Posts Tagged ‘rafael

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.

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01
Nov
10

Five things we learnt from Manchester United v Spurs.

Even from this view it was obvious the ref had not signalled a free kick

Even from this view it was obvious the ref had not signalled a free kick

Prior to Saturday’s game a Spurs fan I know called his team’s visit to Old Trafford, a ‘trip to the theatre of refs.’ While Mark Clattenburg may have helped cement that moniker in the minds of the Spurs faithful, there was a lot more to grasp from Saturday’s game than just Nani’s bizarre goal.

Before the game there was a lot of speculation surrounding which United right back would be given the unenviable task of marking Gareth Bale, who is now universally accepted as the greatest left winger in the history of world football.

Sir Alex Ferguson, who seems to love throwing Rafael Da Silva in at the deep end, chose the young Brazilian, and also gave former Spurs midfielder Michael Carrick a rare Premier League start.

With Chicharito starting alongside every Spurs fans favourite Bulgarian up front, the omens looked good for  an exciting and attacking game. With the likes of Rafael Van Der Vaart, who many United fans feel should have been wearing a Red shirt on Saturday and Luka Modric lining up for Spurs, then this game definitely did not have nil nil written anywhere near it.

So what did we learn from Saturday’s late kick off other than Rio Ferdinand is already suffering from the preferential treatment which seems obligatory for all England captains?

1. Ji-Sung Park is going nowhere. There’s been a lot of rumours that the South Korean Captain would be heading out of the Old Trafford door come the summer, or even January depending on who you believe. Park’s not had the best start to a season and with all this talk of a summer spending spree to placate Wayne Rooney’s need for bigger names at his next birthday party, many believed Park may sold.

However on Saturday Park showed what many United fans have known for a long time- that he’s one of the best squad players you could wish to have. He may not have the skill of a Nani or the pace of an Antonio Valencia, but he has the determination and energy of a fully fit Owen Hargreaves and was simply awesome on Saturday. Always willing to track back and get in a tackle, and carrying the ball forward and attacking the space with gusto, Park played like a man possessed. With Darren Fletcher- who I’ll get to later and Chicharito also seeming to think any loose ball was property of Manchester United, the Spurs players had their work cut out all afternoon.

Throw in a great run and shot that hit the post early on in the game and you can call it one of Park’s best performances for some time.

2.  Michael Carrick, where have you been? A few days ago on this very site, I labelled Carrick, along with Park, one of the most underrated United players of all-time. At the time of writing I had to acknowledge it may have seemed an unpopular choice as Carrick had been going through arguably his worst spell at Old Trafford and still hadn’t seemed to recover from the Bayern Munich game. Saturday’s performance however was exactly what Carrick is capable of and should be doing week in week out. Carrick seemed to grow in confidence as the game wore on and benefited from having a Scottish terrier alongside him who was willing to do a lot of the running. Carrick’s never been the sort of high octane player like a Fletcher, Hargreaves or a Roy Keane and sometimes he gets unfairly judged because of that.

It was his sloppiness that had been the reason for most of his criticism at the back end of last season and probably cost him his chance of replacing Gareth Barry in the England side for the Word Cup.

Saturday’s game was an example of what Carrick can do, quietly going about his job, passing the ball about nicely and always giving his team mates an option. Carrick remained fairly disciplined as well knowing when to venture forward and when to sit back knowing the dangers that the Spurs midfield possessed. It may not have been the sort of performance that has you drooling and screaming his name- hopefully not at the same time, but if Carrick can do it consistently then like Park, talk of a summer transfer may be premature.

3. Dimitar Berbatov is entitled to an off day. The same fixture last season saw many in the crowd at Old Trafford on Berbatov’s back almost before he touched the ball. This time round Berbatov had arguably his worst performance of the season but everyone seemed to accept this is going to happen. While his touch may have let him down and he seemed to spend more time arguing with Nani than linking up with him, Berbatov is not considered the lazy waste of money and space, he was at times last season and there’s no doubt that he’ll put this off day behind him and be back on song soon.

The fact the supporters are now forever in love with him thanks to a hat trick against the relegation battlers from down the M62 means that unlike last season, one or two mistakes, or even one or two off days won’t have everyone calling for his head.

4. Darren Fletcher could be the difference. If United are to win the title then they’re going to need more performances like this from the Scottish skipper. Fletcher was awesome, with the sort of energised display that Bryan Robson or Roy Keane would have been proud of. Fletcher played as though it was a cup final, battling for every ball, chasing seemingly lost causes and never shying away from tackles. Everyone knows that Fletcher is capable of this type of performance- just ask Cesc Fabregas- but he seems to only save it for the special occasions.

If Fletcher can emulate this showing week in week, then United would have a far better chance of regaining the title. Too many times this season Fletcher’s seemed subdued slightly and not always managed to get to grips with certain games. As he showed on Saturday  Fletcher’s one of the best midfielders in Europe on his day and if he pulls out the ‘barnstorming displays’ more regularly then United could be going one better than last season.

5. ‘Running down the pitch don’t know which one’s which viva Da Silva’. Rafael could have been forgiven if he’d have struggled to get to grips with Bale, after all he’s not exactly been United’s first choice right back this season. However no one bothered to tell Rafael how amazing, awe-inspiringly wonderful Bale was, as the young defender did an admirable job of marking the ‘Welsh wonder’, Ryan Giggs should have trademarked that name when he had the chance, out of the game. Although Bale did have one good run and shot, which was more down the middle than down the left wing, he was nowhere near as dangerous as he has been at times this season.

Rafael even had the audacity to get forward now and again causing Bale to have to track back and help deal with him- the cheek. Rafael is far from the finished article and was subbed after an hour for Wes Brown- who got a massive cheer when he went through Peter Crouch. But as Saturday showed, he’s got a bright future ahead of him and is not afraid of taking on the world’s best wingers.

30
May
10

United’s youngsters end of season reports

Welbeck and Macheda- in happier times

With the season now well and truly done and dusted, there’s already been the post-mortem/transfer rumours/endless advice for Sir Alex Ferguson as everyone and his wife tries to see where it went wrong for United.

One idea that’s not been given as much credence as others is the notion that Ferguson should turn to his youngsters next season as United attempt to ‘win their trophy back.’
The problem is, as a happy-go-lucky MOTD pundit once prophesised ‘you don’t win anything with kids.’ That may have been the most infamously erroneous statement in football history but can we expect to see youth be given a chance next season at Old Trafford?
While its unlikely that Fergie will put the sort of trust in his younger players that he did in 1995/96 there are a few who’ve made genuine claims to become members of the first-team.
Let’s have a look at how some of them have fared and just what are their chances of actually making the grade.

Rafael Da Silva- At 19 years of age, Rafael has already shown enough potential to have many pundits claiming he may just be the heir-apparent to Gary Neville’s right back slot. With injuries plaguing both Wes Brown- who was mainly used as a centre back anyway and John O’shea Rafael found himself making sixteen appearances for United last season. While that is actually less than the previous season he has been plunged in at the deep end with mixed results. It’s in the Champion’s League that the Brazilian came under more pressure and scrutiny and many will cite his sending off against Bayern Munich as the turning point in United’s entire campaign. While he is still guilty of occasional rash challenges- City 1st leg at Eastlands- he is still obviously an extremely talented player. Better at going forward than he is at defending, there are signs that he is improving in both departments and if he can stop getting himself and United needlessly into trouble he looks as though he could make the grade and give the team an Evra-type at right back.
Rafael is progressing unlike his twin Fabio who’s despatched with the Keiron Richardson type hair do- and has only made three appearances for United this season as injuries have blighted his chances.
Grade- B minus – Tries hard, and has obviously got potential, just needs to channel his aggression in the right way on occasion.
Another future Patrice Evra- only at right back of course- a heavy mantle to lay on anyone but skilful quick and confident, if he works on his defensive shortcomings he could be the Brazilian Patrice.

Jonny Evans- It seems a bit daft labelling Evans a youngster seeing as he’s been a semi-regular fixture in United’s defence for two seasons now. At 22 though he is still fairly young and has arguably been United’s best youth product of the past decade. With 31 appearances last season- eight more than Rio Ferdinand, Evans has had to play more games than he really should have as Nemanja Vidic has also suffered with his share of injuries. Evans has been immense for United in many games and although he can occasionally be guilty of the odd lapse- erm just as Rio can really- he’s looking more and more like a magnificent defender. His stamp on Didier Drogba which inexplicably saw the Ivorian booked at Stamford Bridge also gave us one of the season’s funniest moments. If I were to be overly fussy then perhaps using his height at the other end of the pitch and threatening from corners would be a useful addition to his locker of talents but it’s a minor quibble in what’s been a great season for ‘the boy’ as Fergie calls him- along with every other United player regardless of age.
Grade- A minus – Fulfilling his early promise and becoming an integral part of the team.
Another future- Gary Pallister – well timed tackles and looking comfortable on the ball with a slight nit-picking criticism that a man of his height could grab at least the odd goal from a corner.

Darron Gibson – With 26 appearances and five goals to his name, it would appear that Gibson is settling into the first-team at United quite well. The same age as Evans the Republic of Ireland midfielder has found himself in the starting line up for some big games lately in both Europe and the Premiership. With a fierce shot and the confidence to use it, the best Gibson to ever play for United- Colin and Terry were sh*te- is putting forward a decent -ish claim to be Paul Scholes’s rightful heir. Then why am I not totally convinced? The thing that strikes me about Gibson is that sometimes, other than his shooting ability which is impressive rather than awesome he doesn’t always seem to influence games enough. Again, I may be being overly critical but there’s still a niggling doubt in my mind as to whether he is quite a Manchester United player. I hope I’m wrong as if Gibson does improve he could well do for United what Frank Lampard does for Chelsea. Next season is probably make-or-break for him.
Grade- B – Decent goal return and does seem to be going in the right direction, just a few nagging doubts over whether he is capable of moving up a gear.
Another future- Brian McClair- post 1992- could be accused of looking a bit slow at times but tries hard and chips in with goals.

Anderson – Everyone’s favourite Predator impersonator has had a mixed season to say the least. Sterling early season performances against the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham- where he finally broke his league goal scoring duck seemed to indicate Anderson was becoming the player we knew he could when he made Black Lace fashionable again – sort of.
However the United wheels looked like coming off for the man who’d never looked like missing his 2008 CL final penalty, after a supposed bust-up with Fergie. Apparently Fergie had dished out the hairdryer treatment to the youngster following his inept display against Manchester City in the Carling Cup first leg. This act of playful Scottish banter didn’t go down too well with ‘r Andy who supposedly did what is compulsory for all Brazilian footballers and disappeared back to his homeland without so much as goodbye note. While rumours of his imminent sale did the rounds, Anderson returned to Old Trafford and was back in the first-team for all of twenty minutes before a season-ending injury. Like Gibson next season could well be his make-or-break one as its time for him to step up and fulfil his early promise.
Grade C minus- Must try harder as it may be time for him to go elsewhere regardless of his potential.
Another future – Nicky Butt- good at tackling and getting stuck in, probably not a United-career type but hopefully will provide a good few seasons worth.

Gabriel Obertan – With only ten appearances for the first team it does seem a little premature to be giving the Frenchman any form of appraisal but I feel we’ve seen enough to expect him to figure a lot more next season so why not? Obertan is one of the few United players who’s been talked about for what he’s done for the reserves- including a cracker against Liverpool, as his performances for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have often prompted Fergie to promote him. When in the first team Obertan has shown that he has skill in abundance and an energy that could well be utilised next season- most probably as a substitute. The pacy winger may well be given more than a season to prove himself as with Nani, Antonio Valencia not to mention Ryan Giggs and Ji Sung Park all ahead of him, he may have to make do with cameos to show his worth. While hardly setting Old Trafford alight, Obertan has made a decent start to his United career and looks very promising. If he can survive the rigours of English football, the Clairefontaine graduate may be the surprise package for Fergie next season.
Grade C plus- A solid start, and shows a willingness to try and get involved which will stand him in good stead at Old Trafford.
Another future- Nani or David Bellion only time will tell whether he can be the sort of livewire that his Portuguese colleague is- I’m a big fan, or he goes the way of Bellion and simply doesn’t have what it takes.

Danny Welbeck – Two seasons ago Welbeck appeared to be one of the few youth team strikers who’ve gone on to make it in United’s first team. Impressive displays earned him a start in the 2009 Carling Cup final, as the confident youngster made his case for being a valuable squad member. However fast forward to recent times, and things aren’t going quite as well for the Longsight-born lad. After being loaned out to Preston as Darren Ferguson’s first signing- nepotism? Never- Welbeck seemed to be making progress as he grabbed a couple of goals in his first few games. However a knee injury scuppered his chances of making further progress ending his season eight games in. When it comes to his performances for United, I can’t shake the feeling that he’s just not quite good enough, even though to be fair he has been used inexplicably as a winger for the first team on more than one occasion. Welbeck also has a problem with greediness, which while you’d expect it from a nineteen year-old striker, can at times frustrate. Whether Welbeck will be given more first-team chances next season remains to be seen, but he may find himself out on loan again.
Grade C minus- Seemed to have stagnated slightly after successful first season and injury prevented him proving his worth.
Another future -Frazier Campbell- sneaky feeling he may end up loaned-out until it becomes permanent.

Frederico Macheda – Despite an injury ravaged season that’s seen the Italian make only a handful of first team appearances, it’s still obvious he’s got a lot to offer. A perfectly legitimate goal against Chelsea -unlike the previous one scored in that game which was a disgraceful exhibition of linesman-ing incompetence – is all Macheda’s got to show for his efforts but its still at least something. While he’s not really improved on the previous season- to be fair though he did practically win United the league with his winner against Aston Villa so it was a tough act to follow, Kiko’s still shown glimpses of his class and I for one truly believe he’s got what it takes to make it at Old Trafford. At the age of 18 time is well and truly on his side. Fergie may use him sparingly next season but the potential is there for everyone to see.
Grade- C plus- Despite all his injury problems, the impact he made against Chelsea is enough to show that he’s still the real deal.
Another future – Ruud Van Nistelrooy- may not be at Old Trafford forever but I expect a lot of goals before he leaves.