Posts Tagged ‘Nani

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.

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13
Sep
10

five things we learnt from United’s draw with Everton

"your exit points are here and here"

"your exit points are here and here"

Manchester United’s defeat, sorry draw against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday was tagged as a shining example of the drama of the Premiership by some in the media. For many United fans however it merely underlined certain frailties that haven’t been addressed since the Fulham game and left a bad taste in the mouth.

While following that disappointing result at Craven Cottage- from a United point of view, there were still some positives to be taken, it’s a little harder to keep your chin up when your side gives away a two-goal lead in stoppage time. It was so painful that I couldn’t put myself through it again on MOTD , me and a mate actually debating whether to watch a sky + recording of X-factor his missus had taped when we got home from the pub. Eventually though it was time for some honest reflection and while it still makes me feel slightly sick, it’s not time to buy a City shirt and sell my soul to the devil just yet.

There are several lessons to be learned from Saturdays game and none of them involve Wayne Rooney- that’ll be the last time he gets mentioned in this article I assure you. Evra’s human and men approaching middle age get tired are among two of the things we learned from Saturdays game at Goodison.

1. Kill or be killed. While three goals is usually enough to see United beat even the strongest of attacking sides, there can be no denying that there was ample chance to put the game well and truly to bed before the final two minutes. Both Dimitar Berbatov and Nani- it’s him again- could have, well should have, done better with chances they had when the game was at 3-1.

What’s particularly frustrating about it was that both players are capable of doing much better than they did with their final opportunities and it was a case of being far too lackadaisical and treating the game as though it was won. There’s no real excuse for not making sure. Berbatov has been on fine form of late and its seems harsh to apportion any of the blame for United’s failure to win at his door. It still grates though that what should have been a simple goal for Ryan Giggs or Nani had the Bulgarian squared the ball, ended with a rather timid shot that went wide. Nani’s decision making also again was called into question, as he also wasted a good chance at the end when he had better options.

2. Patrice Evra is human. It’s been a long, long time -in a galaxy far far away- that I can recall saying the words ‘Evra had a ‘mare’ but unfortunately on Saturday he did. Not since his debut against City can I remember my favourite United player looking so out of sorts. It was a strange sight to witness and not one I want to see again, but United’s left back gave the sort of performance that you’d associate with John O’Shea on a very bad day. It was totally out of character and hopefully not something we’ll see again soon. Why was Evra so bad? Well he’s had his fair share of bad press since the World Cup plus his appeal against his five match French ban was recently turned down so that may have affected him. Perhaps Fergie should have rested him for an extra week following the World Cup and he is actually suffering from a bit of fatigue. Either way United need all their top players performing to the best of their ability with some more tough games coming up. On Saturday Evra showed that he’s not infallible, let’s just hope it was a minor blip rather than any real problem the Frenchman is suffering from.

3. Rio’s return can‘t come quick enough. The name on almost every United fans lips at full time, was not Wayne..sorry I almost forgot, was not any missing striker, it was that of Mr Ferdinand, who’s return now seems to be more vital than ever.

 The freedom with which Cahill managed to score Everton’s second was slightly worrying, the fact that Mikel Arteta had enough time to make a brew before he banged in the equaliser was shocking. A few people pointed the finger at Jonny Evans for either -or both- goals and while I think it was a team -lack of- effort that contributed to them rather than one individual there’s no doubt that Rio’s return would help sort the defence out no end. The question is will Ferdinand be-in true Take That style- back for good? After all a man who last season was behind Ledley King in Premier League appearances can hardly be counted on to play the majority of games.

 In the past I’ve actually advocated giving Evans a chance even if Rio’s fit just because the Irish defender stays fit and would benefit from a stable run in the side. However, even I have to admit that it would be foolish not to put a fit Ferdinand back in the side. His organisational skills or ‘silks’ as he calls them on twitter, were sorely missed at Goodison. While were on the subject of changing the defence, is it not time to forget about playing Gary Neville in difficult games?

That may sound harsh but I for the life of me can’t work out why Wes Brown has become a reserve team regular recently and also why he no longer seems a viable option at right back? People will say Rafael is too inexperienced but how is he going to gain big game experience if he doesn’t play in the big games. Like Evans It wasn’t Neville’s fault for the goals but is he really the best man for the job at right back? I think not.

4. We‘ve got a squad so we need to use it. Having three outfield players over 34 playing a full 90 minutes was a bit of a strange decision by Sir Alex Ferguson to say the least. Both Neville and Scholes looked a bit dead on their feet towards the end of the match, and had either or both been replaced then things may have been different. Neville gave the ball away for their third while Scholes failed to pick up Arteta, yet can we be surprised? Neville’s hardly had any match practice while Scholes has been ever-present this season. I can understand why Fergie took off Evra for Park, but I don’t see what harm it would have done to introduce Rafael or Darron Gibson- or both -for Scholes and Neville. Then there was Nani who seemed to disappear towards the end, leaving poor old Gary Neville totally exposed down the right hand side. Why Fergie was reluctant to change it, when there were obviously tired legs out there baffles me slightly.

5. Teams aren’t giving up anymore. In the past even away from home it’s not been unusual for certain teams to simply accept that they’ve lost the game when United are leading with only a couple of minutes left. I’m not claiming that teams cannot be bothered, just that some opposing players allow their heads to drop slightly in the closing minutes as they succumb to the idea that the game is now lost.

 However, this is no longer the case. As Fulham showed two weeks ago and now Everton have proven, teams are not going to roll over and die against United anymore. If United are to wrestle the title from Chelsea’s grasp- and for the record I’m not buying into the idea that it’s practically impossible after only four games and no defeats- then they’re going to have to prepare for battle. A result against United is still the premier scalp for many players, and the air of invincibility that Fergie’s men had a couple of seasons ago has long gone.

Teams are willing to fight to the death- not literally , unless its Wolves if the press is to be believed- so it’s time for United to roll up their sleeves and get ready for 94-minute slogs. Last season many a United fan -myself included-laughed at the ‘noisy neighbours’ penchant for conceding late goals- well if their not careful that particular affliction could become one associated with the Red half of Manchester.

31
Aug
10

5 things we learnt from the victory against west ham

Rooney - 57 minutes without a goal!

Rooney - 57 minutes without a goal!

Five things we learnt from Manchester United’s game against West Ham.

Watching Manchester comfortably put West Ham to the sword at a rain soaked Old Trafford this weekend arguably told us very little about which way the title will be heading. United’s 3-0 victory did have some lessons to teach us though, a few we were expecting – Wayne Rooney needs time but is on his way back to his best- and one or two that were a bit of a surprise- Nemanja Vidic has leapfrogged Ryan Giggs on the captaincy stakes. Here’s five things we were able to ascertain from United’s fairly routine victory other than the fact that Louis Boa Morte and Keiron Dyer still exist.

  1. 1. He comes from Serbia he’ll f*cking skipper ya. Nemanja Vidic wore the Captain’s armband and certainly did the role justice. With some fine tackles, one on Carlton Cole was particularly impressive not to mention a range of passing I’d almost forgot he had, the Serbian was on top form. While Vidic’s ability may be no real revelation the fact that he was handed the Captain’s armband over Giggs, may just mean that Fergie wants a skipper who’s going to start practically every game. The only question remaining now is will Rio Ferdinand be relieving him of his leadership duties when he returns from injury- judging by Saturdays display Vidic certainly doesn’t deserve to lose them.
  2. Get ready for the Nani rollercoaster. Last week following his penalty miss, many United fans were left feeling a little annoyed with Mr Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha, however the winger banished that miss to the distant memory banks with a performance against West Ham that was at times mesmerising.  Nani’s link up lay with Dimitar Berbatov was mouth-watering and gave us the impression that Nani may have just gate crashed Rooney and Berbatov’s strike partnership and turned it into a three pronged attack. While Nani is still occasionally guilty of giving the ball away and should have done better when put through by Giggs, a player of his ability is allowed a modicum of inconsistency as long as he can be relied upon to be a threat. It’s looking like the ‘next Ronaldo’ tag could finally be rightfully forgotten as the Portuguese winger carves his own name into the list of Old Trafford favourites.
  3. Defenders beware Rooney is returning. With all the talk of how many minutes, games, hours, seconds, episodes of Coronation Street Wazza had gone without a goal it was a relief to finally see that bit of statistical annoyance squashed. While Saturday’s performance was by no means vintage  Rooney it was arguably his best one since Sunderland last season. His goal from the penalty spot was well taken and may just relieve some of the pressure that seems to have been heaped upon one of the best strikers on the planet since before the World Cup. All strikers have barren spells but not many carry their team almost single handed to a title challenge as Rooney did last season. Hopefully the media can now concentrate on how long it’s been since Darren Fletcher took a throw-in or something equally as frivolous and let Rooney get back to the business of giving defenders-well in fact whole teams -nightmares.
  4. Spreading the love. Nani and Rooney’s goals mean that six United players have now got on the score sheet since the season started- not counting last season’s third highest scorer- own goals. That’s quite impressive considering were only three games in and highlights the fact that the over-reliance on Rooney may become a thing of the past. United’s most successful teams have always had goals spread throughout the team and other than last season and maybe the Ruud Van Nistelrooy era, there hasn’t been one sole United striker everyone’s relied upon. Even when Cristiano Ronaldo was breaking records, Rooney, and a certain Argentinean along with the supporting cast all weighed in with goals. A return to the sort of Total Football ‘everyone doing his bit’ type of scoring we’ve seen in previous seasons at Old Trafford may be the best way to stop opposing teams finding a way to try and snuff United out.
  5. Michael’s face a real fight. Michael Carrick and Michael Owen’s fifteen minute cameos hardly cemented their place in the starting line up against Everton next week, it did however show that both men are still inSir Alex Ferguson’s thoughts, the question is are they likely to be given a chance soon? With Chicharito being the new buzz word around Old Trafford Owen may have been pleased to even come off the bench , while Carrick has been out of favour for some time now. With Berbatov and Rooney looking like a solid partnership Owen may well have to settle for sub appearances and the occasional start against the ‘lesser teams.’  Carrick may well get a chance when Fergie decides to rest Paul Scholes but when will that be? Scholes gave another master class performance on Saturday- I’m sorry to add to the hundreds of people who’ve used that term to describe the ginger one’s displays but it really is the most apt. With Everton away next Saturday, Fergie is unlikely to rest his midfield maestro for that one, then there’s the first CL game against Rangers- which will no doubt be seen as a ‘must win’ in order to get off to the right start. After the Champions League game comes the visit of every United fan’s favourites Liverpool, so Carrick may have to wait a little while before he’s given a start. With Anderson back from injury and Darron Gibson, plus Tom Cleverly- if he isn’t loaned out – also waiting in the wings, then Carrick has got a real fight on his hands to regain his place. His cause isn’t helped by the fact it’s now becoming apparent there’s only two central midfield places up for grabs rather than the three of last season.
18
Aug
10

Five things we learnt from Man United’s victory

Berbatov- I always knew he'd come good...honest

Manchester United‘s fairly routine victory over newly-promoted Newcastle was hardly much of a surprise considering the gulf in class between the two teams. While Newcastle didn’t exactly roll over and die they hardly troubled last season’s title runners-up, so the question is what exactly did Monday’s night’s match tell us about Sir Alex Ferguson’s men? Scholes is still mint, Wazza’s not there yet, are just a couple of things that I noticed. Here’s a list of five things that the ‘return of Monday Night Football’ showed us about United.

1. There’s still life in the old guard. Paul Scholes produced the sort of passing masterclass that would have had Xavi tipping his hat in admiration. While his tackling is still diabolical- he recieved his almost olbigatory booking in the second half- the ginger one’s ability to pick out a killer ball is second to none. Scholes picked up from where he left off at the back end of last season, in fact it’s arguably where he’s actually been leaving off for the past 16 years, picking defences apart and dictating the pace of the game. When a commentator asked Fergie, if Scholes was actually getting better following his MOTM performance in the ‘Community’ Shield the United manager laughed: “We can dream”…..well maybe we can.
Scholes wasn’t the only member of the Old Trafford Dad’s Army to remind us of his class, Ryan Giggs’s small cameo was enough to add yet another feather to his bow this time in the form of extending his record of scoring in every season since the Premier league started- and a couple more before.
Surely rather than just United abolishing the number 11 shirt when Giggsy retires, the Premier League should also close down the competition as a mark of respect to the real-life version of Roy Race.

2. Wayne Rooney needs more games. It may sound like the opposite of what many have been saying over the past few months, but in reality Wazza looks short of match fitness rather than being tired. While he may have -accidentally- set up Darren Fletcher’s goal, Rooney’s passing, shooting and general play was far from what he’s capable of and the fact he’s now gone thirteen games for club and country without a goal, is one record the striker will not be looking to add to. Rooney also seems to be playing with less abandon, almost a little angrily- just ask Nani who was on the end of a rollicking for losing the ball rather than laying it off.
Being subbed is also something Rooney hates, even when he’s injured, but he may need a couple more 60-minuters to get him back in the swing of things- hopefully just in time for the visit of Liverpool in mid-september. It’s been a difficult time for last season’s PFA player of the year, and as soon as he can get settled back into his stride the sooner everyone -including me- can start drooling over him again- erm actually thats a scary thought, let’s just say ‘admiring him once more.’

3. Dimitar Berbatov is not a useless lazy b*stard. At some point almost every United fan has questioned whether Fergie needed his head testing for sticking with the Bulgarian, yet Monday night was an evening for those who defend him to point to as evidence of his value. Not only did Berbatov grab the opener but rumour has it he actually tracked back a few times as well, which almost caused several thousand simultaneous heart attacks inside Old Trafford. With Rooney not yet on top form United need someone to step up and its time for the Bulgarian to justify his manager’s faith.
The statement “There’s no questioning his ability” is one which almost exclusively is used as a pre-fix for every column devoted to United’s number nine but it’s true. Last night, despite a couple of wasteful efforts, Berbatov had the sort of game United need from him, keeping hold of the ball, passing it about nicely and getting on the scoresheet. While it wasn’t perfect it was a good start and if he continues the form he showed in pre-season and now United’s opener, then Berbatov may just silence his critics and make Fergie’s faith seem more than justified. Expect a lot of United fans to be claiming “I always knew he’d come good” if he does.

4. Javier Hernandez is not the second coming. Arguably the only shock of the evening was the fact that Chicharito didn’t get on the scoresheet. Despite looking lively and running his heart out, the Mexican’s 30 minutes on the Old Trafford pitch never really looked like producing a goal. Such was the hype surrounding Little Pea that almost every United fan- myself included- must’ve been expecting him to score within minutes. However he showed that while he’s obviously talented he is gonna need to time to get used to life in the Premiership, whether Fergie risks starting him in an upcoming game is doubtful, but with Rooney perhaps needing to be brought back to match fitness somewhat cautiously, Chicharito was may get a few more opportunities from the bench in the upcoming games. One things for certain regardles of whether he scores or not the crowd’s reaction to when he came onto the pitch shows that he’s certainly got the fans buzzing and hopefully the Solskjaer comparisons wont just stretch to getting I’D’d at the cinema.

5. The wings are rusty. While Rooney may not be anywhere near back to his usual best, the two wide men at times looked a little off the pace on Monday night with more than a few passes going astray. Although they were both still dangerous they weren’t at their best. While this hardly mattered against a Newcastle side that never truly got going, it would be a cause for concern against one of the top sides. Antonio Valencia’s showing in the ‘Community Sheild’ showed that he’s fit in physical terms and still a handful, but on Monday his control and distribution wasn’t quite up the high standards the superbly hair-styled one set last season. Nani was another player who didn’t quite look up to scratch, particularly considering that behind Scholes he was United’s best player at the back end of last season. While it’s hardly time to hit the panic button and submit that £45 mill bid for Frank Ribery, United need their wingers to be playing well this season if they’re to wrestle the title back from Stamford Bridge. A few more games should see both Nani and Valencia hitting top form- hopefully in time for the visit of a certain team from up the M62- or have I mentioned that already?