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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Who should play against Spurs?

Apart from City at the Etihad next April, United's toughest looking remaining fixture is the trip to Tottenham on Sunday. Last year, the reds earned a hard fought point at White Hart Lane (click on image left for a reminder) on a day when it was United's defenders who were the heroes - Vidic in particular drawing praise. It was the second time in three seasons that the fixture ended scoreless but in the context of the title race it was a point gained for United rather than two dropped.
This year, with City showing no sign of stopping, a point may not be enough. Indeed Paul Scholes claimed during the week that United may have to win all of their remaining games to win the title. If that is true, how should Sir Alex approach Sunday's game at White Hart Lane.

Fletcher undergoes hypnotherapy

Darren Fletcher has revealed the lengths he has gone to in order to beat a debilitating illness which has kept him sidelined for much of this season. Suffering from Ulcerative Colitis, the Scotsman has been searching desperately for a treatment to help him manage his condition and resume his role in the champions' midfield.
'It’s something that will never leave me, but you have to find somehow a way to manage it so that I can still play my football. “I’m trying everything under the sun at the moment, diet, hypnotherapy' Fletcher told reporters at a United Foundations charity event last night. The Scotsman then went on the say that he hoped to return to football next season. 
'I’m taking all my medication and listening to the doctor. “It’s a week by week situation so I’ve not got any timescale on recovery, but the target for me is next season now. If I can come back then that would be great for me.'

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

After twenty six games; how are we doing?

As things stand in the title race, United are in second place with 61 points. The leaders, City, have 63. Third placed Spurs have 53 points while both Arsenal and Chelsea are level on 46 points each. But how does this season compare with previous years?
Below is the Premier League table as it was after 26 games in the 2007/08 season; the year United won a league and European cup double; and it is quite similar to today's
(The table is in the format Total p w d l f a, Home p w d l f a, Away p w d l f a, gd pts)

Welbeck and Cleverley chewing cutlery: plus Danny's stats

Danny Welbeck has revealed the extent to which both he and team-mate Tom Cleverly are desperate for the title this season. "I'm so hungry' the United striker explained to Inside Untited magazine. 'I was just talking about it before in the canteen with Tom Cleverley. Clevz was biting his fork as well as his food and growling. We both want it so much. I don't think anybody understands how hungry we are for this title. We want to fulfil our dreams, win the title and keep winning and keep winning. There's nothing going to stop us.'
While Cleverley has endured a frustrating campaign due injuries, Welbeck has played a key role in the reds title defence; establishing himself as first choice to partner Wayne Rooney. 
Ahead of Berbatov, Chicharito and Owen, Welbeck has made the starting line up in all the reds' big league games; against Spurs (h), Arsenal (h & a), Liverpool (h & a), Man City (h) and Chelsea (a). Only injury prevented him from starting the home game against Chelsea.
From those games he has harvested 3 goals, the openers against both Spurs and Arsenal at home and the winner at the emirates. That is not to mention his fine strike against City in the FA cup. Overall he has 9 goals to date this season. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

How much of a difference has Paul Scholes made?

For many, United's re-signing of Paul Scholes last month was a blatant act of desperation and clear evidence that the reds could no longer attract the top talent or compete at the higher end of the transfer market. Some portrayed Scholes' return as a slap in the face for the reds' emerging youngsters; a signal that they could not be trusted; that an ageing veteran had to be summoned instead.  Others took it as Fergie's overdue admission that his midfield was not up to scratch.
As for United fans, most were delighted to see a legend return but, privately at least, some had their doubts; even if they would not have admitted it. Indeed early in his comeback, the 3rd round FA cup tie against City, those doubts seemed well founded when his stray pass resulted in a goal for Sergio Aguero at Wastelands. A week later, Scholes scored against Bolton but seemed off the pace at times.
But how has it gone since then?

Giggsy's season so far

For Ryan Giggs the plaudits have been justifiably deafening over the past twenty four hours after his match winning 900th appearance for United at Carrow Road on Sunday. At the age of 38, the Welsh flyer shows no signs of slowing down, displaying remarkable awareness and hunger as he strained every sinew to reach Ashley Young's cross at the far post in the last minute of injury time yesterday. To last 90 minutes in the Premier League at his age is an achievement in itself. For a 38 year old to be hurtling in at the far post toward the end of a tough, physical top flight contest is nothing short of incredible.
And yet United fans are well accustomed to such timeless displays from the evergreen midfielder. It has been another remarkable season for the Welshman; contributing well above what might be reasonably expected from a man of his age.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

On the subject of last gasp winners...

...ever tire?

Giggs to the rescue; 900 not out for the Welshman.

As we expected, Giggs and Welbeck started the game today at Carrow road. The two were instrumental in turning the game at Old Trafford back in October so it was no surprise that both were named in the starting line up today. It must also be mentioned that Ryan Giggs made his 900th appearance for Manchester United in this afternoon's match; an amazing achievement - truly amazing.
The fact that it was Giggs who eventually won the game for the reds was a wonderful touch; a moment that warmed the hearts of United fans everywhere.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

For all scousers going to Wembley: remember this?

I'll be there for you, says Chicharito to De Gea

Javier Hernandez has joined Jonny Evans in backing under fire United keeper David De Gea. Yesterday it was Evans that came out in support of the Spaniard, who has made a string of fine saves since his recall to the side (click image). Although De Gea's talent was never in doubt, his physical presence and judgement under high balls has been exposed occasionally since his arrival from Atletico Madrid. But as Evans highlighted yesterday, the young goalkeeper is growing into a popular member of the squad. 
Striker Hernandez agrees. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Norwich v United: Giggs and Welbeck were key last time out.

On Sunday United travel to Carrow road to face Norwich; the first of two back to back away games. When the sides met at Old Trafford back in October United had just beaten Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea in their previous three home matches by a combined score of 14-3. There seemed to be little hope for Norwich.
But the canaries made it difficult for United that autumn Saturday afternoon. It wasn't until Giggs and Welbeck were introduced after the hour mark that United were able to break the visitor's resistance; and but for some wayward finishing Norwich could easily have caused an upset.

De Gea beginning to settle says Evans

After his wonder save in last night's game against Ajax (click on the image, left),Jonny Evans has backed David De Gea to shine for Manchester United, claiming that the former Atletico Madrid stopper is finally settling into the red's dressing room. The spaniard has endured some difficult moments since his move to England but Evan's reckons De Gea's lack of English has spared him the worst of the critisism. 

"Probably it was a good thing David couldn't speak English at the start," said Evans.
"It seemed like he was coming into training and nothing was affecting him. He was just getting on with his game.
"But it was because he couldn't read or understand what was going on around him. Overall, that was probably better.

How important is passing?

Over the past few years Barcelona - in club football - and Spain - internationally -  have demonstrated the value of good passing. With Xavi and Iniesta in the centre of the park, both sides have swept all before them in the global game with their brand of 'tiki taka' football.
But how important is passing? Critics of the short passing style cite the slowness of the build up and the lack of excitement that can result from this apparently directionless approach. Indeed Spain won the world cup after a series of bland 1-0 victories and many Barcelona games are one sided with their opponents rarely getting a touch of the ball; making for a poor contest. For some, it is mere self indulgence, like the guitar player on a twenty minute solo, forgetting about the song. 'Tiki taka' can seem like a style of play that places more emphasis on 'aesthetics' rather than 'effectiveness'. On the other hand, purists would dismiss such critisism as 'uncultured' and point to Barca's wonderful attacking play, not to mention their goal scoring record.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rubbish second half

United V Ajax 1-2 (FT).

The less said the better

Mixed first half

United V Ajax (HT) 1-0; Chicharito.
A bright start for the reds, Berbatov sending a lovely ball forward to Chicharito who turned the defender and then gave the keeper 'the eyes', sending him to ground before finishing into the bottom corner.
Ajax showed little threat but drew level through a deflected shot.
Overall, United have been sloppy in the final third. Ashley Young and Nani need to up it in the second half, although Young does look better down the right than he does on the left tonight.
HT 1-1 (3-1 agg)

United V Ajax: Team Selection

United: De Gea, Rafael, Jones, Smalling, Fabio, Nani, Cleverly, Park, Young, Chicharito, Berabatov.

Subs; Amos, Evra, Evans, Carrick, Giggs, Scholes, Welbeck

England Reds: 6 United players called up to squad

 Tom Cleverly, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young have all been called up to the England squad to face Holland. Ex-red Frazier Campbell has also been called up.

Will Valencia be missed?

He's been one of the best performers for United over the past two months so how will his absence affect the team? The return of Nani should soften the blow of losing Antonia Valencia - out for a month with a hamstring problem - but how do the two wingers compare?

U-N-I-T-E-D, United are the team for me

Click the headline to hear the famous chant.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Yaya Toure and Michael Carrick out in front.

With United's midfield severely affected by injuries this season the responsibility for keeping the reds in the title race has fallen to Michael Carrick. And he has not disappointed; producing some of the best form of his United career just when we needed him most as this table shows.

Games = Premier League games where the player started and completed at least 50 mins. 
Does not include the two games which Michael Carrick played as a centre back. 
Only players from the current top three Premier League teams - Man City, Man Utd and Spurs - were analysed. 

Rooney out

Wayne Rooney will miss the game against Ajax with a throat infection

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Is Jonny Evans becoming a class act?

Although he can still seem fragile and error prone at times, Jonny Evans has undoubtedly moved on considerably from his nightmarish campaign of 2010/11. His stupid sending off in the Derby aside, Evans has matured nicely this term and, in the absence of Vidic, has settled impressively into his task along side Rio Ferdinand.
Indeed in recent weeks Evans has delivered some eye-catchingly stylish performances as we will analyse with the aid of the tables below.

Monday, February 20, 2012

We're Man United, we've won it five times!!!!!

From the 2006/07 season to 2010/11 Manchester United have been the most consistent club in Europe; surpassing even Barcelona in the standards they have maintained. But as we know, United have won just one European cup in that time while Barca have won two.
While a European League is perhaps a long way off, it is tempting to wonder how the reds would have fared if Europe's premier competition was run purely as a league rather than a hybrid league and knock out cup contest.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Former reds still playing: the best fantasy XI

A slightly pointless exercise in many ways but a debate in the pub with a Spurs fan got me thinking about a fantasy football team made up of ex-reds who are still playing. In recent seasons Spurs have faced more of their own ex-players than any other team, according to the bloke in the pub, and he was able to name a handy XI which included the likes of Crouch, Carrick, Berbatov and Danny Murphy.
But what of United?

Friday, February 17, 2012

The best midfield in England; it's just like Barcelona's

Man City have Yaya Toure, Nigel De Jong and David Silva. Chelsea have Raul Merieles, Lampard and Essien. At Spurs it is Luca Modric, Scott Parker and Rafael Van Der Vaart. Beyond the top four, Arsenal prospect Jack Wilshere and Liverpool Captain Steven Gerrard are probably the best. But who exactly has the best midfield England?
Manchester United of course.    

Benitez and Dalglish Both Victims of Anfield 'Victim Culture'

'I want to talk about facts' Rafa Benitez raged before the assembled media one Friday afternoon in January 2009. The former Liverpool manger, who's team were on top of the league at the time was taking a routine press conference when he reached into his pocket for a piece of paper and proceeded to launch an extraordinary tirade against Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson; famously dubbed 'Rafa's rant'.