Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Farewell to Scholesy

I woke up today to the terrible news that one of our own was hanging up his boots. I've been expecting this day for the past couple of years and I feel down now that it is upon us. Any of my friends would tell you that I'm a big admirer of pinpoint passes and thunderous shots and Scholes had both of those techniques in his locker. The accuracy of his passes was a joy to behold. Although I regret to admit that he had become a tad less effective to our team in the past year, he was still spraying passes all around the pitch for fun. 

The brilliant Scholes strikes vs Bradford, Aston Villa and Barcelona still play at the back of my mind. Those goals are a testament to the other skill Paul possessed. Shooting. The power and technique at which he hit a ball had the best players in the world sit back and watch with awe. Indeed our Scholes was adulated by the likes of Zidane, Xavi, Davids and the great George Best.

His only downside was tackling.

Replacing Scholes is an almost impossible task. We should look to get a player with other qualities rather than similar qualities to Scholes's because whoever comes, we'll know he'll be a far cry from the Scholes we all love. Manchester United has lost a stalwart footballing genius.

However, as much as I'm saddened at his retirement, I think the time was right for Scholes to call it a day. Thanks for the memories Paul, you have been immense.

Honours won:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Barcelona 3 - 1 United

Fabio(Nani) Rio Vidic Evra
Valencia Carrick(Scholes) Giggs Park
Rooney Chicharito

Just like two years ago, we were beaten fair and square by a superior side. Barcelona are in a class of their own, especially if given a lot of space. At least, unlike 2 years ago, we were able to mount a reply to their goal but it wasn't enough. The 3-1 scoreline may not give a fair reflection of the game but the match stats show how the game unfolded. Just like in 2009 we started brightly but faded when Barcelona kicked into gear. About 20 attempts on target to our 5 shows how superior they were...and let's not mention the possession.

We expected that superiority. Our hope of winning this game lied on the odd counter attack. The plan was to have a solid defence and then leave Chicho and Roo to work their magic up front. Unfortunately Messi and co were too good for our defenders (especially Evra) while Chicharito at the front didn't have any impact at all. Our best player on the pitch was Wayne Rooney who epitomised the spirit of Manchester United, refusing to give up until the final whistle. He scored a good goal as well, a goal that sent me into an ecstasy of joy. I told my friends that the team scoring the second goal, after the half time break, was going to win the game. Barca scored that all important goal and it was game over for our side. Evra & Valencia didn't show up today. It's either that or Barcelona's excellence meant that the duo's involvement in the game was kept to a minimum.

What went wrong? Nothing. Barca are too good. They are the best team in the world and we're the second best team. Had we met any other European side tonight, we would have beaten them but Barcelona are just too good. I'm still proud of the boys. This was a great season and let's not forget that Manchester United are the greatest football team in England. Let's not forget that we are the English Champions and let's not forget that we've achieved our 19th title by brushing aside challenges from Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City & Arsenal. Their supporters are over the moon because we lost tonight and yet their team has won nothing. We're the greatest club in the world but on the day we got beaten fair and square by the best TEAM in the world. Well done Barca, well done United.

United till I die.
We'll bounce back.
By the way! I almost forgot. Thank you Van der Sar for your excellent service. It's a pity you bowed out of the game with a loss. We'll miss you.

Yes we were outplayed by a far better team, but to the bitter City fans, how many trophies have you won in the last 20 years? To all the bitter Chelsea fans, we knocked you out of the champions league this year and beat you to the league by 9 points, to all the bitter Liverpool fans, when did you last win a trophy? And 19 - 18 FACT. To all the bitter Arsenal fans wanting stats, heres a stat for you, trophyless for 6 years, lost to Birmingham in Carling Cup final, fourth in the league, no challenge to us, you're going down the same route as Liverpool did, so before you question the second best team in Europe and the best team in England, look at your own sorry selves. UNITED

Thursday, May 26, 2011

United - Barca CL Stats 2011

Park scoring vs Chelsea at OT
The excitement of Saturday's game is well and truly kicking in. I already had two nightmares last night about the game but I guess losing 10-0 won't happen this Saturday so I shouldn't worry about that. Realistically speaking, Barca's side is better than ours but football is a funny old game that often comes up with that odd surprise or two. I've got enough faith in Fergie and the players to think that our side could spring a surprise this Saturday. The world is writing us off but looking at the following stats I have gathered I learned that Barca haven't really been setting the world alight in the CL this season.


Barcelona Away
Played - 6
Won - 3
Drew - 2
Lost - 1
GF - 9
GA - 4
Points - 11

Man Utd Away
Played - 6
Won - 5
Drew - 1
Lost - 0
GF - 8
GA - 0
Points - 16

Neither of the teams will be playing at their stadium. Barcelona have been frightening whilst playing at their colossal Nou Camp but our away form has been better. We still haven't conceded a single goal on the road and have scored only one goal less than this much acclaimed Barca side. I also believe that the sides we faced during the group stages were slightly better than those Barca faced. Rangers & Valencia are better than Copenhagen, Rubin Kazan & Panathinaikos. We also had Bursaspor in our group whose quality is probably in the same region as the quality of the sides which faced Barca in the group stages. In the latter stages, however, Barcelona faced more challenging teams. We tackled Marseille, Chelsea and Schalke while the Catalans overcame the challenges posed by Arsenal, Shaktar and Real Madrid. 
Giggsy scoring vs Schalke Away

Barcelona Home
Played - 6
Won - 5
Drew - 1 
Lost - 0
GF - 18
GA - 4
Points - 16

Man Utd Home
Played - 6
Won - 4
Drew - 2
Lost - 0
GF - 10
GA - 4
Points - 14 

Barca have been slightly better than us at home. Backed by their fans they are truly an unstoppable side but at Wembley United will probably have the backing of the majority. Just as Arsenal have proven, this Barca side is not an unbeatable one. They have also been stopped by the minnows of Rubin Kazan & Copenhagen in the group stages and a lot of football experts are suggesting that Barcelona have looked a tad tired during the final quarter of the season. Whilst I scrolled through the Catalan's league results, I noticed that the 4-0 & 5-0 scorelines, visible during the first half of the season, have dispersed during the second half. On their day Barca are capable of putting to shame anyone but we're Manchester United and I believe our team could beat any team in the world and yes, that includes the mighty Barcelona. 

Anything can happen but one thing is for sure, Whatever happens we'll never die! Whatever happens, We'll keep the Red flag flying high!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

United 4 - 2 Blackpool

Rafael(Smalling) Evans Vidic(Rooney) Evra
Park(Owen) Fletcher Scholes Anderson Nani

After trailing Blackpool at one point, the United players showed enough pride to bounce back and win the final match at the Theatre of Dreams. Park, Anderon(yes, Anderson) and Owen scored the goals. This was Van Der Sar's final game at Old Trafford and I guess the lads gave him a fitting send off with this result. It would have been ideal if he kept a clean sheet but let's hope Blackpool's second goal was the last goal VDS conceded in his career. 

I'm gutted for Hargreaves
The one disappointment during the game today was Berbatov not getting a goal to leapfrog the Argentine twat and win the golden boot. In reality our Bulgarian should have scored a couple of goals but he couldn't find the net. The other disappointment I woke up to this morning was the release of Owen Hargreaves. I know, he has barely played a whole match in the last three years but somehow I loved the guy. When he played he showed true grit and determination and seemed to wear the red shirt with pride. I hope he can resurrect his career elsewhere.

It's been a weird season. Away from home we weren't up to the task but at home we were superb. Old Trafford won us this 19th title.  I really can't decide who has been the best player for us during this season and that means that this was truly a team effort. 

It was a joy to watch our players enjoy themselves celebrating our 19th title. The biggest roar came when Owen lifted the trophy! 

6 days to go to the Wembley final. The United players have the opportunity to turn this season from a great one to a memorable one. Of course, there is the little inconvenience of Barcelona but football is the greatest sport because it always holds surprises...

Thank You Lads!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Premier League > Champions League

The PL is enough for me

Halfway through the season the following question always prevails over the others: “Which competition do you want your team to win?”  The answer is simple: “ALL OF THEM!”  However winning all competitions is a tad difficult, even for a team of United’s calibre. 
By January, a month when a certain club starts to yell that the following year will be their year, we’re usually still in 3 or 4 competitions. Since the age of 12 I have ALWAYS prioritized the Premier League over any other competition.
Scholes vs Juve in '97
Before that, during my primary school days, the Champions League used to be aired on Malta’s national TV station. This was the channel that made me fall in love with United back in 1997. I watched a United Champions League match and that was it, I got hooked. My innocence back then meant that I actually believed God would answer my prayers and help United get the needed results. I used to go to church and pray so that United win their games, especially if United were facing Juventus. Those were Juventus’s heydays and, since my school was infested with ‘Juventini’, winning against them was more important to me than winning against any other club. That is the sole reason why I believed that the Champions League was the most important competition. Another reason was that my Dad never really wanted to subscribe to a sports channel and that meant that I couldn’t follow the Premier League. I used to learn the Premier League results via teletext or the evening news. 
Nowadays I believe that the Premier League is the most important competition for Manchester United and indeed for every other English club. The Champions League is a very attractive competition but I guess it is maybe a more important competition for the casual fans and for Roman Abramovich.  
This is why if we lose the final on Saturday, I’ll still be extremely delighted with our season and if we win, then I’d go bonkers. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blackburn 1 - 1 United

Fabio(Scholes) Ferdinand Vidic Evans
Valencia Carrick Giggs Nani(Berbatov)
Rooney Chicharito

We have finally won our 19th title. A title that makes us the most successful club in England. We made the game difficult for ourselves(what's new???) by missing decent chances and letting Blackburn get their noses in front. Rooney scored the all important goal from the spot, a goal that crowned us Kings of England.

It was a decent performance by the players but at the back we were a tad too hesitant. The game was another real heart test for me even though I promised myself, as well as my friends who watched the game with me, that I was going to sit, relax and enjoy the game. Enjoy the game??! What the heck was I thinking??!  The goalie had a horror show between the posts and our fullbacks weren't at their best. This guaranteed some heart beat skipping. It was evident that some players couldn't handle the pressure. Thankfully, the pressure didn't really affect Rooney when taking the penalty. In my opinion there wasn't a player who stood out today.
While the blue noses are celebrating a 10cm rise from their blue moon, we are jubilant after yet another title. We are now the best in England and no one shall deny it! I AM SO HAPPY!
Were you watching Merseyside??

...and that's a fact!

Final whistle at the Manchester United Supporters Club Gozo, where I watch most of United's games.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dethroning Liverpool

So here we are, only one point away from achieving our ultimate aim. We still have the Champions League final to worry about but it’s the Premier League I really craved for. Historically winning this year’s PL means a lot. We get to surpass our archrivals and thus win England’s bragging rights. Domestically, Liverpool’s team didn’t hold a candle to ours for the past two decades but they were still blabbering about themselves being the best on the land because of their league titles. Those bragging rights will soon be passed over to the red side of Manchester.
Up until a few years ago I didn’t really understand the rivalry between United and the scousers. In fact back in 2005 when Liverpool met Milan in Istanbul, I sided with the scousers(shameful, I know, but I was just 14) who, admittedly, completed a remarkable comeback. I was happy for them mainly because they had just defeated an Italian side and anybody who knows me, knows my repugnance towards any team hailing from my homeland’s (Malta) neighbouring country. I honestly never regarded Liverpool as being our main enemies up to that point. In fact, I always thought that Arsenal and the newly Russian financed powerhouse were our main rivals.
"...and you can print that"
It was only a couple of seasons after that when I really realised the hatred between the two clubs. Mind you, Liverpool is a great club unlike the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea who have got no history, and that’s what makes our rivalry even stronger. I remember every time United lost the league or a cup final, I had to bear the smirk on the face of some local Liverpool fans as if they had just won the Treble(the real one, not the plastic one). I remember last year, when they lost to Chelsea and virtually ended our title bid, these ‘proud’ scousers littered Facebook with joyous comments. I have good social relationships with local Liverpool fans(I prefer Liverpool fans to ABUs to be honest… at least they side with a team – although most Liverpool fans turn into ABUs by December, the month when their title bid gets killed every year), but when it comes to football their jealousy and bitterness is almost laughable. I guess next season they’ll do everything within their power to try and knock us off OUR perch but, given the might possessed by Arsenal, Chelsea and - I hate to say it but here it goes - Manchester City  they’ll probably struggle to get into the top 4 again (although I’d rather see Liverpool in Europe instead of City). We might have dethroned Liverpool a couple of seasons ago with our 18th title but we need the 19th title to be crowned as kings of England and I’m pretty confident that we’ll get the one point needed.
In less than 24 hours time we will be cheering our boys in red while they create history. We are truly on the verge of something special, something SIR Alex Ferguson prophesized twenty odd years ago. COME ON UNITED!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

United 2 - 1 Chelsea

Fabio Rio Vidic O'Shea(Evans)
Valencia Carrick Park Giggs
Rooney Chicharito

Take a Bow 
Woah!! I'm ecstatic. We are only one point away from being crowned CHAMPIONS OF ENGLAND for the 19th time. Fellow red devils had been taunted during the late 80's by the scousers but now it's us who will be sitting on 'their' perch.... very very soon. Thank you SIR ALEX!

We couldn't have started the game on a better note. Chicharito, aka the bargain of the century, scored after just 40 seconds and then, 20 minutes later, Vidic came up with a captain's goal. We could have scored 4 more goals today but Mr Rooney and Hernandez decided to test my coronary system by missing some decent chances. In reality it should have been a bigger win today but you know United, they never do it the easy way!  Howard Webb, labeled by some idiots as one of us, could have awarded at least one penalty to our team but no, he's too big a United fan to award us a clear penalty!

The players were brilliant today. Bar the missed chances, Chicho and Roo caused Chelsea all sorts of trouble. Valencia played well throughout the 90 minutes, humiliating Ashley Cole in the process. Park ran his socks off while Giggsy and Carrick controlled the midfield with aplomb. Even Evans, on for the injured O'Shea, put in an excellent shift at left back! The other defenders were their usual self and Van Der Sar saved us on a couple of occasions. Well done lads!
Mission Accomplished!

We are one small step away from being crowed kings of England and then it will be us who will be holding England's bragging rights. Our loss vs the Gunners last week led to a proliferation of the so called prophets of doom, some even deeming our team as too weak to be crowned champions. The ABU's(anyone but United) must have had one huge boner when we lost vs Arsenal and today when Lampard scored...I hope they tune in to their TV sets in two weeks time to see us lift the trophy! Well done UNITED!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

United 4 - 1 Schalke

Rafael(Evra) Smalling Evans O'Shea
Valencia Scholes(Fletcher) Gibson Anderson Nani

The starting line up may have raised a few eyebrows but it was obvious that Fergie was going to prioritise Sunday's crunch game vs Chelsea. I was, as usual, a tad worried when I saw Evans's name in the starting line up but I guess he did well tonight. Valencia and Gibson scored the first half goals and then Anderson doubled his Man Utd career goal tally with two fine strikes.

Good Performance By Gibbo
I'm not sure whether Champions League semi finals should be this easy but I'm pleased I was able to enjoy a semi final in which United were involved. The back four did well today. Smalling is increasingly showing signs that he could become one of the best defenders in England(albeit he could have done better before Schalke scored their goal). Evans wasn't his usual calamitous self and the full-backs did well as well. Gibson proved to his Twitter bullies that he's able of performing on the big stage. He was immense during the first half. Rio twitted(or is it twittered?) "If Iniesta had passed that ball people would be salivating! Great ball gibson for the goal." Indeed he couldn't have worded it better! I'm happy for our Irishman. Well done Gibbo!

On the flanks Valencia had another good game while Nani was his usual self, showing good skills and making bad decisions. I watched today's game at home with my friend Derek. He said that Anderson has a weak strike and laughed at his goal tally...fast forward 10 minutes later and Mr. Anderson had scored a brace! C'mon Derek laugh at Vidic's, Rio's, Carrick's & Evra's goal scoring abilities...maybe they'll score a brace vs Chelsea! Anyway, well done Ando!

Jaw-Dropping Stuff - Anderson Scored TWO!
Today, with a relatively weak team, we've beaten a side which destroyed Inter. Most of today's players won't play on Sunday but I guess there are two or three players who deserve a place in Sunday's starting line-up. VDS is a dead cert and I guess Valencia, Anderson and Nani should feature at a stage or another. 

We'll be facing Barca at Wembley on the 28th May. We both won our first Champions League under the shades of the twin towers. I wonder who'll emerge victorious under the new Wembley arch. Meanwhile the title decider vs Chelsea is looming large... COME ON UNITED!

P.S.  We are now the second highest scorers in the CL's history with 303 goals.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Arsenal 1 - 0 United

Fabio Rio Vida Evra
Nani Carrick(Owen) Anderson(Valencia) Park
Rooney Chicharito(Berbatov)

Roo didn't have the best of games today
After experiencing the highs of a majestic Champions League display, we had to witness another abysmal Premier League away game. We created a maximum of two decent chances and only have ourselves to blame. Arsenal weren't excellent, in fact I think they were very beatable today, but we never really got going.  They deserved their win.

Refereeing blunders have been the highlight of this weekend's PL matches. The men in black won Chelsea the game vs Tottenham and today the ref should have awarded at least 2 penalties. The first was a clear hand ball by Vidic and then, late in the 2nd half, I firmly believe that Owen was fouled inside the box. I'm not complaining about the former though! 

We have made it extremely difficult for ourselves. Only a win will do on Saturday and I have a tingly feeling that Chelsea will rise for the occasion. The question is whether we'll match their desire and get ourselves those precious 3 points. If we lose again, goal difference will come into play and things on that part aren't looking promising either! 

Schalke will be coming to Old Trafford on Wednesday but, given the circumstances, I honestly don't care about the Champions League. All I want is that 19th league title. COME ON UNITED, DON'T LET US DOWN!