It is fair to say that United gave their best performance of the season so far in what proved to be a masterclass in how to retain the football in the 3-1 victory over Spurs. Rooney was outstanding, Giggs rolled back the years – whilst Evra constantly bombed down the left providing an even greater attacking threat. I really enjoyed the game yesterday and hopefully this post sums up all the action and talking points.
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Tottenham Hotspur 1 – 3 Manchester United
Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and White Hart Lane have always been three ingredients that are among the most likely to provide a high octane advert for the English League – and this clash was no different.
It is being reported that Manchester City have agreed a potential transfer fee of £47 Million for the services of the Argentinian forward. An initial fee of £15 Million has been paid – whilst two further installments of £16 Million have been agreed. This for a player who mustered five league goals last season for the Champions.
Reports in Spain have suggested that both Barcelona and Manchester United turned down the chance to sign young striking prodigy Mario Balotelli – who now applies his trade for Inter Milan in Serie A – earlier in his career. United beat Internazionale 2-0 (over two legs) last season – with Balotelli coming on as sub in first game and being subbed off at Old Trafford. On both occasions the youngster appeared to lose his head in the heat the game.
Manchester United centre half Rio Ferdinand could be fit for the trip to London to take on Spurs on Saturday after Sir Alex Ferguson claimed he had a ‘chance’ of making the squad. Ferdinand has been out for nearly a month after injuring a thigh muscle in training for United – with young Evans deputising for the experienced defender.
Having been away from so long I haven’t been able to update the Statistics on the website – until now that is. So far we’ve played five games (including the Charity Shield) , scored ten goals, conceded four and Wayne Rooney leads the scoring charts with five goals in all competitions.
Manchester United centurion Wayne Rooney has shrugged off the claims from Arsenal fans that he was on his way down already before contact from Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia in the 2-1 victory over the Gunners last Saturday. Rooney scored from the resulting penalty – which brought United back into the game.
Unsurprisingly, Wayne Rooney is our player of the month for August. While Cristiano Ronaldo settles in with his £80m price tag, conversely it is on Rooney’s shoulders that this £80m responsibility has been shifted to – the task of becoming less sidekick and more leading light comes with extra pressure when the terms “world player of the year” and “most expensive player ever” are bandied about.
There are plenty of United fans however who always believed Rooney to be the brains of the operation, the true heartbeat of the side. And, naturally, Rooney has blossomed under the spotlight of expectation with a thundering 5 goals in his first 5 games.
His average rating of 7.6 for the 5 games (including the Community Shield) is heavily weighed down by the collective team shambles at Turf Moor – in all other games we’ve ranked him at least 8 / 10, and Man of the Match on three occasions.
While his new club striker team mate Michael Owen may have sent a brochure around in the summer illustrating his talents, United’s number 10 has done his talking on the pitch – painting himself as last minute saviour, the man to dig the team out of a sticky situation, chief orchestrator of an on song display, and the man for the big occasion all in one month.
It’s fair to say that a great deal of United’s trophy aspirations lie with Rooney – and if he continues to perform in such a manner, Sir Alex’s troops may well have some medals come the end of the season.
Goal of the month : Dimitar Berbatov v Wigan
In a great team performance, this goal was the perfect snapshot – clever link up with Scholes and Rooney finding the Bulgarian who exquisitely controlled the ball over the keeper and finished emphatically.
Yes – we’ve been as slow as old cart horse John Terry chasing an old granny lately but with good reason! My house move is all done just waiting on broadband activation now – but when there is connection everything will be up to speed!
Anyhow that is enough of my pathetic excuses, on to more promising matters of Owen Hargreaves return with his inclusion in the Champions League squad. If there was no chance of him playing – like when Mourinho left out Michael Ballack in 2007 after his injury – Fergie wouldn’t have even thought about including the midfielder in his list. Turns out Hargreaves is back at United this month – and hopefully not too far away from first team action.
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.