Sunday, December 14, 2014

United 3 - 0 Liverpool

Jones(McNair) Carrick Evans
Valencia Mata Rooney(Falcao) Fellaini Young
Wilson(Herrera) RVP
On the scoresheet again
It was a very strange game. The 3-0 scoreline makes you think we totally dominated the game but in reality Liverpool had more clear-cut chances than us and if it wasn't for De Gea, again, we would be talking about a very different scoreline. Our goalie produced some stunning stops today to keep Sterling and Balotelli off the scoresheet. You wouldn't think that a team that won the game 3-0 would have their goalie as the man of the match but that's exactly what happened today. De Gea was our best player. A five star performance.

Every player did reasonably well today with the exception of a few instances when some of our players were a tad too careless. Evans gave Liverpool a way back into the game after passing the ball to Sterling who came face to face with De Gea. The latter saved Evans a right bollocking from van Gaal with a fine block. Had that went in, we would have been in great trouble because there was still a lot of football to be played. Evans looks a bit clueless in a three-man defense. Fellaini didn't start the game brightly as he gave the ball away and stupidly got himself into the ref's book. However, he found his feet as the game wore on and his physical presence was very much needed. 

Young and Valencia had a very good game on the wing and Jones returned from injury with a no nonsense performance. Let's hope he can keep himself fit. Carrick's calmness at the back was a joy to watch, he managed to play the ball out of defense superbly. I don't think it's a coincidence that we've been on a winning run since Carrick returned to the team. 

Our second goal shouldn't have stood
Mata did well although his goal should have never stood. He was clearly in an offside position but I'm not complaining! Our Spaniard also set RVP up for our third. Robin was always on his toes today and looked more like the striker of a couple years ago. Wilson ran his heart out but wasn't as effective as he would've liked neither was substitute Falcao. Rooney opened the score and was always involved in the game. He loves that central midfield role. 

What worries me is that there will come a day when De Gea won't be able to get us out of jail. He won't be able to perform miracle saves week in week out. Our defending needs to improve immediately otherwise we'll find a lethal striker who'll punish us. If Sterling had last year's confidence today, Liverpool would have gone into the second half with a lead to defend. It would have been a completely different game. 

But amid the ifs and buts, we're winning games and that's all the matters in football. We humiliated the scousers in the same way they humiliated us last year. That horrible game when Suarez's Liverpool annihilated us at Old Trafford last seasons seems like ageeees ago. What a difference some months make! This was our 6th win on the trot and we're going into the festive period very confident. Our upcoming games will be quite testing but are also very winnable. We've got three away fixtures in our upcoming four matches. It will be tough but let's keep the run going boys! 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Southampton 1 - 2 United

McNair(Herrera) Smalling(Evans) Rojo
Valencia Carrick Mata(Fletcher) Fellaini Young
Rooney RVP
Man of the Match
Not the best of performances but it led to 3 more points and put us in 3rd place, just above today’s opponents. Winning was imperative if we wanted to keep the pace with Chelsea and City. A loss would have put us further behind the league’s pace setters, four points behind Southampton and two points behind West Ham. Definitely not something we would’ve wanted.

It has been said time and again that our aim is to get into the top 4, such wins will put more light between us and the usual top 4 challengers Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool. The three are currently dropping points for fun so it’s good news for us. I know Southampton, West Ham and Newcastle are very close to us at the moment but I don’t believe they’ll be this close to a top 4 position come April.

Our performance merited nothing more than a draw, at best. Southampton did very well and gave us quite a few scares. Once again, De Gea produced a superb stop to win us the three points. It has become normal for him to produce these world class saves. Just give this guy 200k p/w and tie him to the club for 5 years, Woodward! He’s good, very good but he’ll keep on improving and will be the world’s best goalie in no time.

In the game of football it is normal to have a shocker every now and then and that’s exactly what our youngster, Paddy McNair, had today. He’s been brilliant in all games he’s played but he couldn’t come to grips against the Saints. He’s kept his record of having won every game he has started. Not a bad stat that! Hopefully the fact that he was substituted before the 40th minute won’t bring our academy graduate down. He has looked good in the games he’s played and, let’s face it, we just love one of our own playing in the first team.

There were other abysmal performances by a couple of players who have been really good recently. Fellaini produced a display that we got used to seeing last year. The goal we conceded was because he gave the ball away cheaply and most of his passes were sloppy. No one will get on his back, of course, now that he’s become a valuable member of the first team. Another midfielder who let us down today was Mata who gave very little contribution.
Rojo was dreadful. He tried to bring out the ball from the final third but always seemed to take one touch too many. Carrick and Rooney didn’t really set the world alight either. The latter did produce a fine assist though. Substitutes Herrera and Evans brought some composure but they’ve seen better days too. It was sad to see Smalling succumb to yet another injury. He’s become our best defender, it’s a shame he’s so injury prone. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve got so many injuries, is van Gaal imposing too much on our players?

Young worked hard and that’s a pleasure to see. Considering that he never was a defender, he did his defensive duties superbly and was a threat on the few times he attacked. What a difference a year makes!

RVP was definitely our best player. He worked his socks off and scored two goals. This was a game that gave us a glimpse of the super sharp van Persie of two years ago. He’s now become our top scorer with 6 premier league goals. We’ll need his scoring prowess during this festive period. We didn’t deserve to score two goals because almost every player had an off day but that’s what you get when you have world class players who manage to produce something when most of their team mates are playing below par.  Well done Robin.

We won’t win the league, getting into Europe is definitely our priority. It will serve as a springboard to greater things in the future. However, we’re now 5 points closer to Chelsea than we were at the start of December. While admitting that Chelsea’s squad is miles ahead of us, we’re only 8 points adrift and, as we’ve learned in 2011/12, that lead could be lost in a month. Quite a few games will be played between now and mid January, points will be dropped by the teams close to us, we just have to make sure we’re not dropping points too. We’ve got Liverpool, Villa, Newcastle, Tottenham and Stoke coming up, I think all of these games are pretty winnable.

With the injuries we’ve got, I think it’s a great feat for our team to be this close to the leaders. When all players come back from injury, if that ever happens, we’ll only get better. Come on United! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

United 2 - 1 Stoke City

Smalling Carrick Rojo 
Valencia Fellaini Herrera(Fletcher) Young
Wilson(Falcao) van Persie

You do feel that United are slowly improving. 4th win in a row.
We were dominant throughout the game bar the final 5 minutes. Fellaini opened the score but Stoke equalised with their only shot on target in 85 minutes or so. Mata scored what proved to be the winner from a free-kick. I'm writing this post barely 10 minutes after the end of the game, at this very moment there's probably a bit of banter between Mata and Rojo. The latter was claiming the goal but, apparently, the goal is Mata's. 

Some of our passing was crisp but we lacked that final killer ball. In fact, Begovic only made one save and picked the ball from the net a couple times. We only had 3 shots on target. That's not good enough given the amount of possession we had. We have to start converting all this possession into openings. 

I'm delighted with Fellaini, he was excellent today. He took his goal really well and was unlucky not to score another but Begovic made a fine save. What's even more pleasing is the fact that he managed to intercept plenty of Stoke passes. Young also had a really good game on the left. He gave Stoke's right-back quite a few headaches and also cleared the ball off the line in injury time. That's two points won because of that intervention. These two were probably our worst performers last year. Whatever van Gaal and his coaches are doing, it definitely is working. 

Smalling had another good game at the back but this shouldn't surprise any of us, he's our best defender and we should expect such performances. At the front, van Persie's work ethic was commendable but I'd rather see him create some chances in the box. This was the first time he failed to score, in a United shirt, against Stoke. His partner up front, Wilson, was a tad too quiet during the first half but grew in confidence after the break. He could have scored a brilliant solo goal but his shot ended just wide. At the time I was fuming because he could have easily squared the ball to an unmarked van Persie and, assuming the latter would have scored, that would have been game over. 

This was on a newspaper two years ago. Thank God we kept faith in him.
The missed chance mattered little at the time. We were all over Stoke and there was little chance that they were going to threaten our rearguard. They did get back at us though. Stoke could have scored three times during the final few minutes. David De Gea produced two world class stops and Young cleared off the line Stoke's final chance. Gone are the days when De Gea's game would be deeply analysed and then criticised. He has won us quite a few points this year. Absolutely excellent. Definitely the best goalie in England. Let's hope there's nothing in the rumours that Real Madrid have approached him.

To all those people who laughed at us at the start of the season
So it's another win in a game we would have probably drawn last year. Our boys showed great character to get through it and it was nice to see them fighting till the final whistle. There were times last year when some of our players threw in the towel with plenty of football still to be played. Perhaps this is the effect of a world class manager. Old Trafford is slowly becoming the fortress it once was. We've only dropped 5 points at home and won 19. If only our away form was better! There's still plenty of time to improve away from home, starting from our next PL game vs Southampton. It will be a tough test against a side that only lost once at home this season. However, City put three past them last Sunday so there's no reason why we can't do the same. Hopefully Rooney will be back for Monday's game. We did miss his presence today. Onwards and upwards. Come on United! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

United 3 - 0 Hull City

Smalling Carrick Rojo 
Valencia Fellaini Mata Di Maria(Herrera) Young
Rooney van Persie(Falcao)

I was camping during the past four days hence the late post. Obviously, I did find time to get out of the camp site and find a place where I can watch my beloved United. However, I only got to watch the second half. 

Van Gaal described this as the best performance this season. It was a very professional performance by the boys but we have to keep in mind that we were only playing Hull at home. Having said that, it's always good to see United win games against teams we're expected to beat. At the beginning of this season, we were dropping points against average teams such as Leicester, Burnley and Swansea. We weren't particularly convincing in our wins either. We beat Everton and West Ham at home but only just. Therefore, it was very relieving to see United control the game from start to finish and pass the opposition to death. The only downside of this game was Di Maria's injury. The rest was almost perfect.

Smalling, Rooney and van Persie scored the goals. Smalling has put his nightmare display at City behind him as he's been putting in one commanding display after another. Rooney has hit his best form in years and he seems to be relishing his captaincy role. It was also very nice to see that van Persie's goalscoring abilities are still alive and well. Excellent goal by the Dutchman. 

Herrera, Mata and Carrick were excellent while Fellaini keeps confirming that he's not the joke that he used to be last season. He's become a fixture in our midfield and I cannot recall a single poor performance by the lad since the game vs. WBA. Van Gaal did say that he has the ability to improve every player under his stewardship. Fellaini is a prime example of this and so are Young, Valencia and Smalling. Let's hope we keep improving as a team. Stoke next. 

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!