Saturday, November 22, 2014

Arsenal 1 - 2 United

McNair Smalling Blackett
Valencia Fellaini Carrick Shaw(Young)

Di Maria Rooney
The Captain with a Delightful Finish
That was a big big win today. Arsenal would have gone 4 points ahead of us had they won. Instead we've got ourselves in a top 4 position after a very disciplined display. We create very little and, admittedly, rode our luck but worked very very hard and that earned us the three points. Arsenal may feel hard done by but that's what happens when you miss so many chances. The Gunners could have been out of sight by the 30th minute but a combination of poor finishing and excellent De Gea interventions kept us in the game. 

Smalling has been the butt of many jokes but he was absolutely brilliant AGAIN today. He made two stupid decisions which ruined the game for us vs City but he was outstanding vs Chelsea a week earlier. He did quite well in two big United games and I still hear people mumbling that he's not a good central defender. He's not great, definitely not, but he's a good defender and it's about time people start realising this. I thought he was excellent today. Fellow central defender Mc Nair gave his absolute best and made some important interventions. The level of maturity he's showing in his play is a joy to see. Let's hope he develops into the defender he promises to be. Our other academy graduate, Blackett, looked shaky at first but grew in stature as the game progressed. I was watching Match of the Day a few minutes ago and the pundits showed how good his positioning was during the game. Well played. 

Unfortunately, Shaw had to be taken off fifteen minutes into the game. Starting the Englishman was a gamble that did not pay off. I read that was our 40th injury of the season. Unbelievable. 

Valencia was solid throughout and had a big say in our first goal which, by the way, was a Gibbs own goal even though our Ecuadorian tried to claim it. Valencia's shot was definitely going wide had it not beed deflected by Gibbs. Fellaini was brilliant on some occasions and dreadful on others. But he's someone who has become a very important first team player in van Gaal's Manchester United. That goal vs WBA has done him the world of good. He looks confident....finally. Let's hope he keeps on progressing. 

Carrick was his usual self but looked exhausted by the end of the game. His game plan was to play it simple and that's exactly what he did. Well, that's exactly what he has always done. I love this footballer. On the left side, Young had his best game since we thought he had become Messi in the pre-season games. Rooney ran his socks off and scored a very good goal. He could have had an assist had Di maria, who was mostly average, finished better when one-on-one with the goalie. RVP? Invisible. 

To go to the Emirates, with so many players missing, and still win is a decent achievement for van Gaal. I thought his tactics were spot on once again, like they have been for all the big matches. That was van Gaal's finest hour as a Manchester United manager. Let's hope our boys build on this win and go on a good run. Oh by the way, bravo De Gea. Man of the Match. What a goalie we've got!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

United 1 - 0 Crystal Palace

Valencia Blind McNair(Fletcher) Shaw
Januzaj(Mata) Carrick Fellaini DiMaria(Wilson)
RVP Rooney

United dominated the game but did nothing extraordinary. The game was always in our hands from start to finish but we couldn't trouble Palace's goalie. We attempted 23 shots but only 5 were on target. Apart from the goal, there was only one shot that really troubled their goalkeeper and another that hit the post. Fellaini also had a header cleared off the line. If we had those chances vs a top four team I wouldn't be complaining but we were playing a team that is 17th in the league.

Having said that, Palace made it very difficult for us to have a proper sniff at goal as they parked the bus from the first whistle. Their game plan was to defend with a lot of men behind the ball and hope for a mistake by United's defenders. That mistake did happen as McNair and Blind left the ball for each other late in the first half but Campbell shot wide from an ideal position. Phew. De Gea only had one shot to save, if you can call it a shot. 

I am quite please with Shaw, McNair, Carrick and Rooney. Shaw had a very good game, McNair defended well and looked good going forward, Carrick was calm and passed the ball excellently while Rooney was all over the place working very hard. Mata was obviously my man of the match because he scored the winner and almost got another but his shot hit the post. I think Mata is a good player to come off the bench but I'm still not entirely sure whether he's a good enough player to start matches in the Premier League. After Mata's substitution, Rooney had to go to the middle of the park and then to left midfield. If I had to choose who'd start off the striker between Roo and Mata, I'd choose Rooney all day. 

Di Maria, Januzaj and van Persie disappointed me immensely. Di Maria looked uninterested and, believe me, I'm not saying this because I read Scholes' comments the other day. But he really looked like he was not enjoying himself playing. Obviously, that may have been because he knew he was absolutely shit today and was disappointed with himself. A player of Di Maria's quality should be running circles around these Crystal Palace players who are, as the table suggests, average at best. On the other side, Januzaj couldn't really trouble Joel Ward as he was outpowered by Palace's defender. RVP looked totally off the pace and missed an easy chance to put the game to bed. Wilson should get a look in if RVP's keeps this form. Our academy graduate played for a few minutes but he looked very lively. 

So it's another international break, just in time to get some injured players back to full fitness. We'll then be facing Arsenal at the Emirates in a game that is a must win if we intend to keep close to that fourth spot. Come on United!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

City 1 - 0 United

Valencia Smalling(s/o) Rojo(McNair) Shaw
Di Maria Fellaini Blind Januzaj(Carrick)
Rooney RVP(Wilson)

So here we are after yet another defeat on the road. If I’m completely honest, I’m really not that disappointed after this game. We were playing the Champions of England and played the majority of the game with 10 men. Although, at this stage of the season, last year we were 4 points better than this year, I can see an improving side and I’m not entirely worried about our 9th place league standing. We were controlling the game and had our fair share of chances before Smalling earned himself two yellow cards. After that, it was always going to be a struggle against a team with a host of world class players. City were evidently better than us, they could have had a penalty and also hit the post BUT our players never gave up and that was really good to see. Last year we conceded 7 goals in two games against this side. We never really put up a fight but, this year, City were afraid of us during the latter stages of the game and we managed to give them a scare or two. 

Then again, football isn’t about giving your opponents scares. It’s about scoring and getting points. Although we saw plenty of fight from our players in our last three games, we only got 2 points from a possible 9. That’s just not good enough but at least we can find some sort of respite from the fact that this team is finally functioning and van Gaal had his tactics spot-on vs. City and Chelsea. These past two tests, against two top sides, shows that with a bit of sense, luck and a tweak or two we’ll be challenging the top teams again.

Up until now, we’ve had a ridiculous amount of injuries at the back. Jones, Evans, Rafael and now Rojo are out. Smalling will be suspended for our upcoming game. I think any team would struggle with so many defenders missing, yet we’re only 4 points away from the fourth spot. Having said that, Arsenal have had a lot of injuries too and lie 4 points above us so, as such, injuries aren’t an excuse. But they’re definitely part of our problem. Thankfully, there are some positives at the back. I think that Luke Shaw is finally settling in and has improved drastically over the past few weeks. He had a good game against City. Paddy McNair, in my opinion, played well given the situation. I think I’ve seen enough of McNair to have complete faith in him for our upcoming games.  He was composed whenever he played and although van Gaal will have no option other than to play him vs. Crystal Palace, I think he’s earned his place there.  He will start the game vs Palace and deserves to.

What about Smalling? I thought he was having a very good game until being sent off. What’s very frustrating is that he could (make that should) have easily avoided both offences. The first one was plain stupid while the second was very naive of him to rush into a challenge like that. Milner was going nowhere. What’s even more frustrating is the fact that when he had shown an excellent display vs. Chelsea and rebuffed our hopes of finally seeing Smalling fulfil his potential, he does something like he did vs City and cost his team the game. I think we would have matched City if we had 11 men on the field. Crucifying him is stupid though. Manchester United players have been sent off in the past and more will be sent off in the future. Players like Rooney, Vidic and Keane have all made silly decisions and cost Manchester United a point or three in the past. Let’s hope Smalling was at the end of a right bollocking from LVG and has learned his lesson.

Blind wasn’t as effective as we would have liked him to be. But he’s a player who does a lot of ‘hidden’ dirty work. So maybe I missed something that can only be seen by people who are inside the stadium. Fellaini had a good game again. It’s a shame he spurned a real chance to draw us level sometime in the second half. Januzaj had a few promising breaks but was unlucky to be subbed off due to our sending off while Di Maria delivered some world class crosses from freekicks. What I can’t understand is how someone can deliver such crosses but can’t beat the first man from a corner. His corners were awful. Another worrying thing about Di Maria is that he was marked out of this game as well as the game vs Chelsea. World class players strive under pressure and excel in these kind of games. Just look at Ronaldo! We’ll be needing Di Maria to be on top of his game against these sides. RVP was good at times but was too isolated especially after Smalling’s sending off. He almost scored a great goal after a fine solo effort. Rooney was excellent when defending and rolled back the years with a surging run but failed to shoot when he could have pulled the trigger. Would have been a great goal had he managed to finish it.

Our next game is vs Palace. I expect a win and hopefully to have a few injured players back. Would be nice to see Falcao play. We haven’t really seen enough of him since his arrival. Also, time for Di Maria to get his confidence back after a couple of subdued performances.  Come on United! 

Monday, October 27, 2014

United 1 - 1 Chelsea


Rafael Smalling Rojo Shaw

Januzaj Fellaini Blind Di Maria

Another good performance and yet another late equaliser; LVG seems to be instilling a fighting mentality into our players. After last year’s debacle, it is good to finally see our players not giving up when chasing a result. In the space of 7 days, we’ve won 2 points from two matches in which we were trailing until the dying minutes.  I remember last year I went to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United play against Everton. We lost that game by a goal but we failed to record a single shot on target during the final 20 minutes, if I’m not mistaken. We gave up on a handful of other games too without really putting up a fight. Today we knew we were playing the best team in England but we didn’t fear them and played quite well. LVG’s tactics were spot on.

So, how did we do in defence?
Good Game Smalling
First thing I learned on Saturday was that Jones was out of the reckoning for Chelsea’s game due to injury. What the fuck is this guy made of? Can’t he handle a game per week?! Thankfully, I don’t think we really missed Jones today. His replacement, Smalling, was excellent. Smalling gets a lot of criticism but I still think that he’s a very good defender. OK, he’s no Vida or Rio in their prime but he’s not as bad as some people make him out to be. He’s prone to that stupid decision every now and then but then again, each and every defender we’ve got is prone to a rash decision that could fuck up a good performance. Rafael is the undisputed king of rash decisions. One moment he’s doing extremely well and then he does something that makes you forget all the good he’s done throughout the game. Unfortunately, there’s no room for error if you’re a defender (and goalie!). Perhaps that’s why the likes of Rafael, Smalling and Evans have been severely criticised in the past. Anyway, our other central defender Rojo was decent but he still hasn’t come to grips with the physicality of the Premier League. There’s much room for improvement if he’s to keep playing at centre back. Rafael had a good game but the goal we conceded was due to him not marking Drogba properly. Having said that, I don’t think it’s his fault that our manager served him up in a mismatched aerial contest v Drogba. To be fair though, Chelsea is a team full of 6ft players so I think we ran out of tall makers. Shaw had his best game in a United shirt. He seems to have established a good understanding with Januzaj and looked threatening going forward. What’s more important is that he did his defensive duties with no fault. He said last week that he’s not playing to his full potential and I think that this game was the first step towards transforming to a Manchester United full back from a Southampton player. Well done. 

Midfield? I was a tad disappointed with three of our midfielders. Blind lost his battle with Matic while Mata never controlled the game. I know that LVG said that Roo will have to work for his place if he wants to get back into the starting XI but Mata had a chance to cement a place in this team and missed it. Roo will walk into the team for the derby this Sunday. Di Maria was marked out of the game and made some poor deliveries. He still managed an assist though and that’s the trait of a very good footballer. Januzaj had a good game, he caused Chelsea plenty of headaches. He still needs to improve his decision making though.

Man of the Match Again
Fellaini was our best player. At the start of this season, I wouldn't have dreamt that Fellaini would be our best player in a game against Chelsea. He’s excelled from a player who was surplus to requirements to a player that could contribute towards our task of returning amongst the top four. All in the space of a week. The Fellaini we saw vs Chelsea was the same one we got used to see bully midfielders when playing for Everton. Fellaini marked Fabregas out of the game. He was powerful and committed. He went agonizingly close to scoring his second goal for United but his bullet header was well saved by Courtois. Luckily, the rebound fell to RVP who scored the leveller. I’d be surprised if he’s not involved in the derby on Sunday. Well played.

At the front, RVP had some decent attempts saved by Chelsea’s excellent goalie. His efforts were rewarded on the 94th minute when he scored the leveller. This is not the van Persie of two years ago though.  He’s not as sharp as he used to be, otherwise he would have got a couple of goals in this game.

Going back to the other side of the field, De Gea made a world class save once again only to concede a goal from the resulting corner.  Unlucky. There’s nothing he could have done about the goal conceded.

Were our celebrations over the top? Or were they justified?
So what’s my overall opinion on the game? I’m quite satisfied. Chelsea didn’t do much damage. Their goal could have been avoided and considering we had two world class strikers missing, we did pretty well on the attacking front. Our defence did well, but then again, the league's best striker (Costa) wasn't playing in this game.  I’ve got some mixed feelings on end of the game. I was obviously pleased to see RVP score the goal but on one hand I was delighted to see the boys celebrate the goal like they did. It showed what the goal meant to our players. On the other hand I thought the celebrations were a bit over the top. Old Trafford celebrated as if we won the game. We did not win the game. We only won one point. Granted, it was against an excellent Chelsea side, but still, we are Manchester United, we were playing at Old Trafford and we shouldn’t be celebrating a point as if we won the league. That's what I call "the small club syndrome".  

Can we beat City at the Etihad? Yes, we can but it depends on which Manchester City and which Manchester United turn up on Sunday. Both teams are quite unpredictable this year. Come on United! Time to get our first away win of the season!

"It's just a process and we are now in the middle of that process. It's getting better every day, we are improving all the time. Today showed that." Robin van Persie

Monday, October 20, 2014

WBA 2 - 2 United

Rafael Jones Rojo Shaw
Januzaj Herrera(Fellaini) Blind Di Maria(Young)

Well, I thought that was quite a good display.  We were all over WBA throughout the game but they still managed to score two goals....and they only had two shots on target. WBA’s goals were excellent finishes and our goalie could do absolutely nothing about them. 

What worries me is that both goals could have been avoided if our defenders were more concentrated. I think both of our fullbacks were at fault for the goals we conceded. Luke Shaw was out of position when WBA scored their first while Rafael failed to keep in line with our other defenders for WBA’s second.

I thought Blind was quite,good Di Maria drilled one brilliant cross after another and second half substitute Fellaini had his best game in a United shirt. I’m not saying this just because our Belgian scored a peach of a goal but also because he was everywhere during the second half and won several aerial duels. Was that the performance that kickstarts Fellaini’s United career? I bloody hope so. About time too.

I was a bit disappointed with some of the players. RVP was too isolated and his performance wasn’t the best he’s had. True, he was a tad unlucky to hit the woodwork and looked like he sparked to life as soon as he had a striking partner in Radamel Falcao. His performance before Falcao’s entrance was dire. Perhaps van Gaal’s decision to start with one striker is the reason behind RVP’s poor game. Herrera looked like he’s still injured and gave possession away too often for my liking. Mata was disappointing as well. He wasn’t really effective during the game. I know Rooney is getting a lot of criticism from our own fans, something I absolutely do not understand, but we miss him dearly.

As I said earlier, I thought we weren't that bad today. We deserved to win. We hit the post and were unlucky no one met one of Di Maria's crosses. It was also good to see United fighting to win the game. We were trailing until the 85th minute but fought to get the equalizer and we did. Our players also tried hard to get a late winner. The biggest positive was perhaps Fellaini's performance. Chuffed for him. It was also good to see two midfielders getting goals. In the past seasons, our midfielders weren't getting that many goals. Last season our midfielders scored 17 goals in all competitions. This year, our midfield players have already scored 9 goals. Our problem is that our strikers seem to be out of form. 

Thanks to this game, I can also say that I've now seen Young replace Di Maria. Who would have thought that this substitution will ever happen? Especially when Di Maria was destroying Athletico Madrid in the Champions League final last season!

So, more points dropped on our travels and I’m not really feeling optimistic about our next two games. Chelsea are miles better than us. We’ll wait and see what happens on Sunday. Come on United! 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

United 2 - 1 Everton

Rafael McNair Rojo Shaw(Blackett)
Valencia(Fellaini)Blind Mata Di Maria
Falcao(Wilson) RVP
Man of the Match. A saved penalty and two world class stops. 
It's good to finally see United win a second game on the trot. The last time we won two consecutive Premier League games was in March when we beat Villa and then Newcastle. 

We started the game positively but didn't have a lot of threatening shots at Howard's goal. Di Maria put us ahead on the 30 minute mark after some fine work by Mata. I thought we were in total control of the game during the first half but Shaw gave Everton a way back into the game by clumsily tackling Hibbert in our box. A penalty was awarded in the first half's injury time but De Gea did well to save Baines' effort. That was the first penalty Baines missed in the Premier League. That should have given us the impetus to go all out during the second half and swap Everton aside. That, however, did not happen. Baines made up for his penalty miss by delivering an inch perfect cross that was finished by Naismith. I must add that Naismith should have been marked by Shaw but our left-back let Everton's man unmarked. 

Thankfully, it didn't take us long to get back in front. A mishit shot by Di Maria fell into Falcao's feet and the latter scored a true striker's goal. That goal will do the world of good to the Colombian. He needed that goal after a couple of misses earlier in the game. We didn't do much more after the goal and instead let Everton attack us at will. A couple of decent crosses by Everton were well defended by our impressive central defenders but it was two world class saves, both during stoppage time, by De Gea that won us the three points today. Absolutely brilliant. Our goalie was buzzing after the game and was loving the David De Gea chants by the Old Trafford faithful. Well deserved. 

Overall I'm obviously delighted to have won the 3 points today. However, I'm a tad worried that we couldn't put to the sword an Everton side that has been quite poor this season. Nevertheless, three points are what we play for in football and we got just that. It was also very good to see three players from our youth system play a part in this game. McNair was very well organised, Blackett blocked a dead cert goal and Wilson got stuck in to stop Everton's attacks. Well played. 

A welcome international break up next; maybe some of our players can recover from their injuries. West Brom in a fortnight. Come on United! 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Man Utd 2 - 1 West Ham

Rafael McNair Rojo Shaw
Blind Herrera(Valencia)
Di Maria(Thorpe) Rooney(s/o) RVP

As we did last week, we started the game brightly but faded out of it as soon as the opposition scored a goal. We were all over West Ham but one moment of poor goalkeeping brought the Hammers back into the game and it was a struggle from then on. To make matters worse, on the hour mark, Rooney was justly sent off for a blatant foul. I know West Ham must have had their confidence in cloud nine today after their win vs Liverpool but I simply expected better from our boys.

We simply had to win today and we did but only just. We were 2-0 up inside the first 25 minutes and looked like we were going to record a comfortable victory. That's exactly what I thought last week as soon as Di Maria scored that worldy against Leicester. But we all know what happened then. The word 'comfortable' doesn't seem to appear in Man Utd's dictionary this year. We just made life hard for ourselves. Rooney and van Persie scored two good goals but we just stopped when West Ham scored 10 minutes later. From then on, we always looked like conceding. Rooney lost his head and got sent off for a very stupid challenge. I know West Ham were probably going to catch us on the wrong foot with that attack but a simple shirt pull would have floored the player and Rooney would have just got a yellow for his troubles. Instead he made a knee high dangerous tackle. Deserved to be sent off. 

I could barely look at the screen during the final 20 minutes. Our defence were having to deal with some decent West Ham play. The Hammers did score the equaliser but it was ruled out for offside. PHEW! In the end we hung on to the lead and won our second game of the season. It's good to get the three points but there's plenty of room for improvement.

The biggest positives today were probably McNair and Rojo's performances as well as Rafael's. Di Maria had an off day while Falcao is in desperate need to get a goal. Hopefully he'll get going as soon as he scores his first. 

I'm off. I'll be going on a week long holiday in less than 24 hours and I still haven't packed yet.