Archive for May, 2009

Shock horror! Barca like to pass the ball….

Posted on May 28, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Champions League, Man United, Press, Tactics   14 Comments »

There is one thing that I can’t stand about football fans and that is the fickleness that arises once something doesn’t quite go the way you had hoped it would – or had planned. Last night’s victory for Barcelona was credited as a ‘win for football’ and we should all bow our heads in acknowledgment of the beautiful football that Barcelona play. In case anyone didn’t know – Barcelona have always played that way and will continue to always player that way. It is instilled in their blood and soul – ever since the days of Johan Cryuff. Barcelona play 4-3-3, all the way down to the youth teams might I add, as Cryuff believed there are more attacking options available to you. They also continue to produce the same type of ball playing footballers – do people believe this is coincidence??!

Lets face facts, non-United fans are over the moon at United squandering their European crown, in such a limp fashion, but you have to ask yourself ‘did Barcelona dominate proceedings or did United throw away an great opportunity?’ In reality it was a bit of both, Barcelona passed United off the park – like they would to any club – but it was United’s poor game plan that in my eyes was the inevitable downfall of the 2008 European Champions. Firstly, it was a brave move by Ferguson to take the game to Barcelona in the opening ten minutes as United tried to get that early goal – against the run of play Eto’o went down the other end and scored – an enormous blow to how United set out – it was a gamble that didn’t quite play off.

After that United didn’t turn up. Wayne Rooney was anonymous whilst Ronaldo proceeded in trying to take the whole side on his own (or trying to hard to impress Spanish opposition) – Michael Carrick and Anderson were chasing shadows and the whole defense looked shaky. It is painful to say but this is the reality of the matter – we had an opportunity to win back to back European Cups and we didn’t take it, simply because we didn’t compete with Barca after they scored and our initial gameplan was wrong.

There was far too much space between the defense and midfield, which gave the likes of Xavi, Messi and Iniesta time and space to pick their passes. I highlighted in the preview yesterday that United needed to contain Barcelona forcing them wide rather than through the centre – as we had done on the two previous occasions last season. Don’t be under the illusion Barcelona were a poor team last season – of course they’ve improved under a bright, young new manager – but they played the same way and we contained them. Its interested to see that the top three for pass completion were Xavi, Iniesta and Messi – whilst the next three, who were United players, were Ferdinand, Vidic and O’shea – highlighting where we and they played most of the football.

However, who I am to criticise Fergie? We’ve had an amazing season and were let down in the last game of the season. I’ve heard people talking about rebuilding and the end of the line for some players. I’ve never heard so much nonsense in all my life. A month ago United were on course for five trophies – something that in ridiculous to even consider. Twelve months ago we had won a glorious domestic and European double – only the second time in our 130 year history – indicating how difficult it is. But remember four years ago? The summer of 2004, Porto were European Champions and we were a million miles away from achieving what we did last season or even this season! Think about 1993 when the club had to wait 26 years to win a trophy – do people not remember this? We’ve been spoilt under Fergie and mark my words – this isn’t the end of this side yet.

Touching on the point raised in the opening paragraph about fickle supporters – it really does annoy me. How can you ninety minutes before think someone is a glorious champion then at the end of the game believe they are a total clown – its moronic! Remember United went unbeaten a record 25 times in Europe and lost to one of the best teams in the world. I accept that the performance was inept and Barcelona dominated proceedings but to sum up all the work you’ve done (over a couple of seasons in this instance) in one season in one game is plain ignorant. Forget Real Madrid’s nine European Cups and Liverpool’s five European Cup (arguably at a time where it was maybe easier to win the competition) – United should be proud to have had three amazing seasons where we tasted disappointed in Milan two years ago, success in Moscow 12 months ago and unfortunately – last night – we just didn’t turn up.

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Match Report: Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United

Posted on May 28, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Champions League, Man United   5 Comments »

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Messi scores against United

To the delight of almost of all English football, Barcelona easily won the Champions League with a comprehensive display against holders Manchester United with goals from Samuel Eto’o and Leo Messi.

United started brightly but after the first ten minutes conceded a goal as Eto’o squirmed a shot past van der Sar – and then barely put up a fight to retain their trophy.

Ronaldo had three chances in that opening period and Park had one, from the Portuguese’s free kick, but once the Cameroon striker scored after only 10 minutes the holders were well and truly beaten. It was a truly disgraceful response from the Champions and they were comfortably dethroned. Indeed, Barcelona could have scored more, hitting the woodwork even before Messi converted Xavi’s cross with a simple header.

What started as an evening that could have completed United’s best ever season instead concluded with as simple a victory as Barcelona could ever have wished for.

Sir Alex Ferguson will surely recognise that in Park and O’Shea his side had serious limitations against a top class side but more severely than that, with the likely departure of Tevez and the constant flirtation between Ronaldo and Madrid, will find himself with the need to make serious reinforcements in the summer.

In an attacking force United were spent and in midfield Carrick was anonymous, Anderson’s hit and miss season played firmly on the miss side on the evening, while the veterans Giggs and Scholes, who may never have the opportunity to erase the nightmare, had no influence on the game.

It could have been far worse for the Red Devils as their limp performance constantly threatened to invite a humiliation but fortunately for the supporters on the night the score was kept to a mere two. The repercussions will start in the summer for Ferguson whose side had threatened Jekyll and Hyde all season – with Berbatov, substituted onto the pitch midway through the second half desperately poor, posing a major decision for the United boss.

Fergie will probably have to wait until after his retirement to see United win the trophy again, but if he intends to lift it as a coach again, he will have to seriously reconfigure the dynamics of his squad.

Source: (Yolkie)

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The Road to Rome…..

Posted on May 27, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Champions League, Man United   No Comments »

European Cup

All Roads lead to Rome

After, points wise at least, Manchester United’s third most successful league campaign of all time all attention now is firmly shifted (as if it wasn’t before) to the simple matter of a Champions League Final against Barcelona in Rome on Wednesday.

A win will mean that this season, in terms of major trophies, will be the most successful year in the history of the club. It may not have the 10 day glamour period of a treble to show but in the space of 13 months it could potentially have two league titles, two European Cups, a World Club Cup, and a Carling Cup to show for it.

I must concede that viewing this season as the most successful in the history of the club versus that of the treble year will be a little difficult given the relative lack of goals but this side doesn’t have a clear starting XI nor does it seem to have the suicidal streak that the 1999 side have (bar the crazy game against Aston Villa in April), which leads respectively to a lack of a settled side (obviously) but more composed defensive displays.

To get to the Champions League Final United have gone unbeaten against four Champions of their leagues, and beat arguably one of the finest footballing sides in their own country, setting up a final that pits undoubtedly the best two sides in Europe against each other. A 25 game unbeaten run that includes, among its rewards, last seasons trophy, and the scalp of Wednesday’s opponents, should inspire plenty of confidence. But as we all know a final tends to be a game played by its own rules and is no respecter of form.

Knock Out

A goal shy group stage, including the two obligatory goalless Villareal draws, screaming out for a more convincing performance in the knockout stage.

One problem, the first task was against Jose Mourinho’s reigning (and in waiting) Italian Champions Inter Milan. A dominating performance in the San Siro by the Red Devils was unable to produce a goal but an entirely comfortable home leg was settled by Vidic and Ronaldo.

Progression to the Quarter Finals saw a tie with Porto – what should have been a far easier prospect on paper quickly began to be a nightmare, with the Portuguese scoring early. Rooney capitalized on an error to level, and Tevez seemed to have won it with 5 minutes left scoring from Rooney’s extravagant flick. Porto had the last laugh and levelled in injury time to give United an uphill task in the return – a task casually taken on and professionally dismissed after Cristiano Ronaldo struck an early knockout blow from fully 40 yards.

A mouthwatering semi final stage with Arsenal was next, and the opportunity to stamp a message as the country’s premier footballing side lay in wait. It was an opportunity eagerly seized, as United bombarded the Gunners with wave after wave of breathtaking attack, but having just a John O’Shea strike to show for a first leg of utter dominance. Cristiano Ronaldo struck the crossbar from fully 35 yards and appeared anguished at not getting another wonder goal. It turned out he wouldn’t have that long to wait.

Rather than seize on United’s profligacy in the first leg, Arsenal’s home advantage was quickly equalized by Gibbs slipping and Park converting to silence an unusually atmospheric Emirates. 11 minutes gone and it was game, set, match as Ronaldo impossibly struck from 41 yards from a free kick. As if to put the exclamation mark on what seemed to be a personal hunt for a Champions League goal of the season competition, the World Player of the Year started and finished a move that was as breathtaking as it was devestatingly clinical – with Park and Rooney providing the path for Ronaldo to coolly convert. It was a goal that summed up the entire tie and was arguably as brilliant as the number 7’s more spectacular long range drives.

Despite such a dominating performance heartbreak was to follow for Darren Fletcher, who was harshly sent off for a foul on Fabregas when replays suggested he won the ball fairly. Down and out, the Arsenal players did nothing to redeem themselves and let the referee dismiss Fletcher. The resultant penalty was converted but still did not put a blemish on one of the most stunning Champions League semi final performances.

There was time for the team to put their feet up and wait, just as they did last year, for a result at Stamford Bridge to reveal their final opponents – it seemed for the longest time to be Chelsea as Barcelona gradually become more and more defensively decimated, but then the Blues imploded in injury time (after 4 or 5 justifiable penalty shouts) and Iniesta sweetly grabbed Barcelona an away goal to set up the most eagerly anticipated final for a generation.

If United win the final then this squad can rightly claim to be the best in the clubs history and have a real chance next year to really cement their place among football’s all time elite. Going unbeaten on the road to winning it twice is the stuff that legends are made of, of that there can be no arguments.

If the potential of the likes of Anderson and Berbatov in the United side can finally come of age to stand shoulder to shoulder alongside the established world class Ronaldo and Rooney double act and the timeless brilliance of the likes of Giggs then a true footballing spectacle may just be about to be unleashed, rather than just tantalisingly teased.

Starting, hopefully, in Rome Tonight.

Source: (Yolkie)

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Match Report: Hull City 0-1 Manchester United

Posted on May 24, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Hull City, Man United, Match Reports   No Comments »

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Gibson's celebrates
Darron Gibson scored a wonder goal from 30 yards to move Premier League Champions Manchester United onto 90 points and make a mockery of the belief that Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to field an admittedly under strenght side would question the integrity of the league.

United’s opponents, Hull City, started the day in fear of relegation but were saved by Newcastle’s inability to get a point at Villa Park, making for a bizarre atmosphere at the KC Stadium.

The Red Devils had the majority of the play as the youngsters Sir Alex fielded rose to the occasion, despite the pressure of the importance of the game and that placed on them by the media to perform.

The majority of the chances came for the champions aside from that stunning Gibson strike, with Welbeck coming close after a couple of mazy runs – perhaps the young forward could have been a little more unselfish at the end of his runs – Macheda having a couple of opportunities that perhaps he could have done better with, and Nani being a constant threat.

With Barcelona looming on Wednesday Ferguson was denied the opportunity to play Rio Ferdinand – the defender now appears doubtful for the Champions League final – but gave chances to Wes Brown and Gary Neville as well as match time for Rafael. All three could be in contention to start should either Ferdinand or Evans fail to recover in time, and it is this issue that will probably have dominated the manager’s thoughts despite having to complete the Premier League fixtures today.

Source: (Yolkie)

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Sir Alex Ferguson interview

Posted on May 17, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Managers, Players, Press   2 Comments »

Sir Alex Ferguson
Scoffing my face this morning with peanut M&M’s that I had retained from watching Angel’s & Demon’s at the cinema last night I sat down to watch the Sunday Supplement on Sky Sports 1. In between munching away and then throwing the bag in the bin admits the fears that I would end up looking like the big bearded Martin Samuel (yes I still haven’t got over him ‘stealing’ my blog ideas) – I noticed that Fergie was giving an exclusive interview in the Times on Sunday to Hugh McIlvanney. I immediately switched off the telly (Sky plusing the ‘Alan Shearer goes mental’ part) and bought myself a copy.

I really enjoyed the interview and thought I would extract some of his quotes for the blog. If you are going out later on I would recommend picking up a copy as it is a great read (comparison with Busby and Paisley and also the teams under Fergie since 1992/93).

Fergie on Welbeck and Macheda:

I like to be around young people. I love being with my three sons and my grandchildren. At the club I enjoy talking to the Welbecks and Machedas rather than the dinosaurs (Neville, Scholes & Giggs).

Fergie on Macheda:

Nobody has to be told about Kiko’s ability. And he’s a hard bastard. Strikers need a bit of that

Fergie on Welbeck:

Danny’s a certainty to make it at the highest level. I’ve told Fabio Capello the boy will be in his World Cup squad next year. Wide left or right or through the middle, he has the intelligence, guts, athleticism and talent to do the job. He’s going to be a big lad. His height is about 6’1 now but the prediction is he’ll be 6’3. He’s yet to get the conformation in his thighs, so he is still gangly , but he’s brave enough to carry that. When he’s completes his growing , he’ll really be something.

Fergie on race days (Chester race day recently):

Only Scholesy and John O’shea will have any idea what they’re doing and the others could make the mistake of asking them for tips.

Fergie on drugs:

We’ve never had the slightest sign that drug taking is a problem. We had a 16-year-old kid who was caught twice. We released him.

Fergie on centre back partnerships:

Quality at centre-back is fundamental and i’ve had some tremendous fellas there.

Fergie on Bryan Robson:

I think the unluckiest man i’ve had here was Bryan Robson. He was one of the best players ever – what a combination of talent and commitment and drive – but he was nearly 30 when I came and his fearlessness had contributed to an awful toll taken on his body by injuries, and our early struggle to be successful lasted too long for him to have a chance of getting the rewards he deserved. If he were in the present team, say at 31, he would be phenomenal.

Fergie on Frank Lampard:

He is an exceptional player, a huge asset to his team. Every time he plays he goes box to box and he hardly misses a game. You pay attention to players who can get goals from midfield and he’s averaging 20 goals a season. You don’t see him getting into stupid tackles or making a habit of becoming involved in silly rows. When he was sent off against Liverpool two or three months back he walked from the pitch straight away, without fuss. He stayed restrained in the middle of all that bother after Chelsea were knocked out by Barcelona and made a point of swapping shirts with Iniesta. As I say, Frank Lampard is exceptional.

Fergie on Barcelona:

Chelsea would have presented the more straightforward challenge, one we’ve learned to deal with over the past year or two. The way Barcelona operate in midfield makes it very difficult to get the ball off them. I don’t think Iniesta and Xavi have ever given it away in their lives. They get you on that carousel and they leave you dizzy. Your concentration levels can’t be allowed to falter for a second. But, with the right tactics, their game is containable.

Fergie on Rooney:

We couldn’t not buy Rooney. We knew about him when he was 14 (1999/00) but he wouldn’t come then, and he wouldn’t come when we tried again at 16 (2001/02). But when he became a professional and started thinking about winning things we knew there would be a change in his attitude, if not necessarily in Everton’s. So we bought him for £26Million or whatever it was. You knew what you were getting with Rooney. He gets all your emotions going, drags you in with the physical, emotional way he plays. When he starts to compete and show you that great desire and intensity, you say to yourself ‘Fucking Hell’, what is this boy made of? You’re starting to think ‘I’ll maybe rest Rooney this week’. Then he comes up to you at training and says ‘I hope i’m playing Saturday. If I don’t play against Middlesbrough I won’t play well against Arsenal. I’m hopeless if I’m rested.’ He’s something else.

Fergie on Ronaldo:

As for Ronaldo, as a teenager he was never likely to be heading anywhere else but here. We had an arrangement with Sporting Lisbon that he would stay with them for two years to mature. The boy was aware of it. Then in the summer of 2003 we went to Lisbon and faced Sporting in a friendly and he tore us apart. I got word up to Peter Kenyon in the directors’ box that he had to come down immediately because we weren’t leaving the ground until we had secured the Ronaldo. We got the boy, his mother and his agent together to sort it out. Later we sent a private plane over the deal was done.

Fergie on Ronaldo Madrid link:

After Barca battered Real Madrid 6-2 our players were telling Cristiano that if he goes to the Bernabeu he’ll have to play centre-half!

Fergie on the hairdryer:

I lose my temper in different ways now. It’s probably more measured, more calculating, more cold.

I would strongly recommend getting a copy if you can as it is a great read with many more features.

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Match Report: Manchester United 0-0 Arsenal

Posted on May 17, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Arsenal, Man United, Match Reports, Premier League   No Comments »

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Ronaldo takes a freekick

Manchester United claimed their 3rd successive Premier League trophy, and 18th overall, becoming the first club to ever win it three times in a row twice.

They went into the game with Arsenal knowing a point would mathematically ensure the championship and a point is exactly what they came away in an ultimately underwhelming game – somewhat of an anti-climax rather than the swaggering confident display that would have befitted the occasion.

In truth though the visitors were never going to lie down, especially after two very recent humiliations at the hands of their opponents still very alive in the memory. United played as if they had one eye already on the celebrations planned for the end of the game and never seriously threatened to score.

Cristiano Ronaldo made an early break but decided to cross rather than shoot – and aside from a perfectly good goal scored by Ji Sung Park that was wrongly disallowed for offside, the Champions in waiting didn’t even get a shot on target – the closest either side came to a goal was a Fabregas effort in the dying stages that clipped the outside of van der Sar’s post.

Carlos Tevez started, but was substituted for Park, and appeared to wave goodbye to 76,000 adoring fans who immediately chanted “Fergie, sign him up”.

It would be impossible to argue with Sir Alex’s judgement however as this latest success is just another chapter in the ongoing career of unquestionably the greatest manager the sport has seen. United have the welcome opportunity of 10 days almost solid preparation for the Champions League final against Barcelona – a success would make it four trophies for the season, eclipsing even that wonderful achievement in 1999.

In winning the league Sir Alex made it 24 major honours in 19 years, while Ryan Giggs extended his record as the most successful player in the domestic game with his 11th Premier League title and 22nd major trophy. But, in true Manchester United spirit, neither are ready to rest on their laurels just yet, and it this attitude that will hopefully see them get Ferguson’s 25 major trophy in 10 days time.

Source: (Yolkie)

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Match Report: Wigan Athletic 1-2 Manchester United

Posted on May 13, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Match Reports, Wigan Athletic   1 Comment »

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Carlos Tevez scores

Michael Carrick was sporting a swollen eye but it was he that delivered what surely will be the knockout blow to Liverpool in the title race at the JJB Stadium.

Rumoured Red Devils target Antonio Valencia came close to shocking the Champions as he latched onto a through ball, out pacing Vidic but just misfiring at the crucial moment. The visitors were taking a while to get into the swing of things but after 10 minutes got two chances in quick succession – first, Berbatov‘s fine movement and cross headed horribly wide by Rooney, and then Rooney made a real fight to reclaim possession, doing so and starting a move that was hit narrowly over by Carrick.

Hugo Rodallega gave Wigan the lead after 28 minutes – a long ball forward was contested between the forward and Vidic, with the Colombian getting the better, losing sight of the ball momentarily before recovering to screw home the opener. Vidic felt he was impeded, but referee Styles was having none of it.

Bar a couple of Ronaldo free kicks United didn’t really come close to equalising until stoppage time in the first period, when a wonderful move involving Berbatov, Anderson, Ronaldo and Rooney ended with the ball at the latter’s feet – however the young Englishman shot wildly off target.

The second half started with not much in the way of increased promise so Sir Alex Ferguson called for some intervention in the shape of Carlos Tevez just before the hour mark. Inside fewer than 5 minutes, the forward had equalised – Carrick picked up the ball and drove with his right foot, but it was wild. Fortunately for United the shot was converted by Tevez, with what first appeared to be a fortuitous flick, but later clearly indicated a simply stunning backheel of extravagant ability.

From that moment on the game swung firmly in favour of the visitors, who went for the jugular, but had to wait until the 86th minute to secure the 3 points. O’Shea received a Ronaldo pass and found Carrick who, with trademark simplicity, stroked a sublime shot home from 17 yards to find the top corner with his left foot.

Manchester United now only need to avoid defeat in either of their last two matches to claim their third straight championship.

Source: (Yolkie)

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Match Report: Manchester United 2-0 Manchester City

Posted on May 10, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Citeh, Man United, Match Reports   2 Comments »

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Tevez and Ronaldo

The 141st Manchester derby provided as comfortable an occasion as Sir Alex Ferguson and his Manchester United troops could have hoped for at such a crucial stage of the season, as they returned to the top of the table.

The 2-0 victory, while petering out for the whole of the second half on the pitch, was achieved with goals by two players who appeared to throw their Old Trafford futures in doubt once again.

Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Champions the lead – Dimitar Berbatov was felled around 25 yards from goal, and the United number 7 continued his excellent recent form by drilling in the right hand corner of the goal.

Carlos Tevez then made two telling contributions – the first acting as somewhat of a forecast for the second, with his initial 20 yard effort smashing against the outside of the post, and then his second – after the sublime creation of Berbatov – found the inside of the post into the goal to seal the result. The much loved Argentinian’s response was to cup both ears in direction of the South Stand – evidently in the hope of a stronger attempt to sign him from Sir Alex,

The second half was almost a non-event save for a hysterical reaction by Ronaldo to being substituted – throwing an offered vest to the ground and then almost pathetically offering pouts to the cameras for a full 2 minutes.

The visitors only really threatened through a wild Robinho half chance and an effort that van der Sar magnificently saved, while United could have added another with a late flurry, most notably through Rafael who saw his effort saved.

What looked like one of United’s toughest remaining fixtures on paper didn’t turn out to be so in reality but the lethargy of the performance, particularly after Tevez’s goal and the reactions of both he and Ronaldo will probably have given Sir Alex an untimely – and ultimately, more prevalent – potential disharmonious headache in a crucial week for the club.

Source: (Yolkie)

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Match Report: Arsenal 1 Manchester United 3

Posted on May 06, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Arsenal, Champions League, Man United, Match Reports   5 Comments »

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Park scores

Manchester United crushed expectant Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium to progress to their second successive Champions League final.

Sir Alex Ferguson took a couple of risks with his selection – with John O’Shea and Ji-Sung Park providing a seemingly lightweight right hand side and Patrice Evra and Wayne Rooney guarding their left hand side both carrying bookings – but he needn’t have worried about the possible negative effects perhaps denying his side the opportunity of a 4th European Cup Final.

United’s superior ability and confidence shone through in the early stages – Arsenal did defy their first leg approach by coming out and searching for a goal but were made to pay in the 7th minute when Park capitalised on a very unfortunate slip by Gunners defender Gibbs to convert a Cristiano Ronaldo cross.

Just 4 minutes later, Ronaldo was fouled by van Persie over 40 yards out. No danger, normally, but the World Player of the Year followed up his quarter final stunner with a fabulous set piece to silence the home crowd and many pundits – the goal had provided the holders with a seemingly unassailable advantage to the dismay of even the commentator for broadcasters ITV, Jim Beglin, who stated he was disappointed about United’s advantage without giving them credit for a truly ruthless first half performance.

Arsenal pushed for the remainder of the opening period but were caught out many times by the incisive passing of their visitors – almost conceding from a Rooney 25 yard effort and another Ronaldo free kick.

Hopes of a second half fightback were dispelled as United continued to expose their hosts on the counter, and those hopes were finally completely distinguished on the hour mark as Ronaldo scored his second in a move he started with an exquisite backheel to Park – United’s first scorer fed Rooney, who brilliantly found his number 7 to put the seal on the tie.

Arsenal, somewhat predictably, turned a little nasty after the third goal went in, culminating in a penalty award for a completely fair Darren Fletcher tackle on Fabregas (just before a terrible challenge from Adebayor on Carrick). Fabregas typically did not own up to the referee’s discrepancy and Fletcher was dismissed, ruling him out of the final. With so little at stake for the Spanish prodigy it was a disgraceful display of sportsmanship.

Robin van Persie scored the spot kick to make it 1-3, but the visitors pushed to score even more after.

Sir Alex Ferguson will eagerly view the game between Chelsea and Barcelona to assess his sides final opponents, but will be desperately unhappy regarding Fletcher’s dismissal.

Source: (Yolkie)

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Why Michael Carrick can be the match winner against Arsenal

Posted on May 04, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Arsenal, Champions League, Man United, Tactics   3 Comments »

Michael Carrick

Michael Carrick is a fine footballer, who has grown into one of the best midfielders in Europe since his 2006 move from Tottenham to Manchester United. His passing range is immense and has proven how valuable his creative vision is in the center of the park for United. However, he does still get his fair share of criticism from rivals fans and of course United fans who don’t get too excited when he gets on the ball.

To quote Johan Cruyff ‘Football is simple, but the hardest thing is to play football in a simple way’ – something that you could apply to Michael Carrick. He doesn’t score too many goals, rarely gets in the box like Scholes used to but he has been pivotal in United’s success since he joined the club three years ago. His ability to switch play is superb and his vision helps us counter attack – something that will be extremely important tomorrow. I have no doubt that he will be part of a midfielder three consisting of Anderson and Fletcher – with Carrick being the main creative force.

I had blogged about Carrick earlier in the season, which was when he was playing out of his skin – however in recent weeks he hasn’t been at his best.  Against Inter Milan I though he was poor and off the pace whilst against Aston Villa he was anonymous – however tomorrow he can really stamp his authority on the game and control proceedings – something Gooners will be hoping Cesc Fabregas can do.  The duel between Fabregas and Carrick may be closer if Robin Van Persie plays from the start – with Fabregas more likely to adopt a deeper role rather than the second striker role he adopted last week and against Middlesbrough and Liverpool.  Both midfielders are capable of controlling the game with outlets in the form of Anderson and Song aiding their creative guile.

I am confident that United can build on the one goal lead obtained from Old Trafford last week – however Arsenal will not play anywhere near as poorly as they did in the first half last week.  Ferdinand and Evra are confirmed starters with Robin Van Persie back for Arsenal.  I presume that Robin Van Persie will replace Diaby with Nasri going out left and Fabregas dropping a little deeper to influence play.  I don’t know who Fergie will play up top out of Berbatov and Tevez – my gut instinct would be Berbatov with instructions to Anderson to get forward to support.  It should be a fascinating encounter and I just hope that United can get that away goal early, which will really silence the Emirates – hopefully through a Michael Carrick assist.

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