Saturday, May 03, 2008

Lucas Neill contretemps sours great display by Champions...

Going into today's clash with West Ham United, the Red Devils needed six points from their remaining two games to ensure that they retain the Premier League title. Within three minutes of the kick-off the Champions were ahead through the player of the season, Ronaldo.

The multi-award winning wing-wonder raced down the right flank, put Lucas Neill on his backside with a trademark flick of the ball with the heel of his left boot, before slotting a stunning 39th goal of the season after running full tilt into the Hammers penalty area - the bad news for the visitors was that his 40th wasn't long coming -but the second goal wasn't anywhere near as spectacular as the opener with the ball bouncing in off his thigh from close range.

United looked to be really warming to the task on 26 minutes when Carlos Tevez scored one of the best goals of the season with rocket from fully 25 yards. The Argentine picked up the ball on the left midway within the visitor's half, before cutting onto his right foot and driving towards the Hammers goal and then he unleashed a thunderbolt, the ball flew beyond the reach of Green in the West Ham goal giving the former Norwich stopper no chance.

Game set and match - or so we thought, but just two minutes later Dean Ashton scored with a superb over-head kick. Wes Brown had failed to deal with a high ball on the edge of the United penalty area, the former Crewe striker had somehow managed to find some space between himself and Rio Ferdinand, his acrobatic finish was exemplary - even the United fans in the Stretford End applauded, just as the visiting supporters had when Tevez notched just a couple of minutes earlier.

It was turning out to be a jolly nice day and very entertaining game between two clubs who down the years have not got along so well, with the Hammers proving to be party-poopers on more than one occasion.

However, the mood turned ugly on the edge of the West Ham penalty area on 37 minutes when Nani appeared to headbutt Lucas Neill. There was no argument, the Portuguese winger had to go, but TV replays of the incident leading up to the clash showed that Neill could have been guilty of snidely 'pinching' the United winger when the two had become entangled. Nani's reaction was stupid, as the West Ham defender was clearly intent of winding-up the young Portuguese star - but it was the oldest trick in the book, and Nani fell for it hook-line and sinker.

Neill did not cover himself in glory in this sorry episode, as there appeared to be little or no injury following this so called 'headbutt' - yet the Australian went down as if he'd been shot with a blunderbuss like a big Sheila - and they call Ronaldo a show-pony...

The sending off made no difference as West Ham continued to be second best all over the park.

Despite being down to ten men, it was United who were the dominant force in the second period.

On 59 minutes Michael Carrick effectively ended the game as a contest after making a driving run from deep and then flashing a low drive that was deflected into the corner giving Green no chance.

Fergie used the last thirty minutes to give his squad players a run out. Giggs came on for the hard-working Park on 61 minutes, the Welshman is closing in on Bobby Charlton's all time appearance record for the club and he wasted no time in playing some lovely incisive balls that should have led to at least two more goals, for Hargreaves and Fletcher respectively - the latter had replaced Ronaldo on 64 minutes.

O'Shea came on to shore-up the back-line on 71 minutes when replacing Scholes, the Irishman was guilty of nearly gifting a goal -scoring chance to visitors, it was the only moment of concern in the second-period in which United had looked in any trouble at the back.

United fans must now await Chelsea's visit to Newcastle on Monday. Nothing less than a win for Avram Grant's team will keep the title battle alive.


  1. Great article, as usual.

    I have two general concerns.
    1) Why is Anderson not being featured at all? Seems like SAF is risking letting his match-fitness slip before the CL final. And he is very much needed for that game.

    2) I couldn't see Nani during the lap of honor, anyone know why he wasn't seen there?

  2. Nani's behaviour was inexcusable and it might have been due to frustration at mixed performances, or an inability to make the killer touch in the final third; in the last two games.

    All in all United player the football they have played all season in the English league, and romped all over the Hammers for most part of the game.

    An intriguing point to note is that Ferguson brought out the same squad that beat Barcelona 1-0. This was a tremendous act of faith, and the same players played completely different football (although this might have been due to the fact they were playing weaker opposition).

    Finally, when games get tenacious for United, it is normally because they don't score an early goal despite having chances, or score an early goal and let one in soon after. Neither happened today, they did not give West Ham a chance from teh word go, something that might have hurt them later on in the game as it did against Blackburn and Borough.

    A good football game but for Neill; and yes I agree with BPM; what is going on with Anderson?

    Is he carrying a niggling injury? Or does Ferguson have faith in his current squads.

  3. Some good points raised here. I really have no idea what is going on with Anderson, I'm beginning to wonder if the Brazilian is heading out of OT this summer and perhaps Fergie has got wind of this because nothing else makes sense.

    Nani will have been given a proper telling off by Fergie, when he was sent off there was no arm of consolation from the manager who was clearly furious with the winger. It could cost Nani dearly. I just hope that Fergie doesn't take it too far and exclude Nani from the CL final squad - because if he does that would be dumb, but Fergie daft enough to do just that.

  4. I thought Neill's actions (and reaction) were worthy of both a red card, and an equivalent amount of derision in the press ... he was clearly the instigator, and playacting ... disgusting


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