Posts Tagged ‘anderson

24
Dec
10

Sunderland match preview

Berbatov gives the 'spot the ball' editor a dream photo

Berbatov gives the 'spot the ball' editor a dream photo

United face Sunderland on boxing day in a game that can no longer be taken for granted as an easy fixture. Sunderland currently lying in sixth place in the Premier League have already taken two points off United at the Stadium of Light being one of only two teams in the EPL to prevent the Reds from scoring- the other being the bitters of course.

Steve Bruce has made some inspired signings -both permanent and on loan and must be commended for getting the best out of players some may have even doubted were Premier League quality.

Take Titus Bramble for example, many scoffed when the former United skipper signed the defender for a mere one million pounds- some harsh critics labelling it one million too much, but Bramble has been in good form playing his part in helping the Black Cats into the top six.
Bruce has also helped get the best out of Anton Ferdinand who’s career seemed to be heading on downward trajectory this time last year.

There’s also the two Mancunian loan signings of Nedum Onohua and Danny Welbeck who’ve somehow catapulted themselves into the England reckoning in a matter of weeks. Welbeck in particular has looked like one of the best strikers in the Premier League, while new signing Asomoah Gyan has slotted into the Sunderland side almost as easily.

The problem for Sunderland has been consistency- just take a look at their away record for proof -one win on the road- coming rather bizarrely at Stamford Bridge, while Wolves and West Brom have beaten them, as for Newcastle, well for the sake of decency lets not even mention it. Okay why not -they got trounced 5-1!

Sunderland may have only one win  away from home but they’ve also grabbed useful points at White Hart Lane, Anfield, Craven Cottage and Ewood Park. It’s safe to say if you’re a betting man Sunderland away is not the first game you’d be looking to put on your accumulator.

Last season’s game saw the sides draw 2-2 as Darren Bent stunned United with a long range finish early on, while Berbatov equalised with a sublime overhead kick. Then  Ben Foster did his best to put the final nail in his Old Trafford career by allowing Kenwyne Jones to beat him to what should have been a fairly routine punch-out.

United however rallied, aided by a  Kieron Richardson sending off,  and a wayward Evra shot found its way into the back of the Sunderland net via a wicked deflection off Anton Ferdinand- cue lots of camera shots of the on looking Rio trying to look sympathetic yet pleased.

So what can United expect from such an unpredictable team? The key to victory could well be decided by three head-to-head battles, although with a tricky away trip to Birmingham only two days after Sunderland’s visit, it’s difficult to predict just what team Sir Alex will go with.

Ones to watch /key battles

Darren Bent – With five goals in the last six games Danny Welbeck has been Sunderland’s most prolific player, however due to his status as a Manchester United player he won’t be lining up against the Reds so it will no doubt be left to Bent to spearhead the Mackem’s attack. Bent shouldn’t be too worried though as with 24 League goals last season and seven this season the occasional England striker is one of the Premier League;s most consistent scorers.
With Asomoah Gyan also banging in goals this season Rio and Vidic can expect a busy afternoon. Despite it being unlikely that Rio can play two games in four days, I’d be highly surprised if Sir Alex doesn’t pick his two best central defenders to cope with such a lethal Sunderland attack.

Jordan Henderson- With Lee Cattermole suspended- again- the pressure will be on Henderson to try and put his mark on the middle of the park. It’s been a stratospheric rise for the youngster going from almost unheard of, to England International and proposed United target in a matter of months. While he wont be winning any beauty contests, there’s no doubt that the 21 year-old may well be heading for greener pastures if he keeps up his impressive displays.
Henderson reminds me a little of Michael Carrick and while I don’t expect them to go head-to-head as such- I imagine either Fletcher or Anderson will be given the task of keeping Henderson quiet- I expect Carrick to give the young upstart a lesson in passing.

Craig Gordon- Unless you’re Amish – in which case how the hell are you reading this?- you can’t fail to have seen the greatest save in the history of Association Football which took place in the recent Sunderland game against Bolton. Gordon endured a difficult time when he first arrived in the North East not helped by a over-inflated £9 million price tag and a shoddy defence in front of him. Now though the £9 million Roy Keane spent on the Scottish stopper looks like a bargain. With Wayne Rooney searching for his first goal from open play since 1987, if Wazza is going to get on the score sheet he’s going to have to have his finishing boots on to beat Gordon. If Berbatov starts then he’s going to need a Blackburn-type performance to add to his eleven goals this season.

With two wins, two draws and a loss in their last five games, Sunderland are hardly in top form but as they shown at Stamford Bridge and in this fixture last season a below par performance by United could well be exploited.

United enter this fixture in good form having won three and drawn two of their last five EPL games, with all three wins coming at Old Trafford. With the in-form Ji Sung Park due to depart for the Aldi cup after the game, there’s no doubt he’ll not only start but will be eager to remind Sir Alex not to forget him while he’s away. Although Sunderland are looking good, this is a game that United should win- especially in the absence of Welbeck and Cattermole.

New United fansite Redflagflyinghigh.com coming soon if you’re interested in contributing send us an email on redflagflyinghigh@snack-media.com or follow us on twitter

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14
Dec
10

Five things we learned from United v Arsenal

Park scores yet another goal against Arsenal

Park scores yet another goal against Arsenal

It’s all becoming a bit predictable whenever United have faced Arsenal in recent years. Ji Sung Park will get a goal, Arsenal will lose the midfield battle, in fact it’s become such a walkover in that department for United that the term ‘battle’ is somewhat misleading.

United’s defence will cope admirably with whatever’s thrown their way and Wayne Rooney will successfully lead the line all by his lonesome. Oh and United will win. Arsene Wenger entered the post match press conference with a weariness to him that must come from the frustration of having to explain why his team cannot make the step up and beat the ‘top two.’ In fact when one journalist asked him that very question – even going as far as to say “thrashed by Chelsea” Wenger looked ready to jump over the microphones and batter him. Instead the Arsenal manager simply retorted- after a long pause and the sort of stare that would make many men apologise for such an incredulous question and ask him one about his glorious ‘Invincibles’ side instead- “you know about football, I don’t need to tell you, you know it all.”

However despite Wenger blaming the football pitch for the latest loss to his old rival, there can be no denying that Arsenal’s record of one win in ten against United, tells you that there’s a reason the Gunners haven’t won the title in six years.

 So what did we learn from last night’s game other than some people are willing to be told what to chant while others aren’t? Here’s five things I picked up:

 1.  Anderson is finally looking like the player United bought from Porto. As soon as Mr Luis de Abreu Oliveira stormed up, chest puffed out in Moscow and blasted the ball past Petr Cech, nearly every United knew what there’d been signs of during that season- Anderson was made for Manchester United. Yet during the last two seasons question marks have been raised as to whether Anderson would ever make the grade. There’d been stories of falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson and rumours that the Brazilian would actually be heading for the Old Trafford exit door.  Anderson, picked up from where he’d left off against Blackburn last night with a commanding performance that seemed to dominate the game.

 Anderson was simply awesome last night- creating chances, breaking down Arsenal and moving the ball forward with the confidence you’d expect from a Brazilian footballer. Before the game all the talk was of Samir Nasri and whether Cesc Fabregas would start, but after the game all the talk was of the brilliance of the Brazilian.

 2. Rio Ferdinand is the difference between 1st and 2nd. Last season the England skipper managed just 12 league games as United missed out on the title by a point- remember that John Terry. This season he’s already managed almost as many and its no coincidence United are top of the league and looking odds on to win back “their trophy”. All the United defence were immense last night and any one of them could have staked a claim for man of the match.

 For me though Ferdinand was worth his accolade, Nemanja Vidic may wear the armband but the true leader on the pitch was Ferdinand who on his day is still the best defender in the business.

 3. The press don’t know anything. According to reports that I’ve read over the past few weeks, then the likes of Anderson, Ji Sung Park and Michael Carrick are all going to be sold to an alien space monkey from the planet Dairy Lea- okay so I made that last bit up. It seems that Fergie was set for a clear out and the aforementioned trio were top of the ebay list. The only problem is no one bothered to tell Fergie of his imminent sale and it now looks about as likely as Carlos Tevez still being at Manchester City next season. Anderson, Carrick and Park have played important roles in these past few weeks and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue.

 4. Rafael is the right right back. I’ve said it so many times its becoming tedious but I’ll say it again, it’s time to let Rafael Da Silva have the right back slot full time. I’m a big fan of Wes Brown and would love to see Gary Neville make his 400th league appearance this season, but there’s no reason not to play the young Brazilian week in week out. He’s used in the big games so why not the smaller ones? Rafael has been a real breath of fresh air this season, fitting into the defence with ease, marking the greatest player in the history of world football out of the game and bombing forward and supporting the attack like a man possessed. There’s always been the feeling that if United could find an equal equivalent to Patrice Evra on the right side then the defence would be perfect. He may not quite be up to Evra’s standards yet, but there’s no denying Rafael is gradually getting there.

5. Wayne Rooney is back to his best. What? He missed a penalty, he hasn’t scored from open play since 1997, he’s scouse. There can be many reasons why not everyone would agree that ‘r Wazza is back to his optimum performance level but I actually believe he’s practically there. The penalty miss aside Rooney was superb last night and if you cast your mind back to the same fixture last year, when everyone was drooling over him, he played just as well last night as he did then. It doesn’t matter who’s scoring for United as long as someone is and no one knows that better than Rooney. The goals will come, it’s inevitable, but in the mean time the performances have been sublime. Last night saw Rooney picking out some wonderful passes, leading the line well and generally looking like one of the world’s best strikers.

The ball from his penalty kick may still be circling the earth’s orbit but Rooney’s contribution last night was everything you could want from him.

26
Nov
10

Does FIFPRO shortlist highlight United’s flaw?

Carrick and Scholes could be the key to United's season

Carrick and Scholes could be the key to United's season

The shortlist for the worldwide football players union Fifpro team of the year were announced yesterday and despite what every British news outlet has been stating, it Gareth Bale wasn’t the only nominee from the Premiership.

With no less than 16 players from the English Premier League making the 55 man list, Manchester United and Chelsea are the best represented with six apiece. For United, Edwin  Van Der Sar, Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov all make the list.

There can be no denying that having six players shortlisted for such a prestigious award, voted for by fellow professionals is pleasing and indicates the quality that Sir Alex Ferguson has at his disposal. However without wishing to sound like a miserable b*stard- although I probably will, the fact that not one United midfielder made the shortlist seems to highlight a problem that’s been niggling at the back of my mind for some time now.

Having no midfielders represented on the shortlist is by no means a disaster and doesn’t even mean that there aren’t any players that don’t truly deserve to be their – after all these types of lists and teams are all fairly subjective. You could argue that Paul Scholes or Darren Fletcher deserve to be on the list, but at who’s expense? Maybe Javier Mascherano didn’t have the best season at Liverpool, but he did Captain Argentina to the world cup and also secured a move to the Nou Camp so it was hardly a disaster. Kaka took a little while to get going at Real Madrid but 8 La Liga goals in 21 starts last season, followed by a decent world cup means his place is more than justified.

Of the midfielders who ply their trade in England, Frank Lampard and  Cesc Fabregas had superb season’s and truly deserve their places.  Michael Essien despite his injury problems was still an important part of Chelsea’s title win and has done well so far this season- regardless of his needless sending off against Fulham.

As for Steven Gerrard, last season was hardly a success for his team and this season hasn’t been much better- I really enjoyed writing that- but there can be no denying that if it wasn’t for him Liverpool would be in a far worse position and his performances have often been excellent- I didn’t enjoy writing that.

The point is, there’s not really any midfielders who don’t deserve to be there, which worries me slightly from a United point of view. If United are to challenge for the top honours in Europe- then they’re going to have to face the names on this list and beat them. The likes of Xavi, Esteban Cambiasso, Thomas Muller and Xabi Alonso will need to be dealt with if the Champion’s League trophy is to make its way to Old Trafford.

Then there’s the Premier League battles ahead, Sir Alex Ferguson has already stated he believes the title could be decided by United’s games against Chelsea and the midfield tussles often hold the key.

While I’d always fancy United to put up a strong showing against the title holders, the double loss to them last season cannot be ignored- despite the poor decisions by certain officials.

Looking at the midfield of United there are two players who stand out as being world-class and arguably contenders for the Fifpro list. Paul Scholes has shown at the back end of this season and the beginning of this one that he’s still one of the best midfielders in the world, the only problem being his age and ability to play twice a week. Darren Fletcher has at times shown why he was so sorely missed that night in Rome and if he can find consistency against the smaller teams I wouldn’t bet against him making the Fifpro 2011 team.

Of the other players that make up United’s midfield, there’s only Michael Carrick who could be considered potentially world class. Carrick is United marmite, with his supporters insisting he’s one of the finest midfielders in Europe, with a passing range comparable to anyone and the ability to dictate the pace of games.  His detractors however, point to his errors against Bayern Munich last season and his somewhat erratic appearance record since as proof that he’s not really good enough to dominate the middle of the park.  Whatever your view on  Carrick, personally I’m a fan, there’s a doubt whether he’s even truly won his place in Fergie’s strongest XI back yet, so the argument as to just how good is he is remains somewhat moot. Anderson just hasn’t progressed since his first season and while he still may have a future at Old Trafford, he’s not at the level of world-class yet. In fact it still remains to be seen whether Mr Luis De Abreu Oliveira will actually make the grade at United.

Then there’s also Owen Hargreaves, who if he was fit would be there or there abouts when it comes to the top midfielders in Europe, the only problem with that is he hasn’t been fit for over two seasons now.

United have had a somewhat mixed start to the season, I say mixed because despite the fact they’re still unbeaten there’s been one or two games where the performances have been a little lacklustre. However, being joint top of the League, through to the knockout phase of the Champion’s League and yet to taste defeat is ostensibly a superb start to any clubs season. My concern lies with whether United have the midfield to face a truly big team and beat them.

The three toughest fixtures United have faced so far this season- at least on paper, are arguably, City and Valencia away and Spurs at home. All three games were against top quality players, yet for me the real test for United is yet to come.

My concern is do the Reds have the midfield personnel to beat the Chelseas, Real Madrids and Barcelonas of this world? When Rafael Van Der Vaart signed for Spurs, more than a few United fans felt he may be the answer to the creative force in midfield the team is crying out for, especially when Scholes isn’t playing. Ditto Mesut Ozil.

While there’s no point crying over absent Germans- in fact its usually a time for rejoicing- the question marks surrounding United’s midfield department still remain. Tom Cleverly could well find himself thrown into first team action once his loan spell at Wigan ends, but even the most optimistic United fan will have doubts as to whether the youngsters ready to push United towards Champion’s League or even League glory.

The January transfer window is pretty useless to United in terms of drafting someone in for the Champion’s League as most of the top players will already be cup-tied, however Fergie may decide that buying someone who can do a job in the League and allowing Scholes more time to focus on Europe could be a worthwhile idea.

Although it’s obvious United still have a strong squad and some of the world’s best players, the lack of a real midfield superstar may prove to be the difference between a good season and  a great one.

Here’s the Fifpro10 list in full:

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy/Juventus), Iker Casillas (Spain/Real Madrid), Petr Cech (Czech Republic/Chelsea), Julio César (Brazil/Inter), Edwin van der Sar (The Netherlands/Manchester United)

Defenders: Daniel Alves (Brazil/Barcelona), Gareth Bale (Wales/Tottenham Hotspur), Michel Bastos (Brazil/Olympique Lyon), Ashley Cole (England/Chelsea), Patrice Evra (France/Manchester United), Rio Ferdinand (England/Manchester United), Philipp Lahm (Germany/Bayern Munchen), Lúcio (Brazil/Inter), Maicon (Brazil/Inter), Marcelo (Brazil/Real Madrid), Alessandro Nesta (Italy/AC Milan), Pepe (Portugal/Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Spain/Barcelona), Carles Puyol (Spain/Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Spain/Real Madrid), Walter Samuel (Argentina/Inter), John Terry (England/Chelsea), Thiago Silva (Brazil/AC Milan), Nemanja Vidic (Serbia/Manchester United), Javier Zanetti (Argentina/Inter)

Midfielders: Esteban Cambiasso (Argentina/Inter), Michael Essien (Ghana/Chelsea), Cesc Fàbregas (Spain/Arsenal), Steven Gerrard (England/Liverpool), Andrès Iniesta (Spain/Barcelona), Kaká (Brazil/Real Madrid), Frank Lampard (England/Chelsea), Javier Mascherano (Argentina/Barcelona), Thomas Müller (Germany/Bayern München), Mesut Özil (Germany/Real Madrid), Andrea Pirlo (Italy/AC Milan), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany/Bayern München), Wesley Sneijder (The Netherlands/Inter), Xabi Alonso (Spain/Real Madrid), Xavi (Spain/Barcelona).

Forwards: Dimitar Berbatov (Bulgaria/Manchester United), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast/Chelsea), Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon/Inter), Diego Forlán (Uruguay/Atletico Madrid), Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina/Real Madrid), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden/AC Milan), Lionel Messi (Argentina/Barcelona), Diego Milito (Argentina/Inter), Arjen Robben (The Netherlands/Bayern München), Ronaldinho (Brazil/AC Milan), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Real Madrid), Wayne Rooney (England/Manchester United), Carlos Tévez (Argentina/Manchester City), Fernando Torres (Spain/Liverpool), David Villa (Spain/Barcelona).

18
Oct
10

Five things we learnt from the game against West Brom

Rio and Berba do their best to make Nani look small

Rio and Berba do their best to make Nani look small

Another weekend, another Manchester United lead thrown away, another draw for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, another Wayne Rooney being dropped story doing the rounds, another ‘we’re still unbeaten’ argument being put forward by a few and another reason why it’s time to stop making excuses.

Yes United are unbeaten but they’re also in fourth place, have drawn more games than they’ve won and can be trusted to hold on to a lead about much as a Korean chef.

So what exactly did the latest disappointing result from United tell us other than Owen Hargreaves is still not match fit? Well despite doing the best to ‘look on the Brightside’ it’s now time to be a little more critical if United really want to win back ‘their’ trophy. Unlike previous draws which came away from home against established Premier League sides, the latest points dropped at Old Trafford to newly promoted West Brom have left more than  a few fans calling for drastic measures. While ‘Fergie needs to go’ type hysteria is as ridiculous as it is embarrassing-certain things need to be addressed.

Wayne Rooney should have figured more than 20 minutes- as a striker. Let’s not ignore the obvious or pussyfoot around it. The decision to drop Rooney backfired as not only did United fail to win what should have been an easy game, but subsequently all the headlines were full of the usual drivel about the striker either being Madrid-bound or ready to meet Fergie in the car park for a bit of a straightener. There’s even been talk of the noisy neighbours being his next destination- although that talk probably emanated from everyone’s favourite nonsense merchant Gary Cook- or someone equally as deluded. The recent stories surrounding Rooney’s ‘I’m fit’ comments, which went against what the United manager had been saying were a little over-the-top for me as everyone knows the striker would say he’s fit to play if he was hopping around with his amputated left leg tucked under his arm.
However Fergie’s decision to not only start Rooney on the bench but to then bring him on with just over 20 minutes left and stick him out on the left wing, have only encouraged the Chelsea fans of Fleet street to pour more fuel on the ‘Rooney Fergie Rift’ fire.

Regardless of the negative press connotations the fact is that for this game with United looking for a goal, Rooney should have been brought on a little earlier and played upfront. Personally I thought starting Cheech-a-ree-toe -just for a few commentators who seem to be oblivious- and Dimitar Berbatov was not a bad idea as I genuinely felt they’d do the job. However with a two goal lead thrown away, either striker could have been substituted for last season’s top scorer to fit into his natural role and finally, maybe silence a few critics.

Edwin Van Der Sar is human and not to blame. Fergie got it spot-on when he claimed the ‘keepers clanger which gifted the visitors the equaliser was not the real reason behind United’s failure. While it was a real cock-up of Massimo Taibi proportions, VDS is more than anyone entitled to the -extremely- rare mistake and it really shouldn’t have mattered.

 This wasn’t the final minutes against Chelsea, it was with a good 35 minutes left on the clock at home to a team that finished second in the Championship last season and have been beaten 6-0 by the champions already.  Roberto Di Matteo’s men may have improved a lot since their hammering at Stamford Bridge but they should still not have been too much trouble for United to overcome with such a large portion of the game still left to play. Van Der Sar’s error merely highlighted the fact that United seem to have lost that ability to dig deep and carve out results when the game turns against them. If Bolton was frustrating, West Brom was infuriating.

Resting the central midfield is a step too far. Giving Paul Scholes a break was risky, doing the same to Darren Fletcher for the same match was a recipe for disaster. Without the creativity of Scholes United looked less effective in the middle of the park and bereft of Fletcher’s engine they also lacked their energy and drive. West Brom were able to expose United’s midfield deficiencies with great effect in the second half and although Scholes was brought on with twenty minutes to go, it was too little too late. Darron Gibson was absolutely anonymous for United when he replaced-the injured Ryan Giggs. Take away Gibson’s shooting and he does nothing, which is acceptable if he’s banging in 20yard screamers but not so much if he’s not even having a go. Carrick is fast becoming United’s favourite fall guy but despite not really getting a firm grip on the match, he was probably a little less cr*p than Anderson and Gibson.

Time could be running out for Anderson.- a lot faster than he is.
For West Brom’s first goal, Anderson’s lack of pace was woefully exposed and it isn’t just due to match fitness as he also looks a little out of shape. The Brazilian’s always been a bulky type of player but for me he seems a tad heavier than usual and it showed in his performance. If he’s not crashing his car, or supposedly falling out with Fergie, or making noises about wanting to leave, then Anderson can be a quality player but he needs to step it up. Time is rapidly running out for a player who was once deemed one of the brightest young stars in world football and the excuses are sounding more desperate. I’m aware he’s just returned from injury but he’s been at United for long enough now to have staked his claim as a truly United-class player, yet he still hasn’t done that. If Anderson doesn’t score or create goals, then running with the ball and putting the tackle in are really the least we can expect. However the shape he’s in at the moment Anderson doesn’t look fully capable of doing either of those things, and while talk of his longing to return to Portugal may have been slightly misinterpreted, the time may be arriving where Fergie’s more than happy to pay for his ticket.

It’s time for the return of Carlos Queiroz. It sounds daft to argue that a different assistant manager could have made a difference against West Brom but does Fergie need a less sycophantic right hand man to challenge his decisions?

Mickey Phelan is doing an admirable job, one imagines, but there’s no denying that over the past ten years the best United teams have had Queiroz as the coach. The reason Saturday’s game highlighted the need for the former Portuguese national teams manager to return, is that he may have been able to convince Fergie to make the necessary changes sooner- or possibly even start with a stronger side. Ferguson has supposedly trusted Queiroz with input into team selection in the past and with United relying more and more on the ability of Nani, could his fellow countryman be the perfect coach to get the best out of him? Admittedly this final suggestion is based on a lot of conjecture but with no option to buy anyone for another three months- even then its doubtful depending on whether or not you believe David Gill, then Fergie’s only possible signing could be the one that saves United’s season.

04
Oct
10

five things we learnt from United’s game at Sunderland

Anderson gets involved in a Malbranque and Cattermole sandwich- poor lad

Anderson gets involved in a Malbranque and Cattermole sandwich- poor lad

Manchester United may remain  unbeaten but their away form continues to disappoint as
Saturday’s match at Sunderland can really be considered yet another missed opportunity.

Although like previous trips on the road there were positives, not even the best MUTV-style spin can hide the fact that no wins in four away games is simply not good enough for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men. Forgive me but I for one am a little tired of trying to ‘look on the brightside’ as Chelsea edge further and further away at the top of the table-and let’s not even mention the noisy neighbours.

When a Liverpool defeat is the highlight of your footballing weekend, you know that certain issues need to be adressed and its time for United to deal with them before its too late. Yes Sunderland are a good side- just like Fulham, Everton and Bolton- but you cannot win league titles by failing to win your away fixtures and watching City leapfrog over United in the table merely underlines the fact that something’s not right.

Of course, as I’m thinking of getting tattooed on my forehead ‘its not all doom and gloom’ but like Mickey Phelan’s penchant for wearing shorts no matter what the climate, United’s  failure to beat what is essentially a mid-table team is getting rather troubling.

So what did we learn from the trip to the second-best Stadium of Light in football other than the fact that it’s becoming compulsory to put ‘draw’ on the accumulator coupon next to a United away game?

Rafael is the present not the future. Rafael Da Silva picked up where he left off in Valencia with another quality display at right back. Okay he made the occasional mistake but how else is he going to learn if he’s not given the chance to make them? When it comes to mistakes the young Brazilian has a long way to go before he matches the amount John O’Shea can usually muster, so it looks like it may be time to give him a proper run in the side. Defensivley Rafael can be a tad worrying but that will surely improve and the lack of an outstanding candidate at right back- even though I think Wes Brown is world-class, but for some reason Fergie doesn’t agree- it is now time to give the youngster his chance.

Saturday’s performance was another reason why its now time to give Rafael the run he deserves, he may be young and occasionally a little reckless but he’s a quality player and a real threat going forward, as someone once sang ‘the time to hesitate is through.’

Too many strikers can get messy. I’m all for having five options up front but if United are going to make the most of them then Fergie needs to work out the right ones to use for the right games. Michael Owen  was totally anonymous in the first half and while he can lament the lack of service- rightfully so- it was obvious United would have benefitted from the energy of Chicharito or the class of Dimitar Berbatov. I realise that Berbatov had played a mid-week game as a lone striker and Fergie may have felt he was not up to ninety minutes but surely if he can play one half he can manage two. United looked a far better team when Berbatov was on the pitch- ditto Chicharito- and had either of them been given more minutes then we may have seen a different result.

Darren Fletcher needs to improve. Sunderland seemed to work out fairly quickly that keeping Paul Scholes quiet was a surefir way to stifle the brunt of United’s creativity. With Scholes was being closed down within seconds of recieving the ball it meant that it was up to others to try and conjure up something in midfield. Anderson gets stuck in but is still yet to get back to full fitness. The game was crying out for Fletcher to do more than just tackle people and give the ball to Scholes. At the start of the season I claimed that if United were to regain the title then Fletcher had to raise his game against the so-called ‘lesser teams.’ Put him against Chelsea or Arsenal and Fletcher’s like a man possessed, however he needs to do it more consistently. There is an argument that he’s merely a defensive midfielder not responsible for creating attacks. However we’ve seen Fletcher influence games in the past, moving the ball forward and it was crying out for something similar at the Stadium of Light. Like the game against Bolton the Scottish skipper seemed unwilling or unable to generate any sort of attacking moves and United suffered because of it.

Rio Ferdinand is vital. If United are to win the title, then they’re going to need Ferdinand for at least the majority of games. Rioferdy5 as he calls himself on twitter was back to his commanding best and United looked a lot better because of it. While Jonny Evans has done an admirable job filling in for Ferdinand he’s not quite in the same class and despite the fact that Nemanja Vidic was wearing the captain’s armband it was Rio who seemed to be marshalling the defence. United’s second successive clean sheet with Ferdinand back in the starting line-up is no coincidence.

Patrice Evra should not be ‘rested.’ Some may disagree- as they always do with a lot of what I write- but for me Evra is the world’s best left-back and is absolutely fundamental to the United team. Although he’s not looked as sharp since the World Cup -debacle- he’s still an immense threat going forward and the prospect of him and Rafael getting down the wings on the overlap would have been a scary one for Steve Bruce’s men.  In the second half we even saw Vidic getting down the left flank- my mate called it ‘disorganised’ I called it ‘total football.’ I’m aware that Evra played midweek but I feel dropping him was a gamble that backfired as although O’Shea did put in the -extremely- occasional cross he’s never going to be as much of a threat as Evra.

16
Sep
10

Always look on the bright side of life

Anderson found scouse humour somewhat strange

Anderson found scouse humour somewhat strange

It’s been a somewhat disappointing start to the season for Manchester United, with last-minute goals conceded, a season-ending injury to a star player and former big issue sellers –rather than German superstars -joining the club.  

However while missing out on Mesut Ozil, and being a few minutes away from a perfect league start is annoying it is far from the end of the season- unfortunately the same can’t be said for Antonio Valencia.  No amount of optimism or sugar-coating will hide the fact that the Ecuadorian’s injury is a massive blow to United as he was one of the shining stars in last-season’s campaign.

I’ve still not been able to bring myself to watch it on television- I was sat near enough when it happened to see all I want to of that horrific injury and the reaction of the Ranger’s players said it all.

My main concern with Valencia is not whether we see him this season but that he’s able to re-capture the form he showed last season and this isn’t a Neil Webb –ask your dad- type injury that robs him of a lot of talent.

The feeling around United following the non-event that was a goalless draw against far inferior opposition is that the start to the season has been something of a letdown with needless points dropped, Wayne Rooney making the news for all the wrong reasons, not to mention the –still- ongoing saga of United’s number four.  Some fans –including me- are beginning to resemble the cast of Eastenders, looking ready to burst into fits of rage or just sink into a mood of melancholy at the drop of any more points.

While Owen  Hargreaves is looking about as likely to play for United again as Carlos Tevez, the squad at Old Trafford still has enough quality to challenge for major honours- at least in theory.

The names Rafael Van Der Vaart, Tom Cleverley and Ozil have been spoken about more in the past few days by many United fans and while any of those three would be useful to the squad there’s still a wealth of talent available.

Anderson and  Michael Carrick have yet to really figure this season and both players know that this could be their last season at Old Trafford if they don’t step up their game. While I’ve been critical of both players in the past, I still think they’ve got enough talent to play a big part and hopefully they will.

When it comes to the points United have dropped- and believe me I was as frustrated as anyone at the final whistle of both away games- it’s still not as bad as it may seem.

Chelsea of course have gotten off to a flier but considering their form at the back end of last season and the fixtures they faced can anyone have expected anything less?  

The likes of Wigan, WBA, Stoke and West Ham are the sort of games Carlo Ancelotti would probably have chosen as his first four of the season if he had the choice. Now I’m not getting into any conspiracy theory here that Chelsea have deliberately been given an easy ride but let’s face facts no one can really have expected the Champions to drop points against those teams.

United’s two away fixtures have been  more difficult than any games Chelsea have had so far this season and while the manner of the draws is frustrating there’s still a chance that Ancelotti’s men may return from both grounds with less than maximum points.

It must also be remembered that from the corresponding fixtures last season, United took no points whatsoever, so it’s not all doom and gloom just yet.

While the draw with Rangers was without a doubt one of the most boring 90 minutes I’ve witnessed since England took on the titans from Algeria it’s still need to be put into perspective. Yes, Sir  Alex Ferguson should not have changed ten of his players from the previous game and yes that is the sort of match where the term ‘banker’ could not be more apt- unless applied to someone who works in a bank of course- but you’d still expect United to top their group.

Going to places like Valencia, Glasgow and anywhere in Turkey is never easy for teams but they’re hardly the cream of Europe and quite frankly if Fergie’s men can’t get a result from those games then the Champion’s League is beyond them anyway.  I fully expect Fergie to realise the limits of which players he can and cannot leave out- he’s already admitted as much about Dimitar Berbatov – and play a much stronger side in the remaining games.

When it comes to Rooney- although his performance against Rangers was subdued- he’s shown enough in the game against West Ham and for England that he’s putting his World Cup and subsequent  ladies of the night debacle behind him and getting back –slowly- to being the striker we all know he is.

Fortunately for Wazza unlike last season, this time round he actually has a world-class partner who’s playing like he is actually world –class so it’s not all up to him to provide United’s goals.  Berbatov’s start to the season- while far from perfect has been a massive improvement on last term and he’s looking sharp.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, United lost the title last season not due to defensive frailties but simply because of an over-reliance on Rooney- Chelsea had Frank Lampard to lighten Didier Drogba’s goal load- who did United have?- other than possibly ‘own goals.’

If Berbatov can hit 20 goals this season then United stand a good chance of seeing the title return to the ‘Theatre of Dreams.’

The main worry defensively is the recent penchant for conceding late goals, what united need is a world-class defender with bags of experience who can help steady the ship, oh erm hang on. The return of Rio Ferdinand is exactly what’s needed and if he can stay fit then the one really worrying factor of United’s play this season could be resolved.

Even the Valencia injury may not be season-ending with recent reports indicating he could play a part at the back end of the season.  There’s also Gabriel Obertan to return who may well rise to the challenge of filling one of last season’s members of the PFA team of the year’s boots. Obertan has show signs in the reserves that he’s the real deal- now’s his chance to prove it.  

The point I’m making is that while it’s not been the start many United fans were hoping for, it’s far from the disaster certain people- including those in the press who love to see United fail- would have us believe.

What United could really do with is a home game against an arch-rival who are really struggling, to get the mood and confidence buzzing around Old Trafford again. If only we had a game like that coming up……………