Archive for August, 2009

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal

Posted on August 31, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Man United   2 Comments »

This fixture has often provided a classic spectacle in the English Premier League – and technically, you could lend the term to this latest chapter in the great rivalry between two of the domestic heavyweights using a contemporary reference – it was classic Manchester United, digging out a win despite being nowhere near their best, and classic Arsenal, showing plenty of on the ball ability and none of the steel required to seriously challenge for honours.

As fortuitous as the victory came about for the Champions after their lacklustre display, their 3 points came as a result of a dogged display and was, to that end, completely deserved.

The first 35 minutes were instantly forgettable – an unfamiliar line up fielded by Sir Alex Ferguson saw Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov on the bench while Antonio Valencia and Nani flanked Wayne Rooney up front. The decision backfired as United failed to impose themselves on the game and Arsenal took full advantage. A foray from the visitors into the home box led to Darren Fletcher challenging Andrey Arshavin inside the box – initial views seemed to indicate it was a strong but perfect challenge, replays showed that Fletcher had taken Arshavin out AND handballed. Any fortune the hosts had quickly evaporated as Arshavin exacted full vindication with a 20 yard drive that went in – defenders Vidic and O’Shea should have done far better in closing him down, and keeper Foster should probably have done better when dealing with the shot.

Straight after the break all the nervousness of United’s midfield seemed to translate to the defenders and Arsenal dominated the early exchanges, threatening to score again. Arshavin crossed for van Persie who should have converted but Foster made amends for any fault in the goal with a stunning save with his left leg.

Inspiration was needed and it came from three sources – Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney. Rooney began to take the game by the scruff of the neck and really forced the issue, while Giggs, despite a poor performance, used all of his experience to play two excellent passes that changed the game. The first was a slide rule pass to pick out Rooney who got to the ball ahead of Arsenal stopper Almunia who brought the England striker down.

Rooney dusted himself off to step him and easily, if completely undeservedly, drag United back in the game. Less than 10 minutes later and the direction of the game had totally swung. Giggs’ free kick was converted, unchallenged, into his own net by Abou Diaby. Arsenal offered little in the way of a force back into the game – instead, crumbling and inviting United to have chance after chance to add to their lead, with substitute Berbatov and Nani having gilt edged chances to add gloss to the scoreline but wasting their opportunities. Fletcher meanwhile threw himself tooth and nail into every challenge after a poor first half in a determined attempt to rescue the game and such an effort did not go unnoticed by the crowd or the manager.

The Gunners did have the ball in the net, albeit a full 10 seconds after the flag was raised for offside, and Arsene Wenger was needlessly sent off for his over the top reaction.

The game was seen out comfortably by United but Wenger felt the need to blow his top after the game, hinting his side had been cheated out of a penalty, and stating that a United player had committed “twenty fouls” and escaped a yellow card by a card happy referee Mike Dean but adopting a familiar position regarding a diabolical dive by Eboue with an “I didn’t see it comment”, and in the wake of the recent antics of his players, the experienced manager perhaps should wait before judging the decisions that go against his team when taking into account his teams all too recent deceptive activity.

As for United’s manager, Ferguson papered over very evident cracks by claiming he was impressed by what he saw as an imposing second half display, but he must surely be concerned by a lack of physical presence by his midfielders in yet another game.

Ratings : Foster 7, O’Shea 6, Vidic 6, Brown 5, Evra 6, Fletcher 8, Carrick 5, Giggs 7(Berbatov), Valencia 5 (Park 5), *Rooney 8, Nani 6.

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Anderson set to leave United?

Posted on August 25, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Man United News, Players   4 Comments »


You may also find these links interesting:

The future of midfielder Anderson has been cast into doubt according to reports in the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail.

The Mirror claims that Sir Alex Ferguson did not take kindly to Anderson’s reaction at being left out of the entire squad for the Community Shield clash with Chelsea – the Brazilian apparently saying he would rather be elsewhere than not in the squad prompted Ferguson to call his bluff.

The Mail goes a little further than this and claims that the coaching staff at Old Trafford have got concerns over Anderson after his “best friend” Ronaldo was sold in the summer.

After not featuring against Chelsea, Anderson was due to come on against Birmingham but an injury to Jonny Evans meant he was not brought on. He was played on the left wing in the defeat at Burnley before coming off.

The departure will be a blow for many United fans who were hoping after his difficult second season that he would flourish this year. However the loss of form that afflicted him last year divided many fans, though it would still be a bizarre move for Ferguson to ship Anderson out this close to the transfer deadline given that the alleged incident happened over 2 weeks ago.

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Wigan 0-5 Manchester United

Posted on August 22, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Man United   No Comments »

A backlash was required after the Turf Moor shambles, and Premier League Champions Manchester United sensationally provided a thoroughly powerful response to their doubters.

Question marks were justifiably raised after United’s early season goalshy approach produced an unconvincing win against Birmingham and then a limp defeat at the hands of Burnley – the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez were being raised in more prominent terms. This display will not silence all the doubters but it did send out a clear message to their title rivals.

Such a blitz was threatened in a first half performance that had all the hallmarks of a side powered by one or two Fergie rockets – Rooney was sensational, Berbatov was at his irrestistible best, while Valencia and Nani showed the kind of form United fans will be hoping is the norm in this campaign. But for all their efforts – and clear cut as they were, with a Fletcher effort blocked on the line by Titus Bramble, a Scholes drive horribly miscued after a delicious flick from Berbatov, a couple of Rooney efforts that Kirkland did well to save, and a Berbatov chance amazingly robbed by a last ditch tackle by Bramble again – it looked as if it would be another frustrating affair for the champions.

Wigan did threaten themselves, and began to impose themselves on the game midway through the first half, with a Jason Koumas 20 yard curler that was expertly saved by Ben Foster their brightest moment.

If anything was said at half time – whether from Sir Alex or the players themselves – it certainly made a difference, and what threatened to turn out to be profligacy became sheer domination.

Antonio Valencia added a statistical credential to his promising performance, with a marvellous cross that was equally brilliantly headed in by Wayne Rooney for his 100th Manchester United goal.

A goal rush followed – United’s performance had hinted that one might knock down the barndoor, and it did. Berbatov was the beneficiary of clever play by Fletcher and Rooney, though the hard work was by no means done, and a finish that was preceded by a trademark deft touch was the Bulgarian’s reward for a fine display. He then fed Rooney who cut inside and finished via a deflection to begin his second century – and there was an air of inevitability about Rooney’s replacement, Michael Owen, getting his first ever goal for the club. It was smartly taken on his weaker side, deftly clipped in off the post, and registered with obvious delight.

In stoppage time Nani fired a free kick over, but there was still time to correct that – another, around 25 yards out, was dispatched into the bottom corner, to register the youngsters first goal of the season – it will be a real boost, considering the pressure he faces in the coming campaign.

What may have made Sir Alex more pleased with the display was that it came against a combative and energetic Wigan side, who tested the defence on several occasions – it was a big afternoon for the “front 4”, too, as all indications are this will be the boss’s first choice. And, on this showing at least, they are well up for the task ahead.

Foster 8, Neville 7, Vidic 8, Evans 8 (O’Shea 6), Evra 7, Valencia 8, Scholes 7 (Gibson 7), Fletcher 8, Nani 8, *Rooney 9 (Owen 7), Berbatov 8

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Burnley 1-0 Manchester United

Posted on August 19, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Man United   No Comments »

The story before kick off was about Burnley’s last home top flight game being one that ended in relegation at the hands of Manchester United – but their 33 year wait for revenge at Turf Moor could barely have been any sweeter as they comfortably disposed of the Premier League Champions in a humbling and humiliating defeat for the visitors.

United began the first half in composed fashion – Michael Owen, making his first start for the Champions, could have registered his first goal for them after just 2 minutes but couldn’t connect on a great pull back from Evra.

Burnley made a serious exert into United territory just after the quarter hour mark and it paid dividends – record Clarets’ signing Steven Fletcher beat a flimsy offside trap and should have scored, but Ben Foster made a smart stop. The Red Devils couldn’t clear and when a cross was poorly dealt with by Evra, veteran Robbie Blake smashed in an unstoppable volley from 12 yards.

The home side were not exactly in an unfamiliar position, with their cup exploits last season claiming some high profile victims such as Arsenal and Chelsea and for the remainder of the first half they utilised that experience to make life very uncomfortable for United. Aside from a missed Owen header and a couple of ambitious but very wayward Rooney strikes, the visitors offered nothing in the shape of a real goal threat in the opening half.

They were in need of divine intervention – and even when that arrived in the shape of a clumsy challenge on Evra by goalscoring hero Blake to gift United a penalty and an undeserved route into the match right on half time, Michael Carrick fluffed his lines and Burnley keeper Brian Jensen made a good save.

United fans were undoubtedly hoping for a famous Fergie hairdryer at half time but if it came, there was little sign of it in the second half. Antonio Valencia was introduced for the completely ineffectual Anderson to try and input some width, then Berbatov for Owen but neither offered anything that would change the game – one Park effort from 20 yards aside, they rarely even made keeper Jensen break a sweat, and even that was comfortably dealt with.

Burnley will probably not have a more comfortable game in their first ever Premier League season and as a result Sir Alex Ferguson’s public unwavering support of his existing squad will surely be severely tested – a severe lack of mobility and creativity in midfield alongside Michael Owen’s early season determination to prove that his goalscoring instinct has well and truly deserted him to the extent some United fans were even questioning whether he was missing on purpose must have given the lengendary manager food for thought.

That United’s main creative energy came from a 35 year old in the shape of Giggs was in itself a damning verdict on the talented but frustrating Carrick, the non penetrative Park and the perennial question mark hanging over Anderson.

This defeat on its own is, obviously at such an early stage, not the death knell of a title defence, but if the lack of penetration and midfield enforcing that was clear on Sunday and costly tonight continues, it is difficult to see past what is admittedly a knee jerk reaction – the Champions will have severe problems not only retaining their title but may also struggle keeping in the Champions League places.

Ratings : Foster 6, O’Shea 5, Brown 5, Evans 5, Evra 5, Park 4, Carrick 4, Anderson 4 (Valencia 5), *Giggs 6, Rooney 5, Owen 4 (Berbatov 5)

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Manchester United 1-0 Birmingham City

Posted on August 16, 2009  by Yolkie  in Man United, Match Reports, Premier League   No Comments »
Premier League Champions Manchester United began their title defence with a narrow win over newly promoted Birmingham City.

Wayne Rooney’s goal after 34 minutes was enough to crack a resolute display from Alex McLeish’s men who had, to that point, set out well tactically with a packed defence and midfield raising questions over United’s penetration.

Not that these were the only questions being asked of the Champions who are under general media scrutiny following the sale of the World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo – could the Red Devils cope without him?

The answer for this game was an unconvincing “yes”, as up until the goal, United had found very little joy creatively – with a 25 yard speculative drive from Rooney that was tipped over by loan keeper Joe Hart the closest a goal came until the opener.

Clever and quick interchange between Rooney and strike partner Dimitar Berbatov led to Nani, wide left, swinging in a dangerous cross. The ball was headed by Rooney against the post but fortunately for him and United it rebounded straight back into the path of the number 10 who converted for the 99th time for the club.

Birmingham almost hit back straight away, Franck Quedrue heading a corner towards the goal, only to be denied by a spectacular goalline clearance by Patrice Evra. Seconds before the break Evra was involved again, working brilliantly to provide a chance for Darren Fletcher, who screwed his shot wide with the goal gaping.

Nani had appeared to be in some discomfort over the shoulder injury picked up in last weeks Community Shield and was replaced at half time by Ryan Giggs – this was not the only concern for Sir Alex Ferguson, who started with arguably a 5th choice right back, and both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic out injured.

Those problems were compounded when Jonny Evans, himself playing despite carrying a knock, was unable to continue and was replaced by Wes Brown who was barely passed fit himself. The penetration issue was clearly on Sir Alex Ferguson’s mind as he planned to bring on Anderson to add some much needed energy into the centre of the park – however the injury to Evans meant that the Brazilian remained on the bench.

Browns ring rust was exploited immediately as Blues’ debut striker Benitez made a mockery of the defenders half hearted offside appeal, proceeded to round him anyway, and fired in a hard shot which was expertly tipped wide by Ben Foster. Foster had a solid game all round with a performance that probably answered his own doubts as much as those of his critics.

There were few real chances for the home side in the second half – an imaginative 30 yard half volley from Rooney, a Berbatov header cleared off the line (and a debatable penalty claim on the Bulgarian, too) – but in the dying seconds Berbatov’s replacement from the bench, Michael Owen, almost sealed his league debut at the Stretford End with a goal after being magnificently put through by Rooney’s chested through pass. However Owen fluffed his lines and probably let the occasion get to him, Hart saved comfortably.

Rooney’s invention, however, was just the icing on the cake. Of the many questions that were being asked, Rooney provided some answers. Firstly, he is up for the challenge. Secondly, he has the ability to fill the shoes of Ronaldo, and then some. The way the 23 year old ran the show and dominated the pitch was – whisper it – reminiscent of Cantona in his pomp.

There were shining lights in the injury crisis – Jonny Evans proved himself capable even while struggling and Fabio at right back had a stormer of a performance.

United will play better than this this season while Birmingham will probably play worse and win. Whether the penetration that was typical of Ronaldo of two years ago or the Giggs of yesteryear can be replaced from current members of this United squad remains to be seen – whether they still have the hunger and ability to get a win when not playing well and depleted in numbers is, as ever, not in question.

Ratings : Foster 7, Fabio 8, O’Shea 6, Evans 7 (Brown), Evra 7, Nani 7 (Giggs 7), Scholes 6, Fletcher 6, Valencia 6, *Rooney 8, Berbatov 6 (Owen).

Now view the goal and highlights :

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Manchester United 2-2 Chelsea (1-4 pens) – Community Shield / Chris Foy debacle

Posted on August 09, 2009  by Yolkie  in Chelsea, Man United, Match Reports   No Comments »

Manchester United 2-2 Chelsea (Chelsea win 4-1 on penalties)

After a summer on the transfer merry go round where the names of Valencia, Benzema, Kaka, van Persie, Adebayor, Villa, Silva, Obertan, Huntelaar, Eto’o, Ibrahimovic, Ribery and Aguero (to name just a few) were enough to make you go dizzy wondering who would be the replacements for Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, to say it was something of a relief to see anything resembling a competitive ball being kicked in anger would be an understatement.

In the end no new big money striker actually arrived to play in the Community Shield, as Manchester United lined up against Chelsea with last season’s forward line of Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov, leaving Michael Owen on the bench. Chelsea, too, started with a familiar line up, under their new manager Carlo Ancelotti.

The theme of same old, same old reared its head later on in the proceedings as referee Chris Foy gave a shambolic performance.

Before that, however, the spotlight was well and truly on Nani. The young Portuguese winger may have been playing on the left, furthering his development as the role as a natural replacement for Ryan Giggs continues but inevitably all the talk before and during the game was how he would cope “stepping into Ronaldo’s shoes”. But Nani was the games standout player in the opening half even if it was United’s fluent synergy that was the lasting impression – though Chelsea almost opened the scoring, when a corner that was headed on by Ivanovic was headed on the right side of the underside of the bar by Patrice Evra and away to safety.

This was by no means Evra’s last contribution to the game and in the 10th minute he passed to Nani who cut inside from the left and fired home a shot from the edge of the area to give the Premier League Champions the lead. United dominated until the break as the encouraging interchange play between Rooney and Berbatov was complemented by the industry and movement of the midfielders Carrick, Fletcher, Nani and Park – the South Korean is normally deployed in such games to track adventurous full backs but there was no sign of that as Chelsea struggled to come to terms with the dymanic play.

However, Ancelotti’s words at the interval clearly had an effect on the experienced Chelsea team as they were instantly more formidable after the break. They proceeded to grab an equaliser, though there was an element of calamity about it from United’s point of view. Ben Foster had struggled all afternoon, perhaps suffering under the daunting prospect of standing in for van der Sar as first team keeper for two months, and when he came out loser in a challenge for a crossed ball, Ricardo Carvalho was there to head easily into the unguarded goal.

At a point where the game was beginning to take shape as a real contest Chris Foy decided to interject and ensure his would be the name in the headlines. Having already shown staggering intolerance and inadequacy in earlier decisions (booking Berbatov for a harmless swing at a ball when he wasn’t exactly 10 yards from a free kick, while allowing Chelsea encroaching on a later free kick) his involvement began to take an unsettling twist.

First of all he waved play on after a tackle from behind on Nani by John Terry. Terry clearly took Nani out before getting a faint touch to the ball, too, and the consequences were more severe for Nani when he had to be substituted with what worringly looked like a dislocated shoulder.

Foy wasn’t content with ignoring a rule that was implemented for players safety however, and his decisions went from confusing to farcical – Ballack swung at Evra and went down feigning injury, Foy blew his whistle, stopping a promising United play for a drop ball. Less than 2 minutes after this the same two players came up against each other again, Evra attempted to run past Ballack who purposely rose his elbow to block the Frenchman.

Evra went to ground, Foy inexplicably waved play on, and Chelsea promptly raced up the other end and through a Lampard shot that barely crossed the line, took the lead.

The cherry on this particular cake was well and truly placed when Evra, justifiably pumped up, went full blooded into a perfectly fair challenge against Ballack, 100% winning the ball. Foy clearly didn’t care for Evra’s competitive spirit and booked him.

It seemed as if Foy had turned in a matchwinning performance for Chelsea who had looked quite capable of doing it on their own, but United’s spirit was rewarded as in spite of Foy, substitute Giggs’ excellent work led to Wayne Rooney coolly lifting over Petr Cech deep into stoppage time to earn a 2-2 draw. Rooney was marginally offside (this time, missed by the assistant rather than Foy) but there was some justification in the goal.

Chelsea went to win 4-1 on penalties following misses by Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra though this was academic – after the game Sir Alex Ferguson voiced his discontent at Foy’s display, but when focussing on his own team, will be able to contentedly reflect on an assured performance that maybe deserved a little better than it was rewarded with.

Ratings : Foster 5, O’Shea 6 (Fabio), Ferdinand 7, Evans 7, Evra 7, Park 6 (Giggs), Carrick 7, Fletcher 7 (Scholes), *Nani 8 (Valencia 6), Berbatov 6 (Owen), Rooney 8.

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Fergie: Chelsea are main threat…not Liverpool!

Posted on August 05, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United, Man United News   No Comments »

Ferguson & Benitez

Sir Alex Ferguson has already written off Liverpool’s chances of challenging for the Premier League next season – even before a ball has been kicked. The United manager was speaking on Wednesday when he claimed that ‘Chelsea were a bigger threat’ and that ‘other teams will know more about them’ – indicating they’ll work out how to play against Benitez’s 4-2-3-1 favoured formation.

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Stretty Rant back up and running!

Posted on August 05, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Announcements, Man United   No Comments »


Even though it took an eternity, even though Diego Forlan scored against Maccabi Haifa and even though we missed out on blogging about some of the biggest transfer stories for a long time – the Stretty Rant is back up and running with a brand new design and with lot more features. We hope that you like our new design and find the information on the website useful – we’d appreciate any feedback you have!

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