Monday, March 26, 2012

United 1 - 0 Fulham

De Gea
Rafael Evans Rio(Smalling) Evra
Valencia Carrick Giggs Young
Welbeck(Chicharito) Rooney(Scholes)

Roo and the Excellent Evans Combined to Score the Winner
PHEW! I never expected such a tight game. United passed the ball superbly in the middle of the field but always lacked the final touch. Our strikers didn't have the best of games up front. Welbeck will have much better nights. Rooney, who scored the winner, looked a bit off the pace as well while Chicharito, on for Welbeck, did well to build up attacks but hesitated in the penalty area. I expected better from the trio. 

More Selfishness Tony? Please?  
At the other side, our defence had another good game. Rafael and Evra were lively while Rio and Johnny Evans did well in front of De Gea. Evans and Carrick were probably the best performers. The former headed every ball that came his way and also assisted Rooney in the only goal of the game. Carrick was composed even when under intense pressure. Young did well and I guess he defended much better than he attacked. He covered Evra superbly. Valencia was his usual self on the right but I think he should learn to be a tad more selfish at times. He's capable of scoring more goals than he gets! 

All in all we deserved to win the game by a wider margin, however if I'm honest, I must admit that Carrick's challenge on Murphy was a definite penalty. The penalty wasn't given and that makes such a win even more sweeter especially knowing that plenty of City fans must've gone absolutely livid when the ref decided to overlook Carrick's challenge. Haha! 

Prior to the game I thought this would be a high scoring match. However, Fulham defended brilliantly and hit us on the counter attack. They produced some nail biting moments late in the game. If this game is anything to go by, I'll have one horrendously nervous run-in. I guess I'd better have someone who has basic first aid skills sitting right next to me, just in case my heart couldn't bear the stress our boys in red put me through! Anyway, another game out of the way and we're back on top. Blackburn next. I don't feel particularly confident about that game, we're always given a hard time at Ewood Park. Come on United!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Unsung Hero Johnny Evans

When Vidic got stretchered off the pitch on that damned night in Basle, I thought to myself, “There goes our chance of winning the Premier League

I knew we had the likes of Jones and Smalling waiting to get their chance in central defence but I just didn’t see any of them filling the huge void left by the stricken Serbian. There was also Evans, at whom I was still angry after the Manchester derby fiasco. In fact I overlooked him as a candidate to fill the gap left by Vidic.

Any team in the world, including Barcelona, would miss Nemanja Vidic. He’s world class and, although his passes aren’t as good as Rio’s, his grit makes him one of the best in the world. Seriously, I wouldn’t trade Nemanja for any other defender there is out there.  I simply love our captain. Oh, and I’m aware that the upcoming season might be his last in the red of United.

One of Johnny's Handful of Low Points Last Year
During those dark December days, I mumbled to myself, “How on earth are we coping defensively if our Serbian, who could “fuckin murder ya”, will be out for the season?”  So in comes Johnny Evans. Even the name doesn’t instil fear. I mean, compare the name Johnny to Nemanja! He’s nowhere near Vidic when it comes to strength but he’s been one heck of an asset for our side this year. Two years ago we saw what this young Northern Irish bloke promised. Last year most of us (including me, I admit) got on his back and questioned his ability. Let’s be honest, he was shit. This year our Johnny has silenced his critics with one composed display after the other. Heck, he’s even overshadowing the ‘classy’ Rio Ferdinand! There’s no question that he has improved, although to be honest, it would not have taken him much effort to improve on last season. I’ve seen some stats the other day and, this season in the premier league, we’ve only lost once when Johnny started the game. I genuinely believe that that is no coincidence. Up until a few months ago I still wasn’t sure about Evans. In fact I’d utter the word “shit” as soon as I saw his name in the starting XI (as far as I’m concerned, I obviously still supported him in public). Fast-forward to this present day and now, when I see Evans’ name on the starting line up, I honestly don’t care. That speaks heaps of his improvement during the past months. When looking at our usual back four, I can safely say that he has become the most consistent defender at United.

He’s improved his aerial challenges as well as his positioning. The former is of huge importance given the fact that we had a young Spaniard in goal getting troubled by high balls in the penalty area. However, his composure on the ball is by far the most evident improvement on last season. This season, when he gets the ball he looks out for someone to pass to. Last year he used to clear the ball away without aiming it at anybody in particular... even when under no pressure. 

Derby Day Sending Off
As much as I like Jones, I’d have to admit that he’s still not ready to play in central defence on a weekly basis. Smalling is a good defender but I’d rather see him play as a full-back while, when fit, Rio is an automatic starter. Until the end of the season, there should be one player who plays alongside Rio and that is Evans. That goal last Sunday was a testament to his improvement. He looks like he’s enjoying his football and I guess he has worked hard for that. Last year I wouldn’t have dreamt of saying Evans will someday be pivotal in our side but I’m about to say that now; he’s been immense and I hope he stays fit to help us win a record extending 20th title. Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, I’ll never doubt Evans’ abilities again. Fergie has made a blunder or two in his time at United. Last year I might have thought that keeping playing a young Johnny Evans, who was evidently lacking confidence, was one huge error. This year I’m willing to put my hands up and admit that I was mightily wrong. Obviously, a lot of people might have already passed judgement on him last season and will overlook his contribution this year. However, I see a player brimming with confidence who could do United proud. Well played Johnny lad! 
His first goal in the red of United

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wolves 0 - 5 United

Rafael Rio Evans(Smalling) Evra(Fabio)
Valencia Scholes Carrick(Pogba) Welbeck
Rooney Chicharito

What I thought would be a tricky fixture turned out to be an easy game. Evans, yes Evans, opened the score (our 100th goal of the season!) and late in the first half, Wolves were justly reduced to 10 men when one of their defenders made a second bookable challenge. It was all downhill for Wolves from then on. Valencia and Welbeck scored in the space of 2 minutes and then, in the second half, Chicharito completed the icing on the cake with two fine strikes. I'm delighted with the result as another away fixture is chopped off our schedule. 

 Excellent Tony. Man of the Match.
Every player did well today with Valencia excelling on the right flank. His return to our side is a huge boost for this pivotal time of the year. Today he scored an excellent goal and managed two assists. Man of the match. It was also a joy to see Chicharito back in amongst the goals. Last week vs WBA he looked like he regained his confidence. Today's brace should provide the uplift he desperately needed. Everybody scored a 7(or more) out of 10 performance. Evans keeps improving with every game. He deserves that goal. Welbeck helped cap a brilliant forward display while Rooney delivered one immaculate cross-field ball after the other. I cannot believe Wolves managed to keep Roo out of the score sheet.

I'm obviously very happy with the performance but, although we played well, I must admit that Wolves were absolutely woeful today. They misplaced one pass after the other and their marking was abysmal. What a difference to Bilbao! 

We're now 4 points ahead of City albeit we've played a game more. City's next fixture is vs Chelsea. Pressure's on them....

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bilbao 2 - 1 United

De Gea
Rafael Rio(Smalling) Evans Evra
Park Cleverley Carrick(Pogba) Young
Giggs(Welbeck) Rooney

So we're now out of the Europa League and, given our situation in the Premier League, I honestly don't give two flying fucks. No sour grapes. Obviously I would've been delighted if United progressed, but I'm not too arsed about the fact that we got eliminated. We were totally outplayed in both legs and deserved the early exit. 

Nothing our young Spaniard could do
An excellent strike by Rooney was the only consolation we got out of another frustrating European night. I've only seen United get outplayed on very very few occasions. I'll add last night to the list of those games. The pressing by Bilbao's players was exceptional and they made us run out of ideas. I don't know how on earth they aren't occupying a more respectable position in La Liga. Surely the likes of Valencia, Malaga, Levante and Osasuna aren't half as good as this young Bilbao side! I can't believe they've only won 9 times this season. Does that mean that we were shit? We were shit, yes, but I thought Bilbao were excellent as well. I will be surprised if none of the usual vultures from La Liga, the Serie A and the Premier League try to disembody this young Bilbao side as soon as the transfer window opens in June. Well played. 

Our LB postion is becoming a huge problem
I'm not sure what happened this year in our European games. We only won a measly 3 games out of 10 and never really performed. We won two games vs Otelul Galati and a game in the Europa League away to Ajax. We never looked convincing though and that probably shows what a young and inexperienced side we've got. Surely the likes of Jones, Smalling, Cleverley and Welbeck have done quite well in the Premier League but they lack the necessary experience to see off the more technical European sides. I remember in 2005 we had a team comprising of Rooney and Ronaldo and only won ONE game (vs Benfica) in the group stage. We eventually bowed out of the competition humiliated and anchored to the bottom of our group(made up of Benfica, Lille and Villareal). This led to a proliferation of prophets of doom foreseeing our sudden demise. We reached the semis the following year (and were trashed at the San Siro by eventual winners Milan) and won the coveted trophy in 2007/08. So I've got no doubts that Fergie will build a team that will be capable of competing with the likes of Real and Barca in the future. So, we'll be back....let's just hope it's the Champions League though ;)  

The only regret I've got is that City were dumped out of the Europa League as well. Some more games in their schedule would have given us an advantage over them in the League because I'm not sure whether they can handle playing in multiple competitions at this stage of the season. Anyhow, we've now got 10 games to save our season. 10 finals. Wolves away next, could be a tricky one....

Meanwhile the youths have an FA Youth Cup semi final to worry about. Let's hope they repeat last year's feat!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Athletic Bilbao 1 - 0 United (HALF TIME)

I'm giving my half time views today since I have to leave for dinner in Valletta as soon as the match finishes. I will update this post tomorrow morning.

I must say we're lucky Athletic aren't 2 goals up. One of their players missed an absolute sitter but then their excellent striker Llorente scored a sublime goal to put us virtually out of this cup. Scoring three goals during the second half is difficult against any side never mind against such an industrious football team. I was pretty pleased with our reaction after their goal, it would have been acceptable had we taken a lead to Spain but I guess it won't be enough to see us through this tie.

I'm not too worried to be honest. Bowing out of the Europa League isn't something to be proud of but after that result last week I'm not too bothered about it. However, losing this weekend to Wolves would be a travesty so I hope none of our players suffers any injuries!

Athletic Bilbao were better than us at Old Trafford and they have been better than us during long stretches of the first half. I've got nothing to complain about. Only a miracle will see us through but hey, I've seen very strange stuff happen in football! So I'll keep my faith in the boys who rarely let me down. Come on United!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

United 2 - 0 WBA

De Gea 
Jones Rio Evans Evra
Welbeck(Cleverley) Carrick Scholes(Pogba) Young
Chicharito Rooney

After that defeat vs Athletic Bilbao I was quite disappointed but not really gutted. In my eyes, the Premier League is more important than the Champions League, never mind the Europa League. The Premier League matches are the games that matter an awful lot and therefore I'm pleased our team showed up and played attractive football today. Mind you, if we pull off a comeback on Thursday I'd be delighted but deep down I know what I want United to win and that is the Premier League. 

Another brace for Roo
Rooney scored two goals to put United on top of the league but in reality we could have scored 4 more. Welbeck missed some decent chances and Chicharito rattled the post and fluffed a couple of chances as well. Those misses were stains in what otherwise was an excellent performance from our strikers. Chicharito looked very  sharp while our Danny dribbled past WBA's defenders with ease and won every race for the ball. However, he needs to cut the tippy tappy football inside the penalty area. Young had another good game today and he finally managed to dribble past his marker several times. Although I thought he wasn't up to the task on Thursday, he looks to be coming back to form in the premier league and judging by his performance today he certainly looks like a player oozing confidence. Scholes and Carrick controlled the midfield majestically while Rooney was his usual self. Passing, scoring and running his arse off. 

Evans has been excellent recently
This was probably one of the few performances this season when none of our defenders put a foot wrong. Although, if I'm honest, Evra was a bit clumsy when he floored Odemwinge during the second half. That could have easily been a penalty. However, both our full backs were like engines bombing forward on every possible occasion while Rio's calm performance was only overshadowed by the ever improving Evans. The goalie was assured and was confident enough to clutch or punch a couple of corner kicks during the game.Well done to all. 

Now I'm obviously saying a thing or two about the return of Pogba in the squad. His inclusion today is certainly a sign from Fergie that shows that the Frenchman has agreed terms with United. Although I'm not a fan of having players, especially if unproven, holding the club to ransom, I'm pretty pleased that such a talent has seen the light. Moving away from Old Trafford would be a huge step down the footballing ladder, especially if he'd moved to Juventus who are still a shadow of their glorious past. So let's hope his 20 minutes today mean that he's signed a new contract. 

All in all I'm delighted. We're at the place where we belong and while I admit that our game vs Wolves away could be tricky, I'm more than confident that our boys will emerge on top, unlike last year. It feels so good to be on top. Let's hope we don't drop points in the upcoming winnable games. Athletic Bilbao next. We need a 2-0 win to keep ourselves in this Cup. I guess Fergie should go for it. Scrap that, he WILL go for it! Come on United!
Welbeck is a great footballer. All he needs to do is to cut the fancy football in the penalty area.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

United 2 - 3 Athletic Bilbao

De Gea 
Rafael Smalling(Carrick) Evans Evra
Young Giggs(Nani) Jones Park(Anderson)
Chicharito Rooney

Our boys will have a tough task in Spain next week
What the hell was that? Athletic were either excellent today or we were very very poor. I guess it's a mixture of both. Since I only watch two games a season (the Classicos) from La Liga, I used to think that all teams in that league, aside from Barca and Real, are shit. I got the answer today. We were absolutely outplayed today by La Liga's fifth best team. Old Trafford, which used to be a European fortress, has become a place were such teams aren't afraid of taking the game to us. Bilbao deserved their win today, simple as that. 

These players impressed me
We were second best during the weekend but got out of the game with 3 points. We were second best today but lady luck didn't smile at us again. They scored two good goals but I can't really understand how the third goal came about. I'm not sure what's written in those darned FIFA rules but why on earth did the ref award a freekick to Bilbao just because Evra lost his boots? That freekick led to Bilbao's third goal which, if that penalty was not given, would have put the final nail in our European coffin. Oh and by the way, the player who scored Bilbao's second goal was in an offside position. However, I stress that they deserve their win. At least Rooney scored  a late penalty to add to the goal he had scored earlier. 

I'm not commenting more about the game but I'd like to make a point or two about the players who wore the United shirt today.

De Gea - He was excellent and kept us in the tie. He made 3 excellent saves and was unlucky to have some of his defenders not up to the task today. Up until that Blackburn game he was a more of a liability to our side but finally I can see him turning into one precious asset. He saved our ass in a handful of occasions now. Well done the Spaniard.
Rafael - I thought he was the hardest working player but he ruined a laborious display with that third goal. De Gea was busting a gut to get to the ball while Rafael, with an Athletic Bilbao player fast approaching, turned into a spectator and let Bilbao get their third goal. 
Evans - Our best outfield player. Why people keep questioning him after these past couple of months is beyond me.
Smalling - I'm not sure what he did right in the game. I'm not sure what he did wrong either to be honest.
Evra - I expect more from our captain.
Park - Wasn't effective.
Giggs - A couple of good passes but that was just it. We can't keep depending on our golden oldies. Our central midfield looked weary without the genius of Scholes. It's scary that we look a weakened side without the ginger prince. We just cannot keep relying on him and Giggsy. 
Jones - Poor performance. It's been a while since he played like he did during the first stage of the season. Is he as good as we thought/think he is?
Young - Never beat his man. Good performance last Sunday but still needs to convince me and I'm a person who adored him during his time at Aston Villa. 
Rooney - A handful of wayward passes but worked his ass off especially during the second half. Scored two as well to keep us in with a shout. 
Chicharito - Poor, very poor. 
Nani - Didn't do much but didn't have enough time to do anything really.
Anderson - Encouraging display. Plenty to go to regain full fitness I guess.
Carrick - Brought a bit of composure to an inexistent midfield. Giggs and Jones were quite poor in midfield today.

WBA next. That game is 10 times more important than today's game. Anything but three points will be suicidal. Come on United!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Manchester United run in vs Manchester City run in

I’m writing this on Sunday 4th March, still pumped up after United’s terrific win at White Hart Lane. This data might suggest I’ve got plenty of time on my hands but in reality it only took me a mere 10 minutes to put together and I did it out of sheer curiosity and of course so that you, my esteemed blog readers, don’t have to do it yourselves. *cue a barrage of “awwwwhs” from you lot*

So in the first part I looked at the performances of City’s and United’s away opponents at their home.

Manchester City’s Away Opponents
W – 35
D - 23
L – 22
Points Won 128
Just like Arsenal, Newcastle are a tough nut to crack at home
City's opponents, namely Swansea, Stoke, Arsenal, Norwich, Wolves and Newcastle have won a combined total of 128 points at home. United still have to play Wolves but we’ve dropped points vs Stoke and Newcastle and we were given a torrid time vs Swansea, Arsenal and Norwich. They are games in which Manchester City could drop a point or two…make that two points or three, you cannot drop just a single point.

Manchester United’s Away Opponents
W – 27
D –  13
L – 28
Points Won 94
Our toughest away fixture: vs City
Our away opponents have performed a tad worse at home. In fact, our FIVE away opponents have won 34 less points than City’s opponents. We need to keep in mind that we have one less away opponent than City, which makes the wide 34 point gap a little more understandable. Out of those 27 wins, 14 are games won by City at their Etihad stadium. So 4 of our 5 away opponents only amassed 13 wins, an average of approximately 3 home wins per team. Given our excellent away record this year, that stat is not frightening at all.  Our opponents are Wigan, Wolves, Manchester City, Sunderland and Blackburn. Obviously Man City at the Etihad will be a massive hurdle but the other games are quite winnable with the exception of Sunderland who are as hard as nails at home.

In the second part I looked at the performances of City’s and United’s home opponents away from home.
Manchester City's Home Opponents
W - 28
D - 16
L – 24
Points Won 100
City's home game vs Chelsea could be a tricky one
Most of City’s home games, given their outstanding home record, should be won by Mancini’s men. However, Chelsea and of course ourselves will be visiting the Etihad Stadium and those games could - make that WILL - be difficult for City. Chelsea may be in the middle of a storm but some of their players are still a class act and have enough power to overcome City. On the other hand, with regards to our fixture against them, I’ve got a 100% belief that our players are more than capable of beating City. But then again, I know City have the power to beat us on their day. Let’s hope we show up, unlike what we did in October in that dreaded 6-1 defeat. City’s games vs WBA, Sunderland and QPR should result in easy wins for our neighbours.

Manchester United Home Games
W – 21
D – 25
L – 34
Points Won 88
Our toughest home fixture is probably that vs Everton
We’ll be meeting WBA, Fulham, QPR, Villa, Everton and Swansea at home. Although I know what Blackburn did to us on New Years’ eve, I still believe that these games will be won. If we’re dropping points, which we will, it will be away from home.


Obviously, these stats might have little meaning because after all, football is a funny old game. However, I bet Mancini would give up his left bollock to have our title run in. While I’m still rueing those 3 points lost vs Blackburn and those 2 points lost at home vs Newcastle, I hope that come May, our skipper will be holding the Premier League trophy aloft at Old Trafford and those points dropped prove to be mere hiccups in an otherwise successful campaign.  I believe we’ve got a very very good chance.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tottenham 1 - 3 United

De Gea
Jones Evans Rio Evra
Nani(Park) Carrick Scholes(Giggs) Young
Welbeck Rooney

The phrase 'a daylight robbery' must've been invented for this game. We didn't deserve to score a goal, let alone three. We didn't deserve to draw, never mind bag all three points. Harry's team must train next to a cat house full of black cats. They have no luck. They should have won vs City and lost, they lead vs Arsenal and lost and they played much better than us today and still lost. But let's be honest, who the hell cares?! 

Very good game by Roo, Danny and Young
Young, who I bashed on a countless of occasions, did three things today, three moves which lead to all three goals. His very good cross was met by Rooney who headed home, he scored a decent volley and then hit home a sublime curling shot from outside the box. He's my man of the match because he finally made an impact on a game. His two goals vs Arsenal in September (or was it August?) didn't have an impact on the game. However, one shouldn't overlook the contribution of our excellent central defenders and our young goalie. Rio and Evans were put under a lot of pressure but came out on top in most occasions and when our number 5 and 6 failed to clear the ball, De Gea made a couple of good saves. Well done to the trio. 

Roo's goal must've been a killer blow to Tottenham
In midfield I thought our midfielders lost the battle. Carrick was a bit sloppy today, probably his worst performance for quite a while. On the other hand I thought Scholesy did quite well but still didn't look as effective. Nani was quiet most of the time but he was the mastermind behind the second goal. When he attacked Tottenham's back four, he looked dangerous. Rooney and Welbeck were all over the pitch attacking Tottenham's side and helping their team mates at the back when it needed be. Their commitment is priceless. Maybe Jones was the player who let me down most today. Somehow, I still think Jones is a better central midfielder than a full back. At 19 he's still learning his trade and I expect him to become a better full-back. I've just read most of Neville's biography in which our legendary number 2 said that he wasn't a good right back until he was 23 years old! 

Anyway, I've got a tingly feeling that this win might be a title decider. Looking at City's fixtures, I can see them dropping points vs the likes of Stoke, Swansea, Arsenal, Newcastle and maybe even vs Chelsea under a new manager. We'll wait and see. Till our fixture vs City, we must make sure we win all our games because they're all very winnable. WBA at Old Trafford next. Come on United!

"Hands up if you think Manchester United will win the league!"