Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sunday's Column (March 20, 2011)

Japan will rise again

IN an emotionally-charged press conference earlier this week, Japanese ambassador to Malaysia Masahiko Horie almost burst into tears as he talked about the devastation that has been visited upon parts of his country.

If newspaper reports are to be believed -- and there's no reason not to -- the affable diplomat struggled to keep his emotions in check as he spoke about how Japan was not ready to accept volunteers.

No, it was not because Japan was too proud. It was because things were still uncertain on the ground.

Horie also thanked Malaysians for the outpouring of concern and the many messages of condolences and sympathy for the disaster which swept certain parts of Japan when a "great" earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale hit 150km off the coast, resulting in a tsunami that caused even worse chaos and destruction. As if that wasn't enough, the country is also facing a nuclear crisis.

Malaysia, in fact, has been very supportive of the Japanese people and government in their time of need. We have offered assistance in the form of emergency and medical personnel -- the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Smart) and Malaysian Red Crescent Society. Mercy Malaysia, a non-governmental organisation, has already sent people to Japan.

It is only right. These are, after all, people like us. What does it matter that they live in another country?

Even more so that it is the Japanese. Japan and its people have always been one of the first, to send help whenever anyone faces such calamities. The recent floods our country experienced is a good example.

Long before Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad instituted the Look East policy, Japan and Malaysia have been good friends.

Japan has played big brother to us more times than we can imagine. It has helped train our men and women in guarding one of the world's most important waterways -- the Straits of Malacca.

In fact, on Thursday, Horie took time off from what must be a very busy schedule to donate RM10 million worth of equipment to the police Marine Operation Force. Sure, it was a date which would have been planned quite some time ago. But would anybody, the Malaysian police included, fault him if he had decided to ask for a postponement of the event?

Now that Japan is in trouble, Malaysia finds itself in a position to help. The world, in fact, has responded well to what the Japanese people are facing.

Just go to YouTube and click on the clips showing the earthquake, tsunami or resulting problems at the nuclear plants and you will see messages left by people offering their condolences and expressing concern and hope for the people of the Land of the Rising Sun.

Sadly, however, there are the few who can't seem to bring their humanity to the fore. These same YouTube videos may have one or two messages left by people who seem to be still caught up in what happened during World War 2.

Most of them mention Pearl Harbour, saying the Japanese deserve such a disaster for that attack and for everything else the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy did between 1941 and 1945.

How sad that some people can't seem to forgive and forget. Come Dec 7 this year, it would be 70 years since that fateful day when the attack on the United States Navy base caught America napping and plunged it into World War 2. Most, if not all, of those involved that day have already gone.

Japan, though said to be an aging society, is now being led by subsequent generations. Are the sins of the father to be placed on the shoulders of the son, or in this case perhaps grandson or great-grandson?

Come Dec 8 this year, Malaysia "celebrates" the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Malaya. An invasion, in fact, which took place 45 minutes before Pearl Harbour.

And unlike America, we suffered under the harsh military rule of the Japanese for almost four years. Yet there are few Malaysians, if any, who would begrudge the Japanese aid at this point in time.

Thankfully, these few people who left messages full of vitriol found themselves being bashed black and blue by others.

Getting back to that press conference, racked with sadness as he was, Horie also showed a determination that reflects the stoicism of his people when he said Japan would rise again.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

10-man MU down gritty Bolton

It was a scrappy win, but I'll take the three points any way they come!

Well done lads for showing just how determined you are. In fact, after Evans got sent off, you showed even more determination.

To be fair, it wasn't a bad performance all-round. Bolton showed great determination as well, and played a really tight game, especially when they didn't have the ball.

In fact, they were unlucky not to go ahead after Evans was given his marching orders, with Taylor sending a free header straight at VDS. Either side of the big Dutchman and it would have been a goal for sure.

The commentator's statement that Bolton might just rue that miss proved prophetic as Berba scored his 21st goal of the season, reacting first to Jaaskelainen's blunder -- spilling Nani's shot right into the advancing Bulgarian's path. And if Berba hadn't been there, Fabio would have gotten it.

The game could have been different, however, if referee Mariner had given a penalty in the first half. Hernandez's shot hit Cahill in the arm, and although it can be argued that it was unintentional, the fact that Cahill's arm was away from his body should mean a penalty. But Mariner didn't think so.

Actually, most of these controversies would be nullified if FIFA should bring back the indirect free kick rule for unintentional handball in the penalty area. Maybe the world governing body should look into that.

As for the other so-called controversial decision -- Evans' red card -- I don't see any controversy at all. Yes, he is not known as a dirty player. Yes, it was a 50-50 challenge. Yes, he got the ball first. But the fact of the matter is that he left the ground and lunged, with studs baring, and the follow-through gashed Holden's leg pretty badly. That was why he was sent off. And I think it was warranted.

Evans did not have a good game, actually. His lack of match practice showed. Smalling played better, but even he too didn't have a fantastic game.

Carrick, too, came under fire from fans in online sports sites. I have to say he didn't have a decent game, but did make up for it with some decent defending when he was forced into the back line after Evans was sent off.

All in, it was a good day for MU though, what with winning while a man down and Arsenal getting held.

So, now it's five points clear at the top, having played a game more than the Gunners. Let's hope we end it that way.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Another three points

It's another league tie at Old Trafford, and you should expect another win.

Bolton is always a tough side, but United are terribly strong at home and should have no problem getting through this tie unscathed, at least in terms of points.

The player to watch in the Bolton side, however, will be on-loan striker Daniel Sturridge, who has scored four goals in five games since coming over from Chelsea.

Jonny Evans and Park Ji-Sung return to the United side and I expect the former to slot into Vidic's spot as the United captain is still out injured. Smalling will remain in the side as Ferdinand is still out as well. Reports have it that he may be out for the rest of the season because of the troublesome calf injury.

With Rafael out, we may see Brown taking over the rightback spot. But don't be surprised to find Fabio keeping the slot after a pretty convincing stab at it in Europe. Evra should be back at leftback.

It remains to be seen whether Park will be taking any part in the side, although with the injuries that we have, it may be so.

I expect Carrick to be in the middle of the field, and perhaps a start for Gibson. Nani and Valencia on the flanks, perhaps, with Rooney and Berba up front.

A relatively comfortable 2-0 win for MU, I figure.

European mess

No. I'm not talking about both Liverpool and Man City crashing out of the Europa League.

Sad to see, though that was, it wasn't a mess. Things like that happen, after all. The ball is round and games can go either way.

What I'm talking about is Spurs coach Joe Jordan being banned a game by UEFA. What was that about?

When Gattuso attacked him, he did nothing but stand his ground. Later, AC Milan officials claimed Gattuso said Jordan had sent racial slurs his way. If that is why UEFA banned him, then I hope they have proof. If they don't, and are just taking the word of Milan and Gattuso, then the entire disciplinary board should resign.

If they do have proof, then they have every right to ban him. Let's hope the truth comes out, and soon

Friday, March 18, 2011

It's Chelsea!

The draw for the quarterfinals of the Champions League has just been made. Chelsea host the Red Devils at Stamford Bridge in the first leg on April 5 or 6, with the return leg at Old Trafford on April 12 or 13.

The winner -- which will be Man United, of course -- will meet either Inter Milan or Schalke 04 with the first leg of the semis being played on April 26 or 27, and the second on May 3 or 4.

The other quarterfinals will be Real Madrid v Spurs and Barcelona v Shaktar Donetsk.

The final this year, if you do not already know, is being played at Wembley on May 28. And, there's still a possibility of an all-English final.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Should have been more

It was a pretty good display last night. And the score could have been more than 2-1, or at least 2-0.

It was just unfortunate that Brown scored that own goal, but what can we say? All in, it was a pretty good performance, although I think we're going to rue losing O'Shea and Rafael to injuries. That really sucked!

So Chicharito scored two goals. I've said it before and I'll say it again... what a buy he's turning out to be! But Hernandez was still outshone by one Wayne Rooney. Roo was all over the place and looking real sharp. His passes were phenomenal.

Smalling did pretty well, and so did Brown, for the most part. The latter did slip up a couple of times, including that own goal, but all in all he did better than he did against Liverpool.

So let's see who we get in the next round. Barcelona? Bring them on. We can beat any team on our day! Can't wait for the draw on Friday.

Robbo under the knife

United Legend Brian Robson has undergone surgery to remove a lump in his throat. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.

Speedy recovery Robbo!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Adieu, Marseille

French giants Marseille will, I believe, will have to bid goodbye to the Champions League for this season later tonight.

Having only managed a scoreless draw against MU in France, they will now have to face a team which has been quite rampant, at least in terms of wins, at Old Trafford. A team, mind you, fresh from their morale-boosting FA Cup win over EPL title rivals Arsenal.

News from OT is that Nani and Carrick are fit again. The former, especially, is a surprise. As for Carrick, he doesn't seem to be affective this year, so I hope he doesn't start.

Valencia's stellar display -- that is, taking into consideration he hasn't played for several months -- against Arsenal have also put him in the running for a first team spot. However, I am at a loss as to whether that would be a good move. I feel he hasn't reached his best yet and should be on the bench, to be brought in later to terrorise the Marseille defence.

My feeling, however, is that Fergie will have the following lineup:
VDS, Vidic, Smalling, Evra, Rafael, Giggs, Carrick, Nani, Valencia, Rooney, Berbatov.

Can't say I'm not looking forward to this game, even if I will feel like a zombie tomorrow!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Psychological edge for United

United have now claimed two wins over Arsenal this season and the psychological edge must surely belong to the Red Devils.

The wins, coupled with the fact that Arsenal have gone from title contenders in four competitions to just one in just a few weeks, must be playing on the Gunners' minds. It wasn't too long ago that Wenger was crowing about fighting -- and winning -- on all fronts. Their rot began with the Carling Cup loss to Birmingham, then being kicked out of the Champions League by a rampant Barcelona in the Nou Camp, and finally being outclassed by a rather makeshift United side.

So, even with a game in hand, Arsenal may not be able to stop United winning the league. The league is truly MU's to lose. In fact, if Arsenal aren't careful, Chelsea may just pip them to second.

Surprise, surprise

Just before the game started yesterday, I took a gander at the players lining up in the tunnel at Old Trafford. Seven defenders! I was shocked.

It took me a few seconds, but then I realised that Sir Alex, in his infinite wisdom, had decided not to play Obertan and Bebe on the wings, as I had expected him to do. In fact, I understand the papers in the UK had expected at least Obertan to be on the field.

Fergie, instead, decided to play the Da Silva twins as wingers. I thought that was an interesting choice. I realised, however, that it was a better choice than Obertan and Bebe as both have been disappointing so far.

Both Fabio and Rafael were out of their comfort zones whenever they had their backs to the Arsenal goal, but they proved effective enough. Apart from the Fabio goal, both halves of the twins missed good opportunities to score.

As I surmised, Chicharito was in the First XI and this time Sir Alex chose to partner him with Rooney. As usual, Rooney was the live wire of the team.

Then when the subs bench lineup was shown, my heart did a little dance to see Valencia's name. The Ecuadorian came on at halftime and seemed not to have suffered much from his many months away. He fit right back in with ease.

To be fair, Arsenal played well. But they weren't as good as MU was. Hats off to both goalkeepers who pulled off some really impressive saves. Almunia can't be blamed for either one of the goals and saved Arsenal from a worse scoreline.

Van der Sar, meanwhile, showed how much his presence is going to be missed when he retires at the end of the season. He gets my vote for Man of the Match, but not by much as Vidic and Smalling also did fantastically well.

We were missing Vidic when we played Liverpool the other day. He would have made a whole lot of difference. He came back in yesterday and settled the defence like no one else can.

The entire team played well, yesterday, actually. But VDS, Vidic and Smalling stood out from the rest.

As for Arsenal, I think only Almunia and Sagna -- and to a certain extent Djourou -- were impressive. Sagna did well going up the flank. He made quite a number of fantastic crosses, but the MU defenders were always there ahead of the Arsenal strikers.

Djourou made a number of important tackles and interceptions, and it was a real pity that he dislocated his shoulder in that clash with Sagna. Sadly for the player, and Arsenal who already have a defensive crisis, the injury will rule him out for the rest of the season.

As for Samir Nasri, a player I have the utmost respect for in terms of ability, he needs to learn to control his temper. Clashing with Scholes was not the smartest thing to do. And Scholes really needs to learn to watch his tackles too. How he's going to do that, seeing as how he hasn't in decades of high-level football, is anybody's guess.

So, come on you Devils. Let's take this all the way to the end. Perhaps another treble this season?

Friday, March 11, 2011

MU v Arsenal

Two wounded tigers are set to clash tomorrow (Saturday) and it will be interesting to see who comes out the victor.

One thing good about the game will be that Vidic is back from suspension and will surely shore up the defence. But whether Sir Alex uses him is a different matter all together.

Let's put it this way. With the Champions League match against Marseille coming up, Fergie must be thinking about whether he should play his first team or make changes. Massive changes.

There are a whole lot of other considerations, too. Arsenal are already out of the CL, and if MU kick them out of the Cup as well, that would mean Arsenal would be left to concentrate entirely on the league. And considering they are only three points behind, with a game in hand, this would not be good.

I suspect Fergie will bear this in mind when he chooses his team. He will not just give it up, of course, but you can still expect Fergie to make some changes.

There are rumours that Antonio Valencia may be in the team tomorrow. He's been back training for several weeks now and may find himself on the bench. It's good to know he's on the way back soon, but I hope Fergie doesn't rush him back too soon. The Gaffer himself admitted that Valencia has been missed. I can't argue with that. He was a great buy.

Ferdinand is still out, so Smalling should see himself still in the first team, unless Fergie decides to save him for Marseille. I expect Fabio will be called in to give Evra a rest, and O'Shea to play at rightback.

As for the middle, I think we'll see Fletcher and Gibson in the mix. Giggs and Scholes will likely not play, so expect maybe Obertan and/or Bebe in there.

Up front, I think Chicharito and Berba or Rooney will lead the attack.

News out of the Emirates is that Fabregas remains out, as do Walcott, Song and Vermaelen. Szczesny is also out after dislocating his finger or something like that. Van Persie is set to captain the side.

Don't expect Wenger to field a light side. He'll be looking to get the FA Cup after losing out on both the Carling Cup and Champions League. And he'll be looking for a psychological edge over MU in the run-in for the league title by beating them in the FA Cup.

It's way too close to call this one whether or not you know the teams both sides are fielding, but if Fergie chooses to field a weakened side, there may be no joy for him tomorrow. And, I'll get a ribbing from my big boss!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Found wanting

Pathetic. That's the only way to describe that performance against Liverpool.

Take nothing away from the Reds. They did well indeed, especially Suarez. What a goal he didn't score, that first one! The ball would have crossed the line without Kuyt's help. You can say Kuyt stole the goal, but that didn't seem to matter for the Uruguayan, who celebrated like he did score, showing what a team player he is.

As for the second goal, I really don't know what to say. The commentators kept asking what Nani was trying to do. I thought that was silly. The movement of Nani's head indicated that he was trying to send the ball out of the penalty area. What I can't understand is how he could have mistimed his header in such a fashion, because his head ended up moving before the ball could reach him. So it hit the back of his head and went perfectly over Carrick and onto the head of Kuyt, thank you very much!

The third goal may have been a consequence of a great freekick from Suarez, but you have got to give Kuyt the kudos for following up so fast. The United defence was sleeping and VDS, who did well to reach the shot from Suarez, should have palmed it away. But still, take nothing away from Kuyt for that one.

Some controversial moments

Many people, and I'm not just talking about MU fans, say Carragher should have been sent off for that challenge on Nani. Bad though it was, I disagree. I think it only warranted a yellow card, and the ref got it right.

What should have been a red card was Skrtel's attack on Rafael. Rafael's silly lunge at a Liverpool player (I think it was Lucas) was brought on because of the high boot he received from another 'Pool player (Rodriguez, I believe). Whatever the "mitigating" circumstances, though, he should not have lunged like that. He definitely deserved the booking he got, though Rodriguez got away with his challenge.

But why did Skrtel only get a yellow? Lashing out at an opponent is a red card offence. No two ways about it. But here's another point, if you're not convinced. Van der Sar was booked for dissent when he ran from his penalty area to protest to the ref about Carragher's challenge on Nani. If that warrants a yellow, then Skrtel running from his penalty area to the middle of the field to attack Rafael should warrant a red. How can protesting to the ref about something bear the same consequence as attacking another player?

If Skrtel had been sent off, the game might have changed. The result might have been different.

Having said that, however, I have to say that it is beside the point. The point is that MU played badly, and Liverpool played a fantastic game. They definitely deserved the three points. And good on them, because a team like Liverpool deserves better than the sixth place they are in right now.

So, Sir Alex. It's time to pick up the pieces of your team, OUR team. It's time to get back to winning ways. It's time to show the world what MU is capable of.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Column March 6, 2011

So I've decided that this blog will also include columns and comment pieces I write. After all, I am the Devils' Advocate, in more ways than one!

Time to swat those litterbugs

SO, now we are told that the government will only start enforcing the sorting of garbage in 2013.
Despite the fact that the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act was established in 2007, it will have been six years before anyone will face any sort of prosecution for not sorting their recyclables, dry and wet waste.The reason for this? People are not yet ready for it, and the government has to go on roadshows and hold education programmes to tell the public what they have to do and why.

"When we implement and enforce the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007, there should be no excuse for flouting the law," Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung had said recently.

All well and good. Educational programmes, awareness programmes, roadshows and what not are the way to go. But there are doubts whether such measures will do any good even by 2013.

You may call this a very pessimistic view, but can there be an optimistic one when you take into account the level of awareness on matters of hygiene that Malaysians generally have?

Is there anyone who has not seen a cigarette butt, plastic bag or other waste thrown out the window of a car? Or the same thrown on the road or five-foot way by a pedestrian?

There are even those who throw their waste on the ground even though a rubbish bin is within spitting distance. Would it have killed them to wait till they walked by the bin, then maybe take a half-step to the side so they could throw their rubbish into it?

Let's take a look at apartments and condominiums. Most have rooms on each floor specifically for garbage, with one or two bins with lids.

If you live in one of these apartments or condos, you probably know that the bins are likely to be empty but you would probably not see a single centimetre of the floor. If you decide not to clean up after your fellow apartment dwellers, picking your way through the garbage on the floor is like taking part in Wipeout on AXN.

Apparently, it's too much trouble for people to lift the lid of the bins. And these would be the middle- or high-income group we are talking about. The ones who are supposed to be better educated. "Supposed to be" would be the key phrase here.

Journalists who have covered assignments at low-cost flats, especially those which were built for squatters who had to move out of their homes because their area was being developed, will also tell you that in places like these, rubbish just gets thrown out the windows. More than a few have been splattered by household waste thrown out in such a manner.

When it comes to hygiene, Malaysians are not exactly obsessive compulsive. Especially when they are in places which are not their homes.

Public toilets are prime examples. More often than not, the blame for the lack of cleanliness of public toilets are put solely on the shoulders of the government, local councils or shopping complexes.

Rarely do we look in the mirror. The way we treat public toilets, it is no wonder they are always filthy. There are some people who don't flush. The more finicky among us actually squat on toilet bowls to avoid touching its surface with their bare skin, and consequently making it even dirtier. There are those who can't aim properly and don't even bother cleaning up after themselves.

Then, there are those who will spit or clear their noses, shooting vile-looking mucus from their mouth or nostrils onto the ground.

So, education is, indeed, important. And, education is also important in the matter of the separation of household waste. Ministry officers should go on a two-year campaign.

But, what is more important is that at the end of this education period, the law must be enforced. Enforcement is key. Without it, all the education in the world will not help.

As for us, we need to remember this: the world is your oyster, not your garbage bin.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No shame

It was a fantastic game. Not the best in the world, but played with passion by both sides.

I thought a fair result would have been a draw, but that's the way football is, right? How many times have United not deserved to win but somehow managed to? It's the same here, just reversed.

Let's take a gander at some of the highlights.

Rooney's goal was first class. The turn, the little push to take him into space and a ferocious shot that travelled just above the ground till it went past Cech before it finally touched ground just before crossing the line. It travelled so fast that it hit the net before I even realised it was a goal.

That triple save from van der Sar at the end of the first half was also eye-catching. Let's give Lampard some credit. What a scorcher of a freekick. Absolute rocket. I don't think I've ever seen Lampard hit the ball harder than that. If I were a defender, I'd get out of the way of that kind of shot.

But Lampard's freekick -- as amazing as it was -- will, unfortunately, be forgotten thanks to the heroics of the MU keeper who intends to retire at the end of the season. That he saved that freekick was good enough, but to somehow manage to get his "huge paw", as the commentator put it, onto the subsequent attempt by Ivanovic, then scramble the ball away when it bounced off Vidic, doing both while still on the ground, was even more amazing than the freekick.

The introduction of Drogba and Zhirkov for Anelka and the terribly ineffective Malouda (I have never liked him. I don't think he's good enough for a team like Chelsea) proved a shrewd piece of business. Both substitutes were fantastic, and Torres played better after that.

But let's talk about David Luiz. First of all, I think he's a smashing buy for Chelsea. Fantastic player. Definitely the man of the match for me in this game. He was all over the pitch, defending and attacking and that goal was simply outstanding. Let's face it, it was at a difficult height and he really had to twist his body to wrap his foot around the ball and smash it in.

But let's look at his fouls. I counted at least five bookable offences, and he received only one yellow card. Just before that yellow, he committed one which referee Atkinson waved on because MU had the ball. Maybe Mr Atkinson forgot about it after that.

When Luiz finally was carded, he protested his innocence saying he only committed one foul and he was going in the book. First of all, that was his second bookable offence. Secondly, he committed a series of other minor fouls before that as well.

This sort of thing has to stop. Almost every player protests his innocence after a foul, even if blatant.

After that, there were three more, with the more blatant ones being against Chicharito and then Rooney. How he managed to stay on the field is beyond me. Ancelloti did the smart thing and substituted him soon after. I think one more foul and he would have gotten his marching orders!

The penalty. Was it or wasn't it? Despite what Fergie had to say, I think it was. The commentators said Smalling just stood his ground but it was still a penalty. I disagree. From replays, I saw Smalling moving his foot to trip Zhirkov. That was a penalty. No doubt about it.

As for Vidic, well, I'm surprised he didn't get the second yellow for the foul just before, against Drogba I think it was. In both incidents where he was carded, he took it for the team. But now we're without him against Liverpool at Anfield. It's going to be tough!

Kudos to Chelsea. They may be still 12 points behind, albeit with a game in hand, but even if they are too far behind to catch up, what they've done is to make the run-in for the title even more exciting.

Let's put this defeat behind us and look ahead to Anfield. The double over Liverpool, though tough, is achievable.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Of Reds and Blues

News out of the UK seem to indicate that Ferdinand will not be in the team to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It's a pity. I think every MU fan will have wanted Rio there.

No matter. Smalling has been proving quite the capable replacement. He's no Ferdinand, mind you, but he is quite steady and he's not even the finished product yet.

Expect Vidic to have another fantastic game today. Some say he seems to find Torres a handful, but I think he's playing better than ever this year and won't be making the same mistakes against the "newly-Blue" Spaniard.

By far the most welcome news was that Rooney will not be banned despite calls from everyone who is not a member of the MU set-up. Quite frankly I believe Rooney should have been yellow-carded, but not sent off. I've watched the replays time and again and I still think Rooney was merely trying to shove James McCarthy out of the way and didn't intend to elbow him. For that matter, it wasn't even an elbow, but the forearm which connected with McCarthy.

I also think that if Rooney hadn't made contact with McCarthy with his arm, the foul should have gone against the Wigan player. McCarthy stepped into the way of Rooney as the latter was running towards the ball, and since this is off the ball, it is clear obstruction.

But that's just my opinion. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm right.

Anyway, it's still unclear if Giggs will be available for this one, but others like Valencia, Anderson and Owen are still out.

I have to say that if Chelsea want a result against United, they should leave Torres on the bench and start with their old forward line. I think Torres hasn't settled in yet with the Blues and should be given more time. There is also that 50 million pound sterling price tag hanging over his head which is probably causing him more pressure.

Chelsea should definitely leave him out for the big matches until he can fit in. Playing him against smaller teams would give him a better chance of scoring and this, in turn, will lead to greater confidence.

Whatever the line-ups for both teams, this will be a pulsating game. I think MU will come away from Stamford Bridge with at least a point, if not all three. The latter would seem more likely.

My Crystal Ball says: Chelsea 0 Manchester United 1