!

 Posted by on April 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm  Aston Villa, Blogs/Media, England, Manchester United
Apr 242013

Manchester United 3-0 Aston Villa
Manchester United celebra 006 The Beautiful Number 20!Ah! Where to begin? Twenty minutes after the end of the match Sir Alex Ferguson is bowing to the Stretford End while, across the field, Robin Van Persie is encircled by the Dutch press, both of them serenaded by Queen’s We Are the Champions. Is this the same crowd–most of them clad in the green and yellow striped scarves of M.U.S.T. protest–that has repeatedly voiced so much ambivalence about their manager’s unrelenting support for the club’s American owners, the Glazer family? On the night, resentments have been set to one side. They adore him and he adores them back. As with most families. The relationships may be fractious and sometimes truculent, but the club is beloved by all in their own way and winning the championship back is sweet to all and sundry.
Meanwhile, Robin Van Persie is being adored and assaulted with questions by a Nederlander press corps he talks to on a first name basis. An old aquaintance from Rotterdam, Henk Van Sleewanhoek, who has , I’m told, been his tormenter since leaving Arsenal for United instead of (the journo’s preference) Juventus gets the most attention.
“Did you ever think you’d come out of your dry spell of terrible misses?” the cheeky writer asks.
“I was worried,” says Robin. “I was not sleeping.”
“So this hat-trick you scored must feel fantastic.”
“I have never been so happy, This is my greatest day ever as a player and the first time in my career I have ever won a championship. No thanks to you, Henk!”
I only mention all this because I caught it all on the iPad of a Dutch friend. A long time mate and a fellow United fan, Jaapie has been following Van Persie’s career since way before he signed for Feyenoord in the Eredvisie. With a history of never ever having played a full season of football until last season’s contract year, Van Persie had been thought of as an inconsistently brilliant. An awesome talent who, like his compatriot, Arjen Robben, was unable or unwilling to play through pain. United paid a fee of £24m and wages of £220,000 per week for a player who was too often hurt and it seemed like no bargain at all, especially because he was taking up a place in the squad vacated by the departure to Fulham of Ferguson’s grand folly, the consistently inconsistent Dimitar Berbatov. Well, we were as wrong can be! Van Persie has been as brilliant as a newly discovered sun appearing in the firmament out of some black hole. Beyond the spectacular goals he has scored is his place as the best Manchester United table-setter I have ever seen. A brilliant taker of corners and free-kicks his clever linkup play has been instrumental in the improvement of Wayne Rooney, who is now a more complete player than ever before; Javíer Hernandéz, who is becoming better and better at screening the ball and setting up teammates; even the sometimes out-of-control ungainly presence of Danny Welbeck has been much improved by playing in his proximity.
Robin Van Persie celebrat 003 The Beautiful Number 20!

Of course, there were hints of this at the last World Cup. Especially when RVP, alongside Wesley Sneijder and Rafael Van Der Vart dismantled Brazil’s self-anointed Samba machine. A great player for the great occasion, Van Persie arrived at Old Trafford on Monday afternoon about as ready as ready has ever been. Having won the championship nineteen times and having blown it big-time a year ago on, of all things, goal average, United played like a team of destiny. This has not always been the case over a surprisingly inconsistent season, but United wanted to clinch at home, especially considering next week away match away at United’s long time rivals Arsenal, who just happen, in case you live in a vacuum and don’t know, to be Robin Van Persie’s old club. Primed and prepareed, thy were a red steamroller determined to be reunited with their trophy. And with Robin van Persie playing at his maximum exquisite artistic best, it seemed apt and altogether natural that he would completely dominate the match. Indeed, it felt appropriate that the Dutchman should be so transcendent and dominant on the night.

Van Persie might not win the individual honors but he has certainly had the greatest impact of any player on the Premier League this season and his first-half hat-trick, taking him to 24 league goals, saw him leapfrogging Luis Suárez as the leading scorer in the division. And having just been suspended from playing for ten games after a biting offense against Chelsea’s Bronislav Ivanovic in Sunday’s 2-2 tie, Suarez will clearly not win this year’s Golden Boot award. Such accolades and awards are well deserved by Van Persie who is clearly the best striker playing in England. In the match, he was everything, the warhead of United’s multi-faceted attacking game, a constant menace. It seems absurd to think that making it feel like a trick of the imagination that only one week ago he was overreacting to chances, devastated by a short, debilitating patch where he couldn’t score.

Going in with a 13-point lead, Ferguson set the team up with Wayne Rooney as its play making fulcrum. Inspired as much as Van Persie, it seems, Rooney was both a bodyguard for the brilliant-but-brittle Michael Carrick and an inspired passer. If Paul Lambert’s pack of young midfield jackals pressed him, Rooney would execute short and square to the Geordie greyhound. If they tried to cut off Carrick, Rooney was ready and waiting to ping Ginger Prince-style long, probing chip shots from United’s half. And poor Villa, who have let in a grand nightmare total of 64 goals this season were simply powerless to resist.

Two minutes in and Manchester United needed to be nervous no more. A long seeing-eye pass from Rooney found Antonio Valencia on the right. Rafael Da Silva swept up behind the Ecuadorian in support, jinking this way and that toward Villa’s box before finding the Old Master, Ryan Giggs, at the far post. Giggs casually squared his cross into Van Persie’s path out of a clawing Brad Guzan’s reach and, only two steps off the goal line, the Dutchman fired a simple tapper home.
Villa were already gob smacked and semi-destroyed. Four minutes later. Surrounded after picking up a Carrick chip, RVP fired a thirty-yarder of a volley over Guzan’s bar by a bare inch. He was just warming up. however. As if on cue, eleven minutes later, Rooney and van Persie gave us a bit of oo-wah-wow up there with Cantona and the blessed Trinity. Wazza dished up a superb curving chip that Van Persie somehow timed his run onto with a perfect moment of synchronization for the ages. Looking up, he somehow calculated the spinning trajectory of the ball and his perfect left-footed volley, as pure a piece of combined power and execution as I’ll ever see, went flying past Villa’s frozen, open mouthed goalie into the net. Did anyone ever make it look so simple? What followed, his victory run from one end of the pitch to the other with a victorious arm raised, really was the stuff of which legends are made.

For most of the half, Manchester united was a thing of beauty. Giggs repeatedly mugging and nutmegging poor Matthew Lowton. Carrick and Rooney grinning as the crowd sang their songs between marvelous examples of the passer’s art, ran Villa ragged. The sight of Giggsy out sprinting a player sixteen years his junior was the stuff of dreams. And in the midst of a familiar Stretford End serenade about Le Maitre Cantona, the Red Devils struck again.

33 minutes in, Rooney and the casually fluid Shinji Kagawa double one-two’d it in midfield and Giggs was free and clear of his marker Ron Vlar on the left. Robin Van Persie picked up his cross, snaked past Brad Guzan, and utilizing his brilliantly cool, cruel acumen, ignoring the four defenders around him, feinted toward a sprinting Lowton, shifted his balance to his right and pushed the ball home.

To the chagrin of many of the celebrating fans, United eased off the accelerator from then on. The boys taking it light and easy, especially after the interval. Villa launched themselves back into things and, even though they own no worthwhile defensive quality beyond the Job-like sufferings of Ron Vlar, Paul Lambert’s kids gave it a good go. Indeed, Ferguson was angry enough at Patrice Evra for repeatedly fouling a wing-heeled Kieran Westwood and receiving a yellow card that he ventured early to the touchline and gestured both his disapproval at his fading left back and his suddenly lackadaisical teammates. Indeed, Evra, already booked, was way beyond lucky that the referee, Anthony Taylor, did not punish a pair of brutal tackles from behind on both N’Zogbia and Weimann. Van Persie even became a defensive hero late in the match when he headed away a superb shot from Andreas Weimann off the goal line.

From then on it was all party. And clearly, had United put their war faces on again, many more goals could have been scored. Still, both Rooney and Kagawa saw their shots rattle off the bar. Having clinched with the win at home against Villa following Manchester City’s loss to Tottenham Hotspur, the challenge now, with four matches left is to beat out Chelsea’s best ever Premier League tally of 96 points.lRobin van Persie 002 The Beautiful Number 20!

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!