Posts Tagged ‘Valencia

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……………

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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?