Archive for March, 2008

Bruce Grobbelaar school of goalkeeping…

Posted on March 30, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   1 Comment »

The art of goalkeeping is an art lost on some people, most noticeably the chap in the clip below. After the calamity antics and circus routine of Pepe Reina in last weeks 3-0 victory over Liverpool, this clip reminds me of all the great goalkeepers Liverpool have had over the years. This is perhaps one of the funniest goal keeping clips i’ve seen due to the sheer panic on the lad’s face as he comically runs around in circle losing complete understanding of where he is and what he is suppose to be doing!

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It’s just like watching Brazil..

Posted on March 27, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   2 Comments »

Now the furore of Sunday’s headline grabbing exploits by Mascherano have somewhat calmed, let’s take a minute to observe the “side issue” – the fact that Manchester United crushed Liverpool 3-0. In fact, extending the study a little more individual will show us that for the second time this season, Anderson performed while Gerrard was anonymous.

Back in October, everyone was forced to sit up and take notice of the young Brazilian when his performance at the Emirates put Cesc Fabregas firmly in the shadow – particularly considering that in the build up to the fixture, Fabregas was being hailed as “the best player in the world”. In December, Anderson was entrusted with shackling Steven Gerrard, but as before, the job description didn’t entirely reflect the actual performance, as it was Gerrard struggling to compete with the dominant ex-Porto star.

The stabilisers were off and when Fabregas travelled with Arsenal for an FA Cup tie in February, he was thoroughly outplayed and embarrassed by Anderson, to the point where Wenger had to take off the young Spaniard. Fast forward to last Sunday, and it was no longer a question of whether Anderson had to “contain” Gerrard.

No longer a question – a statement of the rapid development from arrival to dominant force – but this only serves to illustrate the major contrast of the perceived failure of South Americans at Old Trafford in the preceding generation. Seba Veron, Kleberson and Diego Forlan are all prime examples of quality footballers who never really settled in Manchester, the reason unclear, but the resultant message very clear – Fergie should not sign footballers from this continent. Excitement surrounding the possibility of the arrival of Ronaldinho from PSG in 2003 was met with anxiety considering the track record.

The reason for the transformation is not totally clear, but it is certain that Carlos Querioz has played a major part in it – Cristiano Ronaldo settling and now bursting through the stratosphere (indeed, Ronaldo’s presence is probably a key factor to the ease Nani and Anderson have settled) set a new blueprint and culture for Portuguese speaking footballers at Old Trafford.

Aside from Anderson, Carlos Tevez, too, has quickly taken to his new club – critics will say how he has looked jaded of late, but those same critics neglect to mention the fact he has played football without a break for almost a year, being thrust into this season from the off after injuries to Rooney and Saha. At the peak of his form in the Autumn, he was simply sensational, and though we still expect him to perform, it will be next season we should really expect him at his best again.

Nani has shown flashes of brilliance, particularly in the big games – his elevation is such that inclusion in the first XI in a big game would not be a surprise or a disappointment.

Rodrigo Possebon, a low key January signing, played the recent reserve fixture against Liverpool and Xavi Alonso like he was auditioning for a role of “Anderson v Fabregas, FA Cup” – (anyone thinking “Possebon..” Carlsberg style t-shirts? Copyright!), and at that sort of development pace he should be knocking on the door of the first team for at least a chance in pre-season.

Everyone had a chuckle when it was announced United had signed a pair of Brazilian twins, but in Fabio and Rafael we really have stolen a march on our rivals – Fabio was the much heralded U17 captain but plays at left back (strictly speaking, although watching him, you get the impression he can play at ease in most positions) so may not get a chance as quick as his brother, although both are right footed. Both were magnificent in the U17 World Cup last year, and play with the traditional Brazilian full-back saunter.

The good news gets better – none of this seems to be at the expense of our English core – Ben Foster is just about ready for the first team, Ferdinand and Brown are at their peaks, Hargreaves and Carrick will jostle for midfield positions for the next 4 or 5 years, and Wayne Rooney will hopefully have another generation leading the line. And better still, rather than the style of play changing, it feels like a 21st century makeover, but still stamped with the Manchester United trademark – dazzling wing play, flamboyancy and showmanship, all out attack, even defenders with a swagger and arrogance.

The “upgrade”, if you like, is the addition of the South American and Portuguese samba style – previously ineffectual but presently, slowly but surely, transforming (hopefully) this current United side into one that dominates for its second generation underneath Sir Alex, possibly and hopefully providing us with some of the best football ever seen in Britain.
The resolve of the side in recent weeks to get a last minute draw at Spurs and persist to get a win at Derby draw comparisons from the 99 side – and in Nani, Anderson, Ronaldo, we have an audacity that not even that all conquering side could match, save for some Ryan Giggs European night specials from 1997-2002. The kind of arrogance that the Theatre of Dreams became renowned for – think Best taking off his boot, think Eric either sticking his chest out or juggling the ball past City’s defence, think Giggs bewildering the Juventus defence, and now, think Ronaldo’s stepovers, think Anderson kicking dust in Gerrards face for 70 yards, think the sheer outrageous talent of Nani flicking the ball up, needing three Arsenal defenders to hack and kick at him just to stop the embarrassment. It’s the speed and flair of the 1994 team married (potentially) with the guts and resilience of the 1999 side.

It’s a tall order but it is the poser that has often been asked this season – indeed, even on this site – could this United side be the best ever? Well, maybe it could, but rather than that, maybe it’s just the natural transition of “the United way”.

The next 8 weeks will provide some answers to the above.

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Javier Masch-moano

Posted on March 24, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Liverpool, Man United   2 Comments »
Javier Masch-moano

At any level of any game of football you know that you’re going to get booked if you persistently question the referees decision – although Mascherano looked like he was on a mission to be sent off. He was rightfully booked for a wild challenge on Paul Scholes, which for some strange reason he continued to debate. Then shown a second yellow, followed by a red, for dissent. Of course Benitez and Mascherano stated that all he asked was ‘What was that for?’. I sense it’s the same defensive reaction of Matthew Simmons (the moronic Crystal Palace fan) who stated that he ran 22 rows, ran past fellow fans hurling them out of the way to shout ‘It’s an early bath for you Mr Cantona’ – Although I tend to believe that was more true than Mascherano’s pathetic explanation.

To be honest I think Mascherano is good player, a very good player who closes down well, is disciplined (usually) and can pass a ball. But if I was Benitez, I’d be livid with him. Of course you want to defend your player, but Mascherano continued to get involved with things that had nothing to do with him. The sending off incident actually was after Liverpool where awarded a freekick for a foul on Torres. Mascherano then took it upon himself to rage at Steve Bennett for booking Torres, who was also moaning. There were no biased decisions, there were no favours – Liverpool, more specifically Mascherano and Torres, were an embarrassment yesterday with regards to ‘toys out of the pram’. United were miles the better side and if it was not for the heroic of Reina , it would have been more.

Any player that plays football knows how frustrating it is when a ref doesn’t give you a decision OR pulls you up for something you believe was fair. What complaints can Mascherano have from yesterday? He hounded Bennett a good 5 or 6 times prior to actually being sent off. Regardless of the actions of Cole in the 4-4 draw with Spurs – Mascherano should still of been sent off as he was an absolute pain in the arse for the ref. As stated previously he looked like a man on a mission to be sent off and Steve Bennett was 100% correct in giving him his marching orders.

Mascherano at Old Trafford yesterday.
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Weekly Round up

Posted on March 17, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   1 Comment »
Weekly Round up

What an eventful week with Foster being flung into the first xi with the injury to Van Der sar and the suspension to Kuszack, it was meant to be an easy game for the 24 year old. Not so as Derby raised their game against United by 100% compared to the humiliating defeat against Chelsea in mid week. Foster played superb and although he has been quoted that he still expects a loan move, he really will have given Fergie a good problem with the title run in reaching its conclusion. To have the confidence, shot stopping ability and positioning as he did on Saturday for someone who has been out for eight months is top class and I’d like to think that he might be given a chance over the next few games.

So we get Roma again – admit Internet and pub rumours of the draw being rigged – and miss out on playing an English side. To be honest, i’m not too bothered as to who we play – I come from the school of thought that if you’re good enough you want to play the best. Sure you can get lucky, but then there is always the flip side of that you can become unlucky (1997 and 2002 spring to mind). Roma is a good draw but they are a good team – make not illusions this is a tough match and United will have to be on top gear to beat a side who disposed of Milan 2-1 on Sunday.

Lastly, we look forward to Liverpool who have been in a good run of form lately. Their last five results show a massive improvement on the side that were dumped out of the FA Cup by Barnsley:

Liverpool 2-1 Reading

Inter Milan 0-1 Liverpool (& the referee)

Liverpool 3-0 Newcastle

Liverpool 4-0 West Ham

Bolton 1-3 Liverpool

It makes for impressive reading and United will have to be cautious against a side who have obviously been lifted by having the pressure of competing in a number of competitions taken away from them. They have had good results recently but so have United and in Ronaldo, Tevez, Rooney and Anderson they have the four brightest young talents in Europe. Sure Torres is brilliant – we tried to sign him around seven times if you believe what you read – but Ferdinand tends to have his better games against fast quick strikers than he would do against a strong aggressive centre forward. He had the upper hand at Anfield and hopefully he will do at Old Trafford.

Massive game Sunday (obviously not forgetting the vitally important game against Bolton on Wednesday) and United will want a good win before watching Arsenal take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, a game in which, if United beat Liverpool, could be quite enjoyable for United supporters.

Rio loses out in the starring competition.
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Fergie! Give us a row! Fergie, Fergie give us a row!

Posted on March 10, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   No Comments »
Fergie! Give us a row! Fergie, Fergie give us a row!

At the end of the 90 minutes, Sir Alex Ferguson was left fuming at the performance of Martin Atkinson then proceeded to have a pop at the refereeing hierarchy in England. Now, the first thing people will do is have a go at Fergie for being ‘unprofessional’ and disrespectful to the officials and the opposition. If anyone, who wants to have a go at United or at Ferguson himself, should really analyse the facts and the game itself before assuming ‘arrogant United’.

United were far the better team on Saturday. Yes, of course a side can lose a game of football to an inferior team but then manner in which United did lose surely can’t measure the level of criticism the side has received for going out of the competition. United had 64% of the ball over the course of the 90 minutes and had 20 shots on goal. These shots came in the form of Carlos Tevez’s smashed drive cleared off the line by Johnson, Patrice Evra brushing the fingers tips of James and flies off the post or the inability of Carrick to convert the ball from a yard out (to be fair to him I don’t think it’s as bad as some fans made out). But United could not break down a Portsmouth side that played extremely well defensively.

However, had Martin Atkinson given the penalty to United in the first half after Distin’s bodycheck on Ronaldo, Portsmouth would have had to attack and inevitably would have played into United’s hands. Some rivals fans have mocked Fergie – trying to portray him as an raving lunatic to even question the decision. Atkinson got it wrong. There is no two ways about it, the ref got it wrong and should receive criticism from the manager who was affected by his actions. Why shouldn’t he be? Just because it is Fergie having a go? Nonsense! The referee was diabolical and if I made those types of decisions at my job I would be disciplined, right in the same way Atkinson should be.

This backs up Fergie comments, which have come under harsh abuse from respectable journalists, Henry Winter being one. Now Henry Winter is a superb journalist, articulate, creative, intelligent and above all interesting. Winter attacks Ferguson for criticising the official regardless of the fact that Fergie is 100% correct, instead focusing on the lunge by Wayne Rooney. This is the problem that occurs when an official doesn’t do his job correctly, players get frustrated and try to take the matter into their own hands. Thus Rooney jumping in like a maniac on Kranjcar.

So to conclude, fair play to Pompey, they defended well and all the best to them in the semi-finals, but to turn the game on its head and focus on Fergie is wrong. Some fans and writers were blaming Fergie for double standards, stating that he wouldn’t have said those things had it been for the other side or had United won the game….Of course he wouldn’t! What do you take him for!? I can see Fergie questioning the officials (maybe not as emotionally as Saturday) if we had won the game, but not for the other side – who in their right mind would? The FA Cup is over for another season, but United can take this as a positive and they can now concentrate on the Champions League and the League – A bitter blow to be out, but still not the same as the forced upon siege mentality of Liverpool as blogged previously!

Fergie now faces charges for venting an opinion.
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Media 4 Arsenal 4 eva

Posted on March 05, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Press   1 Comment »

Arsene Wenger must have some hold over the English press for the amount of paper coverage they receive. Manchester United who overcame a stubborn Lyon side might as well have not bothered to turn up to the press conference at all, as the ‘I love Wenger’ fan club was running riot in the streets of Milan. Sure Milan are a established club. Sure winning a last 16 tie and going through to the quarter finals is an achievement. But this is not a Milan side of past glories. Long gone are the days of Arrigo Sacchi achievements. Long gone are the days of Savicevic, Van Basten and Ruud Gullit. Lastly, long gone are the days of a Milan defense thats age totals 457 years old.

Ancelotti has been criticised for not planning ahead and rightfully so, look at where they are in Serie a! They’re in danger of not even getting a Champions League spot. But hold the back page, get out the medals, Arsenal are coming home. I’m surprised they haven’t set up a welcoming parade for their heroics in Milan.

There were two English teams playing yesterday in Europe and to be honest that Lyon side would have beaten that Milan side yesterday. Did Ronaldo’s 6 goals in the tournament get a mention? Nope. Did the fact that United remain unbeaten in 8 Champions league games this season get a mention? Nope. Just the media sucking up to Wenger. Fabregas now believes Arsenal can take on the world. It was this arrogance that failed to land them the treble in 2004, it was this arrogance that helped them throw away the Premiership in 2003 and it was this arrogance that will ultimately lead to another trophy less season. Although i’m sure that will be glossed over by the London media.

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