Posts Tagged ‘giggs

27
Dec
10

Birmingham City match preview- by LiamPM

Can United get a crucial 2nd away win of the season at St Andrews?

Can United get a crucial 2nd away win of the season at St Andrews?

United face a tricky trip to St. Andrew’s on Tuesday to play a Birmingham side that surprisingly lie in 17th place, just two points off the relegation zone. Surprising because in  their last six games they have taken points from City, Spurs and also  beaten a stuttering Chelsea, whilst only conceding three goals in this  time. Considering Birmingham have conceded just four more than United  all season, it hardly bodes well for a high-scoring encounter,  particularly given United’s lack of success on the road this season.

Sir  Alex faces another one of his former players this week in the shape of  Alex McLeish, who seems to be one of the few Premier League managers who  avoid constant speculation regarding their future. He has built a team  that first and foremost is hard to break down, and so it is no surprise  that Birmingham’s most influential players this season are mainly in  defence.

A  lack of victories against teams who are considered Birmingham’s  mid-table rivals has been their main downfall so far this season,  with  draws against Wigan, Villa and the Scousers-how funny is it referring  to the Scousers as ‘mid-table’ -to name a few. But it is the big games  where Birmingham have stepped up, losing only once to a top 7 team this  season,  so it would be no surprise if Tuesday’s  game was one that will be decided by a moment of genius, a mistake or  maybe even plain luck.

The  fact Birmingham have only two points more than West Ham- albeit having  played two games less is quite a staggering statistic as the Irons have  seemed like a club in disarray for much of the season while Mcleish’s  men are still thought of as a fairly well oiled machine.

United  meanwhile remain unbeaten this season, but have taken only nine points  from a possible twenty one on the road. United haven’t lost to  Birmingham in their last 23 meetings, and seem to be nearing their best  as the New Year approaches. Obviously as soon as the clock strikes 12 on  New Year’s Eve United transform into a juggernaut of free flowing, free  scoring football that lasts until May and it seems this could be the  toughest game they will face prior to this marvellous occurrence.

Ones to watch

Birmingham  are one of the few Premier League teams that are genuinely a team unit  with very few standout ‘stars.’ Alex McLeish has moulded a squad that’s  strength often lies in its ability to support one another and work as a  real team. Unlike some teams near the bottom, where it’s a case of  relying on Rodellaga or Carlton Cole or Dempsey to have a good day to  provide the points, Birmingham seem to have a lack of ‘stars’ but an  abundance of quality, hardworking players.

So  which players should United be wary of or need to keep quiet/ overcome  to turn what looks like a certain draw into a definite win?

Liam  Ridgewell has performed well at both ends of the pitch for Birmingham,  scoring three goals and helping to keep six clean sheets. He has  constructed a solid partnership with fellow centre back Scott Dann and  so whoever plays up front or indeed at the back for United will have to  work hard to get the better of this man.

Former  United stopper/blunderer Ben Foster has produced a number of excellent  displays that United fans always knew he was capable of, and has shown  that he still loves United by keeping out City and Chelsea in the same  week. The major errors he became famous for at Old Trafford seem to  occur far less frequently and on current form you could argue that he is  pushing Joe Hart very hard for the England no. 1 jersey.

Another  player who has stood out is former Aston Villa midfielder Craig  Gardner, who is also the club’s top scorer with four goals. This makes  him the man to watch from United’s point of view as Birmingham’s  inconsistent strike force shouldn’t represent much of a problem to the  defence, even if Fergie decides to rest Rio or Vidic. Birmingham’s most  distinguished player, Alexander Hleb could return after a month out with  a hamstring injury, otherwise they are at full strength and fully  rested after their match with Everton was postponed.

Naming  a possible starting 11 for Tuesday’s game is anyone’s guess, as Fergie  will surely rest one or two from the Boxing Day win over Sunderland.  Darren Fletcher and Nani will most likely come into the team having  missed this game, while the only definite absentee will be Park Ji Sung  who has left us for several weeks to captain his country in the Aldi  Cup. Over-30’s Rio and Giggs may struggle to play two games in the space  of three days, and Fergie may use this match as another chance to give  The Little Pea more football after mostly watching from the bench as  Berba hit 7 in 3 games and Rooney continued his ‘comeback.’

Anderson has  recently shown that his pie-eating days are behind him, and given he  was taken off after an hour on Boxing Day could indicate that Fergie is  prepared to unleash him again on Birmingham.  However  given the fact that United will play 4 games in the space of 8 days,  changes are certain and so Fergie may choose to fully utilise his large  squad and give games to the likes of Obertan, Smalling or even Jonny  Evans.

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

27
Dec
10

Five things we learned from the Sunderland game.

United players huddle together in an effort to keep warm

United players huddle together in an effort to keep warm

With the weather cold enough to make even fat Newcastle fans keep their tops on it was scarf and hat time- although definitely not snood- at Old Trafford as United took on Sunderland.

Boxing Day fixtures are usually happy affairs for United with the Sir Alex Ferguson’s men taking all three points in the last seven games they’ve played on December 26th.

In fact if we’re going to go all stat-crazy then it’s worth mentioning United have won a staggering 15 of their last 16 boxing day games, so Christmas hangovers are a thing of the past at Old Trafford.

With the in-form Danny Welbeck and midfield driving force Lee Cattermole both unavailable for the Mackems it was a game, if we’re honest you’d always fancy United to win.

United have been inspired at Old Trafford this season, and went into the game on the back of five straight home wins in the EPL, while Sunderland had only won one game on the road- the awesome 3-0 demolition of Chelsea.

With Nani and Scholes out, Fergie went with a midfield of Giggs, Anderson, Carrick and Park with Rooney and Berbatov up front. The back five of VDS, Rafael, Vidic, Rio and Evra is without doubt United’s strongest and Sunderland were always going to struggle to penetrate it.

So what did we learn from United’s comfortable 2-0 victory over Sunderland, other than it’s now so cold even Mickey Phelan has stopped wearing shorts and Anton Ferdinand must have nightmares about trips to Old Trafford?

1. Anderson is the greatest player in the history of world football. Okay so I may be doing a bit of Gareth Bale type over-exaggerating but the stocky Brazilian is fast becoming the name on every United fans lips.
The term ‘barnstorming performance’ was in danger of becoming the exclusive property of Darren Fletcher but such has been Anderson’s displays of late, that he’s now overtaken Fletcher as the one midfielder who has to start.  Against Sunderland he picked up where he left off against Arsenal and Blackburn- dominating the midfield with tough tackles, sublime passes and driving runs. If a shot that hit the bar had of gone in then it would have been a 10/10 performance rather than a 9/10 one.

The looking the one way and passing another which he first treated Old Trafford to in the 4-0 demolition of Arsenal a few years ago, was used with aplomb to set up United’s second goal and is now number one in the list of tricks being tried in the playgrounds of Manchester. Probably.

If Anderson carries on like this we’ll have to change the dog’s name from Wazza to Ando, as like Chicharito at the beginning of the season, Anderson is getting everyone at Old Trafford buzzing and could well hold the key to a 19th title.

2. Rafael. Do I need to say more? It seems every time I write one of these articles, Rafael’s greatness is mentioned and it’s happened again. The other Brazilian in United’s line-up is having the season we all knew he could do as unlike some United youngsters, nearly every fan I spoke to at the start of the season believed he was good enough to make it. Going forward Rafael is Evra-esque and his defensive game, while not perfect has come on in spades.

When Patrice Evra is in danger of being the second best full back on the pitch then it’s quite possible I’ve died and gone to heaven.
Rafael is now United’s right back, no matter how much I love Wes Brown, the time for change is over. Rafael Da Silva is the one.
Poor Phillip Bardsley must’ve felt like he’d entered the seventh circle of hell as both Park and Rafael gave the poor Salfordian no respite down United’s right side.

When he went down and signalled for the physio, 70 odd thousand  fans held their breath as he’s one player United need not just in the busy Christmas period but for the rest of the season.

3. Park is going to be missed. Remember the energy of the 2007/08 side when the likes of Rooney, a certain Argentinean and Owen Hargreaves covered so much of the pitch it was often as though United had an extra man? Watching Ji Sung Park giving his all over the last few weeks has reminded me of that time- especially when he’s backed up by Rafael. Park has recovered from his World Cup hangover to become one of United’s most impressive players. It’s not just energy the South Korean brings but also important goals, and an underrated high level of skill. Park has the ability to get himself out of trouble with quick feet when needed and is always an option for someone looking for a red shirt to pass to.

Against Sunderland Park was his usual energetic self whose link up play with Rooney and Berbatov was excellent. He may not have the skill of a Nani or the pace of a Valencia but that shouldn’t detract from the fact he’s still a world class player.

The seven games without Park, United potentially face when he goes to the Aldi Cup will be a lot more difficult without him in the side.

4. Giggs will -still- tear you apart. Someone needs to check Ryan Giggs’s birth certificate- and no I’m not talking about the drivel City fans used to sing. The reason I think it’s time to check the Welshman’s date of birth is that there’s simply no way he can be 37 years old. Giggs has been one of United’s best players this season and was at his awe-inspiring best against Sunderland.
Running at defenders, using his wide range of skills and picking out sumptuous passes, Giggs was at his very best and gave everyone a reminder of just how much he’s going to be missed when he finally retires.
If Giggs carries on in this vein though, he’ll probably be hitting his best form in 2019 when he’s 45 so there’s no need to panic just yet.

5. Berbatov and Rooney are becoming unstoppable. Although Rooney may only have one league goal this season, there’s no denying that he’s hitting top form performance wise. Wazza looks like the player that helped Ronaldo bag over 40 goals in a season, dropping deep when needs be, leading the line when called upon and showing the sort of selflessness you’d associate with Santa Claus. Had a chip that went just wide of Craig Gordon’s goal ended up in the back of the net then Rooney would have been grabbing all the headlines after the Sunderland game.

As it is an assist for Berbatov’s first goal and an all round excellent performance had many fans and pundits alike noting that Rooney’s back to his best and it’s only a matter of time before he starts scoring.
If I was either Ben Foster or Scott Carson, I’d be very, very worried.  As for his strike partner despite being dropped for the Arsenal game, top scorer Berbatov isn’t prone to sulking or tantrum throwing like some of his counterparts across the city. The Bulgarian showed that given the right service and encouragement he’s as deadly as any in the game. Rooney may still be United’s talisman but with 13 league goals, Berbatov is the man most defences are struggling to cope with.

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

09
Nov
10

Can United’s injury-hit squad silence the ‘noisy neighbours’?

Is Park now vital to United's chances?

Is Park now vital to United's chances?

With the usual verbal shenanigans already in full swing as the Manchester derby approaches, you’d be forgiven for thinking this game is an actual title decider.

With the normally reticent Patrice Evra even getting involved and claiming that United are not that *rsed about their less successful neighbours- or words to that effect- it’s not just rent-a-gob Gary Neville stirring it up.

That money grabbing.. sorry I mean Carlos Tevez has had is say by coming up with the novel idea of mentioning Wayne Rooney, seeing as we’ve not heard much about him lately. Tevez has stated that he’d liked to have seen Wayne Rooney at City, well you can’t blame him, after all partnering Emmanuel Adebayor is probably enough to make you wish Colleen signed for City. While any comment from Tevez is likely to incur the ire of all United fans, the Argentine’s statement was not all that surprising and actually something of a compliment to Rooney. With a good 24 hours until the game kicks off, I fully expect something a lot more incendiary and possibly even slightly hysterical from the Blue camp.

Regardless of the vocal sparring that has been, or will be committed by both camps, from a purely football point of view, the game is more of a ‘must-win’ for City than it is United. That may sound like a bit of pre-match excuse making just to cover my own back should City win, but allow me to explain.

United are unbeaten and only two points off the top of the table. If United were to draw it wouldn’t be too bad, after all it would be a point more than Chelsea took from Eastlands this season, and still keep the unbeaten run intact. If United were to lose, they’d stay ahead of City on goal difference and be level on points with Arsenal if the Gunners beat Wolves at Molineux.

It would be a bitter blow to lose to the noisy neighbours and could give City the real lift they need to kick start a proper title challenge but in terms of how it would leave the table it wouldn’t be a disaster for United, just a nightmare for the fans for a few weeks. City’s situation is more tenuous, if they were to lose, or even just fail to win, it would mean only on win in the last four league games, relegation form if we’re brutally honest. With Roberto Mancini seemingly under pressure every time his team concede a throw-in, a loss to United wouldn’t exactly help the scarf wearing Italian’s cause.

If City did lose, then the fallout of from the fans may just be enough to start making Sheikh Mansour reconsider his managerial options. Let’s face facts, when you’ve got Gary Cook as your Chief Executive then you’re never going to be the most secure manager in the country. City need a win to show that their team of argumentative, spoilt, playboys can actually justify their wages, while a United win would be a massive boost for the club, fans and players and make the rest of the league take note of who the real title contenders are.

So now that we’ve established that a win would be a rather pleasant experience for either club, who looks more likely to get one? Well the form guide would seem to favour United, after all unbeaten all season, coming off the back of six straight victories, it seems the Reds are flying. However, that’s not entirely true, as due to a virus and a series of injuries, the starting XI for United’s game against Wolves resembled the sort of side Sir Alex Ferguson would send out for a Carling Cup game.

Apart from a strong back five, United had a makeshift midfield, with only arguably Darren Fletcher a true first teamer, with Chicharito deployed as a lone striker. Oh and Owen Hargreaves got a start such was United’s lack of options. With Rooney, Antonio Valencia Michael Owen and Ryan Giggs all definitely out, United are already four attacking players light. Add to that the possibility that player of the season contenders: Nani, Dimitar Berbatov and Paul Scholes are all doubtful and the omens don’t look to clever for Fergie’s men, or should that be Fergie’s flu victims?

If all of those players weren’t available then United would be missing six potential match winners and would be up against it from the start. Losing Rooney is disappointing, losing Rooney, Giggs, Valencia, Berbatov, Scholes and Nani could be disastrous. Of course we’ve seen a bit of Fergie kiddology when it comes to injuries before, let’s not forget how many times Wayne Rooney ‘miraculously’ appeared on the team sheet was he was a certain ‘non-starter’ last season. Mind you, judging from the fact he’s currently in the US if Wazza does make an appearance at Eastlands tomorrow then it really would be a miracle.

The extent of United’s absentees will not be known until the team sheets are submitted tomorrow evening, but the absence of a Nani or a Scholes could be a deciding factor. When it comes to the City squad, they’re in a much rosier position than United, with the suspended Mario Balotelli their only real loss. The main boost for City is having Tevez back, after all it’s no coincidence that his return from absence brought the team’s first win in four games. Tevez has been City’s talisman ever since he signed for them and bagged three goals against United in the Carling Cup last season. If United can find a way to cope with the former Old Trafford hero, then City’s options suddenly don’t seem as positive. Adam Johnson is always a threat and David Silva has already bagged one of the goals of the season, but let’s not pretend any different, City are the Carlos Tevez show and he could be the key to the game. Part of Mancini’s problem may not be which players are fit but which ones he picks. Yaya Toure, Nigel De Jong and Gareth Barry may all start against United, the question is will Mancini go for 4-4-2 with Tevez and Adebayor up front, or will he go with a five man midfield at the expense of Adebayor?

If Mancini starts Yaya Toure, Barry and De Jong, this may work to United’s favour as Darren Fletcher is capable of mixing it with anyone, while if Paul Scholes starts, he could teach his blue counterparts how to control a game from midfield. Without Scholes, United may need to turn to Michael Carrick, if he’s fit of course, although he was another notable absentee from the Wolves game. It’s a shame for United that Anderson is also out as this may have just the type of game his physicality flourished in, I’d have relished seeing him and Fletcher getting stuck into De Jong and Toure. It’s also a shame Hargreaves didn’t come through the Wolves game as he’s now needed more than ever.

Whatever the injury crisis United have at the moment, or how Mancini deploys his troops, one things for certain, a mid week Manchester derby with so much at stake is going to be explosive, let’s just hope from a United point of view it’s not the missing players we’re talking about come Thursday morning.