Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A non-controversial win

Last night's game against Bursaspor, thankfully, was not as controversial as the one against Spurs over the weekend. Three well-taken goals from three beautifully-worked moves showed United's true class, even if they weren't exactly playing at full speed.

It would be difficult to pick out a man-of-the-match as it seemed like everyone was playing well, except perhaps Berbatov. The Bulgarian seemed out of touch with his surroundings!

But what really struck me about the game is not what was happening on the field. It was the stands that caught my attention. Despite being three goals down, the Bursaspor fans were singing their hearts and lungs out. I don't think a single person left the stadium before the final whistle.

I know Turks are fanatical supporters of their respective teams. But if you compare the Bursaspor fans to the fans of Galatasaray, for instance, during their European matches with United in the past, there is a whole lot of difference. While Galatasaray fans did not have any sportsmanship, the Bursaspor fans did. What an incredible experience listening to them sing and cheer despite being down.

You can't say the same for many United fans. They tend to boo and hiss if MU play badly. Granted, United fans are a spoilt lot since the team win a lot, but it is a welcome change to hear the Bursaspor lot having a great time. It's not just United fans either. I'm sure a vast majority of the world's teams have such fans.

In Malaysia, the best fans used to be the Selangor fans. They, too, jeered their team when they were down. Now, Kelantan fans are arguably the most fanatical, but they too would run amok if their team didn't perform to expectations.

So, Bursaspor, your fans rock.

As for the controversial goal against Spurs, I have this to say: It was a legitimate goal, as the whistle was never blown for handball (isn't that what we're always told, play to the whistle?), so don't blame the ref, people. Blame that fool Gomes.

I do, however, think that, perhaps, Nani could have not taken advantage of Gomes' idiocy, thus showing a little sportsmanship. I don't know. The jury is still out on that. One thing is for sure, though. His celebration after scoring the goal was a little too much, don't you think? With that kind of celebration, anyone who missed seeing the goal would have thought Nani dribbled past the entire opposing team to score an amazing goal!!!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

What is happening?

Another week, another draw. Can we take consolation in that we are the only team left unbeaten in the league? That, so far, is the only consolation. We lost our perfect record at home in the league. We have yet to win away. We have conceded 11 goals, although we have scored 18, the same as Arsenal with only Chelsea scoring more.

Again we had the game in the bag this weekend. Again, we let it slip. And in what fashion? A badly defended freekick turned into goal by our own player, and a howler like no other from VDS leading to the equalising goal. We should have been more than 2-0 up by half time. We were cruising and WBA had no answer.

But kudos to WBA for coming out with all guns blazing. They hassled and harried until the MU defence gave. Even the introduction of Rooney and Scholes in the second half of the second half proved fruitless.

But by far the thing that did the worst damage was Giggs going off in the first half. After that, there were hardly any attacks down the left flank. Most of the play came down the right with Nani.

Now the Brit papers are saying Rooney wants out and has refused to sign a contract extension. He has 18 months left on his current contract and big teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid are said to be keeping tabs on him. Quite frankly, if his heart isn't in it, he should just go. MU should just sell him. If he can't perform because his heart isn't in it, then there is no use keeping him.

I'm hoping he won't go, of course, and that he'll get back to form and start producing again, start loving playing for the club again. But if he is really adamant, then let him go. No one is bigger than the club.

But a great goal-getter needs to be brought in to replace him. Berbatov is back to not scoring. Hernandez has all the markings of a good player but at present is more a Solksjaer than anything. And Macheda is still not there yet. I can't seem to think of who it is could be brought in at this point in time. No striker that I can think of seems to be worth the prices being thrown about these days.

At present, Bursaspor should be all we think about. Let's whip them and then think about the next game.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What's happening, Sir Alex?

This post is one that is long overdue. What in the world is happening?

MU are notorious slow starters, but four draws out of four away games in the league is a record that can only be considered atrocious from the likes of a first-class team. Sir Alex has blasted the team for lacking killer instinct, and I have to say he's got it spot on. But is it just that?

The defence in the first two draws -- against Fulham and Everton -- has to take the blame. And after that, I think the team lacked confidence when it came to away games. Even the away win against Valencia didn't serve to give them a confidence boost.

Whatever it is, the Red Devils need to move up a gear from now on or Chelsea is going to run away with the title without a challenge.

In other news, it looks like a recall for out-on-loan midfielder Tom Cleverley. Fergie thinks he's in the reckoning for first team action, and while I'm not as convinced as the gaffer, I do think he is a star in the making. So, yes, bring him back.

Hawkeye for football, anyone?

The papers also have it that FIFA will bring in goal-line technology soon. Thank goodness, I say. It is about time, don't you think? So many horrible calls have been made that I believe there should be some sort of technology used.

UEFA has included two more referee's assistants for the Champions and Europa leagues but these are still subject to possible human error, or even graft. What's the problem with bringing in technology? The Hawkeye system has worked wonderfully for tennis. As long as checks are made before every game, the technology should prove accurate every time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What a match!

Berbatov is having one hell of a season, isn't he?

A hattrick against Liverpool, and what a hattrick it was. All three goals were difficult ones. The first, while being held back at first by Torres. The second, well, I really don't have to say anything about. And the third, climbing above a number of Liverpool defenders to power a header home.

The team played well, I thought. To be frank, a draw would have been a travesty after the way they played. VDS hardly had anything to do, but was powerless against the penalty and freekick from Gerrard. Speaking of which, I think Gerrard did really well. His penalty-taking is as consistent as anybody's and that free kick. Well, he picked a sweet spot, didn't he? Fletcher, though, should be blamed for letting the ball through. The Liverpool player next to him peeled away and that caused him to move to try to cover the opponent, but seeing the ball coming through that gap he left, he still could have blocked it. In fact, he moved towards it but at the last moment, moved ever so slightly away again!

As for the events leading up to the spot and free kicks, well there can be no doubt about the penalty and I believe it definitely was a foul for the free kick. Sir Alex thinks Torres made a meal of the second foul and tried to get O'Shea sent off. Did he? There's a slight chance, but I still think it was definitely a foul. As for arguments whether O'Shea should have been sent off as he was last man, I have to even if there wasn't a foul, I don't think Torres could have reached that ball. I think VDS would have gotten the ball a full three seconds ahead of the Spaniard, so a yellow card, yes, but not a red for O'Shea.

As for the next game, Scunthorpe should not prove too much of a threat against United, even though we all know Fergie will opt for his second stringers in the match. Bebe, apparently, may play a part. Let's hope Fergie's decision to break with tradition and sign the hitherto unknown player from Portugal without having seen him in action does not come back to bite him in the you-know-where.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reds and the Devils

Easily the most awaited tie of the year. Forget MU vs Chelsea. Who cares about MU vs Arsenal. It's the Red Devils vs the Reds that captures everybody's attention.

MU go into the match on the back of two straight draws. The game against Everton was an utter waste, while the one in the Champions League against Rangers was a sham. A sham not because Sir Alex decided to make 10 changes to the starting lineup from the game against the Toffees, but that Rangers just came to park not only the team bus, but their supporters' buses as well. A sham and a shame!

No matter. Small hiccup, I say. But poor Valencia. You have to feel for the lad. Didn't really see how he was injured, thanks to what is now SOP for TV stations, not to show replays of horrific injuries, but the the look of pure distress on Broadfoot's face was enough to tell you how bad it was.

The side will likely welcome back Berbatov, Scholes, Evra and VDS and you have to believe that Vidic and Ferdinand will renew their partnership, which to me is always a good thing. Nani will likely be flying down the wings again, and it only remains to be seen who will on the other wing. Giggs? Not likely. He'll probably be on the bench. So I think it's going to be Park.

Liverpool will be delighted with their win in the Europa League, with a team minus their stars like Gerrard and Torres. They will be in confident mood for the trip to Old Trafford despite not having a very good start to the league, what more with the return of Gerrard and Torres.

No doubt the match will be close. It usually is. No matter how badly either one of the teams are playing at the moment, such matches usually are very close.

I still feel Man United will maintain their 100 per cent home record in the Premier League in this one. But it will definitely be a close one. A win by a solitary goal is what I predict.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Number of the Beast

Three games, three zilches, and more importantly, three sixes. 666. The number of the beast.

It has been an amazing two weekends. Last weekend saw three games end in 6-0 whackings. More amazingly, Chelsea was one of the teams, meaning that they have scored an astounding 12 goals in two games, having had a similar scoreline the previous week.

They are also the only team left in the EPL with a perfect record, and this only after two games. Man City and Liverpool play later tonight, but it doesn't matter because both teams drew their opening games, so no matter the outcome, Chelsea will still be the only team with all possible points garnered in their games so far.

But before Chelsea fans start rejoicing, I have this to say. They are a fantastic team with a fantastic record so far, but these wins have come against not-so-fantastic teams in WBA and Wigan. It will be a lot more difficult to keep it up. But congratulations anyway, for doing a fantastic job.

Now, to United. What exactly were they doing last night? After a Community Shield win against Chelsea where the players showed their fire, and a good showing against Newcastle (no mean feat considering the Toon Army's ability to whallop the Villans 6-0), they looked middle class at Craven's Cottage. Fulham are fast becoming a bogey team for MU at Craven Cottage, but really, the Devils should have wrapped things up in the first half. Instead, they lost the plot.

To be fair, Fulham showed incredible willpower, especially after going 2-1 down. But Nani should have put the game to bed with that penalty. That was one of the laziest attempts at a penalty I've seen in a while.

By the way, did anyone think Davies' goal should have been ruled offside? I thought so. Dempsey was right in front of van der Sar, I thought, and that should have been called offside because he was interfering with play. I think the ref and his assistant probably thought the defender (I forget which one, but I think it was Evans) was playing Dempsey onside, but I believe the defender hadn't come back into play until after the shot was taken.

Anyway, what's done is done. Obviously, if Dempsey was indeed offside, it was an honest mistake by the ref and his assistant, but they are human. All credit to Fulham. They fought back and got their much-deserved point. I think no team in the EPL is going to have an easy time away to Fulham this season.

As for MU, they need to shore up the defence, in particular. Zamora ran Evans ragged. The boy needs to improve a whole lot. Perhaps giving Smalling a chance might be a better option for Sir Alex, especially at home to West Ham this weekend.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

La Furia Roja or the Oranje?

Spain or the Netherlands? Reigning European champions or two-time World Cup finals losers? Countrymen or Oranje Men?

I am torn. I have no idea which of the two countries I should support tonight. My heart lies with Spain as I do have Spanish blood in me. But, I feel for the Dutch as they had two really good sides in 1974 and '78, but ended up losing to the host nations, Germany and Argentina, respectively. They have a good side in South Africa, too, although many will argue that Spain have the better side.

Spain's wins, especially in the knockout stages of the 2010 WC have been brilliantly executed. They have a number of good players like Villa, Iniesta, Pique, Xavi, Puyol and Alonso. You should also add Silva and Torres to that list, although the former hasn't really been given a chance to shine and the latter seems to have left his shooting boots in Liverpool!

The Dutch have also been doing a great job, causing one of the upsets of the tournament by eliminating the much-vaunted Brazil side. Sneijder, Kuyt, De Jong, van Bronkhorst, van Bommel and Robben have been great, although I still think Robben needs to be a little less selfish (the way he runs actually irritates me but that's a story for another day perhaps!). Van Persie, perhaps, also left his shooting boots in England, but he's still not doing as badly as Torres is at the moment.

So, we come back to the same question. Which team do I support? I'm going to go with neither, since I can't make up my mind. Either way, we will have a new country winning the WC, so that in itself will cheer me.

What do I think will be the outcome? On paper, it looks like Spain will come away victors by maybe a 1-0 margin, but my gut is telling me Holland will win. I'm going to go with my gut, since it is rather large!!!

The slightly clouded crystal ball says: The Netherlands 2 Spain 1

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What a month so far

The start of the World Cup had been real slow, but boy has it picked up since then.

Germany look unbeatable at the moment, but I think they might slip up tomorrow against Spain. Of course, I may be a bit biased considering I am part Spanish!

The Netherlands v Uruguay, too, will be an intriguing match as Uruguay tries to redeem South American pride by making it to the final. But I think the Dutch will be too good for them.

Speaking of the Dutch, several English papers have linked Wesley Sneijder with Man United. Sneijder, to me, has been one of the heroes of the World Cup so far. He is the lynchpin of the Oranje, even though Arjen Robben has been getting all the plaudits. I would love to see him at Old Trafford, wearing United colours of course.

Actually, I've long thought it would be great to get Sneijder in MU. He would be a fantastic addition to the team and I really hope he does make the switch from the San Siro. The papers in the UK, however, can't seem to agree on one thing: the price. Some say it would cost 25 million Pounds Sterling, while others say it will be around 35 million.

Whatever it is, I think he would be worth it.

Oh, and other people reportedly linked with a transfer to United: Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan (again) and Mesut Ozil.

I have to say, Ozil and Suarez, I wouldn't mind. But Forlan? You've got to be kidding me. Not suited for MU. Once bitten, twice shy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Still not up to scratch

After a number of games, I have to say this World Cup has not been very exciting so far.

To be fair, the first round of matches are usually not very exciting, as teams tend to be cautious, not wanting to lose their first match. I think once the second round of games gets underway, it should get better.

Having said that, South Africa's goal against Mexico was a hell of a way to get things started. Really. The build-up was fantastic and the shot was exceptional. It was, I thought, a sign of great things to come. Fast forward a few games, though, and there have been few goals and even fewer exceptional goals to cheer about.

Other than that first goal, the ones that have stuck in my mind are Lukas Podolski's goal and the one from Park Ji-Sung. The German's was a real cracker and Park's was brilliant from an individualistic point of view. And people still question whether United's decision to buy him was purely for marketing reasons. I still think he is one of the most underrated players in the United squad.

The other goals that stuck in my mind, for all the wrong reasons, are the howlers let in by England, Algeria, Denmark's Poulsen and, most recently, Paraguay.

The only team which has really impressed me so far are the Germans. They have a fantastic combination of young and senior players, and the young ones have really impressed. Muller and Osil come to mind immediately, but don't count out the rest. No offence to Australia, but the Socceroos were made to look like schoolboys on the field.

But before I go on about how good this German team is, I have to say I think it is a team for the future. Not this World Cup. The Aussies were not really a good test of how well this team can do. I think they will do well, but I don't think they'll win it this year. Maybe the next one, although it will be hard in a country like Brazil.

My favourite, Argentina, did not impress. They didn't play too well, nor did they do too badly. It's just that they don't seem like world champions. I have to say, though, that the scoreline would have been a lot different if not for the heroics of the Nigerian goalie Vincent Enyeama.

As for England. What can I say? It would have been a one-goal win as I had thought it would be, if not for the Green howler. They should still make it to the next round. But I have to say I think Capello got his line-up wrong. I still think Joe Cole should be First XI in England. OK, so Joe got left out of the starting line-up. What was Capello thinking bringing in Shaun Wright-Phillips on the left flank? The guy is only good on the right. Joe Cole can play both sides and would have been a better choice for the left than Ian's adopted son!

The Netherlands didn't impress either. The Danes should have been easier meat for the Dutch than the 2-0 scoreline suggests. I also have to say I was disappointed that I didn't get to see much of new Red Devil Javier Hernandez. Having scored quite a number of goals in only a few matches for his country, I would have liked to see him in the starting line-up instead of Franco.

The Italians are notoriously slow starters so I'm sure their draw with Paraguay will not prevent the reigning World champions from qualifying for the next round, especially taking into consideration the other teams in the group are New Zealand's All Whites and new boys Slovakia. As for France, well, what can I say. They have never been consistent have they?

Still a lot more games to watch, and I'm certainly looking forward to tonight's matches between Ivory Coast and Portugal and Brazil and North Korea.

Cheers for now!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Almost there

As I write this, it is already Thursday, so the latest edition of the World Cup begins tomorrow. Am I ever eager to watch the matches.

I have to say, the Netherlands are looking good. If any team outside the seven who have already won are to win, my pick would be the Dutch. Having said that though, I have to say Spain looked terrifyingly efficient in that 6-0 drubbing of Poland.

Although the kickoff is tomorrow, the festivities actually start tonight, with a show that promises to sizzle. I don't think there has been any sporting spectacle where the festivities started the day before. Oh well, just sit back and enjoy I guess.

Wasn't actually going to write anything today, but saw this quote in the papers and just had to write it down here. Good sense of humour, that Kiwi coach:

"Not at all, I don't think it matters anything. Unless we get hammered in all three (group games) and then I'll tell you it did."
New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert, on whether having to cut short practice sessions due to the unhealthy air caused by smoke from households in the township outside the stadium would affect the team's performances.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Apologies for the late posting

Been really, really busy lately, so have not had the chance to update the blog. Apologies for not doing so and apologies also to Chelsea fans for not congratulating you for your team's good wins.

The truth of the matter is that I was extremely busy and not because I was so morose that United were pipped to the title or that it's a case of sour grapes. My big boss may think so, but no.

Congratulations indeed to Chelsea and their fans. It was a job well done and the win over MU at Old Trafford was, as expected, the end of the road for the Red Devils, as far as I'm concerned.

It was good to learn that Javier Hernandez, the wunderkid who is the first Mexican to sign for MU, has been granted a work permit. When I heard about him, I immediately looked for videos on YouTube and was somewhat impressed with what I saw, though there were only a few videos. Hopefully, he will be something of a sensation at MU, if not immediately, then within the next few years.

Other than that, no real news coming out of Old Trafford apart from the usual rumours. I was sad to note that David Villa has joined Barcelona, as I have always wanted him at OT. But hey, I don't blame him. Barca are a class side.

So that's it for now. In the off season, I will not be updating this blog as often as I care to, but I will from time to time, especially if news comes about new signings. Don't see much of that happening till after the World Cup. I may also update the blog on the World Cup if I feel like it.

Who am I shouting for this World Cup. Well, I'm an Argentina fan so my first choice will always be Argentina, but I am also shouting for England, for obvious reasons as well as the fact that I have English ancestors. Also, Spain and Portugal, simply because I have Spanish and Portuguese blood in me as well!

Come on Maradona, prove me wrong and win the World Cup eh!

Monday, May 3, 2010

As good as over

Yes. It is.

Manchester United can kiss the league title goodbye, at least for this season. Have to face facts. There is almost zero, I repeat ZERO, chance of Chelsea dropping points at home to Wigan.

Of course, anything can happen. The ball, they say, is round. But Chelsea will be fired up to win and take the trophy in front of their own fans. And, to top it all off, Wigan have nothing to play for, having already secured their spot in the EPL next season.

I couldn't watch the Liverpool-Chelsea game due to a dinner I had to attend. Despite Gerrard making a horrid mistake and passing the ball straight to Drogba for the first goal, and despite the Merseysiders apparently not playing well, I don't think they were playing to lose. I think they have too much pride for that.

I jokingly told a few Liverpool fans that perhaps they wanted to lose only because they want Rafa out of the picture next season, but of course I don't believe that either.

Anyway, as I said before, anything can happen, so I'll be praying for a miracle this weekend!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This is it

It's crunch time. If Chelsea win tonight, the title is theirs.

There is no way Chelsea will drop points against a team like Wigan at Stamford Bridge. Sure, Wigan beat them earlier this season, but Chelsea are almost invincible at home and if MU can't overtake them this weekend, it won't happen next weekend either.

The latest news from Anfield is encouraging. They're not giving up, apparently. Chelsea, meanwhile, have no fresh injury worries. Terry returns to the side and will likely partner Alex. His regular partner Carvalho is still out injured. Obi Mikel, meanwhile, returns to the side following his recovery from an injury that left him out of the side that featured against Stoke in that 7-0 drubbing.

Obi Mikel's return is not a plus point, as far as I'm concerned, as I believe there are much better players than he. But Terry's return is certainly an inspiration for the Blues. Alex and Ivanovic did well for Chelsea in Terry's absence against Stoke through suspension. But to be frank, they were hardly tested against a Stoke side that looked utterly lost at the Bridge.

The worry here is Liverpool. Despite an abysmal season, by their standards, Liverpool have the ability to beat any team on their day. I don't believe all this nonsense about letting Chelsea win so that MU can't claim the record 19th league title and kick Pool off of their pedestal. Liverpool players, the club itself, have too much pride for that. The problem is that the players may be tired after that hard-fought 2-1 extra time win over Athletico Madrid, which unfortunately for them, cost them a place in the Europa League final.

My gut feeling is that Liverpool will take some points off Chelsea tonight, but even if they do, there's no guarantee MU will come away with the lead in the league by the end of the day. It's a tricky trip to Sunderland tonight for the Red Devils.

Reports from Old Trafford have it that Ferdinand and Rooney may face the Black Cats. Whether or not they are there, Sunderland are no easy meat at their home ground. And Bruce is no slouch of a manager, either.

My guess, though, is that MU will come away with all three points, especially if Chelsea draw or lose at Anfield.

The slightly clouded crystal ball says: Liverpool 2 Chelsea 2; Sunderland 0 MU 1

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What a weekend so far

I had wanted to post a preview of the Manchester derby, but work prevented me from doing so yesterday. After what happened last night, I simply had to write something.

I had wanted to write that I thought it would be a narrow one-goal win for Man United, simply because my gut was telling me that. And I had wanted to say it would come with or without Rooney. As it turned out I was right, and it happened with AND without Rooney. It doesn't make sense, I know, but look at it this way, Rooney played from the start but was substituted before Scholes' header found its mark.

The game itself was frustrating. I think both sides played OK, but lacked the sting to finish off their moves. Although Man City, I think, enjoyed the majority of possession, it was United, I think who had the better chances.

I'm not too sure on both counts, however, as I could only catch bits and pieces of the game while working. Needless to say, when that goal went in, I was shouting my lungs out. Don't think my colleagues (at least the non-United fans) appreciated that!

Having seen Spurs win their last match, another derby game, against Arsenal, I knew they could make it tough for Chelsea and grab at least a point, but after the Manchester derby, I knew the London derby would be even more significant.

Right after the United win, I told a colleague, one of the few Spurs fans I know, that his side would have added impetus to win. Winning a derby is always about pride, but with United having beaten City, Spurs would leapfrog the blue side of Manchester into fourth spot. That final qualifying spot for the Champions League next season is now Spurs' to lose, although I know they do have at least one more daunting match to play -- a trip to Old Trafford.

I managed to catch the second half of the Spurs-Chelsea game and, truth be told, the team in white could have slotted at least three more goals past Cech, if not for bad finishing. The biggest culprit had to be Pavlyuchenko, who missed at least two gilt-edged chances. The last minute counterattack which saw three Spurs players against one Chelsea defender and Cech should have, at the very least, tested the Chelsea goalie, but the final shot wasn't even on target!

Thankfully for the Spurs team and fans (and United and fans), they managed to still win. So all in all, it was a good weekend for United. Only one point separates the teams now, and this, hopefully, can be overhauled soon.

Let's hope it's a record fourth league title in a row and record 19th title overall.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Go on and prove them wrong, lads

Still no Wayne Rooney and 1-2 down from the first leg, but van Gaal insists United are still the favourites to progress to the next round at the expense of his Bayern team.

Was it just mind tricks when he said that? Or does he truly believe it to be so? Who knows, but in my mind, he's right.

That all-important away goal could be the one thing which separates the two sides at the end of today's (tomorrow's, for us) match. Then it will be MU as the only EPL team left in the Champions League.

Fergie has ruled Rooney out of the first 11, although the gaffer admitted his talismanic striker may just convince him of a place on the bench. So that leaves Berbatov to lead the attack again.

I wonder, however, what sort of formation Ferguson will use. The 4-5-1 (or 4-4-1-1) which he opted for against Chelsea, or a more conventional 4-4-2? If he goes 4-4-2, he'll bring in Macheda, but I doubt if he'll do that. My gut tells me he will go 4-4-1-1.

The only thing is, will he put Nani or Giggs in the hole behind Berba? I have to say he needs the big guns today, so put Nani and Valencia on the wings and Giggs behind Berba. The middle of the park should see Scholes and Fletcher reprise their roles, although Carrick may just be in for one of the two.

There's no real point in discussing the back line, although news from Old Trafford is that O'Shea is available again.

As for Bayern, Robben could be back but the main threat as I see it is Ribery. He's got some killer skills, the Frenchman. In the first leg, he was a constant threat. But I did notice that his crosses were just not working too well.

Taking everything into account, I think it will be United progressing to the semi finals. But then again, you guys may think I'm biased!

The old animal bones say: MU 1 Bayern 0

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Disappointing, to say the least

To be frank, both sides played half-baked football. A draw probably would have been a fair result, but if either team was to win, you would have to say Chelsea probably deserved it a little more.

It was a tale, I would say, of people going to sleep. First, the entire United defence were guilty of narcolepsy, it would seem, when they allowed Malouda to skip through and lay that pass on for Joe Cole's cheeky finish. Then, the referee's assistant went to sleep when he allowed Drogba to continue when he was quite clearly offside.

It can be argued that the referee and the assistant on the other side were also asleep when Macheda's goal was allowed to stand, as it was handball, but that was a situation which happened in a blink of an eye and I don't think either could have seen much. Then also there were the various appeals for penalties which they missed, at least two of which were legitimate claims.

What has me worried is that United players seem to have lost that ability to pass the ball smoothly, and this has left their game disjointed, so to speak. It seemed like in the last two games, at least, there was no flowing football, something that MU fans have come to expect. That Rooney is missing is not my major worry now, but the lack of a good passing game. Rooney not being there would not be such a problem if the passing game is there.

With the return leg against Bayern coming up, MU and Fergie better find some answers quick, or it will be the end of the road as far as the Champions League is concerned.

Come on you Red Devils! Show them what for!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Moment of truth

For the longest time now, I have been looking forward to this game knowing that this would be the clincher. I still believe it will be, but now my worst fear has been coupled with it.

I'm talking, of course, about the missing Mr Rooney. The man who seems to give his all, running from end to end, sliding in for every tackle, trying to stop goals as well as make them and score them.

England fans may be thankful that his injury is not as bad as first feared and that he will be available for the World Cup in June and July, barring any other injuries, but United fans will be cursing the loss of their talismanic striker at a time when the season is about to end. What more when the title is hanging in the balance, with just a point separating MU from Chelsea and Arsenal only a few more points behind.

Now Chelsea come to Old Trafford more rested than their opponents are, having been kicked out of the Champions League earlier, and on a high having scored 12 goals in their last two league games.

There is no doubt Rooney is an influential and inspirational player on the pitch. Whether his absence is felt will, however, rest on whether the rest of the team can step up and do the job without him.

Berbatov should step into the role Rooney currently occupies as lone striker up front. Fergie tends to use the formation I prefer seeing United play (4-4-2) when playing at home, but in this instance, with a Chelsea team seemingly rampant in front of goal, I think Sir Alex will opt for a 4-5-1 formation, or a derivative there of.

The fact that the only other first team strikers available to him are Diouf, who has yet to impress, and Macheda, who has only just returned from a long-term injury, will also play a part in the decision to go 4-5-1. I'm thinking he will play Giggs in the hole just behind Berbatov.

(You can argue that in this case, the formation will be 4-4-1-1, but I prefer calling it 4-5-1 since it's not a striker playing behind Berba.)

On the wings will likely be Nani and Valencia or Park, while the centre of the park will be marshalled, I believe, by Carrick and Fletcher.

If Fergie opts to play Nani behind Berba, then Valencia and Park will be flying down the wings, with Giggs waiting to come on if needed.

Of course, you never know until you see the starting line-up as you still have players like Scholes and Gibson knocking on the door and champing at the bits. Who knows? Maybe Sir Alex will decide to go ahead and play a 4-4-2 formation. I doubt it as Chelsea are a class team and even though they are away, Sir Alex will definitely show them a little respect and try to control the midfield instead. After all, we just need a draw to keep ahead of them.

Actually, that's where I'm heading with this. I think it will be a draw, although I'm hoping, of course, there will be three points for United at the end of the day.

So, the ol' crystal ball is a little cloudy on this one. It's either a draw, or a slim, extremely hard-fought one-goal win for MU.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Clash of the Red Titans

So much has happened since I last blogged. I've really been super busy so I didn't get the time to write or even visit my own blog.

But all that's in the past. Let's look forward instead.

Bring on the Germans

The CL draw seems to have put MU in the easier half of the table, but all is not as rosy as it seems. First of all, we have Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals. Not the easiest of opponents for sure. Still, with the form Rooney is in, I think we can squeeze past them.

The reason why some people may think this is the easier half is because of the opponents MU will face in the semifinals. An all-French quarterfinals between Bordeaux and Lyon will see the victor earn the right to fight for a place in the finals with either MU or Munich. These two French teams are not chicken feed. Lyon knocked out Spanish giants Real Madrid and both are enjoying good form in their domestic league, especially at home.

Back to the Q-finals though. I think the match which will be most enticing will be the Arsenal-Barcelona bout. This is one game I don't want to miss.

So, will it be an all English final? We'll just have to wait and see.

And now, the main feature

MU entertain Liverpool on Sunday in what is an important game for both clubs. I'm sure I don't have to go into the why of it all.

The good news is that Giggs is back. I want him in the starting lineup. Of course, the other one I want to see and barring any mishaps, should see, is Rooney.

Other than that, I think we'll see VDS in goal, Rio and Vidic partnering each other again in what is a rare occurrence this season, Evra at leftback and possibly Neville at rightback.

I think Fergie will go for a five man midfield with Park and Nani on the wings and Giggs, Fletcher and either Scholes or Carrick in the middle.

Hargreaves may have made his comeback in a reserve game against Burnley recently, but don't bet on him being part of the squad this Sunday.

One of the big questions of the night will be whether Vidic can end the game on the pitch. Having been sent off in the last three encounters with Liverpool, all of which were won by the Merseysiders, let's hope Vidic can do better this time around.

Whatever the outcome, expect a fiery game with lots of tackles flying in and emotions running high, as all past games have proven to be just this. I always look forward to MU-Liverpool matches and this one is no exception.

My crystal ball says: MU by a one-goal margin and Vidic to finally stay the course

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Goodbye Owen, Hello Owen

Michael Owen will be out for the rest of the season, but Owen Hargreaves is now well on the comeback trail. The midfielder will be playing a reserves team match.

While Owen will definitely have no part to play in United's trip to meet Wolves, it remains to be seen whether Hargreaves will be included in the squad. I highly doubt it, but even if he is, I don't expect him to play.

Sir Alex and MU will be looking to take advantage of the fact that Chelsea does not feature in a EPL match this weekend (they play in the FA Cup) to go two points clear at the top of the table. While Chelsea will have a game in hand after the weekend, MU being ahead would be seen as a psychological advantage at the very least.

It was indeed a relief when Man City beat Chelsea last week, allowing United to stay a point behind following that horrible loss to Everton. No matter who plays this weekend, I expect a United win. Anything else would be disastrous.

Crystal Ball says: Wolves 0 MU 3

Saturday, February 27, 2010

An interesting weekend

This will surely be that!

Man United fans may be looking forward to the Carling Cup final tomorrow, but their eyes, no doubt, will be glued to the idiot box for today's early game. Man City travel to London for a showdown with Chelsea and MU fans will definitely be cheering their City rivals on.

Having won their midweek game against West Ham, United will be hoping City can at least take a point off Chelsea so the Londoners remain within sight. Better yet if City can beat Chelsea. It will be no easy task, as Chelsea have won all their games, bar one, at Stamford Bridge this year. The one game in which they did slip up was a draw so they have yet to lose at home.

With Adebayor suspended, MU fans will be hoping old boy Tevez will do them a favour and smash a few goals past Hilario, who will deputise for Cech, who is out injured for about a month, in the Chelsea goal.

New money Man City visiting Stamford Bridge would be enough to grab headlines in itself, but the focus of the newspaper articles so far has been on a different issue altogether: the match-up between Terry and old-pal-turned-enemy Bridge.

Though both are defenders, they will occasionally meet up during Bridge's forays down the flank or Terry's jaunts into the City penalty area during freekicks and corners. It will be interesting to see how the two react to each other on the pitch. Or will their managers tell them to stay as far away from each other as possible, unless absolutely necessary? Will things come to blows?

Whose silverware will it be?

Come Sunday, Wembley will see two good teams with two good managers going head-to-head. The might of the league's top scoring team taking on the league's meanest defence.

This is Villa's first title match in over a decade and their fans will be hoping for some glory at last. Actually, history is on Villa's side as United have never won back-to-back league cups (whatever they are called at the time).

They are coming up against a team, however, that has a certain man in a rich vein of form at present. A certain Mr Wayne Rooney. There's a report out that Ferguson is considering leaving Rooney out of the match to give him a rest and leave him for the important Champions League and EPL matches which are coming up, but somehow I don't think that is going to happen.

Players definitely out of the final, however, are Ferdinand, Giggs, Anderson and O'Shea, all through injury. Van der Sar should be back between the sticks after Fergie decided to give Foster a run-out against the Hammers in mid-week. Vidic is back, which is great. I think he'd probably have Evans as his sidekick, although I think the young lad has not been playing to par over the last few games. Having said that, however, I have to say I don't know how he performed against West Ham. Leftback should be Evra, of course. As for the opposite side of the field, I hope it's either Wes Brown or, preferably, Rafael.

I don't know what sort of midfield formation Ferguson's going to adopt, but I think Fletcher deserves a place in the squad. If Fergie opts for a five-man midfield, then the centre should also include Carrick and Scholes or Gibson. On the flanks, Nani and Park are the most likely contenders, although Fergie may opt for Valencia in place of either one of them.

Lone man upfront, of course, should be Rooney, and if he gets a partner, it will obviously be Berbatov.

Whatever it is, I'm looking forward to a good game and a good weekend. Here's hoping MU can break that jinx and win a Carling Cup for the second year on the trot. Make that trophy case groan even more boys!

My prediction: a hard-fought 2-1 win for the Devils!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Clearly second best

Pathetic! Absolutely pathetic!

That was indeed a horrendous display by United. Kudos to Moyes and the Toffees for making MU look like a bunch of schoolboys on the pitch.

To be fair, the side looked like they were in control at the start of the game. In fact, there should have been a few goals before Berbatov scored, such was the way they were attacking. But once Everton scored the equaliser (and what a goal that was), United looked out of sorts.

They came out looking and playing better at the start of the second half, but then lapsed into a horrible game again, with Berba and Rooney ineffective up front. Rooney, in fact, really looked like he left his shooting (and passing) boots at home.

Can't bring myself to say anything more except: Good job Everton.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Keeping up the pressure

Man United travel to Goodison Park this weekend for what promises to be a hot reception for Everton old boy Wayne Rooney.

Rooney may be England's darling at the moment, but Evertonians are not likely to greet him with much enthusiasm, to put it mildly. He may have left them years ago, but the Everton fans are still not liking it one bit.

Rooney may have been a top player even as a young lad with Everton, but there is no denying he has improved tremendously as a Red Devil. Look to him again to be among the scorers. After all, he tends to cherish a fight when the chips are down, and the ribbing he is sure to get from Everton fans is sure to fire him up.

Nani and Ferdinand are both suspended, while Giggs is still out with a broken arm, but the good news is that Vidic is available to play his first game of 2010. Nani's replacement is likely to be Valencia, who proved just what a good wide man he can be against AC Milan, setting up the second goal for, who else, Rooney.

Anderson is also in the running for a shot at the first team. After spending some time on the sidelines for going AWOL a short while back, Ando is expected to be in the squad for the trip to the blue half of Liverpool, or so the news coming out of Old Trafford seem to indicate. Not sure I want him in the team, though, since I think Fletcher, Scholes, Carrick, Gibson and Park have been doing a fine job.

I expect Fergie to employ a five-man midfield again, with Park and Valencia playing wide and Rooney, of course, being the lone striker. The middle of the field, however, is anyone's guess although I would probably go for Scholes, Fletcher and Carrick, with young Gibson on the bench.

The backline seems to change in every game so it's anyone's guess who will be on the pitch at the start of festivities, although one player who will feature for sure would be Evra.

Everton will definitely pose a problem. They are strong at home and David Moyes is a shrewd manager. After all, he is one of Fergie's favourites, and that says a lot.

MU old hand Saha is always a handful. I always did like him, but couldn't stand the fact that he was injured so often. Arteta, if he plays, will be another one to watch, as will Pienaar, who has been playing really well of late.

Missing from the lineup will be two of the more dangerous players, he of the wild hair, Fellaini, and more importantly, Cahill. The latter came away injured from the Toffees' Europa League match against Sporting Lisbon and is expected to be out for three weeks.

I still fancy another win for United, which will see them leapfrog over Chelsea, even if only for two hours or so. Chelsea are away to Wolves and I don't see them dropping points there, although you never can quite tell these days.

Whatever it is, United need to keep up the pressure on Chelsea so they will definitely be going for a win here. What am I saying? Does MU ever not go for a win?

The tarot cards say: Everton 1 MU 3

Monday, February 15, 2010

Back to Europe

It's been a while since I last blogged. Been super busy, so have not been able to get things done here.

But since the San Siro beckons, and not much is happening in the office, I simply have to blog today, or kill myself!

A mouth-watering European tie is at hand, and with United having a pretty good run of late, it should live up to billing. MU's last five games have seen them win four times and draw once, while Milan are not exactly on a purple patch, winning only once, drawing twice and losing twice.

But Milan is a formidable side at home. At the San Siro, their last five games have seen three wins, a draw and a loss. MU's away record in the last five have seen them win only twice and lost once. That loss came in the first leg of the Carling Cup at the City of Manchester Stadium.

History in the Champions League, however, shows that Milan will have the advantage. In the two games the two giants have played there, the Italian side has come out tops both times, winning 3-0 in 2007 and 1-0 two years earlier.

Based on current form, you would think MU have a slight advantage, but I don't think this will count for much. San Siro is a place no one travels to thinking they'll come away with a sure win. No doubt Rooney and Co will try their very best to scalp Milan on their own ground, but I sense this will be a very tight game.

The bones say: Milan 1 MU 1


Giggs has been left out of the squad to Milan due to the broken arm he sustained in the game against Aston Villa, as has Vidic who is still suffering from that nerve problem in his leg.

Anderson has also been left out of the squad, albeit for a different reason. Reports from England say "he has yet to prove his worth since going AWOL last month". Anderson went AWOL? When? Why? How come I didn't know this? Oh well!!

Anyway, we have lots of cover for both Vidic, Giggs and Ando. Ferdinand and Nani may be suspended in the EPL, but they are available for the CL match!

Meanwhile, former France captain Marcel Desailly has tipped MU to beat Milan. His reasoning: United want revenge after the disappointment of last season's loss to Barcelona, and that the MU players have more experience playing in the top echelon of Europe than the Milan players!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Taking back the league

MU will go a point clear of league leaders Chelsea for at least a day should the form book ring true today.

Portsmouth seem to be on a free fall, having taken only a point in their last five games in the league. Their last win was at their own ground, an impressive 2-0 win over Liverpool. But that was in December.

In fact, their only away win was against Wolves on Oct 3, and that finished a narrow 1-0. MU went to Fratton Park in November and whipped Portsmouth 4-1, so you know what should happen.

I, of course, say should because, as they say in football, the ball is round.

Kanu is expected to feature for Portsmouth and although I don't think very much of him, he does pop up every now and then and scores crucial goals. Portsmouth is also battling relegation. Mathematically, they can still make it out of the relegation zone but they have to start winning points now. So beware the wounded tiger (although in Portsmouth's case, it's more like a wounded mouse!).

At Old Trafford, Vidic is back in contention although it remains to be seen whether Fergie will use him or save him for the midweek match against Aston Villa. In fact, you can expect Fergie to be ringing in the changes this week as he tinkers with the side again to ensure his main players are well rested and his fringe players get a chance to get some real match practice in and try to prove themselves to the manager.

Some of the players I expect to be among the changes are Fletcher, Carrick, Nani, Scholes and perhaps even Rooney. Valencia should be back in the team to take over from Nani who has been outstanding the past three games. Anderson and Gibson perhaps will run the engine room while Park may be given an extended run in the team. Then again, it could be Giggs out there too.

Up front I think Berbatov would be brought in and perhaps partnered with Owen or Diouf, with Rooney on the bench in case things don't go according to plan.

Whatever the shape of the team and whichever players are on the field, I still expect MU to run riot over Portsmouth. Of course, running riot doesn't always translate to goals, so it'll be worth a watch to see how many get slotted in. Unfortunately, I won't be catching the game as I have something to attend tonight. Hopefully, I'll be able to catch the last 10 minutes or so, or at least the goals, later.

My reading of the stars: MU 3 Portsmouth 0


Tomorrow, I'll be watching the Chelsea-Arsenal match and screaming for Wenger's side. They may have been resoundingly beaten by the Red Devils in front of their own fans last week, but Arsenal are still a formidable side and can take a point or three off the league leaders. With Terry finding the sordid details of his personal life being splashed across the papers in the UK and after Chelsea dropped points at Hull, there is every possibility that the team could find themselves second at the end of the week.

That, and the fact that Arsenal need to win to keep alive their title hopes will make this an interesting tie. Absolutely mouth-watering stuff.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Nani and Wayne show

Boy was I off the mark. I predicted a 1-0 scoreline and I'm sure as hell glad MU decided to prove me wrong.

OK. That's taking it a little far. It's not as if MU decided to prove me wrong. But you know what I mean.

This was one time I was glad Fergie decided to go with a 4-5-1 formation. Ya, ya. I know they say it's a 4-3-2-1 formation, but to me it will always be a 4-5-1 formation. The midfield just ran the show didn't they? Scholes, Carrick, Park and Fletcher were just fantastic. Fletcher, it seems, always has a good game against Arsenal. But the man who stole the show was, without a doubt, Nani.

Nani has played three superb games for MU since returning from injury. And this one took the cake. Absolutely brilliant stuff from the Portuguese. He has shown such improvement, it's amazing. I said before he is good and just needs to learn. I compared him to Ronaldo when he first arrived in Manchester. Nani has taken a longer time to learn, but it appears as if he has finally learned.

Did anyone notice that he is now a better team player? He doesn't try to do it all himself, doesn't try to "bolot", doesn't try to go for goal all the time. It was an absolutely fantastic performance and he thoroughly deserved being named man of the match.

Nani did everything except score. On that count, however, he could have. When Almunia miskicked a clearance when the score was already 3-1, and the ball went straight to Nani, the winger should have unleashed a shot straight away, or after a touch to steady himself. Instead he chose to bring it closer and muffed the chance.

As for the first goal, although it will go down in the annals as an Almunia own goal, Nani deserves the accolades. He did superbly to get past the two defenders sandwiching him, then past the other defender with a feign and a deft move. And then came the big difference between the Nani of old and the present one. The old Nani would have gone for goal. The present one chose to chip a cross to his teammates at the other end of the goalmouth.

That Almunia turned it into his own goal was just unfortunate, because he had to do something. There is no doubt in my mind that Park would have put the ball into the net if Almunia had not managed to reach it. The goal was inevitable.

The second goal was another fantastic piece of work between Nani and the man of the moment, Wayne Rooney. It was Rooney who started it all, gathering a clearance in his own half, holding the ball and turning. Seeing Nani on the run and in the clear, Rooney played such a beautiful pass into space.

Credit to Rooney, too, that he charged off down the middle after playing that pass. Nani's ball back to Rooney was exquisite as well. Talk about your precise passes. That was one to savour. Rooney's shot on the turn was well taken and Almunia had no chance whatsoever.

Now we come to Park's goal. Truth be told, I thought Park should have played Nani in as he was tearing down the pitch, and when he didn't, I thought the chance was missed. But the South Korean did a fantastic job, finishing cooly by slotting past an outstretched Almunia.

Vermaelen's goal sparked a flurry of action from Arsenal, but it was too little too late for the London side. So well did United play that Soccernet's team of the week has three of the players -- Rooney, Nani and Scholes.

It all could have been different, however, if Arsenal had taken their chances. The finishing from the Arsenal players was woeful, to say the least. Chief culprit was Arshavin, who missed at least four chances to score early on in the game.

All said and done, though, MU deserved the win. Good job lads. Let's keep the momentum going.

By the way, who are the idiots who keep saying MU is a one-man team? They said it when Ronaldo was around. Now they're saying it's Rooney who is holding up the team. Get a life guys!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Toss the coin-tosser, blow the Gunners away

When I posted something last, I had forgotten one thing about which I had wanted to comment: the infamous coin toss.

No. I don't mean the one before the start of the game to determine which team kicks off and which half the other team starts in. I mean that toss which hit Craig Bellamy square on the head and sent him tumbling to the ground.

I wrote before how I thought Bellamy deserved to be carded for dissent for all the complaining and arguing he did during the game. So yes, I'm sure some of the MU fans, if not all, were irritated with him. But that coin should never have been tossed.

First of all, it could have injured him badly. Secondly, it has now gotten the club in trouble with the FA. That coin-tosser should be identified and tossed out of future United games at Old Trafford. In fact, his or her photo should be distributed to all stadia in the country and in countries where United games are played to ensure he or she is not in.

And that's just for starters. Every single book possible should be thrown at this so-called fan.

What's worse is that a bottle of cider was also thrown at Bellamy. A full bottle apparently. It was something I missed when I watched the game but photographers caught the dastardly act as the bottle was in flight.

It's possible that the coin actually saved Bellamy from worse injury. From the photos I saw, it seemed like the bottle missed because Bellamy went down after being hit by the coin. Toss the coin-tosser I say, and toss the bottle-tosser too. There is no place in a sporting event for people like these.


Bad news. Now that Ferdinand has been given an immediate four-match suspension for violent conduct, the defence is back to square one. He was playing well since coming back from the treatment table but now will have to sit out four matches. The reports I've been reading say it's an immediate suspension but do not say if there is an appeals process. Can anyone out there help me with this?

Expect a top class match at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday night. Both are fantastic sides but I think MU has an edge over Arsenal. The Gunners are the highest scoring side in the league but United has one of the best defensive records, and have scored only slightly less than Arsenal.

Arsenal players are skillful and play attractive football, but I notice that they tend to overpass the ball. It's almost as if they try to walk the ball into the net. While this may work against lesser teams, there is no way the United defence is going to allow this to happen.

Still no news about the MU lineup as I write this, but then again, the game is still two days away. Unfortunately, I won't be around this weekend so I'm writing this early.

On the Arsenal front, Eduardo has been ruled out and Vermaelen is doubtful. It was earlier feared that Vermaelen had broken his leg, but a scan has confirmed that the fears were unfounded. He still remains doubtful for the match, though, so new old boy Sol Campbell looks set to face United.

A thrilling match is definitely in store. And it will be a close one. But I still see United coming out on top.

My crystal ball says: Arsenal 0 MU 1

Thursday, January 28, 2010

To Wembley we will go!

What a match!

As expected, the game was as exciting as any derby match would be, although I thought the first half was a little off. Well done lads!

As a good friend put it, it is amazing what a difference having van der Sar and Ferdinand back had on the team. United were rock solid in defence and Tevez was constantly frustrated up front. I have to say though that Bellamy caused all sorts of problems but ultimately couldn't do much about it.

Speaking of Bellamy, I thought he should have been carded for constantly complaining and contesting the calls against him. How much dissent should a referee take before handing out a card? I think he clearly deserved one, but then again, maybe I'm biased!

Another thing I have to say is that when I saw the five-man midfield lineup, I thought the worst. But they played well together and ended up delivering. What more can you ask when you have midfielders scoring goals for you?

As the good friend also said, Scholes and Giggs seemed to roll back the years last night. The only thing that marred their performance was that yellow for Scholes. How is it that Scholes has not learnt to tackle in all those years playing football is just beyond me. The best part of it all is that he is just such a nice fellow, so much so that no one thinks he is a dirty player, despite the large number of cards he's picked up over the years. His reputation as a bad tackler though, sometimes has him getting carded for the smallest infraction.

Fletcher and Carrick were great too, especially the former. Fletcher's combativeness was a delight to see as that is something the team lacks sometimes. His set-up for Carrick's goal was good too as he showed what a good team player he is by pushing it to his mate and not trying to turn and shoot. And what a goal it was. Scholes' goal was good, but Carrick's was just something else. It was so beautifully placed that it didn't take much power for it to go past Given and bulge the net.

The blemish to the team's performance came when Tevez scored. It was a good piece of opportunistic finishing coupled with a bit of luck. I hated it that of all people it was Tevez who scored.

And now we come to that talismanic striker who seems to be unable to stop scoring these days. Rooney made it 3-1, making sure that for the second time in a row, Man City lost to a goal in time added on at Old Trafford.

So another Man City loss at Old Trafford in injury time means another 4-3 scoreline (albeit over two legs) and another appearance in a finals for Man United. Now bring on Aston Villa.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This is it (at least for now)!

So, tonight's the night!

The Carling Cup finals are beckoning and all United has to do is win it by a 1-0 scoreline. Of course, MU is not the sort of team that will settle for that kind of scoreline and will likely be going all out to put several goals in and seal the final spot emphatically.

Still no news about who is going to feature in this match but you can bet all the money you have that, barring any injury, Rooney will be there. England's top striker is in red hot form at the moment and Fergie will not want to leave him out of any team which is fighting for a place in a final.

It's just a matter of who will be playing alongside Rooney. I think Owen did well the other day as he showed a good level of understanding with Rooney. Perhaps trying Owen out from the start may be a good idea.

I'd also give Nani a chance to start this one as well, although I still feel Valencia is a better player overall. Nani did well the other day, I thought, so why not give him a chance to prove that it wasn't just a flash in the pan. Valencia should be kept on standby, though, in case Nani doesn't deliver.

Other than that, I don't think there will be any problems selecting the team. I'm looking forward to another cracker of a match. We'll see you in the final, Aston Villa!

My call: MU 3 MC 1

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Simply wonderful

What a game. What a performance by Rooney!

Missed most of the game, dozing off because I was just too tired after a full day at the NPC inter-media hockey tourney, but from what I saw, this was the best performance for a long, long time! Rooney's goals were really well taken, especially the second and fourth.

The defence looked rock solid, something I have not been able to say for a really long time. Ferdinand played well despite being out for quite a while. Evans was good too, as were Evra (who is probably the most consistent of all the MU players) and young Rafael. The entire midfield played well too, including Nani.

Nani has got to be the greatest enigma in the United squad. The boy has the skills, but his performances belie this. Ronaldo was exactly like him when he first came to United. He held on to the ball for way too long, passing only when he had no other choice. And when he should hold on, he passed. It's the same with Nani. But where Ronaldo learned from his mistakes and improved, Nani hasn't. So yesterday's game showed Nani can do it. Let's hope he continues to do so.

Up front, Owen and Rooney worked well together. Owen just needs to improve on his shooting. For such a natural finisher, he seems to have lost much of his ability! But still, he combined well with Rooney.

So, it's top of the league again, albeit with more games played than Arsenal and Chelsea. This means more pressure on the other two clubs, and hopefully, this will translate to dropped points for them.

Good job boys. Let's keep up the good work!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Never thought this would happen!

It is an FA Cup weekend and United are playing a league match. I never thought this could happen so early on in the FA Cup season.

Oh well! C'est la vie!

The news out of Old Trafford is that Mame Diouf has put himself in the running for a place in the squad against Hull with a hattrick in a reserve match against Sunderland which ended in a 4-0 scoreline. I highly doubt Diouf will be in the starting lineup, but he will certainly make the bench. I am quite a fan of the fellow. He's got some great qualities, and I think he can only get better as he gains experience in a league as tough as this. Well, it's certainly much tougher than the Norwegian league!

The bad news is that O'Shea is out for a long time. Not the best player in the world, he is. But, he is an important member of the squad when you take into account his "utility-ness". He's even popped up and scored goals, including one very important winner against a certain side coached by a Spaniard and now find themselves running out of trophies to win.

Hull may be languishing without an away win this season, but don't count them out just yet. The fact that they are third from bottom and the second half of the season is already underway may just push them to perform. That, and the fact that they are tied on points with West Ham and Wolves and just a point behind Burnley should make them want to get the points.

Having said that though, it is more likely than not that United will come away with full points on Saturday. The Red Devils, after all, need to ensure they get all the points they can. After the midweek matches, they are now third, a point adrift of Arsenal and Chelsea. And with Chelsea still with a game in hand, United need to get their act together and make sure the pressure is on the top two.

Still no news about a possible starting lineup from Old Trafford as I write this, and since I won't be around tomorrow to check up on this, I guess I will just have to wait for the start of the match to find out who plays.

My prediction: MU 3 Hull 0

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Derby Day loss

First of all, I have to apologise to anyone who may have read my previous posting, which I have since deleted.

I had mistakenly written that the Carling Cup game last night (or rather, early today) was being played at Old Trafford! I don't know what I was thinking at the time I wrote it as I actually did know the game was being played across town. Well, this is a lesson I know I will remember.

Missed the first half of the game because I went right back to sleep after switching off the alarm. Woke up at 5am and managed to switch on the TV just as the second half began. I don't know how the first 45 minutes were, but the second half was quite a match.

I thought United played well, despite the fact I hate the 4-5-1 formation Fergie seemed to have them in while the game was still tied at 1-1. The defence still needs work though. Tevez's second goal was just sloppy defending. When the ball came back in, the City player who was first to the ball (if I'm not mistaken it was Vincent Kompany) had actually slipped. Yet the United defence could not reach the ball before he did.

After Tevez scored, the game really picked up, especially when Fergie brought on Owen and MU reverted to a two-man strikeforce. We really piled the pressure on but Shay Given, one of the keepers for whom I have a lot of respect, was really playing a blinder, wasn't he? When he moved to City, I thought Mark Hughes had made a fantastic choice, and Given has proven that time and again.

Rooney missed a host of chances, sending the ball off target or watching Given pull off some superb saves. I especially liked the one where Rooney weaved his way around the City defence and then sent a shot with the outside of his right boot, only to see Given tip the ball away. What a move, what a shot, what a save!

The best chance, however, fell to Valencia, when Evra (I think it was the Frenchman) crossed from the left. With Given missing the cross and the goal gaping, Valencia somehow managed to not hit the target. To be fair, though, that cross did come in like a bullet, and at a height which was not an ideal one.

In the end, all credit to City. They played well and managed to take the two chances necessary to turn the game around after going down to a Giggs goal in the 17th minute. Apart from Given, I think credit must go to Tevez and Bellamy.

Now it's down to the second leg at Old Trafford. Giggsy's goal in the 17th minute may just prove crucial to the champions.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Was it enough?

They may have scored thrice, but Man United hardly looked like a team of champions. Call me difficult to please, if you like, but I thought the 3-0 scoreline was a little flattering.

For starters, Burnley missed two golden opportunities. The first was when Chris Eagles sent David Nugent away with a precise pass and the latter in turn played a delightful ball in to Steven Fletcher, only for Fletcher to send the ball wide. Then, in the second half, Nugent himself missed the target when it seemed he would score with only Edwin van der Sar in his way, and Gary Neville trailing behind.

Antonio Valencia and Patrice Evra posed some danger flying down the wings, especially the former. But Nani was only producing in patches, and even then not so effectively. The best chances were falling mostly to Dimitar Berbatov but the Bulgarian star just was not producing his best, perhaps due to the pain in the knee that he is suffering from. Still, he should have put away some of the chances he had.

United didn't look like scoring until that overhead kick from Nani which was heading into the bottom corner till Burnley keeper Brian Jensen managed to get his fingertips to it.

So it was that at half time, I was beginning to think it was going to be one of those nights where for all the possession they had, the Red Devils would fall to a solitary goal because they could not make their chances count. Thank goodness for a five-minute purple patch in the second half.

That pass from Rooney to set up Berba for the first goal was just inch perfect, wasn't it? The entire sequence was great actually -- good movement, a great little run from Berba, the defence-splitting through pass from Rooney and a good-enough finish with a touch of luck as the ball hit the defender's boot. Really, I felt sorry for Jensen, who had put up a great performance so far. Not sure if he would have saved the shot if not for that little deflection.

The second goal, too, made me feel sorry for Jensen. He did well to save the shot from Berba, but could do nothing about the follow-up from Rooney, so well did England's top striker place the ball. It was a mark of a good striker that Rooney took the time to push the ball a little further before picking his spot. A first-timer may not have resulted in a goal, so taking his time was the best choice, and he certainly did.

When Mame Diouf came on for Rooney, I was pretty excited. The boy is fast, powerful and strong in the air. His movement is good as well, as proven by his first goal for the club on his Old Trafford debut. That probably wouldn't have been the toughest headed goal of his career -- it hardly showed his strength in the air -- but it took great presence of mind to loop that header over the hapless Jensen. Here's hoping we see more from Diouf.

By the way, how many Dioufs are there in the world who play football? That name seems to be as common as Smith and Johnson!!

As an aside, it was good to see Chris Eagles playing. I was a big fan of his when he was in United, but unfortunately he never did quite make it. I thought he played well last night, and still think he has a good career ahead of him.

So, all in, it was not the best of performances. But hey... a win is a win is a win. The three points are all that count at the end of the day.

Now bring on that pretentious team from across town!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Here we go!

What a time to be starting a blog!

The bad run of late, and it is a bad run by Man United's standards, is probably not the best of times to be starting a blog. Of course, there are worse times to start, but this is still not a good time.

No matter! I am a Man United fan and will remain so in "good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death do us part"!!

So this weekend we see the Red Devils hosting Burnley in the hopes of getting back on track in the race for a record fourth successive title. The way things have been going lately, there are those who believe Burnley may just be able to steal a point from the champions. And, I'm not just talking about the "Anything But United", or ABU, members. There are some United fans who have expressed that opinion as well.

Perhaps these people have a point. It's well recorded that teams who have new managers tend to play well. Why? Well, if you have a new manager, you're probably going to want to prove to him that you can play. So it is that the Burnley players are going to be playing their hearts out for their new boss, Brian Laws.

But Laws himself doesn't have high hopes for his team this weekend, judging from an interview he gave which was posted by Reuters yesterday.

"We all know that Burnley are not going to be matching a lot of the teams in the Premier League, the likes of Manchester United, we know that," he was quoted as saying.

Can you blame the man? Burnley is currently lying 14th in the league, having won only five of their 20 games so far. What makes matters even worse is that they have an abysmal away record. From 10 games on the road, the team has only managed to garner one point. So meeting a team the likes of Manchester United, even when the Devils are on a "bad run", would be a daunting task for sure.

There is always that factor that when the chips are down, quality teams like MU are going to bounce back, and bounce back with a vengeance! As they say, beware the wounded tiger. And if United players know what's good for them, they'll avoid irritating Sir Alex again with a lacklustre performance.

Darren Fletcher, who won't be featuring in the Burnley game since he is suspended after that sending off last week, was quoted as saying MU will bounce back. Resilience, apparently, is something senior squad members like Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have handed down to the younger lads.

As for team news, there doesn't seem to be any coming out of Old Trafford yet. All I know is that Fletcher is suspended, Nemanja Vidic is injured, Owen Hargreaves is still on the mend, as is Rio Ferdinand, and Dimitar Berbatov has to go for surgery. Who plays is still anyone's guess, but I hope Sir Alex doesn't op for the 4-5-1 formation he used against Birmingham. Rooney CANNOT be the only man up front!

I am eagerly awaiting the match. All said and done, I believe the Burnley players will go all out for their new boss so it will be an exciting game, but I still think MU have too much firepower.

My prediction: MU 3-1