Saturday, March 31, 2007
As the second half got under way many Reds were feeling that perhaps this was the day when United's season caught up with them, what with so many demanding games both on the domestic and international scene. But our fears where blown away in a majestic second half performance in which United were quite simply irrepressible as United banged in four goals with no reply - and it could have been more, a lot more. Only the Rovers stopper Brad Friedel and the woodwork stopped it from being a real beating as the American keeper denied Ronaldo, Park, Rooney and Giggs.
On 61 minutes the Ginger Prince that is Paul Scholes broke the visitors resistance to bring United level after somehow wriggling free to score a brilliant goal and in doing so igniting the atmosphere. After that the Reds swamped the visitors and it came as no surprise when Carrick put the Reds into a well deserved lead, and once again it was the man of the season Ronaldo who did the damage when his cross found the unmarked England midfielder who slotted home.
On 83 minutes, Park made it three and once again Ronaldo played his part, it was his free kick which led to the goal, then late on fans favourite Ole Solskjaer, delivered the coup de grace.
Final score United 4-1 Blackburn Rovers.
Friday, March 30, 2007
IT goes without saying that United will want to put even more pressure on Chelsea who play later on in the afternoon with the Reds kicking off on Saturday at 3pm.
Come on you Reds!
On the face of it, this looks like a big blow for the BBC and Sky, it's actually probably more of a blow for the BBC, because Setanta are a satellite broadcaster which means Sky will still be involved as they supply the technology, which means Sky will be still be in the loop and earning revenues.
I'm also slightly surprised about the figures, the new deal will generate a staggering 42% increase on the current deal. Quite how ITV and Setanta will make this pay would make interesting reading. Football fans haven't forgotten the doomed ITV digital deal, which collapsed becuase the broadcaster massively overpaid to secure the deal. It actually makes you wonder if Sky are allowing the same thing to happen again. Murdoch's machine is a slick operation and I for one doubt they'd be outbid unless they wanted it to happen. Could Sky actually be giving Setanta just enough rope to hang themselves? Time will tell.
The man in the street doesn't much care for this sort of league table, being top of the rich list is no guarantee of silverware on the sideboard come the end of May. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I'd be quite happy to finish mid table rich list wise if we won all the prizes.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
However over the last couple of big tournaments the fans have done much to address their reputation by keeping their collective noses fairly clean. But in Barcelona's Olympic Stadium last night, the fans let themselves down big time, not because they were causing mayhem with the local constabulary et al, but after 30 minutes of dire football it has to be said, the fans started collectively chanting for the manager to be fired and even worse they were targeting the team which was on duty.
Sure the fans pay the players wages and no one, least of all the players, should forget that, but there's a time and a place for everything. England needed to win last night, they weren't helped one bit by the fans - who also have their job to do by supporting the team while they're on the pitch. Slagging your team on the pitch is not big and it's not clever, it was actually as embarrassing as the teams first half performance.
Better news to report on the international scene was the performance of, dare I say Scotland, they were taking on the world champions Italy in Bari, despite losing two nil, courtesy of a brace by Luca Toni, the visitors gave the Italian's a good game - if only they had a defence. One player who looks certain to be heading to the English Premiership is striker Scott Brown, he looks very useful on the ball and very composed, so remember the name.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The most interesting thing to come out of the recent stories about the new owners concerns admission prices at the new stadium, it seems unlike the Glazer's who reportedly do not care about how much tickets cost, both Gillett and Hicks are committed to catering for 'all pockets'.
Talk is of course cheap and until the new stadium is built and ticket prices are announced we wont know for sure just how much seats will cost at this new stadium, but it's very encouraging news for Liverpool fans and sceptics like myself who believe that these new owners are only interested in lining their own prockets.
In contrast at United the Glazer family have put United into so much debt it's doubtful fans of all pockets will ever be catered for as things stand. However, as sure as eggs are eggs, the Glazer family will ruin United and in my opinion it is only a matter of time before the club goes bankrupt.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The thing is everyone knows United are massively in hock to the banks, due to the Glazer's crazy debt laden acquisition of the club, so there can be no guarantees that if the club receive a huge offer from say Real Madrid this summer then the Glazer's may well be tempted to sell the player against his wishes.
Ferguson needs to fight his corner by speaking out about how much he wants to retain Ronaldo, to his credit Fergie has already said the decision will be the Glazer's, in doing so making it clear he wants Cristiano to stay put.
One thing is 100% certain, the massed ranks of the Red Army will want blood if Ronaldo is sold this summer. This is most definitely not like when Cantona came to the end of this United days, he was over 30 years of age, the same can said of selling Beckham, he was 29 at the time. The club had seen the best of those two huge stars, the best is still to come from Ronaldo hence why it is of paramount importance that United do not sell Ronaldo.
Monday, March 26, 2007
You might have expected some support from McClaren's assistant in the current situation, but no, instead we are reading about a rift between the pair.
Assistants coaches are employed to assist and offer advice, apparently Venables spent most of Saturday's game with Israel sat in the directors box until 'he could stand no more'.
Maybe the media and Venables know the vultures are circling and perhaps that is the real reason El tel wanted to distance himself from proceedings on the pitch. Personally I think McClaren should sack Venables, but that would be playing into his hands, as it would leave McClaren further isolated.
As I posted on his appointment, bringing Venables in was asking for trouble.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
The game was like most England games over the last few years. Forgettable. So then, why is anyone really that surprised about the result or performance? And those who are daft enough to follow England to places like Israel, and 4,000 of them did make the journey, should know by now that there's no guarantee of quality, excitement or goals.
There is no refunds for bad football matches and there never has been, only the deluded would voice such requests, but then again...
The three Lions do not do exciting football, and so getting rid of McClaren wont do much except satisfy the two faced hacks, many of whom backed the appointment.
Sacking McClaren will not produce a genuinely world class striker like Drogba, or Shearer of old. For all his undoubted brilliance Rooney is a second striker, possibly the best in the world in that position, but he needs to play off an out and out striker. Rooney does much of his best work when coming from deep and outside the box.
At the last World Cup England did not have a proper out and out striker, it was the biggest problem they had and it is perhaps the biggest single problem that England have right now and no manager in the world will resolve that issue with the players who are currently available.
England do have Peter Crouch, a player who perhaps perfectly sums up England's world class credentials, he's not that good and he's not that bad, but like England he's a big lad who lacks punch.
No doubting her majesty's gentlemen of the press will eventually get McClaren fired, unlike with Sven this time it wont take a fake Sheikh to get him out. For the record I was in favour of appointing Big Phil Scholari, but Brian Barwick screwed that up royally as only the FA can.
Scholari would have given England the biggest shake up ever, and he's also been known to level journalists on occasion. So if nothing else, it would at least be more entertaining off the pitch.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
From purely an aesthetic point of view the new Wembley looks more pleasing on the eye when compared to the concrete bowl that is the Nou Camp.
But from the perspective of actually watching the game, the Nou Camp is without any shadow of a doubt the finest stadium I've had the pleasure to visit. The tiers are tightly stacked upon each other and the angles are quite steep, this means that the fans feel quite close the action and although the stadium was built in the 50s it was designed on a classic bowl shape.
The angle of the lower tiers at Wembley do not look that steep, nor are the lower tiers stacked as tightly as those at the Nou Camp and this means fans are further away from the action - which is key in my opinion.
I have yet to visit the New Wembley so at this point I'm going purely off tv footage, but I'd be interested to hear the views of those who have visited both stadiums. From the comfort of my armchair, it looks to me that the stadium architects have failed to come up with a design which beats something that was built in the 50s.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Apparently, the fine is because United supporters let off fireworks inside the ground and caused a few problems outside the ground.
Lille for their part in the shambolic organisation have been fined 100,000 Swiss francs.
United will surely appeal against this judgement because (a) if Lille had adequate security measures in place, then no one would have been allowed into the ground carrying fireworks and (b) if there was any problems outside the ground it was down to the lack of organisation - these things never happen at Old Trafford.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Not so great news is his team mate and captain, George Boateng, has spoken out stating that some players would like to put Ronaldo out of the game for some considerable time, his comments were at best unwise.
We've all heard about former players from times gone by who kept a black book with the names of rival players and sworn enemies, but details of the black book only came out when the said diary owner had retired from the game. Boateng appears to be threatening to shorten Ronaldo's career prospects while still playing the game.
This is why the FA must surely act against Boateng, they talk about players taking premeditated actions, for example like diving, yet here we have a player openly talking about seriously injuring a player who in all probability will be this seasons player of the year - and rightly so, because unlike Boateng, he has given millions of fans a lot of pleasure this season.
Boateng needs to be stamped on hard by the FA.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
United fans have been looking at the fixture list and going through the various what ifs and maybes. The prospect of winning the title against Man City is one to savour - some where hoping City might also need the points to avoid relegation, but given Boro's giveaway three points last weekend, the pressure is off from that perspective. City fans will be hoping that they can stop United from winning the title when the two sides meet. However, on the same day, Chelsea face Arsenal away and so if the Gunners won that game and even if United lost against City, the Reds could still end up being the champs that day....
If United did manage to secure the title before the Chelsea game, would the current champions welcome the newly crowned champs with a guard of honour as the Reds walk out onto the Stamford Bridge turf? We shall see.
I'm actually very surprised that between Chelsea and Sky tv, they haven't managed to get the game scheduled for earlier in the season so as to put more heat on the Reds.
The pressure is very much on both United and Chelsea, there is no margin for error.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
The penalty award did not go down well with the Boro players or management, as it was the third awarded against them in games with United this season. Because of the history between the two sides there was always going to be a lot of carping, but as Ferguson rightly said after the game "I don't know what the fuss was about, it was a penalty". Quite.
IF you take the legs of an opposition player inside the area, then do not be surprised if the referee awards a spot kick.
Apart from the penalty, United created by far the better chances with Rooney spurning at least two guilt edged chances, while the visitors barely tested United's keeper.
It would be a brave man who backs against United gracing the hallowed turf of the new Wembley now.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Fergie will be hoping his players come through the game and the internationals later this week without further injuries, especially after losing Gary Neville for a couple of weeks with a twisted ankle against Bolton at the weekend.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Quite simply the visitors back four could not handle the pace of United's attacks, at times we looked a division above Bolton. It came as no surprise then that Rooney made it four nil in the second period, this time the creator was second half substitute Alan Smith who lobbed a lovely ball over the top for Rooney to run onto, the England striker finished with style, slicing across the ball with the outside of his right boot so the ball swerved away from the keepers despairing left hand and into the corner of the net, it was a picturebook finish.
For some bizarre reason the visitors were awarded what looked to be the softest penalty of the season so far, Bolton scored to make the final score United 4-1 Bolton.
Bring on 'Boro for that FA cup replay on Monday.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
A lot of money was raised for good causes, all from the pockets of United fans, as an added bonus Scholes who's in the middle of a domestic suspension got a good run out and the Reds won the game 4-3, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the goal of the game with a stunning free kick.
The evening was a total success.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
No doubt the club may well argue that they wanted the date as near as possible to mark 50 years in European football, but if that is the case the game should have been played in September 2006 and not in March 2007, with European games coming up and the danger of FA Cup replays.
For the record United's first game in the European Cup was on 12th September 1956 against Anderlecht, the Reds had been invited into the competition and in accepting they had to play two preliminary games before entering the competition proper.
This game tonight against this select European XI actually smacks of money grabbing too, because after all it's not as if they'll be letting the fans in for free, is it? Come to that when has the club ever put on a game like this for free for the benefit of the fans, many of which have been supporting the club for decades?
Money grabbing issues aside, this game should have been played in pre-season and not a few days before a local derby especially with so many big games on the horizon. Or was it the case that United's confidence about their European ambitions were such that they fully expected be out of Europe by the time this game came around? I cannot answer that question, but when clubs like United whinge on about fixture congestion and they then pull a stunt like this, the result is any sympathy goes right out of the window.
Regarding the actual celebration of 50 years in European football, how many other big clubs will do likewise? I'm not convinced any of them will to be honest.
Some would argue United's European record has been pretty patchy, certainly Fergie's record in Europe has been largely one of under achieving - all too often falling over against teams that on paper at least anyway should have been beaten.
But under Matt Busby, the Reds really led the way from an English perspective with United having to fight their corner with the football league just to play in European Cup. In 1956, Chelsea won the league title, but were told that they could not enter the European Cup.
Back in '56-' 57 and having accepted the invite to enter the European Cup, the Reds went all the way to the semi-final, in what must still go down as one of the most exciting seasons ever, along the way scoring 24 four goals, ten of them (a club record) against Anderlecht. United had to play that game at Maine Road in front of 70,000 fans, because the floodlights were not ready. In the semi final United met the holders Real Madrid and lost the first leg 1-3 in Spain, with Tommy Taylor scoring. The Reds fought back to draw 2-2 in the return but lost on aggregate. That season was United's first real tilt at the treble. Having won the league title already, United lost in the FA Cup final at Wembley to Aston Villa.
The following season in Europe ended in tragedy in Munich, 6 Feb, 1958, when arguably the best team in Europe was wiped out when eight players died in the never to be forgotten Munich tragedy. United had just beaten Red Star Belgrade 5-4 in the quarter final on aggregate.
United eventually lost 2-5 to AC Milan in the semi final - ironically we could face AC Milan this season, if first we overcome AS Roma.
IF the Reds can go all the way to Athens this season and lift the trophy, then that would be the best and most appropriate way of celebrating 50 years in Europe.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Sunday, March 11, 2007
After starting the game brightly the Reds deservedly took the lead courtesy of a very precise finish by Rooney, who once again despite a superb goal, did not live up to his star billing, he looks slightly less than 100% match sharp at present. Whether he's been carrying a knock or he's simply jaded is hard to tell. Reds fans will be hoping Rooney and Ronaldo carry the team to glory in the coming weeks ahead, for that to happen, the England striker needs to sharpen up his act.
'Boro played their part in this game though forcing United's stand in keeper Tomasz Kuszczak to make some fine saves, but the home side equalised just before the break with a well taken goal through Cattermole after something of a mix up between Ferdinand and the keeper.
Then just after the interval the home side took the lead from a corner when Boateng was left unmarked to head home. Fergie would be have been livid.
However, Boateng brought United back into the game late one when he clearly handled the ball inside the box. Ronaldo scored from the spot kick to force a replay on March 19th.
Having already been taken to replay by Reading, we really did not need another game in the FA cup with our busy schedule. As ever the Reds are doing it the hard way.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
From what I hear a lot of Reds are planning to make the trip. It wont hopefully to out to be a reenactment of the sacking of Rome in 410 AD when the Barbarian hordes won the day, but on the pitch it will be a different matter, it will be a real scrap and a fight to the death, but without the gore of the Coliseum, it looks like a real cracker of a tie in the making.
The last time United won the Champions League in '98-'99 we had to overcome two Italian sides in the quarter and the semi, this time the road to Athens is blocked firstly by Roma and then possibly Milan. An omen perhaps?
The thing is everyone left in the competition will rightly believe that they have a good chance of winning it.
There is of course the possibility of an all English final....would UEFA allow the final to go ahead in Athens as planned?
Friday, March 09, 2007
But the bad news for the clubs owners is that this could mean breaking United's pay structure to give Ronaldo over a reported £120,000 per week. Reds fans will not care about such matters, but will the Glazer family? Especially given that there's been so much talk of world record offers for the player coming from Real Madrid and Barcelona.
One thing is for certain, United cannot afford to lose Ronaldo, without him this current team wouldn't be half as good, in short he's made the difference this season. He could well be the world's best player at present so we need to retain him at all costs.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
United faced Lille in what was another tough looking assignment, and they just about deserved to win with Larsson scoring the only goal of the game, but it wasn't pretty or convincing. Based on the level of the two performances against Lille, the quarter final will be United's curtain call, but bizarrely the bookies make United favourites to win the competition, given the Reds limitations up front, that must be completely wrong. What United do not need is to be drawn against Liverpool or Chelsea, losing to either might be catastrophic in terms of confidence.
Liverpool despite losing on the night to Barca, deserved to win the game and the tie over both legs. Barcelona look nothing like last season.
Chelsea scraped through with a scratchy performance against Porto and they too do not look convincing at present.
Arsenal despite being one down from the first leg, went out somewhat surprisingly, as PSV managed to draw 1-1 with Alex scoring at both ends.
The competition is now wide open. Any of the remaining sides can win it, but I fear sadly not United due to our lack of firepower up front.
Coupled with this, Larsson is definitely going back to Sweden on March 12th, leaving United with only Alan Smith, the forgotten striker of Old Trafford. Back in January many reds myself included, wondered about the wisdom of securing just one loan striker as a temporary measure, and as good as Larsson has been , those fears about being light up front have now turned into a reality for Ferguson which could wreck any hopes of winning some silverware.
The reality is United now find themselves scratching around for players like a lesser club, quite simply this is wrong. At no other time in the last decade can I remember United being so short of cover up front.
IF our worst fears are realised and the reds fail to win the title, then Reds fans will look back in anger at the Summer and January transfer windows and wonder exactly why didn't the club buy another striker. While Fergie has taken credit for the work he's done this year, he must also take the flack if it all falls down now due to a lack of numbers.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
One set of fans who probably didn't think their club would be where they are now in the league is the Man City supporters, but for good reason, not so long ago they were known as 'a yoyo club' because of their regular sojourns into the nether regions of lower league football, at one point they were on the verge of dropping into the old third division.
Since their latest return to the big time and over the last few seasons things have been a lot better with Keegan bringing a measure of stability to the club. However, the current manager Stuart Pearce now finds himself and his team just one place above the drop zone and out of the bottom group of clubs, City have what looks like the toughest remaining games. Sure they have two games in hand on the rest of the bottom clubs, but they have to play the top four sides and no points from those games could see them in trouble.
United face City in what could be our second to last game of the season, the Reds might need to win to secure the title, City fans would love it if they could stop that happening, but into the bargain the Blues might also need something from the game to stay up, the possibilities are intriguing to say the least.
One thing is for certain, Man City are not too good to go down, City fans would agree of that I'm confident.
Monday, March 05, 2007
So then, after three away wins on the bounce the Red Devils face Lille on Wednesday at Old Trafford in the return leg of that Champions League double header. The Reds won the first leg courtesy of some quick thinking by Ryan Giggs, when he quickly took his free-kick and outwitted the French players, who then nearly caused a riot by walking off the field of play. Since then the off the pitch row has been simmering with Fergie calling Lille a disgrace and even suggesting that they should be booted out of Europe.
In response to the defeat and the manner of the Giggs goal, Lille have unsuccessfully appealed to Uefa and anyone else who'd listen, and there's talk of more appeals to higher European courts. Frankly, the French club are acting like a bunch of spoilt schoolgirls and many Reds fans would no doubt like United to spank their collective sorry backsides this week, but I see a very difficult game coming up.
No doubt Lille will want to avenge the 'injustice' of the first game. I just hope United grind them into the Old Trafford turf, but it will be one of our hardest games of the season. If United did lose this game and get knocked out, there's no telling what effect it may have on the remainder of the season, so it is vital United keep on winning. I predict a very narrow win for United.
Saturday's losers, the 'Liverpool Reds' take on Barca and I fully expect Liverpool to finish off the job they started in the Nou Camp, the Barcelona defence is at present like watching the Keystone Cops, they are all over the place and quite appalling.
Arsenal should and will comfortably overturn that 1-0 defeat against PSV in the first leg and ease their way into the next round.
Chelsea have what looks to be quite a tough game against Mourinho's former club Porto, but again the Blues should progress without too many scares.
That leaves Celtic, if they pull off a victory in Italy against AC Milan it will be arguably the result of the round, but few would back them, myself among them.
So with the exception of Celtic it should be a good week for British clubs in Europe.
According to Fergie, United have plenty of options, he stated that we have Giggs, Rooney, Ronaldo, Saha and Ole who can all play down the middle, added to which he even stated that Alan Smith would figure before the end of the season. The thing is since breaking his leg, Smith has barely featured for United's first team and when the former Leeds man has played, he's never really caught the imagination of the fans, and more importantly it seems something has upset Ferguson and his backroom team.
There has been some evidence of Smith and Ronaldo not seeing eye to eye on the pitch on occasion, that wouldn't help the former Leeds striker one bit, as the last thing Fergie would want right now is for players falling out on the field of play. Smith also dives into challenges, but in that respect his disciplinary record has been quite good, certainly much better than in his Leeds days, he lacks pace too and personally I believe he doesn't link up that well with Rooney, those two factors are perhaps the main reasons why he's not been in the team. Though to be totally fair to Smith he's not had that many games up front.
On top of all those factors, United have made several failed attempts at offloading Smith, so it just shows how desperately short of cover up front the Reds are that Fergie is now talking about bringing back United's forgotten striker.
They do say that Fergie is a lucky manager and how ironic it would be if Smith went on to prove Fergie wrong and end the season as a United hero by playing his full part in helping the Reds to lift some silverware.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Liverpool will perhaps feel robbed, after giving their all to win this game in the second half as the visitors seemed to be content to hang on for a point, but United too may well feel slightly aggrieved after Saha was denied what looked like a definite penalty after being brought down in the Liverpool penalty area late on in this tense game.
United won this game through grit and determination and great defending, after losing Wayne Rooney following a rash challenge by Jamie Carragher. The former Everton star looked in need of stitches with a nasty looking gash on this thigh. Then as if that was bad enough, the ginger prince Paul Scholes was harshly sent off for what the referee deemed to be an attempted punch, it wasn't, but even though the official had less than a clear view of the incident the United midfield player was shown the red card.
Arsene Wenger recently stated United have no legs late on in games, but for the second game in a row United scored at the death to win a game, so Wenger will have to revise his views on United's stamina and Jose Mourinho is now left to chew on being 12 points behind the league leaders. For the first time in three seasons, the pressure is very much on Jose and his boys.
Friday, March 02, 2007
"Although there are only three points are at stake, the game means that extra bit more and we would love to get three points from it, it is a massive fixture" Gerrard said.
United should be slight favourites to win this one even though Liverpool are full of confidence and playing well, however, the Red Devils are also playing well, and we have the best player in the league in Ronaldo who is playing out of his skin, as they say.
I also believe United's defence is slightly better that Liverpool's and so I'm sticking out my neck and saying the Reds will take three points, and if we do that, then Gerrard and many others believe United will be crowned as champions in May, bring it on...