Archive for March, 2009

Do we need Hargreaves back in?

Posted on March 30, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Players   6 Comments »

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Owen Hargreaves

Prior to the World Cup in Germany back in 2006 – the name of Owen Hargreaves wouldn’t get the heart pumping that fast if your club was linked to him with a transfer. Hargreaves used to be ridiculed in this country as Sven’s fall guy and sentence to the embarrassing group of Michael Ricketts, Stuart Downing, Kevin Davies and Jermain Jenas. I was a little more optimistic about Owen in the early and middle part of this decade – however I was unaware of what a good footballer he actually is.

Now like most people in this country – i’m not a massive watcher of German football, except when they play in the Champions League and United aren’t playing. However, when I did watch him play at full back or in the middle of the park – I always thought he was a decent player and when you win a Champions League medal, four Bundesliga titles and three German Football-Federation Cup’s – you know that you have to have some quality.

United were linked for a long time to Owen Hargreaves - with Bayern Munich reluctant to sell on many occasions. The transfer eventually went through in July 2007 and United had landed that industrious midfielder than many fans were crying out for since the departure of Roy Keane in 2005, however some weren’t convinced due to the much inflated price tag. There were many players linked with United since Roy Keane’s exit including Gattuso, Mascherano and Senna – however Fergie opted to the Bayern Munich man once it appeared Senna was unavailable for transfer.

Hargreaves qualities as a player are evident. Firstly, he is versatile and can play either in the middle of the park or on the right. When in the middle, he is at his best when occupying one of the two deeper midfield berths when either playing a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1. In terms of attributes he closes the opposition down extremely well, is a good passer of the ball and can read the game comfortably – he also has a superb freekick on him, which we could use sometimes from the usual smash and grab technique of Ronaldo.

Have we missed him? I was actually thinking of this a couple of weeks ago – despite the fact that we were winning games comfortably. Or do you think that Carrick, Scholes, Anderson, Giggs, Gibson and Fletcher have got enough quality to press the opposition accordingly? Has Hargreaves been a waste of money – considering he has only played a handful of games this season – whilst playing in 35 games last season – thats less that O’Shea. However, remember those games that he played in – the 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield, the 2-1 victory over Arsenal (scoring the winning goal in the process) – whilst playing well in the Champions League final and scoring a superb penalty. Hargreaves has been a massive loss for the club and the sooner he gets back playing the better – although I can’t see that any time soon.

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Reasons to be positive

Posted on March 21, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Champions League, FA Cup, Man United, Premier League   1 Comment »

Sir Alex Ferguson
Wow, its been quite a depressing week for most Reds – which could get even worse if Liverpool overcome Aston Villa at Anfield tomorrow. Last weekend was soul destroying – whilst today’s performance indicates that United are starting to feel the heat. Is it something to be concerned about? Of course! Losing two games in succession isn’t something we’re used to – in truth we have been spoilt. However, how much of an impact will this have on the remainder of our season?

Lets look at the negatives first before venturing down the positive path:

  • Poor performance in the Champions League
  • Lost to our title rivals 4-1
  • Lost 2-1 to a side we’d thrashed two weeks previous

Yes – these things are hard to take, however it happens to all teams throughout the course of a season. Every side hits dodgy patches and I guess we are just in one of those. Look no further than Barcelona – who were cruising in La Liga – destroying Real Madrid in the process, lost two games recently (to Espanyol and Atletico Madrid) to ‘blow the title race wide open’. Barca are now six points clear of their title rivals – can they be caught? Of course they can but it will take one hell of a push from Madrid to overcome the deficit.

So to the positives and there are plenty of them – trust me:

  • United played poorly against Internazionale but still won the game
  • Chelsea lost to Tottenham Hotspur today
  • Even if Liverpool win tomorrow United will be four points clear – providing that game in hand is won of course.
  • United are still on course for five trophies

I think the last point speaks volumes. United could well win five trophies this season and our fate is still in our own hands across the board. We have a favourable draw in Europe – whilst will be pleased with Everton in the FA Cup. Also, like I said, we have a decent gap in the Premier League also. Remember when Chelsea blew away everyone in 2005/06? What we would have given for a four point lead at this stage of the season – considering the run in.

So the point of this blog is to reassure any Red that feels like everything is slipping away – this happens during a season. Sometimes it happens for the worse (1992 and 1998 spring to mind), whilst other times it is a mere poor patch – like when we lost to Portsmouth in the April of 2007 for instance. We are still in all the major trophies and lets face it – topping last season in terms of awards and performances was always going to be a major task.

United will not self implode – the only thing that may come into play is fatigue and how well the United players can cope towards the end of the season. For once I agree with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who claimed United ‘looked tired’ against Liverpool. I’m hoping this International break will do the lads well – whilst we must claim three points against Villa on the 5th April.

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Match Report: Fulham 2-0 Manchester United

Posted on March 21, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Fulham, Man United, Match Reports, Premier League   9 Comments »

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Murphy scores a penalty
Shambolic Manchester United crumbled to an embarrassing defeat at Craven Cottage to provide a major sign that the championship will be surrendered to Chelsea or Liverpool – but have every reason to be aggreived at referee’s Phil Dowd despicably biased performance.

A first half penalty from average ex-Liverpool player but constant United scourge Danny Murphy and a last gasp classy strike from Zoltan Gera were enough to secure victory for the home side but Dowd’s ridiculous decision to send off Wayne Rooney with the away team gaining momentum could be the defining moment in the title race.

Sir Alex Ferguson rung the changes after last weeks capitulation to Liverpool but Paul Scholes and Berbatov were abysmal, while Park was anonymous and Vidic’s replacement Jonny Evans appeared to lack significant confidence A penalty awarded midway through the first half was just about Dowd’s only decent decision of the day – Scholes’ inexcusable handball on the line was the catalyst for United’s subsequent downfall, and Murphy gladly accepted the invitation to score from the spot.

Wayne Rooney was brought on for the awful Berbatov at the break but the Champions continued to falter with ten men – Rooney, Ronaldo and Fletcher all missing chances with Park even guiltier, before United got a free kick placed where Ronaldo would strike, around 35 yards out.

Rooney threw the ball back and no-one caught it – and Dowd saw fit to give the striker a second yellow, and in doing so, dispel all of United’s momentum, write off the rest of the game, and ensure United were unable to appeal the pathetic decision, rendering forthcoming games an even greater obstacle. Dowd is an experienced referee and this appalling decision will doubtless be welcomed nationwide but Rooney’s dismissal was a simply incredible move.

The title challenge for the Red Devils shows signs of 98 and 2002 and is clearly on the rocks, and honorary Scouser Phil Dowd will have every reason to pat himself on the back tonight – though Sir Alex Ferguson, subsequently, will surely have every reason to request that Dowd is not considered for future United games.

None of this should detract from Fulham’s performance, who, after such media encouragement, were fully deserved winners, but nevertheless Dowd’s deliberate decision at a crucial point in the game could be the most powerful moment of the season.

Source: (Yolkie)

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Match Report: Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool

Posted on March 15, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Liverpool, Man United, Match Reports   18 Comments »

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Liverpool Celebrate

Manchester United suffered a humiliating 4-1 defeat at the hands of their bitter rivals Liverpool in what proved to be a very depressing day for any Red.

United fans had welcomed Rafa Benitez to Old Trafford with the usual chants of ‘He’s cracking up!’, which of course was in reference to Benitez claim that referees favour Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson goes unpunished when questioning decisions. Liverpool’s recent record at Old Trafford wasn’t great – and the last time the Merseysiders scored a goal was in 2004.

United lined up 4-4-2 with Berbatov, Giggs and Scholes dropping to the bench after the 2-0 victory over Internazionale in the week – with Tevez, Anderson and Park replacing them. Liverpool lined up with their usual 4-2-3-1 formation – which proved to be very effective across the course of the game. Liverpool were forced to make a change just prior to the kickoff when Spanish fullback Arbeloa injured himself during the warm up and veteran Sami Hyypia replaced him.

United started off reasonably well with Tevez, Park and Evra linking up well on the left handside of the pitch. However, Benitez’s usual deployment of two anchormen screening the back four worked a treat to help nullify United’s wingers – Ronaldo and Park. United’s play was often quite narrow, which allowed the left fullback Aurelio to roam forward.

Having said that United got the break through on 23 minutes when Tevez played a glorious outside of the boot pass through for Park to chase. Park then touched the ball passed the on coming Reina – who brought the Korean down – penalty. Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up to score his eighteen goal of the season in all competitions. United had the lead over their rivals and knew that they had only conceded goals in four games at Old Trafford – against Newcastle United, Hull City and most recently Blackburn rovers.

However, the lead lasted only five minutes when Liverpool’s young defender Skrtel blasted the ball from his own area towards the United goal. Ferdinand and Vidic had covered well with Torres lingering in front of the Serbian. As the ball dropped, for some reason, Vidic failed to head the ball and let it drop. Torres then pounced with immense speed to unsettle the defender who then proceeded to fall over giving Torres a one on one situation – which the Spaniard took full advantage of. An enormous error of judgment on behalf of Vidic who has been brilliant this season for the Champions.

The goal ruffled United, which resulted in a number of passes going astray – whilst Liverpool’s mentality changed, knowing that United were cleared affected by the error. Liverpool closed down United all over the pitch, pressing them high in their own half – whilst United adopted a deeper approach – with Wayne Rooney clearly showing his frustrations at the adopting of this mentality. Time after time it was clear to see an irate Rooney screaming at his colleagues – who were some way away from him.

Liverpool scored a second on the stroke of half time when Gerrard was brought down in the box by Patrice Evra. A clear penalty as Torres and Gerrard linked up well just outside the United box. Torres supplied an inch perfect pass for Gerrard to accelerate onto and win the penalty. Gerrard dispatched the penalty to Edwin Van Der Sar’s left side before running off kissing the badge on his shirt – maybe a reference to the chants that United fans sing about Gerrard’s failed transfer to Chelsea in the summer of 2005.

After the break United picked it up a little and bombarded Liverpool with chances, however Liverpool did defend exceptionally well and only and Anderson corner, which was dropped by Reina, and a Carlos Tevez chance were of any concern. Sami Hyypia played very well, especially considering that he was drafted in at the last hour, intercepting a number of passes and reading things very well.

United were pressing for an equalizer and Ferguson decided to bring on the old guard of Giggs and Scholes along with Berbatov who replaced Anderson, Carrick and Park. Michael Carrick, who is highly regarded at Stretford-end.com, was way below par for his standards – following a quiet game against Internazionale on Wednesday – and failed to stamp any authority or demonstrate his illustrious range of passing.

Fifteen minutes before the end of the game United were down to ten men when Nemanja Vidic brought Gerrard down having missed an interception. Alan Wiley was left with no choice but to send off the Serbian – who had an extremely miserable afternoon. The United number fifteen is favourite to wint the player of the year award – although he will not want to remember this performance as he trudged off the Old Trafford turf.

Liverpool not only benefited from the numerical advantage on the field but from the resulting freekick from which the foul occurred. Fabio Aurelio stepped up to place a superb left footed strike past the flat footed Edwin Van Der Sar. The Stretford End was stunned as Liverpool celebrated a two goal advantage with just over ten minutes left to play. United had last conceded three goals at home in the league to Hull last Autumn.

United pressed further more, although not really forcing any clear cut goal scoring opportunities. Liverpool then rubbed salt into the wounds of the United players by scoring a fourth in injury time. A long punt down the field from Reina wasn’t challenged dropped to the Liverpool substitute Dossena who then lobbed Edwin Van Der Sar to round off a quite miserable day for United. Two goals scored by direct balls not being cut out will not pleased Sir Alex Ferguson.

United were second best for most of yesterday’s contest, despite the post-match comments of Sir Alex. All four of Liverpool’s goals were products of errors made by United – however nothing can be taken away from Liverpool who deserved their victory yesterday. Fernando Torres showed why he is a top class striker – showing strength, pace and sublime movement – which will leave many Reds wondering why United didn’t purchase him when he was at Atletico Madrid. Sir Alex Ferguson will expect a reaction and considering United haven’t conceded four goal at home since the 4-1 defeat to QPR on New Years day 1992 – I expect one.

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Where do we go from here?

Posted on March 15, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Liverpool, Man United, Premier League   5 Comments »

There’s no doubt about it – the 4-1 defeat by Liverpool was the most painful defeat in living memory for any Manchester United supporter.

Worse than the 1-0 defeat as Arsenal claimed the double at Old Trafford in 2002, worse than the 3-0 defeat at Chelsea in 2006, worse than the 5-0 defeats to Newcastle in 96 and Chelsea in 99, and even worse than the 5-1 derby defeat in 1989 and 4-1 loss in 2004.

The 02 and 06 defeats spurred United into winning the league the next season, and the 5-0′s elicited strong responses that culminated in triumphs in the league the same season. It outweighs the City results mainly because a) both were away and b) both were during periods of transition. No excuse for those defeats, it just serves to accentuate the devestation of this one.

What makes it so bad? Well, this is supposed to be (potentially) the best side in English history, being caught well and truly with their pants down against their nearest rivals. As weird as this sounds, the result would be easier to take if it had drawn Liverpool on level points with us, as it would at least spur us into life. As it is we could still stumble to the league in the same manner as we did in 2001, the defeat could mean little more than a blot on an incredibly successful season. But, it will be a blot – one we have plenty of excuses for – United had nothing to lose, played like a side who needed only to draw, the Vidic sending off changed the game, the scoreline was completely unrealistic – but at the end of the day, Liverpool scored four times and we couldn’t find the net after the first.

So, the positives? Well, to give it what I believe is the perfect (if a little rubbish) analogy, the defeat was like your girlfriend saying that someone else is handsome after you’ve both had a bit to drink. You’re angry and devestated at the time but on reflection you realise you’re still far better, and everything will sort out. Doesn’t make much sense does it?

Well, how about the defeat, in all its tragedy, still managed to sum up the beauty of being a supporter of Manchester United?

We were awful and Liverpool thoroughly deserved to win, but the defeat was more down to the former – you would be hard pushed to find anyone who isn’t a dyed in the wool Scouser or venemous ABU that would say hand on heart that Liverpool are a better side than United. It was simply a combination of the worst day for a long time for each of United’s starting XI, a mixture of complacency and an off day that had winked an alluring hello for 30 minutes against Inter and manifested itself for a hour against Liverpool.

But, even so, in the last minutes, Rooney was trying a left foot volley from the edge of the area and Ronaldo (to the anger of most fans) was trying a free kick in the dying moments with the score at 1-3, when the ball was better off floated into the box.

It’s precisely this attitude that, despite the scoreline, sets United apart from Liverpool (and the Arsenal and Chelsea sides of yesteryear). Sir Alex’s sides have always been set out to win whereas the others set out primarily to not lose – sometimes it means exaggerated scorelines like the one against Liverpool, and those mentioned above. The score could be 0-1 or 0-3 and United will be trying to claw it back.

Ultimately though it’s that same principle, that same attitude that means United will end the season with more trophies than Liverpool. At times, even with Liverpool leading, I honestly couldn’t see how a Liverpool fan could say in any seriousness that they had set out to win at Old Trafford rather than set out and see what happened. The response after Gerrard’s penalty showed just that – they had found themselves in a position they did not expect to be and they offered little in the second half, except, ironically, the goals. Some may say (and with a degree of fairness I might add) that they did not have to show anything else but on another day Vidic may not have been sent off, Edwin may have put a man on the line and United’s triple change may have paid the ultimate dividend.

Clutching at straws it may be but recent history (and that of United under Sir Alex) would support the theory.

And though I doubt there are many Manchester United fans hitting the panic button just yet, it serves as a timely reminder to utter the philosophy that was evident in our team even in the dying seconds today – “he who dares”.

It’s the philosophy that saw Eric Cantona volley in the dying seconds in the 1996 FA Cup Final, the philopsophy that saw Ryan Giggs take on the best defence in Europe in 1999 like a kid in a playground (and saw Teddy and Ole swing out hopeful boots in a game later that year), the one that saw Peter Schmeichel score to preserve our (at the time ) unbeaten home record in Europe. It’s also the same one that saw Giggs waltz past the Arsenal defence in 2003 at Old Trafford only to sky an empty net, the same that saw Schmeichel injure himself for the business end of the 1998 season trying to score in the crunch game against Arsenal, and the same that saw Rooney and Ronaldo miss with maverick attempts today. We were awful for 90 minutes but at least at the end we were still there making chances.

So the question I ask – is the Liverpool result a worthwhile sacrifice if it means another trophy at the end of the season? Or is the result unacceptable under any circumstances?

Source: (Yolkie)

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The last 16 curse, Inter reaction and draw

Posted on March 12, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Champions League, Man United, Statistics   4 Comments »

Bye Bye Mourinho

So we’re through to the last eight after a deserved, over two legs, victory against Internazionale.  A great result against the current Champions of Italy and league leaders, however the performance wasn’t too great to be honest.  Scholes looked nervous, Evra wasn’t as adventurous and Giggs was coming out with ridiculously bad backheels – but we still managed to score twice against the European Cup winners of 1964 and 1965.

I was very nervous before the game, knowing that they were capable of scoring at Old Trafford and with all the over the top media rubbish about how ‘Mourinho knows how to play against Ferguson’ – I was anxious.  Turns out we had little to be concerned over from our visitors.  Good old Patrick Vieira looking as ‘agile’ as ever – whilst Mario Balotelli looked like he wanted to fight everyone in sight.  They are a good side and played much better than they did in the first leg – but overall United deserved the victory.

I spoke about Evra before and to be honest the bloke is an exceptional left back.  I would actually have a problem deciding who to pick out of him and Denis Irwin – he’s that impressive.  However, as mentioned, he didn’t look himself last night.  This could have been because Ferguson was concerned with the  forward runs of Brazilian defender Maicon – who in the first half had a ton of space on the right flank.  Moving Rooney obviously pegged back the Brazilian – but I just felt that Evra didn’t play as well as he has done this season – although that is a pretty high standard to meet on a weekly basis.

So to the dreaded curse of the last 16!  I blogged in August about the fact that the last four winners didn’t get past the last 16 the following season.  I also stated that I believe that United could go onto retain the trophy – but of course i’m going to say that.  The fact is that no team has ever retained the Champions League trophy in its current format.  Gone are the Cup based days when Bayern Munich and Ajax won three in a row, gone are the days when you could be drawn against some Eastern European side you’d never heard of – the fact is that the trophy is that much harder to win these days, let along retain it.

United progressed yesterday where FC Porto, Liverpool, Barcelona and AC Milan failed because of one clear thing – the quality of the squad.  The team has improved even further, so far, on last season’s amazing performance and are in a superb position to win a number of trophies.  Nothing is won in March and there is still a massive way to go, both domestically and in Europe – however that first hurdle that was identified in August has been jumped.  The next task will be to put in a Champions performance against whoever we are drawn against tomorrow.

Positives to take away from yesterdays victory are listed below:

  • Inter have scored 49 goals so far this season in Serie A – they didn’t hit the back of the net in 180 minutes of football.
  • United have only conceded three goals this season in the Champions League
  • Inter Milan have won more games away from home than at home in Serie A
  • Ferguson was always ridiculed for not being ‘tactical astute’ against Italian and Spanish sides – proved wrong yesterday.
  • United scored a superb counter attacking goal – something Italian teams did for years in Europe
  • Rooney put in a superb shift out on the left and looks like he is back to his best right in time for Saturday

Lastly, to the draw!  On a personal note I don’t mind who we play in Europe and that includes Barcelona to Liverpool to Porto.  I am from the school of believing in the fact that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best.  I’ve seen United go out to Dortmund in 1997 2-0 on aggregate after putting in two good performances both in Dortmund and in Manchester – god knows how we didn’t score.  I’ve seen United lost on away goals to Galatasary.  I’ve seen United get humiliated by Barcelona in the Nou Camp 4-0 – a real eye opening at the steps that needed to be taken in order to get to that next step.  Lastly, i’ve seen United lose in a superb match against Real Madrid in 2003.  All different opposition that posed different threats to United – in those years that have passed Ferguson has adapted extremely well to the demands and needs of the European game.  Gone are the swashbuckling attacking displays that undone United at home to Fenerbahce and Juventus in the mid-90s.  United can play a patient passing game against any team in Europe – whilst also pressing them high up the pitch.  United go into the pot tomorrow a team with confidence and knowing that five more wins in Europe will make United the first team to win back to back European Cups since AC Milan nearly two decades ago.

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Match Report: Manchester United 2-0 Internazionale

Posted on March 12, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Champions League, Man United, Match Reports   2 Comments »

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Ronaldo and Rooney celebrate

Nemanja Vidic and Cristiano Ronaldo scored headers four minutes into each half to send defending champions Manchester United into the European Champions League quarter finals.

Inter took a while to find their feet and United took the opportunity to make them pay when Ryan Giggs’ corner was powerfully headed in by Nemanja Vidic, putting the current European Champions ahead after just four minutes.

United failed to make their early pressure pay and Ibrahimovic had two chances either side of a O’Shea effort that could easily have seen the score at 2-2 – the Swedish’s efforts hitting the bar and then fizzing narrowly wide, while O’Shea’s attempt was fluffed. Inter grew in composure as the half went on and the home side’s early dominance began to expose itself in flicks and skills that were going wayward, probably much to Sir Alex’s chagrin.

Any worries about complacency were quickly dispelled in the second period – Ryan Giggs, excellent again, dribbled through a pocket of Inter players brilliantly to find Scholes. Scholes in turn passed to Rooney who seemed to be in an alley with nowhere to go as 3 Inter players surrounded him, but the number 10 weighted an exceptional pass towards Ronaldo who comfortably headed home.

The Italian champions responded by bringing on Adriano and the Brazilian hit the post with an improvised effort shortly after his introduction but that was it in terms of threat, and in truth had United stepped up the tempo a real statement of intent could have been stamped in terms of scoreline – as it was, Fergie’s side had done so yet again seemingly without getting out of first gear.

It’s an oft stated comment but after this latest comprehensive victory might just go some way to making a bigger statement – that this current United side are reaching a level of football that is the best seen for over a generation.

Source: (Yolkie)

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Match Report: Fulham 0-4 Manchester United

Posted on March 07, 2009  by Stretford-end  in FA Cup, Fulham, Man United, Match Reports   1 Comment »

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Tevez is congratulated by his team mates

Manchester United march in the semi-finals of the FA Cup after thrashing Fulham 4-0 at Craven Cottage this evening.

The game marked the start of a very important week for the domestic, European and World Champions who will be taking on Inter Milan on Wednesday and Liverpool on Saturday – in what could prove to be a title clincher. United went into the game knowing that they had beaten Fulham 3-0 the season previous – however their record in the capital hasn’t been great.

The first twenty minutes were sloppy with both sides giving the ball away far too cheaply. Fulham began hustling United, pressing them wherever possible, which led to Michael Carrick losing the ball in his own half – which resulted in a Fulham chance, whilst Nemanja Vidic saved the blushes of Edwin Van Der Sar with a clearance off the line after the Dutch goalkeeper had misread an long ball punted forward – which was touched forward by the leg of Andy Johnson. Van Der Sar came storming out and the ball embarrassingly started to roll pass him. Vidic read the situation and cleared well although it was a heart stopping moment for United.

At the other end Carlos Tevez had a low shot saved by Mark Schwarzer after a mix up in defense by Fulham. Rooney, who along with Tevez were menacing all evening, played a through ball to the Argentinian forward who struck low to Schwarzer’s right. The keep made a decent stop but it was an encouraging start from the away side.

United scored on the twentieth minute when Carlos Tevez nodded home a Wayne Rooney flick from a corner. The Argentinian has been frustrated this season with his lack of playing time – although he has now played as many games as Cristiano Ronaldo. Tevez has scored in the league, Champions League, Carling Cup and now the FA Cup. The goal marked his sixth of the campaign and got United playing.

In between the first and second goal, United showed their true class with some sublime one touch football – which fashioned chances for Wayne Rooney and John O’shea. Wayne Rooney was unlucky with one of his chance – which he poked just wide of the goal, however should have finished the second. United created an opening on the right, in which Ji-Sung Park ran into crossing low for the onrushing Rooney. Rooney passed the ball past Schwarzer, who had dived to the left, and it smashed the post. Rooney really should have scored.

The second goal came fifteen minutes after the first when Carlos Tevez scored a quite superb goal. Tevez picked the ball up on the half way line and began charging towards the Fulham goal. He then cut inside to get onto his right foot before unleashing an unstoppable shot past the Fulham keeper – a brilliant solo goal. The cries of ‘Fergie sign him up’ have been heard in many games recently and after today’s showing it is evident that the player has an abundance of talent.

United went into the half time break with a two goal lead, although lost their captain Rio Ferdinand through injury – who is now a major doubt for the game with Inter Milan on Wednesday night. Jonny Evans, who has been in superb form this season, came on to replace the injured defender. Ferdinand wasn’t United only injury concern – with John O’Shea picking up a hamstring injury, which definitely rules the versatile Irishman out of the game.

United picked up where they left off with Rooney adding a third on the fifty minute mark. Rooney and Tevez were interchanging passes until the ball was eventually intercepted. Fulham failed to clear their lines and Anderson pounced on a loose ball and the Brazilian fed Rooney. Rooney turned onto his right and struck a low curling shot into the bottom corner. It was Rooney’s sixteenth of the season.

United could then sit back and relax and rest some players. Young Eckersley replaced the injured John O’Shea at right back whilst Danny Welbeck came onto replace Wayne Rooney. Rooney is still finding his way back to full fitness – however looked very sharp tonight and will be a definite started alongside, probably, Dimitar Berbatov. Ji- Sung Park rounded off the scoring with nine minutes to play after intercepting a pass from Fulham’s left hand side to the right. Park ran in to intercept before placing a right footed shot into the Fulham net.

United started off sluggish, however really showed their worth after the first twenty minutes. United even looked like they could go up a few more gears as the business end of the season kicks in. Sir Alex Ferguson will be delighted that United are into the final four and will be looking forward to the draw tomorrow. Rooney and Tevez were superb with Anderson showing maturity and vision with his superb range of passing. Inter Milan are next up, which hopefully proves to be a superb, but nervous, night.

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Match Report: Newcastle United 1-2 Manchester United

Posted on March 04, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Match Reports, Newcastle United   No Comments »

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Rooney scores

Manchester United extend their lead at the top of the table after beating Newcastle United by two goals to one with Rooney and Berbatov getting on the score sheet for the Champions.

It didn’t start greatly though for United and within ten minutes Newcastle United had taken the lead following an error from Edwin Van Der Sar. The last goal to be scored against Edwin Van Der Sar in the Premier League was on November 8th at the Emirates Stadium in the 2-1 defeat to Arsenal – and the big Dutch keeper will want to forget this one Peter Lovenkrands touched home an easy chance after Van Der Sar had fumbled a routine shot from Jonas Gutierrez.

It didn’t take long for United to get back into the game with a sublime Wayne Rooney strike on the twenty minute mark. After some good work between John O’shea and Ji-Sung Park gave the Irishman some space to man over – he ushered the ball towards Rooney who spun away from his marker with an excellent touch with his left foot. He the proceeded to smash the ball past the oncoming Harper.

Van Der Sar looked uncomfortable for most of the half – most noticeably from a corner in which he failed to clear. Van Der Sar’s weak punch fell to Martins to shot wide. At the other end Nemanja Vidic missed a glorious opportunity to take the lead from a corner when he headed over. United then had two chances in quick succession – when Rooney mis kicked under some pressure whilst Park a couple of minutes later after some good work from Evra down the left flank. Parks shot actually rebounded off Wayne Rooney.

There was controversy right on the stroke of half time when Steven Taylor smashed Critstiano Ronaldo to the ground – which both competed for a 50/50 ball. The Newcastle defender was rightfully booked, whilst United captain Rio Ferdinand also picked up a booking for his protest at half time.

United started off the second half well with Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra linking up well on a number of occasions. I have rarely seen a full back as good as Evra going forward who is also world class in defence. His stamina, drive and crossing have helped United no end this season and looks at home at left full back as much as Denis Irwin did for all those years.

United took the lead on fifty five minutes after a ball from deep from Wayne Rooney was poorly intercepted by Ryan Taylor who managed to chest the ball into the path of Ji-Sung Park – who then poked the ball past the out rushing Harper for Berbatov to poke home. The man they compare to Eric Cantona did exactly what the Frenchman did thirteen years earlier and take the lead against – what has to be said a much weaker Newcaslte side.

Van Der Sar continued to look nervy with poor kicking whilst Martins continued to look dangerous – with the football as well as his elbows. Earlier in the game the Nigerian striker elbowed Nemanja Vidic in the face, which resulted in the Serbian defender having to go off for treatment. Martin also had a weak penalty appeal turned down midway through the half.

Wayne Rooney was superb all night and it is a delight for any United fan to watch him play. His creativity and determination will be extremely welcomed for upcoming Champions League match against Internazionale. Rooney’s brilliance was there for all to see when he broke superbly after some good work by Berbatov and found Ronaldo who laid off a decent pass for Berbatov to strike at Harper – who saved well.

United will be pleased with the three points and where well worth their win. Fulham are next up in the FA Cup on Saturday, followed by the 2nd leg against Inter Milan and then a home match against Liverpool on the 14th March. If United get three wins in the next three games – it will be a massive step towards an amazing quintuplet – something the manager has played down.

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Match Report: Manchester United 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur

Posted on March 02, 2009  by Stretford-end  in League Cup, Man United, Match Reports, Spurs   2 Comments »

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Ben Foster saves penalty

Manchester United won the Carling Cup on penalties after a confident display in the penalty shoot out following a goalless 120 minutes – which they just about edged.

The Red Devils made all the early running and a free kick from Ronaldo, a long shot from Darron Gibson and a fantastic piece of improvisation from Rio Ferdinand all resulted in the ball going narrowly over or wide from long distance, while Nani was the only United player to really test goalkeeper Gomes with a 20 yard drive.

Tottenham pushed on towards the end of the first half with Aaron Lennon showing his football equivalence of a toothless Yorkshire Terrier – plenty of running and effort but no real bite at the end of it, save for a shot in the second half which United keeper Ben Foster saved magnificently.

Anderson made his return from injury coming on for Danny Welbeck and immediately added a dynamism to the midfield, regularly carrying the ball over long distances or finding unexpected spaces, while Paul Scholes’ good form continued as the Ginger Prince sprayed 50 yard pass after 50 yard pass all over the pitch.

With a quarter of the game remaining Chris Foy made a big call by booking Cristiano Ronaldo for diving after a challenge from Ledley King just inside the area. Clearly this was a case of the Madeira magician’s reputation preceding him and his dive last week against Blackburn will have done him no favours in this instance. Replays showed contact was made and the debate will go on, do Ronaldo’s previous wrongs make this incorrect decision right?

Anderson had a 20 yard drive comfortably handled by Gomes and the best chance of the entire game came with 30 seconds of injury time after 90 minutes remaining, Ronaldo cutting in wickedly from the left and driving with real menace. The ball for once evaded the Spurs keeper but smashed against the post and bounced back into play.

United were shorn of Wayne Rooney due to a virus and Sir Alex Ferguson opted to leave Berbatov out altogether – this left the team with little aerial threat and the decision to replace Gibson with Ryan Giggs for extra time showed that Fergie was looking to win the tie with incisive passing.

The extra period provided little in the way of chances – just one clear cut for each side, Foster doing well again to deny Bent and Evra’s speculative shot astonishingly flying over the crossbar.

With penalties looming Redknapp brought on Bentley and O’Hara (who had missed last years triumph after being dropped by Ramos).

Ryan Giggs was first up and his penalty cannoned off the same post Ronaldo had hit earlier, only this time the ball whipped into the back of the net. United’s good fortune, and O’Hara’s unfortunate relationship with the Cup continued as the youngster’s strike was superbly saved by Ben Foster.

Tevez scored, as did Corluka, and when Ronaldo exorcised his Champions League demons with a successful strike from 12 yards Bentley knew his penalty was crucial. The expensive summer signing fluffed his lines, though, as his shot went wide of the post, and it was left to Anderson to have the chance to win the Cup.

United fans had already seen Anderson’s coolness under such pressure when he converted a sudden death penalty in the Champions League, and the man himself appeared to have little concern as he casually knocked the ball past Gomes to claim the trophy for Sir Alex’s troops.

The manager himself remained cool on talk of an unprecedented quintuple, but one thing that cannot be denied is that after this triumph and with such a commanding position in the league, United are on the verge of at least the second most successful season by an English side ever (the first being United’s treble side of 1999), regardless of whether they win the European Cup or FA Cup.

Source: (Yolkie)

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