Think twice before signing Karim Benzema, Fergie..

Posted on June 24, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Players, Press, Transfer Targets   27 Comments »

Karim Benzema

In the two weeks since it was announced that United had agreed to sell Ronaldo for the princely sum of £80m, there have been a plethora of names linked to the club, with the general consensus being that in order to appease the fans and keep the club on its current level, we can’t afford to “unearth” another player, we can’t afford to give Nani a chance to develop, we need a “marquee signing” as it were, with the two major names being mentioned, Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema.

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Telegraph includes Benzema and Valencia in our side…

Posted on June 20, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Man United, News, Players, Press   8 Comments »

Karim Benzema

The Daily Telehgraph is a superb newspaper, which boast one of the UK’s top journalists – Henry Winter. Yesterday’s edition had a full eight page spread on Cristiano Ronaldo and therefore I bought a copy right away. The general consensus is that for all his gifts and talents he never fully understood what it took to become a Manchester United legend – because no one person ever comes near. For this reason Ronaldo will be better off in Madrid with their Galactico philosophy. However, Ronaldo wasn’t the main attraction of the spread for me – but our potential 2009/10 lineup.

Again – this is only a potential lineup – but the Telegraph had us as:

(GK) Foster (RFB)Fabio (CB) Ferdinand (CB) Vidic (LFB) Evra (RW) Valencia (CM) Carrick (CM) Fletcher (LW) Rooney (F) Berbatov (S) Benzema

Now couple of things there, firstly – yes they did get Fabio and Rafael mixed up! I presume they meant Rafael, unless they think Fabio could be our next Denis Irwin! Secondly, Rooney is out on the left flank as opposed to his favoured central role. Thirdly, the addition of Karim Benzema.

Lyon have revealed that Benzema could indeed go to United and I have felt for a long time he would be an exceptional signing. So why not? What is stopping Lyon and France’s top marksman from coming to the Premier League and signing for the Champions? Possibly that he has stated he wants to stay in France till after the World Cup? Or maybe Real Madrid might borrow some more of the government’s money to finance their transfers? Who knows! But if we could get our hands on Valencia and Benzema – we will have one hell of a side – add Ribery into that equation and a certain Portuguese will be long forgotten.

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Stretford-End.com Review of 08/09

Posted on June 16, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Players, Press, Stoke City   5 Comments »

Ryan Giggs

The dust has settled and the over-reactive furore over the Rome disappointment seems to have faded, so what better time to look back at what was, in terms of trophies, the second most successful season in Manchester United’s history?

United Statistics (in all competitions)

Top Goalscorer: Cristiano Ronaldo (26 Goals)

Most Assists: Ryan Giggs (18 Assists)

Most Appearances: Nemanja Vidic (55 Appearances)

To see all of these statistics please go to our 2008/09 Manchester United statistics page.

Player of the Season -

Ryan Giggs -
The United legend just pips it in what was a real team effort this season. A year after what the number 11 described as the “best 10 days of his life”, and 10 years after his most memorable contribution as a United player, came what Ryan described as “the most enjoyable season of his career”. It showed on the pitch – pencilled in at the start of the season to be used sparingly, Giggs quickly showed in the Carling Cup that he was indispensible and was used accordingly by Sir Alex as the man to trust in big games. More often than not he was man of the match in those big games, most notably against Chelsea and Inter Milan at Old Trafford – and he almost rewound the clock with a semi final goal against Arsenal, denied only by a dodgy offside flag! His vital goals at West Ham and Middlesbrough kept him and United on course for an amazing 11th Premier League title in a season where he proved himself to still have as much talent as any of his peers – a fact recognised BY his peers when he was named PFA Players Player of the Year.

Runner up : Nemanja Vidic – but for a dodgy couple of games was the next clear candidate, just edging out Fletcher, Rooney and Ronaldo.

Breakthrough Player of the Season -

Jonny Evans

Some argument here for Darren Fletcher and John O’Shea who unpredictably made first team places their own, but Evans’ smooth transition when thrown into the deep end mid-season was remarkable in its lack of newsworthy headlines – the young Irishman did not put a foot wrong, indeed, being a vital part of the defensive unit that went onto break all sorts of domestic clean sheet records. That he was trusted in crunch games at the end of the season is a real testament to the form he showed earlier in it.

Runner Up -

Rafael

Probably only expected to play a few Carling Cup games but such was the impression he left on Fergie that he was straight in the first team. Scored a cracker at Arsenal and showed a fearless approach that defied his age. If not for an injury he would probably have already cemented the right back slot, but for now everyone at United can only be delighted with his progress.

Goal of the Season -

Cristiano Ronaldo (2nd) v Arsenal at the Emirates

For a (supposedly) bad season Ronaldo didn’t half run his own goal of the season show – be it a free kick against Stoke, a free kick against Blackburn, a 40 yard drive in Porto and a 41 yard free kick to precede the eventual winner, the number 7 seemed on a mission (late season in particular) to prove he has magic in his locker that a certain Argentinian plying his trade in Spain has yet to prove capable of. The goal that wins this award though was typical of United’s season in that it was borne out of stunning team play with Ronaldo starting and ending a move involving Park and Rooney, it was typical of United’s history in that it was a devestating break, and in scoring, Cristiano put the rubber stamp on the most magical moment seen in European football all season.

Runner Up – Ryan Giggs (v West Ham)

For all Ronaldo’s aforementioned crackers and despite the goal about to mentioned in our next section, Ryan Giggs’ solo stunner at Upton Park rolled back the years and was one for the nostalgia collection. A special mention should go to the goal scored by Tevez against Blackburn in the Carling Cup which involved 3 1-2s by Anderson – truly magic.

Moment of the Season -

Federico Macheda scoring against Aston Villa

Was there ever any doubt? There may not have been about the winner of this section but as Federico Macheda received the ball in what seemed like an impossible cul-de-sac, there was plenty of doubt over United’s title credentials. Down and out after two consecutive league defeats, on the ropes in the title race and hanging on against a spirited Aston Villa who were breaking with heartbreaking regularity and incision, the Champions needed a moment of inspiration – and it was in Macheda’s beautiful curling effort that it arrived, guided by destiny and sucked in by a force of nature previously experienced by the likes of Bruce, Sheringham and Solskjaer, as the 17 year old cocky Italian thoroughly stamped his mark in Red Devils history. The goal started a title blasting sequence of 7 victories which Liverpool had no answer to – certainly with a Gerrard-mocking camera kiss from the young striker, then.

Runner Up : Rooney scoring v Liga De Quito to win the World Championship

Could easily have gone with Macheda’s next outing, another title defining flick of his boot at the Stadium of Light, but given that Rooney was sacrificed tactically in the Champions League Final and missed the Carling Cup Final it was fitting that he scored the only goal in the World Club Cup Final – the United number 10 enjoyed a stunning season where his contribution has been recognised more as time has wore on.

Game of the Season :

Manchester United 5-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Despite a relatively “poor” season there were a few choices here – the Villa game at Old Trafford, and the Arsenal away tie in Europe, but the Wayne Rooney Inspired Goal Crazy Second Half Circus against Tottenham in late April shades it for me. 2-0 down at half time and needing a dodgy decision to get back in the game (apparently, so dodgy that it made deluded Scousers and the media in general forget that Palacios should have been sent off in the first few minutes for a shocking challenge), the floodgates opened as Rooney orchestrated the kind of comeback we normally do save for Spurs. A 5 goal blitz in little over 20 minutes (including 3 in 5) secured the win which was extra special in deflating Liverpool, who thought they had gained a precious point with a last minute equaliser that they were given against Arsenal 3 days previous.

Let down of the season

Owen Hargreaves being injured

It would have been too easy to just say “Berbatov or Nani” but they’ve probably had enough stick, so just edging out the Darren Fletcher suspension is an even greater “what if” lamentation, the Owen Hargreaves injury.

Okay, so even Hargreaves being available may not have made a difference in Rome but most people would concur that Barcelona would not have had it so easy – nor would Liverpool, at Old Trafford. Indeed United’s shortfall this season has been the lack of a biting, technically sound midfielder – Anderson is developing and may yet be, but Hargreaves is the finished article and it’s no wonder that many United fans can’t help but think the “Quintuple” would have been a real possibility if not for Owen’s dodgy knee.

Summary

The last section more or less summed it up – for all of our wonderful achievements in 08/09 we have still ended up with a feeling of underwhelming. It’s almost easy to forget that we equalled Liverpool’s 18 titles record (okay, not that easy =D) – and with Wayne Rooney’s goal in December, we now have football’s equivalent of 3 Kings and 2 Aces (in terms of European Cups/World Club Cups) to Liverpools 5 Kings. The only reason debate exists about whether Ace is high in this game is down to the fact that Liverpool are yet to win one.

There are plenty of reasons for optimism – it is widely acknowledged that we played most of the season in second gear yet still won the league with a certain degree of comfort after a wobble and came within two games of a season that would have been impossible – yes, IMPOSSIBLE – to surpass.

The frightening thought for the rest of the league is that with a season’s settling in Berbatov should be better, the likes of Ronaldo, Rooney and Anderson are still not even at their peak and should improve further still, the probable exit of Tevez will force Fergie into purchasing a true “plan B” striker, that is one who actually likes the penalty area, and even in the event of a Ronaldo departure, the likelihood of a swoop for a name like Ribery would seem all the more possible with a £60m warchest.

And if Hargreaves’ knees hold out, who knows..

Source: (Yolkie)

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So what for next season?

Posted on June 11, 2009  by Stretford-end  in Man United, Managers, Transfer Targets   7 Comments »


Writing this a few weeks after the 2-0 dressing down from Barcelona it would be easy to over react – media columns have been illuminated with the opinion that United are in decline and message boards across the internet are plagued with deluded Scousers who seem to think they now have a completely better first XI than United, and even some Chelsea fans who believe their midfield of Lampard, Ballack and Essien would easily dominate for victory in a head on clash with United’s midfield.

This is of course nonsense – a Chelsea midfield admittedly shorn of Essien were overran by Fletcher and Giggs in January and that is pretty much United’s 5th choice midfield.

The crowing of Liverpool fans is all very well but comes after their 3rd consecutive season without a trophy and where early eliminations from all cup competitions enabled Benitez to field a full strength squad for most of the league campaign – even then, they never really managed to get anywhere near a United team that had key defenders missing, Hargreaves and Anderson out for long periods, and all in all played all season almost in 3rd gear while having the distraction of fighting for a quintuple (in doing so, falling a penalty shoot out short of playing one game short of what would have been a maximum season at the very highest level of the game).

And the loss to Barcelona was no disgrace on reflection – where they are strongest they highlighted our greatest deficiency. It was a result waiting to happen upon reflection where in the losses to Arsenal, and Liverpool at Old Trafford the absence of Hargreaves meant a heavy reliance on Anderson to be disciplined – as hugely gifted as our number 8 is, he cannot yet combine the role of puppet master and defensive shield. This is no slight on Anderson – for all of the wizardry of Xavi and Iniesta they would have struggled to dictate if not for the insurance of Busquets. They would have struggled to dictate at all if Hargreaves and/or Fletcher were available and while it is no use lamenting over “what ifs” it is worth noting that their absence posing such a significant question means that it’s not ALL bad.

Those who are slightly more level headed have suggested that Barcelona simply took advantage of United’s absentees where United couldn’t do the same to Barcelona. I tend to think that it’s somewhere between the two – Barca’s use of the ball was depressingly mesmeric and you cannot hide from the fact that they are deserving European Champions.

However there is no hiding from the fact that there were shortcomings that need addressing and that those shortcomings may not be simply fixed by the return of Hargreaves and a full season from Brown, Ferdinand and Rafael.

Tevez looks to be on his way out and his end of season form only strengthens the popular opinion that he is a better option than Berbatov. In the crunch games at the end of the season where Ferguson demanded a performance from his players, Berbatov has notably been dropped.

A season of reflection tells us a few things – primarily that Berbatov being signed as a “different option” to Tevez hasn’t really worked. Yes, Berbatov has a better touch, but at the same time Tevez’s work rate is a leveller there – Berbatov, too though, drifts in and out of games and appears in areas where he is not effective. The argument that he was signed to play Rooney as an out and out striker holds no water given the fact that Rooney has played on the wings towards the end of the season. Ironic, given that he was on performance our best player in the last 2 months.

The solution here is unfortunately one that can not be helped much – the investment in Berbatov has already occured and no-one will take a £30m plunge on him (despite maybe City). The dream scenario of maybe writing £10m off Berbatov and spending an extra £5m on securing Tevez maybe something Ferguson may well want to do but it is not prudent and in all fairness writing a player off after one season isn’t really Ferguson’s style anyway. The only feasible outcome is to either take the plunge and sign Tevez and start with him next season, or sign a REAL alternative. A goal poacher. Benzema has inevitably been mentioned, and here at Stretford-End.com we were also quite partial to taking a punt on Eto’o last summer before Berbatov came and before Eto’o's stock rose considerably again at Barca.

Benzema, as a young, goal hungry, quick reactionary and actually quite decent in the air fits the bill perfectly. The price will however be substantial – despite not winning the league for once, Lyon still qualified for the Champions League. Eto’o, too, seems to be out of the price range so what of the alternatives? Michael Owen, a lazy money grabbing crock whose electrifying attibute in pace was last seen around the same time as David May in a United shirt? Sergio Aguero, likely to cost upwards of £30m, and too similar to Rooney, Tevez and Berbatov?

Anything else will come from left field – Macheda has bags of potential but is he ready? Of his restrictions he does seem pretty slow and up against Wheater at Boro didn’t bully his way around like he had started to make a name for himself doing.

In defence, a back up for Evra is sorely needed – perhaps Fabio is the one for this, but he needs to stay fit. As does Wes Brown if Vidic gets any more hiccupy. The rumoured signing of Dodo could be vital but as the kid is 17 I doubt he will be anywhere near physically ready to step up to the mark of replacing either an error prone Vidic or an injury prone Rio.

As for goalkeeping, does van der Sar have another season left? He has the contract but is now the time to take the plunge and risk Foster? Personally I would give the youngster a lot more opportunities than he has been given this season. The defence needs to familiarise with him rather than just being lumped with him when van der Sar retires.

It is midfield, for all our riches, that needs addressing. In Carrick and Fletcher we have the Premier League’s most improved midfielders over the last two seasons, in Hargreaves we have a player who has few technical equals and Anderson, as stated, has huge potential but needs a steady partner to find his true rhythm – think Keane and Scholes, Vieira and Petit, Zidane and Davids, these were midfields that were borne out of consistent picking. Where we are lacking however is a Scholes – it sounds ridiculous as he is still on the books but Old Father Time is creeping up on him. He still has the ability – bags of it – but 6 years ago he could play a blind pass, whereas these days he needs too much time. Time that most teams don’t give.

How many players are available though that we could get? Sir Alex spoke of his admiration for Lampard recently – would such a move ever materialise? Fabregas may not have the full range of the younger Scholes’ abilities but there are few better in the world and he may have grown disillusioned with the lack of success at the Emirates. These are players, though, that we would not only have to break the bank for but also buck a trend of the English top 4 signing from each other. Not just that, but Lampard has said many times he will finish his career at Chelsea while Fabregas’ future would be in Spain. Michael Essien, similarly, could be the enforcer that compliments Hargreaves and Anderson perfectly but his is likely to be the shirt which a new Chelsea manager creates his team around.

The fact that a ready made Scholes replacement isn’t available makes for depressing thinking, as does the inevitable conclusion that Giggs is nearing the end – there still isn’t as effective a natural dribbler in the game (I include Ronaldo and Messi in that), the closest thing after him though is Ribery. A player who could well be available as Bayern may look to cash in, but again, Bayern’s qualification for the Champions League means that they hold a position of strength, and like Lyon, they don’t tend to let their players go for reasonable prices (and why should they?).

I would want United to sign Ribery anyway, regardless of whether Ronaldo stays or goes, as we need a natural winger. The potential signing of Valencia seems at best overpriced and at worst an unneccessary gamble. It is a crucial season in terms of Nani’s development – upper body strength and greater consistency did not come into Ronaldo’s game until around his 3rd season at Old Trafford and Nani has shown that he can deliver – for that potential, it is surely worth seeing if he has learned from a difficult second season.

My conclusion? Few changes need to be made, but those that do are significant. Even those that do need to be made will be restricted by circumstance. Of priority is a goalscorer and a winger (maybe two, depending on Ronaldo’s future). Hargreaves’ fitness may temporarily make everything seem alright but we may still need that imposing or creative midfielder so Anderson can define himself and dovetail. That might yet be with Hargreaves; hopefully next season will give us a positive answer.

So come on Fergie; deliver us the impossible dream of Benzema and Ribery. Persuade Ronaldo to stay and for God’s sake get everyone fit!

Source: (Yolkie)

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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 »

Iniesta
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 »

You may also find these links interesting:

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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