Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Will it be 1968 all over again: United v City for the title?...Manchester humiliates North London's finest...

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Manchester United humiliated Arsenal on Sunday - worryingly for the Gunners - the 8-2 final score did not flatter the champions in the slightest. The brutal match facts: For the second home game on the spin it was Danny Welbeck who opened the scoring with another header, this time from deep within the Arsenal penalty area, that was on 22 minutes. Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young went on to score five goals between them; Rooney took the match-ball home after scoring a hat-trick. Ashley Young grabbed a superb brace - one that will have blown away any remaining doubts about his suitability. Park and Nani chipped in with a goal apiece to complete the rout. Arsenal's consolation goals were scored by Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie. Arsenal's Carl Jenkinson was sent off for his second booking of the game. Arshavin should most definitely have been sent-off, but referee Howard Webb saved Arsene Wenger further embarrassment when he did not branish his red card to the Russian.

The dust has not yet settled following the seismic events at Old Trafford and at White Hart Lane where earlier in the day Manchester City handed out a football lesson to Spurs when thrashing the other big North London club. As a result of City's 5-1 win, the Citizens' went briefly to the top of the Barclays Premier League. However, United's demolition job on Arsenal ensured City's stay at the top was a brief one.

For United and City fans it looks like it's going to be one hell of a season; both teams look capable of scoring goals galore, and both have strong squads. Pundits and fans alike fully anticipate that it will be United and City who will battle it out for the Premier League title - though Chelsea and Liverpool will also have a big a say.

You have to go back fully 44 years to the last time when both of the Manchester clubs were involved in a toe-to-toe title scrap and back then it was City who eventually came out on top. United finished runner-up in 1968, but Sir Matt Busby's team had the consolation of becoming the first English club to lift the European Cup, in so doing trumping City's title celebrations.

From a North London perspective, the outlook is at best uncertain, at worst positively gloomy. Understandably and predictably, questions are being asked about Arsene Wenger's future and Harry Redknapp is under pressure.

From the outside looking in, it certainly looks like Arsenal and Spurs have made a complete hash of their respective transfer dealings over the summer. Arsenal tried and failed to hang on to Fabregas and Nasri for far too long and the same can be said of want-away Luka Modric at Spurs.

Spurs boss Daniel Levy has a track-record of squeezing every last penny out of rivals' like Manchester United in his transfer dealings. United have had their transfer trousers pulled down on several occasions by Levy, but one suspects his game of brinkmanship over Modric is going to hurt bottom of the table Spurs in the pocket, because even at this very early stage, surely there's no way Tottenham can have any realistic hope of finishing in the top four.

United fans will not care too much about the problems of their North London rivals, not when the champions will be fighting City all the way to the finishing line next May.

Unlike his North London colleagues Ferguson did completed most of his transfer dealings early in the window. The United manager has done a remarkable job in assembling what has been described as a new team. The manager's new signings have all bedded in extremely well. David de Gea may well have allowed Theo Walcott's shot to go through his legs against Arsenal on Sunday, but that can happen to the very best goalkeepers, but other than that the young Spaniard is really starting look like he's at home with United.

Phil Jones will in all probability retain his starting place in the team and if anyone will make way for Ferdinand or Vidic it is likely to be Jonny Evans. But do not rule out Fergie leaving Ferdinand on the bench, Evans and Jones could well be the future first-choice centre-back pairing and for that reason Ferguson might well be keen to see this partnership given more time to flourish.

Ashley Young has, in very short order, repaid the faith shown in him by the manager. When Fergie splashed out £18m to capture the Aston Villa front man, eyebrows were collectively raised, not least because it was felt that the money could have been put to better use with a view to securing a world-class central midfield player like Wesley Sneijder who continues to be linked with United.

Whatever else happens between now and the summer transfer window closing, Ashley Young has blown away those doubts, not just with his hugely impressive goals against Arsenal on Sunday and his matching winning contribution at the Hawthorns, but also because of his intelligent use of the ball.

Unlike Park and Nani who all too often have a propensity for making the wrong decision when on the ball, Young has, up to now, almost always tried to play the right ball and most of the time it has come off.

Elsewhere, Tom Cleverley has done extremely well, so much so that it looks like he has edged out Michael Carrick. Unlike Carrick, Cleverley can do it all, he is quicker, his all round game is sharper and more incisive.

Danny Welbeck was once again on target when scoring with yet another header against Arsenal. Whether or not the United youngster will be able to reclaim his place now that Hernandez is fit again, only time will tell. One thing is certain, it looks like Berbatov has dropped right down the pecking order, and despite Fergie's claims to the contrary, do not be surprised if the Bulgarian is sold within the next 48 hours.

Chris Smalling continues to improve at right-back and he looks very dangerous going forward too and so Rafael will do well to win back his starting place once fit again.

While the new players and the youngsters have been in fine form, Wayne Rooney has been United's star man. Rooney is back to his very best and right now, he'd walk into pretty much any team on the planet including Barcelona. While Rooney has been in superb form, the same cannot be said of Nani who has reverted back to his bad old ways of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Will Nani ever learn?

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