Archive for December, 2008 2008 review

Posted on December 30, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Announcements, Awards, Man United   3 Comments » 2008 review

As we approach 2009 there is much to reflect on over the past year – which for me personally has been truly amazing. Having got married and had a superb stag do in Newcastle (not in that order) it was left up to Ryan Giggs and Edwin Van der Sar to make the month of May the best time of my life.

So, still being on a high from this monumental season, I want to take a look back at the moments and people that made this year so special in the history of Manchester United. From the despair of losing 2-1 to Chelsea in late April to the hysteria of beating them in May and even to the last gasp Nemanja Vidic goal against Sunderland recently – its been an amazing year!

Player of the year – Rio Ferdinand

Most other websites and blogs would give it to Ronaldo hands down and in terms of performance and importance to the side – he does win hands down. However, his immaturity and total disregard for the club in the summer means that I just can’t give the award to the lad. I’m sure i’ll get criticised immensely for not placing him as my number one man but I just can’t after his role in the summer transfer to Real Madrid. Ever since I first set eyes on Ronaldo, I knew the boy had it all – he just now needs to be a tad more humble – which may come in time. However, my player of 2008 at United is Rio Ferdinand.

Ferdinand, in my eyes, in the best defender in Europe from both a physical point of view and also technical point of view. Rio is happy to bring the ball out of defense and join in with play going forward. He is also extremely quick in identifying danger – whereas when he was younger he would have used his pace and strength to cover for the movement of top strikers – he has now added this to his armory.

Ferdinand has found, in Nemanja Vidic, a defender who complements him superbly – although in terms of heading the ball out of danger – Ferdinand has again improved immensely. I always felt that Rio played very well against faster players who where technically gifted rather than against target men such as Drogba or Ferguson. You now feel confident that Rio can marshal any top forward from around Europe and he has come a long way from the ‘Rio sign the deal’ days.

Game of season – Manchester United 1-0 Barcelona

It was written in the stars that United would get to Moscow and having to overcome, quite possibly, the best passing team in Europe, without Wayne Rooney, was a monumental achievement. We witnessed one of the great goals scored at Old Trafford by Paul Scholes and you could hear the spirits of Juventus in 99 quietly diminishing as he struck the shot past Valdes. As we all know Scholes missed the final in 99 and it was so satisfying to see him rocket us to the final and Fergie declare that he was to be the first name on the teamsheet.

It was such a tense night – with the Manchester crowd in full flow and we got to the final after some nerve wracking final minutes. A Barcelona goal would have put us out and destroy the dream of the Double – however thanks to Scholes it just was meant to be that United would make the final!

Other superb performances include that first half in Moscow, the 4-0 drumming of Arsenal, the 6-0 victory over Newcastle United, the 3-0 victory over Liverpool and recently the 2-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers.

Goal of the season – Ronaldo freekick against Portsmouth

Quite literally, jaw dropping technique used to get the ball over the wall and into the top left hand corner (of David James) of the net. Breathtaking strike, which really cannot be downplayed – this goal deserves all the superlatives it received and will do for a long time. The freekick, I believe, had the same impact on football that the Roberto Carlos freekick had a decade and a half earlier when he scored against France in 1997. Ronaldo proved that he could score goals with his head, left foot, right foot, one on one, outside the box and from set pieces. Glorious goal.

Other goals worth mentioning are the Owen Hargreaves freekick against Arsenal in the 2-1 victory in April, Ronaldo’s goal against Roma in Rome, Scholes’ goal against Barcelona at Old Trafford and Danny Welbeck at Old Trafford against Stoke City.

Conclusion to an amazing season

So there you have it!’s pick of 2008 from a quite brilliant year. Noticeable mention for Jonny Evans who has been brilliant this season and I think he will go on to become a top class centre half.

Also a mention for the man of the year – Sir Alex Ferguson – couldn’t be anyone else could it? He has shown that he is a true genius that will go down as the greatest manager to have worked in England. He has evolved with the changes demanded by modern day football – a process that nearly every other manager fails with. Sir Alex is a legend of the game and legend of Old Trafford. Remember the crap the media where spouting around 2004/05/06 about that he had ‘lost it’ and that ‘United need to get rid of him to move forward’? Well done Fergie.
Do you agree with our selections? Do you disagree at all? Please state – i’m sure the player of season will rattle some people.

Other than that – have a great New Year and have a great night out tomorrow!

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Match Report: Manchester United 1-0 Middlesbrough

Posted on December 30, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Match Reports, Middlesbrough   1 Comment »
Match Report: Manchester United 1-0 Middlesbrough

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Manchester United created a number of chances in the 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough at Old Trafford on Monday night – but missed a number of glorious opportunities in the process.

United have now not conceded a Premier League goal since the 2-1 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates in November. However, United have only scored nine goals in the seven Premier League games that followed – five of those coming in the same game against Stoke City. United’s defensive record will please Fergie, however the number of chances that are being missed will most surely have the gaffer concerned.

United created a number of glorious opportunities against Middlesbrough but failed to take a number of them with Ronaldo being the biggest culprit. For the second time in two games Ronaldo has failed to deliver, although it should be said that the treatment dished out to him was extremely harsh and Emanuel Pogatetz needs to realise that he can’t grapple people around the throat.

Ronaldo appears a shadow of his former self in front of goal having scuffed a left footed shot past the keeper’s near hand post whilst absolutely miscuing a low cross that trickled out for a throw on. There is no doubt the European Footballer of the year will be back to his best during the business end to the season but against Stoke and again against Middlesbrough he was well below his usual standards.

Rooney also had a superb opportunity to opening the scoring at the end of the first half with a sublime left foot half volley which was superbly saved by the Middlesbrough keeper. Berbatov also looked lively, constantly creating openings and showing close control when under pressure from a number of defenders. The United defense was rarely tested in the first half with the only threat coming from free kicks on the half way line – not something you would call a goal scoring opportunity at Old Trafford.

The second half saw the introduction of Scholes and Neville for Fletcher and Rafael. A good move by Ferguson to withdraw Fletcher, who wasn’t having a poor game – however the creative guile and skill of Scholes was needed. Scholes made an immediate impact laying off some beautiful passes and showing why his recovery from injury is like signing another World Class midfielder. Scholes plans to retire in 2010 – hopefully he can play for as long as his legs will let him.

The goal came in the 69th minute when Berbatov played the ball in Park who had to check back inside and back heel the ball into the path of the overlapping Carrick. Carrick tried to cross the ball, which was blocked by a good defensive tackle. The ball dropped just outside the area on the left and Carrick then proceeded to swivel and drop the ball on the six yard line which was comically dealt with by David Wheater. The ball then bounced and fell into the path of Berbatov, who had started the move, before being lashed into the goal on the half volley.

United could have scored a second had Ji-Sung Park not missed from a yard out. The Korean international was saved by an offside flag – however television replays show that the midfielder was actually on side. Fergie famously said that leaving Park out of his Champions League final squad in place of Nani was one of the hardest things he ever had to do considering the honest displays the Korean always puts in. However, he also stated that he felt ‘Nani had a goal in him’ – which isn’t one of Park’s strong points. He will be hoping that his impressive displays, bar goalscoring, will be rewarded by a new contract. Carlos Tevez on the other hand won’t be so straight forward.

Sir Alex Ferguson will be pleased with his sides defensive display, even without the influential Rio Ferdinand – who will also miss the Southampton trip through injury. However, he will be concerned with the fact that, bar the Stoke City home game, the side have scored four goals in the last six Premier League games. With Chelsea coming up on the 11th, and United needing to beat the Londoners to close the gap on Liverpool, the gaffer will be hoping Rooney, Berbatov and especially Ronaldo can rediscover their goalscoring form.

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Ronaldo & Fergie awarded but not United!

Posted on December 29, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Awards, Man United, Managers, Players   No Comments »
Ronaldo & Fergie awarded but not United!

2008 has been an amazing year for the club, the manager and the players that played such an epic part in the double winning year.  However, World Soccer magazine has announced that Cristiano Ronaldo is their World Player of the year, Sir Alex Ferguson is World manager of the year whilst Spain are given the award of team of the year for their exploits at the European Championships this summer.

Maybe a tad biased but surely United should have been awarded this?  Yes it is a democracy and people can vote for who they want – but surely a season long campaign outweighs a brilliant summer performance?  I would be fine with Spain winning the award and considered the best team of 2008, after all I thought they were a joy to watch and proved that you can have four very technical players operating in the midfield and it was certainly a victory for possession football, but they won with nearly half the votes!  I would argue it should have been much closer than that!

Anyhow – here are the votes and who won what.  A mention for young Anderson who featured in the young player of the year award – as soon as he gets that first goal they’ll be flying in!

World Player of the Year 

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo 48.4%
  2. Lionel Messi 15.1
  3. Fernando Torres 13.6%
  4. Iker Casillas 5.7%
  5. Xavi 5.1%
  6. David Villa 2.1%
  7. Andrei Arshavin 1.4%
  8. Marcos Senna 0.7%
  9. Franck Ribery 0.6%
  10. Zlatan Ibrahimovic 0.5%
  11. Others 6.8%

World Manager of the year

  1. Sir Alex Ferguson 37.8%
  2. Luis Aragones 28.8%
  3. Dick Advocaat 17.1%
  4. Hassan Shehata 3.5%
  5. Guus Hiddink 2.8%
  6. Cesare Prandelli 1.4%
  7. Faith Terim 1.2%
  8. Muricy Ramalho 0.9%
  9. Phil Brown 0.8%
  10. Roberto Mancini 0.5%
  11. Others 5.2%

Team of the year

  1. Spain 41.1%
  2. Manchester United 29.2%
  3. Zenit St Petersburg 9.1%
  4. LDU Quito 5.8%
  5. Egypt 4.4%
  6. CFR Cluj 1.2%
  7. Argentina 1.1%
  8. Hoffenheim 0.9%
  9. Russia 0.8%
  10. Anorthosis Famagusta 0.6%
  11. Other 5.8%

Young Player of year

  1. Lionel Messi 44.2%
  2. Sergio Aguero 20.1%
  3. Karim Benzema 10.2%
  4. Cesc Fabregas 5.3%
  5. Anderson 2.8%
  6. Pato 2.1%
  7. Bojan Krkic 1.4%
  8. Theo Walcott 1.1%
  9. Sebastian Giovinco 0.9%
  10. Carlos Vela 0.6%
  11. Others 11.3%

So there you have it!  The World Soccer player of the year awards place United as the 2nd best team of 2008 with Ronaldo and Fergie top in their categories.  Was pleased to see exciting youngsters such as Aguero and Benzema in the young player of the year awards and I think that Aguero has a bright, bright future ahead of him…..considering he will soon have Diego Maradona as his father in law!

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Ryan Giggs to play at Left back for the next few games?

Posted on December 27, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Players, Tactics   7 Comments »
Ryan Giggs to play at Left back for the next few games?

We’ve seen him running up and down that left touchline at Old Trafford for nearly two decades now. He has supported the likes of Cantona, McClair, Hughes, Cole and VanNistelrooy up top whilst also covering and helping out with defensive duties for Blackmore, Irwin, Neville, Silvestre, Henize and now Evra.

Ryan Giggs knows that left side pretty well and what is expected from him in both and attacking and defensive sense. Fergie through caution to the wind against Stoke City on Boxing day in order to get that break through goal – it worked – whilst also highlighting the fact that because of Ronaldo on the left, Stoke City were so deep they rarely threaten down our left hand side in the second half. Remember Giggs was deployed at left back a full eight minutes prior to Wilkinson taking a swipe at Ronaldo.

United’s next three games are against Middlesbrough, Southampton and Derby (the two latter fixtures in the Cup). Would you put Giggsy in at left full back or stick with John O’shea? I thought Fergie was spot on the money deploying Berbatov for the final 25 minutes and dropping Giggs back – they had absolutely nothing from the right so why not sacrifice a defender for an attacking whilst placing an experienced left winger as a left back? Giggs is still fit enough to get up and down that wing, put in a tackle and also offer an attacking threat – so why not play him at left back against the three teams mentioned prior to the Chelsea game on the 11th?

Not that this is of the same tactical innovative thinking as Carlos Bilardo, who in 1986 adopted a 3-5-2 for the finals – where many of his counterparts felt he had made a monumental error in omitting full backs. The Argentine’s thinking was that as a number of teams played with two central playmakers and two holding midfielders – the need for fullbacks to mark wingers didn’t exist – thus the creation of the 3-5-2 formation. Using the same principle – if Boro, Southampton and (assuming he plays) Derby are scared stiff of Ronaldo being in a one on one situation – why not play Giggsy in a fullback role?

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Match Report: Stoke City 0-1 Manchester United

Posted on December 27, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Match Reports, Stoke City   No Comments »
Match Report: Stoke City 0-1 Manchester United

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Carlos Tevez’s late, late goal captured all three points for Manchester United against a battling Stoke City.

The diminutive Argentinian added the Brittania Stadium to the ever increasing list of venues where he has broken the hearts of the host clubs supporters, at the same time giving a very timely reminder to the powers that be at Old Trafford of his priceless value in these situations.

Tevez’s goal rescued the Red Devils as Stoke stuck to a game plan that had served them so well – Thomas Sorensen made good saves to deny Rooney, Tevez and Scholes but the Potters were hardly under the cosh until Andrew Wilkinson concluded his personal battle with Ronaldo 20 minutes early – being sent off for a second yellow.

Sir Alex Ferguson threw Berbatov on for O’Shea and the lanky Bulgarian was largely anonymous until he picked up on a Neville pass, mis hit a shot, and Carlos Tevez as there to hammer home the winner.

Ronaldo almost scored a free kick but a second would have been harsh on Stoke even if United did just enough to deserve the win.

In terms of immediate result Tevez’s goal means just 3 points but in terms of timing and momentum the true value of the strike may (just as it did last season) only become apparent in a month or so.


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Christmas Greetings for 2008 from

Posted on December 24, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   No Comments »

What a year it has been – aside from 1999, 2008 has been the most successful year in the history of Manchester United and has seen countless additions to the annals of the great club we support.

In February we paid rememberance to those who perished in Munich 50 years previous, welcoming City to Old Trafford. Fortunately the result was eventually irrelevant! Kudos were given at the time to our neighbours for their impeccable behaviour and respect both through the club and its supporters. That kudos should be afforded again on reflection, for one afternoon at least it truly was a “City United”.

Of course then our current squad set upon the task of making themselves legends in their own right. A last minute Tevez goal in Lyon, a Paul Scholes trademark thunderbolt (now at a limit of one per season) saved especially for Barcelona, and Ryan Giggs becoming the all time record appearance holder for United on the night he scored the (eventual) winning penalty to win the European Cup. The joyous flair of the likes of Rooney, Anderson and the best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored a thousand goals as we won back to back league titles. Oh yeah, and all time legend Giggs netting in the title clincher, too. A record unbeaten European run. Then to top it off Wayne Rooney making himself big in Japan by running riot to win the World Club Cup.

Moments that not only stand out from the year but also serve to contribute to the rich tapestry and tradition of Manchester United in the vein that is so difficult to describe but so easy to recognise. Sir Alex has certainly placed his troops in a position of strength after overcoming a tricky fixture list, and though it may be wishful thinking to believe that 2009 can be anywhere near as successful, if anyone can do it, it’s Sir and United.

Outside United it’s certainly been an entertaining year. Seeing another Liverpool title challenge falter, and watching their current one border on destruction due to self confidence issues, having City in the bottom three and probably most gratifying of all for a United fan deriving pleasure from other clubs misfortunes – seeing Real Madrid go from attempting to assert their “power club” muscles over Sir Alex, to seeing them out of the title race before Christmas, hiring one of the worst coaches in Premier League history and being linked with moves for the likes of Aaron Lennon, Didier Zokora, and now, according to Christmas Eve’s Daily Mail, being turned down by Jermaine Pennant. Yes, THAT Jermaine Pennant. Oh, how the mighty of fallen. It’s been disappointing to see three former Red midfield heavyweights lose their jobs (Robson, Keane and Ince), though exciting to see a former Red midfield lightweight (sorry, Sir!) Darren Ferguson doing so well at Peterbrough.

On a personal note, too, it’s certainly been an eventful year. I joined Stretford-End in October 2007 and was soon invited to contribute to the site – as time has passed I have become more and more involved. This really marks around the anniversairy of my start of contributions.

It’s not everyday you are given the opportunity to join an already established and respected fan site and given, essentially, the trust to be carte blanche with my thoughts. And what a time to do it – as I previously said, the second most successful year in the history of the club. It’s been a pleasure to work with Andy (stretford-end) over this period and I am proud to not only call him an “e-colleague”, but also a friend.

I want to thank everyone who has read and / or commented whether it’s been good, bad or indifferent – and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and the best of New Years.


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Match Report: Liga de Quito 0-1 Man Utd

Posted on December 21, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Match Reports, World Club Championship   No Comments »
Match Report: Liga de Quito 0-1 Man Utd

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Manchester United became the 2008 World Club Champions after beating Copa Libertadores Champions, Liga de Quito, in the final in Japan – although the sending off of Nemanja Vidic was the only downside.

United totally dominated the game from start to finish with Wayne Rooney giving a masterclass in movement and making so many intelligent runs, the Liga de Quito defense were run ragged. Rooney latched on to a number of superb Michael Carrick passes and tested the Ecuadorian keeper José Francisco Cevallos. Rooney two best chances resulted in two superb saves to stop United’s number 10 from opening the scoring.

The best chance in the early part of the half actually fell to the South American champions who worked a smart freekick from the left hand side and Argentinian play maker Manso swung in a low cross to only see Jairo Campos miss the target. It really was the closest the South American’s came to opening the scoring.

Anderson was dogged in midfield showing why he is can soon be considered an all round midfield with his constant harrying and pursuing of the opposition when they had the ball and his creative thinking when opening up chances for Rooney. His passes and moves very quickly and as soon as he becomes more prolific in front of goal – it will be hard to dislodge him from the midfield – although the night belonged to Wayne Rooney.

Early in the second half United were down to ten men due to a foolish off the ball incident involving Nemanja Vidic. Vidic clashed with Claudio Bieler and whilst both players were on the floor – the Serb swung an elbow in the face of the Argentinian forward – he had to go . The only problem for United now is that he will miss the first leg clash between Manchester United and Inter Milan out in Italy.

Ronaldo continued to raise the crowd, who were overjoyed to see his showboating and skills as he glided across the Yokohama pitch. Carrick was once again showing as to why he can be considered one of the best passers in Europe and was unlucky that he did not get more assists to his name after some sublime through balls.

The goal came on the seventy-third minute when Wayne Rooney curled a superb shot passed the thirty seven year old keeper who could not get near the placed shot. United were well worth the goal and should have won this game by a lot more than the 1-0 margin. It was only right that Wayne Rooney was crowned most valuable player of the tournament.

Gary Neville and Darren Fletcher came on for the last seven minutes but the game was already won and United were crowned Champions of the World in a tournament that has received some criticism over the past week. United came out and did what they had to do and can now look forward to a boxing day clash with Stoke City who will be hoping to avenge a 5-0 thrashing from November.

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Rating: 0 (from 0 votes) beat the Guardian, Yolkie rant & Cantona lazy? Never!

Posted on December 18, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Press   3 Comments » beat the Guardian, Yolkie rant & Cantona lazy? Never!

Off the back of being quite chuffed with myself having compared the ‘potential signing’ (at the time) of Berbatov to the 2001 signing of Veron (where we maybe had a little too many cooks) in our August blog and seeing the Guardian do the exact same four months later made me post my smugness in our forum. The blog went on to discuss the need for shape, the need to sell VanNistelrooy for both the club and player and referred in depth to the 4-6-0 formation – honestly it exists!
Little did I know that serial ranter – Yolkie – was hot on the heels of Rob Smyth and spoke in disgust at Smyth’s comparison of the moody Bulgarian with Le Roi himself – Cantona. You can read Yolkie’s rant either at our forum or indeed below. So what do you think? Berbatov just like Eric? Did Cantona actually work hard or was he more the ‘right place, right time’ kinda guy?

Yolkie attacks Smyth (Not literally):

Now now now.. I hate getting out my “anti-media soapbox” and jumping on it, but this is ridiculous.

First of all – Cantona, equally still ??? Do I have too romantic a view? Was Cantona not a hard worker? Did I invent the memory of the header off the line in the 96 FA Cup semi final? Do I wrongly recall, as captain, Eric being vocal?

But that’s nothing compared to Rob Smyth’s comment of “running after defenders when he wanted to maim them”. There’s nowhere you can email Rob and I don’t wish to register to make the comment.

Cantona was no angel and he got involved in his fair share of scuffles, but “running after someone to maim them” ?? Surely this is slander?

Regardless of this, this is the type of journalist who doubtless paints Bergkamp as some kind of serene figure of poise and perfection when he was sent off FOUR times for Arsenal and was never too long between a kick or an elbow that went unpunished.

And finally, it may be mere semantics, but “invariably produced when it mattered”.

If, by invariably, you mean “possibly the most significant impact by any single player for any club in the history of the English game (and maybe the modern European game)” then I might take that on board.

A player who was the catalyst for a title winning run in 92/93, a player whose sparkling form illuminated a double winning run in 94 (scoring in the Cup Final twice), a return in 1996 which was arguably greater than his 94 contribution, and a season through 96/97 in which he was panned but yet still scored one of the most iconic goals in Premier League history and inspired the breakthrough performance for “Fergie’s fledglings” in Europe against Porto – not only this, but a player who revolutionised training at United and consequently in England by “staying behind to practice”, a player whose presence on the pitch inspired the maverick, attitude and “United way” in youngsters such as Beckham, Scholes and Giggs with an influence that still stands today, surely cannot be labelled with making an “invariable contribution”.

In the big games, in the crucial games, Cantona always delivered, be it with a goal or an assist. This is borne by the fact that in every full season he played, United won the title, and his absence is the reason we didn’t win 5 in a row.

His one truly ineffective performance was against Dortmund in 1997 – even then, he came within a defenders boot of equalising – but is this enough to describe his contribution as “invariable”??

You can say whatever you want about Cantona, but a lazy, maiming inconsistent luxury?

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Match Report: Manchester United 5-3 Osaka Gamba

Posted on December 18, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Match Reports, World Club Championship   No Comments »
Match Report: Manchester United 5-3 Osaka Gamba

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In the battle between the European and Asian Champions League winners it was the Western representatives that won through to Sunday’s World Club Championship Final, but the Japanese side Gamba Osaka gave a spirited performance.

Manchester United fielded a strong side despite being robbed of the services of Berbatov through illness and Rooney (at least as a starter) through injury and started the semi final with clear intent – Cristiano Ronaldo, subject of renewed transfer rumours coming from Real Madrid, was completely unplayable.

Gamba came close when Bando broke free and fired for goal – but Edwin van der Sar was equal to the chance, making a good save.

The Japanese side’s experienced skipper Yamaguchi’s presence was vital as his numerous interceptions prevented what could have been an embarrassing start for Gamba.

Just before the half hour mark, Ryan Giggs’ cross (just as it did in the 1999 Intercontinental Cup) created the opening goal, his corner being headed in by Nemanja Vidic.

Moments later Ronaldo broke free on the right hand side and whipped in a lovely ball – Anderson was agonisingly close to his first United goal, but could only get the slightest of touches on it.

The Red Devils were enjoying the occasion and were using a variety of combinations to open up their opponents – switching the play using long balls, the industry and movement of Giggs dropping off Tevez, and the ever willing Ronaldo providing the three highlights of the play.

And in first half stoppage time the Ballon D’or 2008 winner got the goal his performance deserved, rising well to head in another Ryan Giggs corner.

The second half gave every indication that it would just peter out and United made their substitutes, as Evans and Fletcher came on for Vidic and Scholes, and then Rooney came on for Tevez.

However as Rooney entered the game, with 15 minutes left, a wild conclusion followed. With the crowd still applauding Rooney’s introduction, United were caught cold and Yamazaki halved the deficit to gave the Japanese club hope of a comeback. But, with the crowd still applauding the goal, Fletcher played Rooney through who dummied the marker and, with his first touch since coming on, slotted in coolly with his left foot. Soon after, good work on the left side by Evra and Nani culminated in a Nani cross which was headed in by Fletcher.

More was to follow as after a good move, Giggs’ exquisitive first time ball was comfortably scored with ease by Rooney. It was 5-1 and there was hardly time to breathe before Gary Neville was harshly penalised for handball when he was turning his back on the ball. It was particularly harsh given Neville had previously saved a certain goal with an amazing block tackle.

Endo scored the penalty – a satisfactory end for the midfielder who had been running a personal battle with van der Sar with long range shots in the second half.

Into injury time and the scoring still wasn’t finished – Gamba netted again with a storming finish by Hideo Hashimoto.

Utlimately though, it was the English champions who won through to face Ecuadorian side LDU Quito in Sunday’s final.


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Hallelujah! Cause for Christmas cheer as United head to Tokyo

Posted on December 15, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United, World Club Championship   1 Comment »

With almost a two week gap until United next play and with the much talked about and much dreaded fixture list that saw us play against last seasons top 9 before Christmas (and away after EVERY European tie), it’s an appropriate time to take stock and make an evaluation to see how well we are doing.

On last years equivalent away fixtures it might surprise you (it certainly did me) to discover we have taken exactly the same amount of points – 13. Defeats at Chelsea and City last season have been exchanged with defeats at Liverpool and Arsenal – and while United won at Villa Park and Goodison Park last season but drew at Parks Fratton and Ewood, the reverse has occured this year.

Perhaps a slight concern is that in those 9 games we have only scored 8 times where last year we rattled in 12.

After 16 games last season we had a very healthy 36 points but 9 of those opening games were at Old Trafford as opposed to the 9 away at the start of this campaign. We currently sit on 32 points but Liverpool in first and on 38 with one more game played are not uncatchable.

At this stage last season we had scored 29 goals in the league – the 27 scored so far makes a lie of those who believe United have found it difficult to score.

I would not be being truthful if I said I didn’t have concerns about our chance conversion ration at the minute – and, too, at times, the lack of creativity we offer when we play both Fletcher and Park in the side.

But, for now, console yourself in the knowledge that United have negotiated (on paper, at least) their toughest away games and are more or less fighting on an even playing field despite that handicap. You might even argue that given the difficulty of the fixture list so far that we are performing better. Let’s just hope that the break in Japan will lead to a reinvigorated Red Devils side in time for a packed schedule from the festive schedule and beyond.

World Club Championship

Thursday morning sees us take on Japanese side Gamba in the semi finals of the World Club Championship. This is the first time United have been at this stage since the re-formatting of the competition, as we bid to become the only British team to win the trophy in either format (or, indeed, both, as we won in 1999).

Sir Alex has made his intention clear by sending a full first team squad to Tokyo when before it appeared he may rest one or two.

The prestige of the competition has been questioned by rival fans (cough, Scousers) whose main bone of contention lies in the fact that they have not won it yet.

However, much as I did in 1999, I see the competition as a fantastic chance to prove we are legitimately the best team in the world. If we win I will be delighted, perhaps as delighted as I was when we won the European Cup in May.

In time the competition will surely become more “glamorous” (though don’t hold your breath as I’m pretty sure it will need to be won by Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea before the media will feel excited about labelling the winners the best in the world), and to anyone who’s defying the credit crunch or the Christmas pinch and travelling to see the games, inspire our lads to victory and round off one of the two best years in the clubs history in style.


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