Tuesday, March 29, 2011

United vs City FA Cup semi final will be a bloodbath....

Sir Alex Ferguson has been speaking to the media about the impending FA Cup semi finals at Wembley. The United manager says it's going to be chaotic, because the two Manchester clubs supporters along with those from Bolton and Stoke will be in the capital on the same weekend as the London Marathon. To make matters worse, on Sunday Liverpool fans will be at the Emirates for the Arsenal Premier League fixture...

Fergie also quite rightly highlighted the over inflated price of travel when stating the cost of petrol for supporters was never taken into consideration when the FA took the crazy decision to play all future semi finals at Wembley.

The United manager pointed out that grounds such as Villa Park, Anfield and Hillsborough are all more suitable alternatives for FA Cup semi finals - especially for Northern clubs.

While Fergie is absolutely correct to complain, he avoided talking about the prospect of trouble between the fans. United are not the most loved club in the land where rivals are concerned, but on the weekend of April 16th/17th, three of our most bitter rivals will be in the capital at the same time.

It beggars belief that this situation has been allowed to happen. It is likely to be a bloodbath. United vs City doesn't kick-off until 5.15pm - if this fixture was played in Greater Manchester, GMP would insist on the match kicking-off early so as to avoid heavy drinking before the game.

According to the media, the decision to play all FA Cup semi finals at Wembley could be under review - let us hope this isn't just a rumour because the current arrangement is complete and utter madness and all for the sake of the money grabbing FA.

CAPELLO. RIO and the England Captaincy

The issue of the captaincy of England has been so badly handled by the Italian manager that it is about time he was told enough is enough.

Whilst I personally cannot stand the individual, there is no doubt that Terry is a leader. But surely the captain of our National side should be judged on both his on field as well as his off field activities. The captain has to be someone whom young children can look up to.

There is also no doubt that Rio Ferdinand has done some stupid things. The most serious one missing the drugs test- which if he was an athlete would have had extremely serious consequences on his career. But he has done much to clean up his act and has grown into a highly respected footballer and a very good captain.

But the treatment of Rio Ferdinand by Capello the overpaid and under performing manager of England is beyond a disgrace. It is one where the Chairman of the Football Association should personally step in and admonish Capello.

There has been no report of any organised meeting between Ferdinand and Capello. Other than they were both at Old Trafford in the stands. Did Capello really expect to conduct such a personal and sensitive matter in full view of the crowd and television camera’s? If so the man has no sense of decorum whatsoever.

But it is the constant criticism, by Capello, towards Ferdinand which, I believe, is annoying reasonable people up and down this country. Ferdinand has conducted himself very well. He brought dignity and respect to the role of Captain of the National side. Nobody can criticise his managing of that role. Yet Capello blames Ferdinand for snubbing him! Capello blames Ferdinand for everything. In my view those are the tactics by a man who knows he is wrong and cannot stop digging.

I do believe the Chairman of the Football Association should ascertain just what arrangements were made, or attempted, for a meeting with Rio Ferdinand. Was a private room requested and booked?. Were arrangements made for the meeting, if so how and is there documentary proof of such arrangements. Is there any evidence that Rio Ferdinand knew of these arrangements? Again, if so where is that evidence?

But it was the revelation, by Steven Gerrard who had held the captaincy during the absence through injury of Rio Ferdinand, that he had been contacted personally, by telephone, by Capello that made most people sit up. Why, if the vice captain, Steven Gerrard, can have a telephone conversation with Capello, did Capello not afford the same respect to Ferdinand? Again this is where the Chairman of the Football Association must demand answers.

Why did Capello’s deputy tell Ferdinand, in a telephone conversation -which proves they had his number- that Terry would be a temporary appointment. Why the confusion between Capello and his Italian colleague / There could not have been a language difficulty surely.

Capello has old fashioned views on man management. He did have an excellent pedigree as a club manager. But he has no idea of England and the English. He says he only needs one hundred words of English to speak to his players, which is an admission that he has failed in what he agreed to do, learn English.

Rio Ferdinand deserves a full and public apology from Capello then, perhaps, the issue can be laid to rest.

Another concern, which others may have spotted, is how the football press have started writing that Capello is the right man for the job. On what basis they can say that is beyond me. Beating Wales?

The man is overpaid, has not brought success and should be allowed to go as soon as possible and a good English manager appointed.

Strapworld. 29.March 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Where now for Manchester United?

The excellent Andersred blog has been detailing in depressing detail the truth about Manchester United finances.

Today's news that the club has been used by the Glazer family taking around £400m in interest payments and charges since the Americans took control in 2005. The figures released yesterday show Manchester United lost, yes lost! over £108 million in the financial year to June 2010. Which can have only one outcome. Instead of getting great signings, the money from United fans are now financing the huge debts from the Glazer family takeover.

Manchester United have some 50 million fans throughout the world and cash and purchasing of the top players should be no problem whatsoever.

No fan believes Sir Alex Ferguson has over £100 million in the kitty for transfers. the prospect of United spending big on players has increasingly become a fantasy in the Theatre of Dreams.

Instead of paying off debts, which did not exist prior to the Glazers' takeover, Manchester United should be spending millions on the world's greatest, as they did. But we are now in the bargain basement department.

The rumour, today, that the club is interested in Richard Dunne of Aston Villa highlights the problem facing Sir Alex Ferguson and the supporters.Remembering that it is bums on seats and supporters purchasing shirts etc that made Manchester United
the wealthiest club,prior to the Glazers' takeover.

This blog has been foremost in highlighting the state of the present squad. The need for a dynamic leader in midfield is evident and our defence needs bolstering.But with the Glazers' taking money from the club, who can believe that Sir Alex Ferguson will bring in some top signings in the summer?

The issue will then return to what can supporters do? Stay away? Wear different colours? They have been tried without success. The Glazers' put up the price of seats year on year and still supporters fill the stadium.

Perhaps organised marches displaying the frustration of fans may help galvanise greater opposition to the Glazers'. But fans of Manchester United cannot allow this great club to continue in this downward slide to obscurity.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sense of injustice could spur United on to victory over Chelsea on domestic and European fronts..

United have been drawn against Chelsea in the quarter finals of the Champions League and of course the two clubs will meet each other again in the Premier League at Old Trafford in May.

United fans will no doubt be sick and tired of reading about Chelsea taking revenge over the Red Devils, because if anything it is the league leaders who should be looking to avenge too many wrongdoings when the two clubs have met in recent seasons.

When Chelsea lost the Moscow Champions League final to United in 2008, it had nothing to do with injustice, it was just down to bad luck as John Terry slipped when taking that hilarious never to be forgotten penalty in the shoot-out. United won the cup the rest is history.

Since then, all we've heard is talk of Chelsea taking revenge. Yet the fact is, in too many meetings with Chelsea since 2008, it is United who've been on the wrong end of injustice; take the recent the league game with Chelsea at the beginning of March. David Luiz should definitely have been sent off - and yet the Brazilian was allowed to stay on the pitch, despite the fact that he'd hacked down several United players and then to cap it all he scored the opening goal.

Let us also not forget that United should have played Chelsea earlier in the season but that game was called off due to 'bad weather', that was despite the fact that reports suggested the Chelsea pitch was perfectly playable. The original fixture would have been played prior to Chelsea signing Luiz and Torres. United fans will not need reminding that Chelsea were playing well below their best at that particular time.

In last season's meeting at Old Trafford, Didier Drogba scored the winning goal and yet he was clearly offside.

In recent encounters, Chelsea have only been able to beat United with the help of the referee, hopefully their luck is set to run out. United are due a couple of wins over Chelsea and I for one cannot wait to celebrate knocking them out of the Champions League and winning the Premier League.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

United hoping for luck of the draw after knocking out Marseille...

United are through to the quarter finals of the Champions League after knocking out Marseille at Old Trafford on Tuesday night. It finished up 2-1 - for the most part, it was a nervy affair - but it was always likely to be like that following the goalless first leg.

Javier Hernandez grabbed the headlines after scoring a real goal poachers brace - the young Mexican striker continues to give Ferguson selection headaches and against Marseille it was a slightly bemused looking Dimitar Berbatov who was left sat on the substitutes bench.

Wayne Rooney was United's star performer on the night - at times his passing was superb. Without doubt the high point of Rooney's performance was the part he played in laying on the opening goal after just five minutes. Rooney received the ball in the centre circle and played it to Giggs on the left flank, the Welshman played it back to the United striker who was steaming into the Marseille penalty area before finding Chicarito with a slide-rule pass for Hernandez to score.

Last season Rooney was the club's top goal scorer, but it has been an altogether different story this season following the fall-out from his contract wrangles and the problems relating to his private life.

On the pitch at least anyway, Rooney appears to have put his troubles behind him, but more often than not, he is now playing in his more familiar second striker role and he's showing signs that he's coming back to something like his best. As well as Rooney has played up front at times this season, some media pundits and fans alike are wondering if Rooney's future lies in central midfield; there's no doubting that Rooney sees a pass as well as anyone in the United squad and when he's at his best he rarely loses possession.

It remains to be seen how the future will pan out, but the good news for Ferguson and United fans is that the team is no longer reliant on just one striker to score the goals, and what's more, as we saw against Arsenal last weekend there could well be serious competition for places in the offing in the problem area that has been central midfield following the quite brilliant first-half performances of the da Silva brothers.

But against Marseille, it was the veteran Ryan Giggs who played an important part in United's goals; the Welshman laid on the second after good work by the once again impressive Antonio Valencia who has been superb in his two cameo appearances from the bench.

The only downside on the night was the Wes Brown own goal, but considering Vidic and Ferdinand were both absent, the manager and fans alike will have been well pleased with the performance of Smalling and the rest of the United defence.

As a result of the win over Marseille, United are looking forward to Friday's quarter final draw and there's no doubting everyone wants to avoid Barcelona. According to Jose Mourinho, he ONLY wants to avoid Chelsea and Inter Milan, because it will be 'too emotional' - are we left to assume he wouldn't mind facing Barca again? After the drubbing Barca gave to Madrid at the Nou Camp earlier this season you can bet Jose's comments are very much wide of the mark. Nonetheless, Barca vs Real Madrid would be the dream draw for the remaining clubs in the competition - because one of the favourites would be eliminated.

United will be hoping to avoid the Spanish giants and so just about any other club will do.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The scandalous rip-off that is the FA Cup semi finals...

So then United have been drawn against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final. Realistically, United are the only club left in the competition who can stop City from ending that trophyless Hoodoo that has been haunting the club for 35 years. Most neutral fans wanted this match up to be the final, but alas that wasn't to be.

The problem for many supporters is the semi-final venue, Wembley itself. The decision to play all FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley has for many supporters taken something away from the competition. It simply isn't the same competition that it used to be. Going to Wembley for the FA Cup final used to something really special. It isn't special any longer - partly because both finalists and their supporters will have already been to Wembley for the semi-final.

So why was the decision taken to play the semi-finals at Wembley? The answer is simple, money. Supporters are being fleeced by the FA and the company who runs Wembley.

The cost of rebuilding Wembley was totally off the scale at £798m and someone has to pay; sadly for us supporters, it was always going to be the fans. In comparison, Cardiff's Millennium Stadium cost just £121m to build.

Two years ago I attended a Sportsmans Dinner. The guest speak was former Burnley striker and now "Stadiologist". Fletcher has advised on the construction of 30 stadium projects both large and small throughout the UK and Europe. For two years he was the commercial director of the new Wembley project. However, Fletcher resigned and in his resignation letter he made it clear why he was leaving: he said the project was going to be very late and very over budget.

Fletcher isn't some bloke you bump into in the bar who has a theory on such an emotive issue as the scandalous rebuidling costs of new Wembley - he was effectively in charge of the project for two years...

In is after dinner speech, Fletcher made the comparison with the construction costs of Cardiff's Millennium stadium. Fletcher didn't elaborate on what exactly went wrong with the Wembley project, but he said "it didn't have to be like that"... and that is why he resigned.

As a direct result of that shambolic rebuilding project and in particular the scandalous construction cost, supporters of English clubs have been left to foot the bill and that is why United will be facing City at Wembley.

Media pundits have been asking why the FA Cup has lost its appeal and sadly too many numpties are still (a decade later) blaming Manchester United who pulled out of the competition in 2000 to play in the World Club Championship in Brazil - a decision that was backed by the government at the time. United's trip to South America didn't help, but it was long before new Wembley was finally completed.

The FA have been ripping off English fans for years at Wembley and so not much has changed in that respect, apart from the fact that it is now much more expensive for supporters to follow their clubs in the FA Cup.

It's also true to state that at the beginning of every new season the FA Cup is very much number three on the priority lists of manager's like Ferguson, Ancelotti and Wenger. Vying to win the League title and the Champions League are the top two priorities.

The FA Cup has lost some of its appeal, and the noses in the trough FA have only themselves to blame.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wenger close to tears: Da Silva twins shine, as United dump Arsenal out of FA Cup...

United deservedly progressed into the semi-finals of the FA Cup on Saturday at the expense of Arsenal. The final score was 2-0; both teams had plenty of goal scoring opportunities, but it was United who were the more clinical on the day.

Going into the quarter final, many United fans will no doubt have been perplexed on hearing Ferguson's team news: There was no place in the starting line-up for Fletcher, Scholes, Giggs or Carrick. More worryingly still, was the central midfield pairing of John O'Shea and Darron Gibson.

In midweek, prior to this FA Cup tie, football fans around the world were given a real treat by the quite brilliant Barcelona midfield who destroyed Arsenal. How we wondered would O'Shea and Gibson fair against the same Arsenal midfield? On Tuesday United have a difficult looking Champions League game against Marseille, but even so, many fans will have been left wondering if Ferguson had taken leave of his senses when selecting these two against the nimble footed Arsenal play-makers.

O'Shea and Gibson are seriously lacking in pace and mobility; both are slow on the turn - they are a world apart from the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and even Arsenal's Wilshere.

So there was good reason to be concerned about the prospect of United's central midfield pairing - but there was good news too, because Ferguson played his trump cards when selecting the da Silva twins in the wide midfield positions.

Ferguson is not renowned for his tactical planning, but against Arsenal on Saturday he played a masterstroke when opting for the pace and drive of two young Brazilians.

Rafael and Fabio didn't exactly run the game for United, but whenever either of them received the ball going forward - invariably on the counter-attack - they appeared to have a near telepathic relationship and despite the fact that the Brazilians were on opposite flanks they linked up well on several first-half occasions.

Arsenal were given a warning on 15 minutes when Fabio crossed from the left and found Rafael who should have scored, but his bullet header whistled over the crossbar and into the East Stand. At that point in the contest, that was the closest either side had come to opening the scoring.

On 27 minutes United took the lead and once again the two Brazilians were at the heart of it. Fabio collected the ball just outside the centre circle and from within the United half; he ran at Arsenal and then played a quite brilliant pass with the outside of the right boot which found Rafael deep in Arsenal territory. Rafael then turned inside and played the ball back to Fabio, who then found Rooney, who in turn crossed to Hernandez; Almunia did well to save the Mexican's powerful header, but in so doing he only parried the ball to the feet of the on-rushing Fabio who smashed it into in the net. It really was a superb goal and Fabio was involved on three occasions.

Arsenal didn't sit back, they continued to take the game to United had the better of possession and came back strongly when creating several opportunities to test Van der Sar; however, United's Dutch 'keeper was at his very best and went on to have a very good game - so much so, that he was voted man of the match.

At half-time Ferguson elected to make a tactical reshuffle; it was one which meant United's goal hero was sacrificed for the returning Atonio Valencia. In a bid to take control of midfield, Rooney went wide left and Rafael was pushed into a more central position.

Within three minutes of the re-start, United went two up. Rafael started the move when he received the ball just outside the Arsenal penalty area - the Brazilian cut inside and played a low ball into the feet of Hernandez, but his effort was blocked but Rooney made no mistake with a well directed looping header from close range.

On 63 minutes Ryan Giggs came on for Rafael, who'd tired as the game went on. Scholes replaced Patrice Evra late on and managed to get himself booked not long after. Scholes appeared to be riled about something; maybe it was Wenger's earlier comments about the United midfield general. Whatever the problem was Scholes could have been sent-off following one or two ugly confrontations.

In the wake of what was a well deserved FA Cup victory over Arsenal, United have been drawn against Manchester City in the semi-final - that's assuming they take care of Reading. That will be an FA Cup semi-final to look forward to, but it's quite ridiculous having to play the game at Wembley; we have the money grabbing/hapless FA to thank for that.

In summary, anyone who had doubts about playing the da Silva twins in midfield will no doubt be revising their positions on this issue, because at times against Arsenal both were quite brilliant.

In the da Silva twins, Ferguson has two diamonds, let us hope United do not lose them as was the case with Gerard Pique.

The likes of Anderson, Carrick and Fletcher are blocking the path of two players who have genuine potential to become central midfield players - the danger is the two young Brazilians could become disenchanted if they are not given their chances to blossom.

As they demonstrated against Arsenal, the da Silva twins are technically sound, arguably more so than any of United's midfield players with the exception of the veterans Scholes and Giggs (on his day).

The FA Cup tie against Arsenal on Saturday may well have given us a glimpse of the future make-up of the next United team, with Smalling at the back who was once again near faultless, the da Silva twins in midfield and Hernandez up front.

As for Arsenal, in the latter stages Wenger looked close to tears, but only Arsenal's finishing let them down - apart from that they were collectively very good on the day. The calls for the Frenchman to go from so called 'Arsenal fans' are reactionary and typical of fickle supporters.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

"Hans Christian" Gill's transfer tales laid bare...

David Gill was in Parliament yesterday talking to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee about "Football Governance" at the House of Commons.

The United CEO had a lot to say, you can watch the whole debate here


From a fan's perspective, the standout comment from Gill was his assertion that Manchester United's net spend on players was greater than it was in the five or six years before takeover. Not true.

Thank heavens for Andersred, the United blogger who keeps a watchful eye on the club's financial affairs. Andersred has taken a detailed look at the transfer figures and they tell a different story to that of David Gill or should that be Hans Christian Andersen?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson and Interviews.

Supporters of Manchester United, especially those around the world, subscribe to the Manchester United Satellite Channel to listen to the latest news and to hear from the personalities within the club. Sir Alex Ferguson has done them all a great disservice by his rather childish refusal to give them an interview.It also shows that he is a law to himself within the club. A dangerous position for any owner to accept. Surely David Gill should be telling, yes telling, Sir Alex Ferguson that no man is bigger than the club and he will give interviews. It is a statement that the manager has used when ridding the club of troublesome players in the past.

The rules of the Premier League are that managers are to give interviews after the game.

Whilst I understand his refusal to speak to the BBC after he demanded an apology over the treatment of his son in a Panorama programme on football agents. Yet , surely, that is a personal and not a professional matter. Why, if he felt so wronged by that programme did he not support his son in a civil action against the BBC? Why can he not separate personal from professional baffles me.

Why the FA have not announced the amount of fine, as he has allegedly been found guilty of failing to give an interview to the BBC, is another mystery. But it all adds up to the feeling within and without the game that Sir Alex Ferguson is bigger than the game. That cannot be allowed to continue.

He has, following the Liverpool game, refused to speak to anyone. Well perhaps Nani, for one, would have liked his Manager to publicly stick up for him and the disgusting tackle made by Carragher. (I was pleased to read that Carragher has apologised for the tackle and tried to speak to Nani but, it is reported he was refused entry into the United dressing room).

Perhaps the team would have liked him to mention that, actually, he had selected the team which played so badly. Perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson is creating the wall around the club to create the 'them and us', the 'world is against us' that has 'allegedly' taken them on to win so many titles.

The fact remains that, in my view, Sir Alex Ferguson is in real danger of being charged with bringing the game into disrepute. That would be terrible at, what I believe, is the autumn of his career. He has given so much, won so much, created so many great teams. But will he relish being banned from the touchline for a season?

Perhaps this is all a build up of frustration of not having the money to buy great players. How many times, during the Glazers ownership, have we read that the manager has 80 million, 100 million and more to spend. Then the ridiculous statement that there is little quality about. Tottenham have not done too badly, nor Chelsea or Liverpool have they?

When he has to resort to extending the contracts of mediocre players fans must be concerned that our glory days may be coming to an end.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Liverpool get the breaks: United shoot themselves in the foot...

Without doubt Liverpool deserved their victory. Three extremely soft goals, but goals they were and all from errors by Manchester United players. Carrick. Nani and, from the free kick, the whole defence by not following the ball in.

What will United do if Scholes decides to hang up his boots? The midfield, apart from Scholes, were woeful. One can only sit back and wonder what was going through the Manager's head when he agreed to extend Carrick's contract. Apart from one forward pass and one tackle he was simply awful. He never tries a shot from just outside the area, his passing is invariably to his side or back to the defence.

I felt sorry for Brown. Let's face it he has not been played for a few games whilst O'Shea has. Silly decision to play him. I would rather have seen Fletcher in central defence! Some players played well, many did not.

Yes Carragher should have had a red card and after that tackle on Rafael another Liverpool player could quite easily have had a red card. BUT, perhaps, this is pay back time from the referee's union! Ferguson should consider apologising and take Atkinson out for dinner.

It was a very poor display by United. I note that one Sunday Newspaper says that Ferguson is going to spend over £100million in the summer. I think he may have to double that amount.

What annoyed me was that whilst Liverpool showed great determination, especially in the second half, United were just chasing shadows.

On this week's showing we will be kissing goodbye to the FA Cup next Saturday.

Very poor show.

Dowd gives Liverpool big decisions as United fail Anfield test....

United were in action on Sunday when they travelled to Anfield for what was a very important Premier League fixture. Liverpool ran out three one winners, but the game turned on some big decisions by referee Phil Dowd.

United had marginally the better of it where possession was concerned in the opening exchanges; Berbatov hit the woodwork from long-range. However, it was Liverpool who took the lead on 34 minutes and for the second game in succession there was refereeing controversey; earlier this week Martin Atkinson gifted Chelsea three points when he failed to send off David Luiz for persistent fouling, the same referee also awarded a very soft penalty to the home team.

In the build up to Liverpool taking the lead at Anfield, Phil Dowd awarded the Merseyside Reds a somewhat dubious free-kick outside the United penalty area when Paul Scholes was adjudged guilty of committing a foul. TV replays suggested the free-kick should have gone United's way - it didn't, and it led directly to Liverpool putting the visitors under pressure. Smalling had a chance to clear the ball from deep within the United penalty area, but he failed to deal with it when losing possession in the box, the ball eventually came to Suarez who then skillfully bamboozled Rafael and then skipped round a half-hearted challenge by Michael Carrick before threading the ball under Van der Sar to Dirk Kuyt who had the simple task of knocking the ball into an open net.

Before United had time to recover their composure, they were two-nil down and this time it was a gift of goal. Nani tracked back well to help defend a Liverpool attack, but his mis-directed header looped over Carrick's head towards the United goal and onto the head of Kuyt who couldn't miss from two yards out.

Phil Dowd then failed to do what he should have done, when he only booked Jamie Carragher for a dangerous and wreckless tackle on Nani; it was the sort of tackle that could easily have finished the United winger's career. Former Liverpool player and manager Graeme Souness said it was a definite sending off.

That incident led to several angry confrontations; Rafael got himself booked for a poor looking challenge, but TV replays confirmed he'd not touched the Liverpool player. Just moments earlier the young Brazilian had been caught himself with another crude Liverpool tackle.

Liverpool sealed the win on 65 minutes when Van der Sar made a mistake when failing to deal effectively with a Suarez free-kick from a dangerous area just outside the visitors penalty area; United's Dutch keeper could have held onto the ball or pushed it to safety - but he did neither, instead he parried the ball to the predatory Kuyt to score his hat-trick.

Hernandez scored a late consolation goal for United, but it wasn't enough. Phil Dowd got the big decisions wrong today; United paid the price, but ultimately they weren't collectively good enough to overcome an improving Liverpool team.

Carragher should have been sent off, but Phil Dowd bottled making what was a big decision - the right decision at that - if the referee had done his job properly who knows what might happened?...

For the second game in a row, United have suffered because of poor refereeing. But ultimately, too many United players didn't turn up at Anfield.

Earlier this week Michael Carrick was rewarded with a new long-term deal, but against Liverpool he let United down because his tackling left a lot to be desired.

United won't be too disheartened though, especially if Liverpool play with as much spirit against Arsenal and Manchester City later in the season.

United fans have bitter memories of Liverpool rolling over and losing 2-0 against Chelsea at Anfield 12 months ago in the last title run-in; a result which virtually ensured the Premier League trophy ended up in West London.

To end on something of a positive note on what has been a very bad day and a bad week for United: Liverpool still have any eye on a top four finish, so hopefully they won't be rolling over for anyone.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Any chance of another Gerrard to Drogba style backpass tomorrrow Stevie?...

United take on Liverpool at Anfield tomorrow and ahead of the game Alan Hansen has stated that the league leaders cannot afford to lose. Whether or not you agree with Hansen's assertion is up to you, but the quality of the Premier League isn't what it was a few seasons ago and so United can probably afford to lose at Anfield and still win the title, at least that is this blog's prediction, for what it's worth.

One thing is for certain, it is the equivalent of the Scousers Cup Final in the context of this season.

For obvious reasons, Liverpool don't want United to win that 19th league title. It is why we can expect the Liverpool players to give nothing less than 100% against United.

Such a pity we didn't see that sort of application against Chelsea at Anfield last season. Steven Gerrard was credited with an assist in that fixture when he played in Didier Drogba late on in the title run-in; before it happened it was unthinkable to many that the Liverpool skipper could ever make such a mistake. But ask a United supporter and they will likely to you that it was no mistake. Indeed, the consensus of those canvased by this blog on this issue is that it was a deliberate act by Gerrard, it wasn't a mistake at all and so that backpass will forever remain a stain on his career.

Liverpool rolled over for Chelsea last season: it won't be happening tomorrow you can bet on it and given United's central defensive crisis it would come as no surprise if the Scousers win on Sunday.

Arsenal are realistically the only club who can stop United this season in the race for the title, but they will surely be on the wrong end of the mother of all hidings when they travel to the Nou Camp later this week in the Champions League; the result of that Group of 16 tie is likely to have a negative impact on player morale at Arsenal.

Whatever happens at Anfield tomorrow, it is to be hoped it will be the United fans who have the last laugh this season.

Smalling is expected to partner Wes Brown in the heart of the United defence due injuries to Vidic and Ferdinand. Fletcher and Carrick, who have both been inconsistent too often this season have been rewarded with new long-term deals this week: let us hope on this occasion their performances match the expectations of the supporters at Anfield.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

I DON'T BELIEVE IT!

Well Manchester United have shown their ambition. They have proved to the world that under the control of the Glazers only the best will play for United.

Michael Carrick, that midfield player of great renown has signed an extention to his contract until 2014.

As Victor Meldrew would say 'I don't believe it'

So we can forget Messi, we can stop the dreaming, it is free transfers, basement bargains from now on.

The future is dark.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Ref Atkinson gifts Chelsea points: United robbed in West London again...

United suffered their second league defeat of the season at Stamford Bridge last night having surrendered a first-half lead. Rooney opened the scoring following spells of sustained pressure by United who looked superior to Chelsea in every department. Chelsea hit back in the second-half through David Luiz and Frank Lampard.

However, for the second game in a row, the post-match talking points centered on the performance of the referee - in this case Martin Atkinson.

Atkinson should have sent off David Luiz for a series of poor second-half challenges on Hernandez and Wayne Rooney - quite how the Brazilian remained on the pitch beggared belief and the fact that he did so said a lot about the referee who then went on to give Chelsea a very soft penalty.

Frankly, the penalty was a joke. Chris Smalling was a adjudged to have brought down Zhirkov in the 80th minute - it was an awful decision - to put it mildly, it was one that smacked of a referee who favoured the home team...

In his post-match interview Ferguson went straight to the heart of the problem when highlighting that Chelsea had once again come out on top following yet another poor refereeing performance.

Vidic received his marching orders for his second bookable offence and to be fair, the United captain could have no complaints - such a pity that Atkinson didn't do what he should have done 20 minutes earlier when he failed to send off Luiz. If Atkinson had done his job properly United would no doubt have won comfortably, but given the nature of last night's penalty award to Chelsea anything is possible.

On balance, United have been on the right end of some dodgy refereeing this season; most recently the Wayne Rooney elbowing incident last weekend against Wigan involving James McCarthy; there is a football proverb that says "you win some and you lose some"...

Talking points aside, United played really well in the first-half against Chelsea, so much so, that despite going on to lose the fans should be confident about the challenges ahead; but there will be many more twists and turns in the final weeks of the season.

Based on the evidence of last night at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will in all probability lose their next two league games - away at Blackpool and home to Man City. Against United, Chelsea somehow collectively upped their game, but it is doubtful they will maintain that level of performance, nonetheless, they only managed to beat the League leaders thanks to Martin Atkinson.

It is to be hoped the United players will be galvanised following the injustice meted out by Atkinson, but Chelsea still have to come to Old Trafford - revenge cannot come soon enough.

Arsenal are still the main the threat to United in the title race, but their season could well implode following the events at Wembley on Sunday in the Carling Cup Final which they lost in comical circumstances.

The Gunners have also lost their talisman Robin Van Persie for up to three weeks through injury and next Wednesday they face Barcelona in the Camp Nou, for the second leg of their Champions League Group of 16 tie; it is likely to be a blood-bath and in probability a real hammering. Come Thursday morning the Arsenal players could be mentally shot to pieces.

To end on a positive note: this blog has often been accused of being too negative (we call it honest) about United who face Liverpool on Sunday, without Vidic following his red card against Chelsea: even if United lose at Anfield and despite too many iffy away performances, we now firmly believe the Premier League trophy will be coming back to Old Trafford in May.

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