Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cambridge 0 - 0 United

De Gea, 
Jones, Rojo, Blind (Shaw 85), Valencia, 
Carrick, Fellaini (Herrera 66), Januzaj, Di Maria, 
Wilson (van Persie 66), Falcao. 

I'm writing this post a bit late, I know, but I've been busy with my first semester exams. This game was on the eve of my Accounts exam but obviously that was no good excuse to give the game a miss. I've done my exam now (still one to go) and didn't do as well as I had expected to. The same could be said for this game. I know it's the FA Cup with its magic and all that, but you just expect to win against league two sides. 

The performance was abysmal. During the first half Cambridge were actually better than us. We did up the tempo during the second half but it was to no avail. The Cambridge defenders defended brilliantly and earned themselves a replay at Old Trafford while bagging their club £1.7m. That's obviously like spare change for Manchester United but enough for Cambridge to fund their year's expenses...with 100k to spare! By the way I deviated into talking about money, you can see that I've been focusing on accounts during the past few days. 

Back to the game. Now I wouldn't have minded if our players were beaten by a Cambridge team in a quiz but it's football we're talking about and I simply expect better from Di Maria, Falcao and the likes. We've drawn against lowly teams in the past. I clearly remember our Old Trafford FA Cup draw vs non-league side Exeter, so we've been here before, but there were about 6 youngsters playing in that game that night. Put Rooney in the side that played vs Cambridge and you'd have our best starting XI.  Cambridge did defend with 9 men at times, so I'll be the first to admit that no matter how lacking in quality the opposition is, it is always difficult to score against teams who put a lot of men behind the ball. However, what worries me is the fact that we created so little and we had 80% possession!  That has been our story throughout the year. We always seem to have a lot of possession but we're doing nothing with it. We seem to be lacking that player that gives that final defence splitting pass and when someone gives that pass, we've got two strikers who are either over the hill or off form. This is quite worrying given the ridiculous money we've spent in summer.

Bad results and shit performances happen; we've experienced quite a few since Fergie's retirement. What we need to do is take our performances to the next level. It's been a while since I've seen a convincing performance by our players. We might have had the excuse last year that our team was made up of too many has-beens but we've got some world class players this year and I simply expect better from them and from our coach who, by the way, isn't faring much better than his predecessor. Our strikers and midfielders need to perform. For all those picking on our defence; well, we've only conceding 3 goals in the last 6 games. In the PL, we've conceded 2 more than the 'mighty' Chelsea defence and we've actually got a better defensive record than City. So, while I admit that our defenders are not exactly world beaters, it's obvious that we're mostly being let down by our attacking front, which is made up of world class players. Someone needs to awaken our sleeping giants, let's hope van Gaal finally manages to do so without too much meddling with our formation and tactics.

I'm also writing this post after Chelsea, Manchester City, Southampton and Tottenham were knocked out of the FA Cup. Liverpool drew at home vs Bolton too. It was a weekend when the old cliche 'magic of the FA Cup' worked its wonders. In spite of our dire performance, we are now probably the favourites to win the cup. I'd be really annoyed if we don't give it a right go. With all those teams out, this is definitely a perfect opportunity to finally getting our hands on the cup after 10 seasons or so. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

QPR 0 - 2 United

Jones Evans(Wilson) Rojo
Valencia Carrick Blind Mata(Fellaini) Rooney
Di Maria(Herrera) Falcao

That's our third away win this season against a team that only lost twice at home. So it's 3 good points won. We didn't set any houses on fire, far from it, but did just enough to deserve a win. Our first half performance was dreadful, we had lots of possession but did absolutely nothing with it. We had one good chance to score but Green saved Falcao's effort. On the other side, De Gea produced two excellent saves to keep Charlie Austin off the scoresheet.

For the second half, van Gaal heard my prayers and changed the formation to 4-4-2 and we were far better. I just don't get why he's insisting with his 3-5-2 formation when it definitely ain't working.  I guess that's the arrogance of the man. But that's stupid because it is evident that the team does not function well with his dreaded wing-back formation. Furthermore, why on earth is Di Maria being played in attack when we've got Rooney? He doesn't seem to know what to do with his back to goal. In fact, Di Maria was miles better during the second half when he played deeper. 

The introduction of Fellaini, in place of Mata, brought about the physical presence that we needed in midfield while Wilson's speed gave QPR's defence a couple of headaches. So those were two good subs. LVG's decision to bring them on was vindicated as the two scored our goals. The first was a thunderbolt by Fellaini after a fine buildup while the second was well finished by Wilson after a quick breakaway right at the death.  

Falcao was denied two goals during the second half after some excellent stops by Green and some brilliant defending by Caulker. I almost felt sorry for Falcao during this game. He worked his socks off and managed to get himself in some excellent positions only to be brilliantly denied by QPR's goalie and defenders. He is a world class striker and with a bit more game time I think he'll get back to his old self. My hunch is that he'll be back banging goals soon. Having said that, it was also my hunch that Moyes was going to get to grips after the shaky start we had last season. We all know what happened next. Let's hope I'm right this time.

I'm writing this post after Arsenal's win vs City. They are now breathing down our necks and I'm a tad worried about them. We need to get that top 4 position this year otherwise it'll take time to get back on track and reinstate ourselves as England's, and indeed Europe's, best. Heck, even Liverpool are too close for comfort. Come on United!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

United 0 - 1 Southampton

Valencia Jones Smalling Shaw(Blackett)
Di Maria(Fellaini) Mata Carrick Blind 
RVP(Herrera) Rooney
Wrong tactics
That was simply a poor performance from start up to finish. I don't think I can remember a game when United didn't have a single attempt on target. Southampton weren't much brilliant either, they had one shot on target and scored it. Having said that, I think the Saints defended very well but LVG was right when he said that they came to Old Trafford for a draw. Unfortunately, they got more than that. 

It was the first time this season that LVG had a full squad to choose from and we succumbed to our first loss since that City game. Mata should have probably won us a a point, at least, as he had 3 decent chances near the end of the game. He shot wide on each occasion though. Should have done better. 

Our play was so slow and sloppy I couldn't even believe it. I can't believe this is the Di Maria I've seen play for Real Madrid last year. He played as a forward today, I know that's not his position, but I still expect more from him. For a player of his class, he was extremely poor. Rooney never got in the game. Mata was erratic and missed some good chances. RVP didn't have a sniff of the ball. Blind wasn't played in his position. Heck even Carrick gave the ball away! There were only two decent performers today; Valencia and Smalling. Valencia beat their fullback a few times but lacked the final ball while, I thought, Smalling was good at the back. Also, I liked Fellaini's effort when he was put on although, I must admit, the substitutions were a bit odd. 

We've been on a very good run so I'm not too worried with today's game. It  was simply a game were no one performed and that was always going to lead to a defeat or a boring draw. Southampton were very disciplined and did well to frustrate our players. It's been a while since we last lost a game so there's no need for all the hullabaloo that I've seen on social media after the game. The anti united brigade, who were a tad worried during our recent winning run, were out in full force celebrating our defeat. It's now down to our players to react to this defeat with another winning run. We've got a few winnable games coming up. We've just got to win them, otherwise we'll drift away from Southampton and give Arsenal and Tottenham a chance to leapfrog us in the league. We can't afford another year away from the Champions League. 

Also, a lot of blame should be put on van Gaal today. Just play a 4-4-2 formation and stop messing around with our players' positions. Our players looked absolutely clueless.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Yeovil Town 0 - 2 United

Rafael(Evans) Smalling McNair Blackett
Fletcher Rooney Herrera Shaw(Mata)
Falcao(Di Maria) Wilson

Not the best of performances, again, but at least we are in the next round of the FA Cup. LVG must have learned his lesson after that dreadful MK Dons performance in the League Cup as he put out a pretty strong team. There were some youngsters playing but they've played enough games this season to know how to handle such a game. Having said that, it was another learning experience for them. 

Yeovil weren't half bad and could have scored on a couple occasions. Their striker fluffed a really good chance and Di Maria cleared a ball of the line after a good header. We only tested their goalie three times; we scored on two occasions and had a shot by Herrera saved. There was nothing special about our performance with the exception of the two goals. The first was an excellent shot by Ander Herrera who looked over the moon with his goal and equally bemused after he was yellow carded for his celebrations. The second was beautifully crafted and expertly finished by Rooney and Di Maria respectively. Good to have Di Maria back. He hasn't had a proper run in the team for quite some time now. 

The defending was a tad worrying, as usual. A better team would have swapped us out of the FA Cup today but we live to fight another day. Hopefully, we give this year's FA Cup a good shot. It's our only real chance of silverware. 

You'd expect a bigger scoreline against these kind of teams but Yeovil's players were playing the game of their life and that makes a huge difference. When you've got 11 players playing against you who know they won't get another chance to play against Man Utd, you know they are going to give it their all. That's why our players looked like they found it very tough to break this Yeovil team. Well done to all Yeovil players though, they've shown that with a bit of grit everyone is capable of big things. Southampton next. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Stoke 1 - 1 United

Smalling Jones Evans
Young(Rafael) Carrick Mata Rooney Shaw(Januzaj)
RvP Falcao(Januzaj)

More points dropped away from home. We've come to expect that now, haven't we? We seem incapable of winning the three points away from home.  We've only won twice on the road, which is very poor if you ask me. The ironic thing is that the two games we've won away from home were probably our worst away performances this season. Anyway, we weren't particularly brilliant today either. There were too many players who failed to perform. To be fair, the weather conditions were probably the worst conditions to play football in. The combination of torrential rain and wind won't let you play football and we've seen that during today's game. Some of the basic stuff the players got wrong today is all down to the difficult conditions. 

Stoke away is always a tough game. We didn't do ourselves any favour when we left two Stoke men unmarked inside the first two minutes of the game. This led to their first goal and it was always going to be a struggle to attack a very physical Stoke side. In fact we created very little chances. Thankfully, Falcao managed to score his third of the season after some poor defending by Stoke. I thought Falcao was having a decent game and I, as well as Falcao himself, was quite surprised to see him subbed off. Falcao was fighting for balls while van Persie was completely out of the picture all game long. That was a puzzling decision by van Gaal. 

Anyhow, we've dropped two more points but Arsenal dropped three, which makes today a little bit better. They've lost to Southampton who are now one point behind us. I've said it time and again that I'm not particularly worried about Southampton being just behind us in the league. They won't make the top 4. It's Arsenal that worry me because they've become pros in making it to the top four at the right time of the season. We've got to keep an eye on them. 

I'm off to indulge myself in more food to cap off a busy festive period for my stomach. Meanwhile, our players should start thinking about getting an away win this Sunday vs. Yeovil Town. It's the FA Cup, our only chance of silverware this season, so we better take it seriously.

p.s. Evans had another shocker and it was sad to see Young succumb to injury, just when he had established himself as a very important first team player.

Happy New Year To You All :)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Tottenham 0 - 0 United

Jones McNair(Shaw) Evans(Smalling)
Valencia(Rafael) Carrick Mata Rooney Young
Falcao van Persie
After an excellent first half, Roo ran out of steam during the second
We should have won this one. We were excellent during the first half but our forwards spurned a couple of decent chances and their goalie was really good when we tested him. We managed to beat Hugo Lloris twice but found the linesman flagging for offside on one occasion and the post denied us on the other. 

RVP should have finished this chance
I expected van Persie to do better when one-on-one with their keeper after a sublime pass from Carrick. He has looked sharp lately so I was surprised he fluffed his chance. Falcao should have scored one but his shots looked quite frail. Both our strikers were out of the game during the second half and cut out frustrated figures. I don't think we tested Lloris during the second period.

What changed during the second half was that Tottenham pressed more and our players, especially the defenders, struggled when under pressure. Rooney and Mata were both excellent during the first half but seemed to have tired out during the second. That's why there seemed to be no connection between our defence and the attacking department. We did create two chances during the second half but Mata shot over the bar when placing the ball would have been an easier, more sensible, option while RVP saw his effort go wide. At this level you cannot miss this many chances and, to be honest, by the final whistle we were lucky we got a point.

Am I disappointed? Yes, of course. I knew it was going to be a difficult game today and I would have taken a draw before the match BUT what I saw during the first half was probably our best football we've played away from home. We should have had Tottenham dead and buried by the break. Young, Mata and Rooney were brilliant. Valencia wasn't half bad either so I can't see why Rafael replaced him. The latter looked uneasy playing there and was found wandering on a couple occasions. 

Evans and McNair were a bit shaky but I thought Jones did quite well today. De Gea kept a clean-sheet but wasn't called to do any outstanding saves.

It's another two points dropped and slowly the teams trailing us are getting closer. Challenging for the league is a lost cause, getting that European spot should be our main goal. I don't like the fact that Arsenal are only a couple of wins away from us because they've become experts in securing Champions League football so you'd expect them to get in the top 4. We have Stoke coming up next. Another tough game. We've only won twice on the road this year let's hope we make it three. It will be another tough game but we've got the players to beat any team in the PL and van Gaal will soon have a full squad to choose from. Come on United! 

Friday, December 26, 2014

United 3 - 1 Newcastle

Jones McNair Evans
Valencia(Rafael) Carrick(Fletcher) Mata Rooney Young
Falcao(Wilson) RVP

That was a solid display that turned sluggish as soon as Newcastle were dead and buried and Carrick stepped off the field of play on the hour mark. Although Newcastle had a chance or two early in the first 10 minutes, we completely took over from then on and, during the first half, played some of the best football this season. Our players looked composed and comfortable even when put under pressure. 

However, one of our defenders didn't impress me today. Jones was dribbled past one time too many and his challenge that led to Newcastle's penalty was stupid. He did make some decent interceptions but some of his mistakes would have been severely punished if we were facing mightier opposition. On the other hand, I thought both McNair and Evans did OK when tested.

Our midfield was excellent today. Mata and Rooney were undoubtedly our best players. Both of them were involved in our first two goals while the latter also notched another assist after his immaculate pinpoint cross was headed home by Robin van Persie. Rooney was obviously my man of the match. His scholesesque cross-field balls were a joy to see and he took his goals very well. Fergie said that Rooney will get goals no matter what position he plays in and he's proving that at the moment. He played in midfield today and got a brace. We've missed a goalscoring midfielder in the past few seasons, we've now got that in Rooney and Mata. Well done to both! 

The wings had a good day as well. Young was particularly impressive as he beat his man for fun and also delivered some excellent crosses into the box. He has improved drastically this season. Shaw will have to work hard to get Young's place as soon as the former Southampton boy recovers from his injury. Falcao worked really hard and had a say in our first two goals. He assisted Rooney for our first and won the ball that led to our second. I can see an improvement in his overall play. It's a pity he didn't connect well to one of Young's crosses, our Colombian could have easily scored there. RVP continued his goalscoring run and scored his 5th goal this month, his 8th overall. Quite good that. 

Unfortunately our subs didn't impress. Wilson failed to get into the game even though he was given half an hour to do so. Fletcher was also quite poor and we became average as soon as he replaced Carrick. It was good to see Rafael return but he'll obviously need more game time before he can get Valencia off the starting line-up. 

That was a good win, which was expected. We'll need a similar performance in two days time against Tottenham. We've drawn at White Hart Lane in the past two seasons, let's hope we can get a win this time. Come on United!

How's this for a fact?
United have won all 6 games that Paddy McNair has started - West Ham, Everton, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Southampton & Newcastle.