Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hernandez giving Fergie selection headache with Rooney ready to face Sunderland...

United were in action last night in the Mestalla in the Champions League. Going into the game Ferguson voiced his concerns about facing Valencia who are currently top of La Liga; United were without Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney due to injuries and so a win looked unlikely, especially given the manner of United's defending of late.

However, right from the kick-off it appeared as though both teams would have been happy to settle for a point as neither side showed enough attacking ambition. Ahead of the Group C game, Darren Fletcher had warned that United needed to retain the ball - especially against Spanish teams - yet the Scot gave away the ball three times in the opening 12 minutes. Michael Carrick, Ji-Sung Park and Anderson were all guilty of poor passing throughout what was a very disjointed opening period. But Valencia were just as bad as United in what was a very poor first-half.

The second-half saw both manager's making offensive changes, Berbatov was unlucky not to score following a magical piece of skill, the Bulgarian brought the ball down as only he can and then ran deep into the Valencia penalty area before firing at the legs of Cesar.

At the other end, truth be told, Edwin van der Sar didn't have an awful lot to do, much credit for that must go to Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Fergie's first-choice centre-back pairing by and large played well together against a Valencia forward line that didn't pose that many difficult questions on the night. After a long lay-off, it was good to see Ferdinand coming through his second successful comeback game within a week. It was a timely return to action with United shipping too many goals since the season start.

As the second-half went on Valencia started to probe United's back line and that was the signal for Ferguson to make changes that would eventually win the game.

On 77 minutes Hernandez replaced Anderson, the Brazilian had played poorly on his return to the first team, but Ferguson later acknowledged that the former Porto midfield man needed games as he's not yet back to his best.

Nani was United's man-of-the-match and it was the Portuguese winger who supplied a superb cross from the right which Hernandez nearly converted, but the Mexican striker hit the post from close range.

Macheda replaced Berbatov with five minutes remaining on the clock and with more or less his first touch of the ball, the Italian striker played a neat pass to the feet of Hernandez who then scored a goal of the very highest quality; The Mexican controlled the ball with a superb first-touch, and with his second touch he blasted beyond Cesar low and hard into the bottom corner. United went on to win and deservedly so, because the visitors had created the better of the goal scoring opportunities.

The result means United are joint top of group C with Rangers. In the wake of what was an unexpected victory, reports claim Rooney is chomping at the bit to get his place back in the starting eleven. According to the Daily Mirror, Rooney had scans on his ankle yesterday which showed no serious injury, so it appears as though there isn't much wrong with the United striker, if so, this ties in with assistant manager Micky Phelan's post-match interview following Sunday's draw with Bolton.

Weekend media speculation suggested Ferguson had been planning to rest Rooney because of his mixed early season form, which has to be set against the problems in the player's private life.

A prolonged Rooney absence from the team would have given the manager the perfect opportunity to give Hernandez more playing time, but if the reports about Rooney wanting to play this weekend against Sunderland are true, it seems the manager could well have a selection headache to deal with, but it's a nice problem to have -at least it would be if Rooney was playing as we know he can...

It will be interesting to see who starts up front alongside Berbvatov against Sunderland.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Scholes out for 10 days, Rooney out for three weeks: Tinkerbell strikes again?

Paul Scholes, has according to Fergie, sustained a very minor knock, but strangely, it's one that is likely to keep him out of action for up to 10 days. If this is actually true, it very obviously isn't good news for United, because Scholes has been one of the stars of the season so far.

But Scholes played for 90 minutes against Bolton at the weekend and so you have to wonder about this so called 'injury'.

Wayne Rooney is also out of action for up to three weeks, but at least United have quality cover for the out-of-form striker. However, in Sunday's post-match interview, assistant manager Micky Phelan confirmed that Rooney would be ok to travel to play against Valencia.

Subsequently, Fergie has claimed Rooney is injured and will be out for up three weeks, but this news has to be set against reports that the manager had been considering 'resting' the player in a bid to allowing Rooney to sort out the troubles in his turbulent private life.

For good reason, it wasn't that long ago that Ferguson was often referred to as 'Tinkerbell', this was because of his perceived 'tinkering' with the team; on such occasions it wasn't that unusual for the manager to make several surprises when announcing his team. Bad news often came along in two's and three's - just like double-decker buses.

Imagine the following scenario if you will: Fergie tells Rooney he isn't travelling to Spain "'re not in the squad son, but you're not on your own, because neither is ******* Scholesy". In this scenario one suspects there's some perverse logic at work here in the mind of our great manager, aka Tinkerbell. It is less of a bitter pill to swallow if another big star name has been 'rested', that must be how Fergie's mind works concerning such issues - at least that is my own perception.

I have lost count of the number of occasions when Fergie has made more than one surprise team news announcement and so the above scenario isn't without precedent.

At the age of 35, there has to be a serious danger of player burn-out and you have to wonder if this is another Fergie gamble. The fact that Scholes played for 90 minutes against Bolton could also be viewed in different ways: Was it the case that United needed the points or had the manager been planning all along to rest Scholes and Rooney (in the case of the latter, we are told that is true)?

Despite the fact that United need to take something from the Valencia game, Fergie might well have looked at this Champions League group and decided that he was going to make changes.

Fergie knows he cannot realistically expect Scholes to play in every game. Fergie must believe United can still qualify from this group if even if we go on to lose against Valencia tonight...

Personally, I doubt neither Scholes or Rooney are seriously injured, both of them could have played against Valencia. Fergie has gambled by resting both of them but for very different reasons. Added to which, if Fergie tells the press both players will be out for 10 days and three weeks respectively, it sounds more convincing.

Fergie might well rest Scholes at the weekend too, but don't be surprised if he's fit to face Sunderland.

Giggs misses out tonight, but his injury looked genuine. Carrick comes in from the cold after being frozen out all season due to so called 'injuries', but they weren't that serious that he couldn't be selected for the recent England squads.

Let us hope Tinkerbell's cunning plans comes good.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

United must learn to keep the ball or they will pay the price ...

On Wednesday night Manchester United take on Valencia in the Mestalla in the Champions League. Having drawn with Rangers in the opening group game, it is vital the Red Devils come away from Spain with at least a point.

After sustaining an ankle injury in the weekend draw with Bolton, Wayne Rooney has been omitted from the United squad. In Sunday's post-match interview, Mike Phelan suggested Rooney would travel to Spain and that his injury wasn't anything to worry about. However, in the wake of Rooney's omission from the United squad, reports claim Ferguson has been thinking about resting the player following a run of poor form in which Rooney hasn't scored from open play since March. Matters have not been helped by allegations about Rooney's private life. There's no doubting United need Rooney, after all, he was last season's top goal-scorer, but so far this season he has been a shadow of the player he's been since he arrived at the club.

United have been shipping goals this season, much of the blame has been attributed to poor defending. Good teams defend from front to back and in this respect opponents have found it too easy to get at the heart of United's defence.

While defending as a team is very important, if United are to get anything from Wednesday's clash with top of the table Valencia, equally as important is the need to retain possession. After a bright opening ten minutes in the Rome final two years ago, United's midfield were totally out-played by Barcelona.

Players like Darren Fletcher and Ji-Sung Park - who lose possession cheaply too often - have to learn to do better.

If you keep on giving the ball back to your opponents you will eventually pay the price as happened against Barcelona. Ironically, many United fans believe Fletcher's absence due to suspension from the Rome final, was in point of fact a major factor in that defeat.

United's Champions League campaign hasn't really started yet and given the way the team is playing at present, it would come as no surprise if Valencia go on to win on Wednesday.

Against Bolton last weekend, United had to rely on the brilliance of Nani and an unlikely headed goal from Michael Owen to rescue a point. United didn't create enough clear cut goal scoring opportunities against Bolton.

It is to be hoped Berbatov and Nani take any goal scoring opportunities that come their way against Valencia, because right now, it appears that the strikers needs to score three goals to seemingly have any hope of winning given the goals United are conceding.

Monday, September 27, 2010

On current league form, City will finish above United: Is it time to play Rooney in midfield?

There comes a point in time when the manager cannot keep on saying the same things and when that happens, it's either the manager who goes or the players go: I am of course referring to United's indifferent away form. We haven't yet reached that point, but Ferguson must be sick and tired of repeating himself about the need to concentrate when defending.

United had to fight back twice after going behind to Bolton on Sunday, it wasn't a good performance and on current form Manchester City will, without any shadow of doubt, finish above the Red Devils in the Premier League. Anyone who saw City brush aside Liverpool with ease and then arguably even more impressively snuff out Chelsea on Saturday cannot help but have been impressed: In both games, City's defending an organisation was exemplary. In sharp contrast, on too many occasions this season United have been dire in midfield and at the back where the art of defending is concerned.

It isn't stretching things too far to suggest that it has now got to the stage where you think United have to score three to have a chance of winning a game. Last season City took six points off Chelsea and United took none. At the weekend, City beat Chelsea again, but once again United let themselves down and failed to capitalise; And let's be brutally honest United were lucky to come away from the Reebok with a point.

United take on Valencia this week in the Champions League - it's a good job the Spanish club have sold many of their former big name stars, because the way the Reds are playing Van der Sar could have a bad back on Thursday morning due to picking the ball out of the back of his net following the trip to the Mestalla.

Even without the likes of David Silva, United could be on the wrong end of a proper hammering given the way the Reds are defending currently. Worryingly, after five games Valencia are above Real Madrid and Barcelona, they are top of La Liga.

United are not defending from front to back as a unit, that is part of the problem.
Apart from individual mistakes, we then look at midfield and United are simply not good enough in this department.

At the age of 35 Scholes is still the most important player, but on Sunday against Bolton it was Fletcher who was substituted - there was a ridiculous suggestion that perhaps this was in a bid to 'rest' the player. The decision to replace Fletcher had nothing to do with resting Fletcher, the fact is, he was ineffective in the second half.

Ferguson is also wrestling with what to do about Wayne Rooney and Berbatov; The former Spurs striker had until Sunday, been the star man this season, but the Bulgarian isn't best suited to playing the lone striker role and so 4-3-3 isn't really a viable option.

Ferguson should seriously consider dropping Fletcher and playing Rooney alongside Scholes in the heart of the engine room. Rooney can match the running of Fletcher and he's a far better footballer. Fletcher consistently gives away possession - Rooney does not. By dropping deeper Rooney would be more involved in the game and this would hopefully bring out the best him, because at present he's not in the game nearly as much as we'd like. The manager could then select either Macheda, Owen or Hernandez to play alongside Berbatov.

There was very few positives to come out of Sunday's game with Bolton, but Nani was superb and thank heavens for Michael Owen, who scored with an unlikely header. Nani's goal was reminiscent of Ronaldo at his best and I can pay him no higher compliment.

Aside from the trip to Valencia, on paper at least any way, United have a run of winnable looking games. Then next really big game is City away on November 10th, it is to be hoped the manager and his backroom team have sorted out the problems which have so far dogged the current campaign. Personally, I cannot see United winning the title, or the Champions League because of the problems in midfield.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bebe shows promise on Carling Cup night of surprises...

According to certain media pundits, the Carling Cup has regained some of its credibility (did it ever have any?) over the last few seasons, that maybe so, but nonetheless for the leading club's it is still a low priority.

Last night United travelled to Glanford Park, the home of Npower Championship outfit Scunthorpe United in the third round of the much maligned competition. It turned out to be a thoroughly entertaining game with United - the holders - running out 5-2 winners.

It was a night of surprises, the first being Ferguson's absence from the bench, but it transpired the United manager had opted to take a personal form-check on United's next Champions League opponents Valencia, who drew 1-1 with Athletico Madrid.

When Scunthorpe deservedly took the lead through Jos Wright early in the first-half, United fans will have been wondering about the manager's decision to leave Micky Phelan in charge for the night. However, a much changed United team from the one that won against Liverpool at the weekend were soon on level terms. Scunthorpe were only in front for just over three minutes and it was Darron Gibson who scored with a well executed lob from an excellent long ball by Chris Smalling.

To their credit, Scunthorpe didn't fold and they were having the better of the exchanges in terms of creating chances. Byrne should have given the home team the lead from a close-range header but the Scunthorpe skipper failed to hit the target.

United took control of the game before the break thanks to Chris Smalling who scored with a real poacher's goal from close range. Michael Owen added to the tally with a trademark goal after being put clear by Macheda on 49 minutes. The manner in which the former Newcastle striker took his goal will have delighted the player as well as United's backroom team because it was vintage Owen.

Ji-Sung Park added United's fourth, with a hammer blow from the edge of the Scunthorpe penalty area and then Michael Owen scored with a close-range tap-in to make it 199 career goals. Martyn scored a late consolation goal, his shot took a slight deflection before it beat Kuszczak in the United goal.

Bebe made his long awaited debut for United with 16 minutes remaining on the clock when he replaced Ji-Sung Park. The Portuguese winger, didn't take long to show his intent when he blasted a goal-bound long-range shot which took an unfortunate deflection.

Former United striker Gary Birtles was summarising for Sky Sports and he commented that Bebe is a well balanced runner with the ball at his feet. Indeed, first impressions of Bebe suggest he's a powerful no-nonsense winger who could well yet confound the critics, but it is still very early days. Birtles knows all about the expectations of playing for a big club like United. The former Notts Forest winger enjoyed a glittering career under Brian Clough at the City Ground, but Birtles failed miserably at United. However, with Atonio Valencia set to be sidelined for the next few months, you do wonder if Bebe will be given more opportunities to prove his worth.

United made eleven changes to the team that faced Liverpool on Sunday and to a degree it was a case of square-pegs in round-holes with Hernandez on the right and Macheda on the left, in a 4-3-3 formation. Owen had a decent game leading the attack, but his fellow strike partners didn't really get into the game. Hernandez and Macheda were expected to funnel back and defend when required and they didn't do it effectively and this led directly to Scunthorpe putting United's defence under pressure on several occasions from wide positions.

The final-score didn't really tell the story of this cup tie, because the home team had twice as many shots as United. Scunthorpe's defending let them down on the night, but they were at least the equal of United in midfield especially when attacking.

Anderson was paired alongside Gibson and Park, but the midfield trio didn't boss the game, as a result, the home team created a hatful of chances which kept Kuszczak busy all night long, so much so that the United's keeper was given man-of-the-match. Bizarrely, Ian Ladyman of the agenda setting Daily Mail gave the MOTM award to Darron Gibson.

United and Ferguson have been accused of under-mining the Carling Cup down the years, but of the so called top-four, it was the holders who fielded the strongest team in the third round; it was one that included Rio Ferdinand in the heart of the United defence alongside Chris Smalling.

Ferdinand has recently lost his captain's armband to Nemja Vidic because the manager cannot realistically give the armband to someone who is spending so much time on the treatment table. Against Scunthorpe, Ferdinand looked close to his best, he was given a serious test by Scunthorpe's Forte. However, the real test for the 'England captain' will be stringing a run of games together - hopefully the injuries are over, but only time will tell.

While United were enjoying a goal fest on the East coast, it was an altogether different story for Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea: the big three were dumped out of the competition. City are desperate to win ANY trophy, so the they will be genuinely gutted about losing away at West Brom. Liverpool are in complete turmoil and so they too will be hurting today having lost at Anfield to Northampton. As for Chelsea, apparently on the eve of their clash with Newcastle at Stamford Bridge, Drogba was talking about the quadruple, so are we to assume the Blues wanted to win this trophy?

All in all, it was a great night for United, but despite the win and the excitement it was a performance which left a few question marks about certain aspects of the current squad.

The fact that neither Anderson or Gibson were able to stamp their authority on the game should be a concern for United, because after all, Scunthorpe are a Championship side. What we saw last night was United changing the whole team and it was a strong side, but there's much room for improvement in the engine room.

How they rated:
Kuszczak (6) Did quite well, but doubts persist about his suitability to be Long-term successor to Van der Sar

Ferdinand (6) Didn't really put a foot wrong.

Brown (6) Did ok, but needed support at times

Smalling (7) Looked at home alongside Rio

Rafael Da Silva (5) Played out of position, partly responsible for Scunthorpe's opening goal having lost the ball on the left

Anderson (5) Didn't do enough to boss the game

Park Ji-Sung (Tiago Bebe 74) (6) Worked hard and was rewarded with a good goal

Gibson (6) Scored a good goal, but like Anderson we expect more control especially against lower division opponents

Owen (6) took his chances well, was the star man in attack

Hernandez (Obertan 68) (4) Fish out of water on the flank

Macheda (5) Did ok at times, but being out of position didn't suit his game


Van der Sar
De Laet
Corry Evans
Obertan (5) Didn't really have time to impress
Tiago Bebe (5) Showed promise

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Redemption: Berbatov delivers and puts Scousers to the sword...

Dimitar Berbatov has been the club's in-form striker in the early weeks of the new season and today at Old Trafford, he did something that hasn't been done for 38 years - he scored a hat-trick against Liverpool as United went on to win 3-2.

In truth, the final score flattered Liverpool who deserved nothing from this clash. Even though the stats suggested the visitors had made a decent fist of it, they hadn't; yet more defensive lapses allowed the Merseysiders back into the game as United once again surrendered a two-goal lead.

United had gone two-nil up thanks to Berbatov, the first a header from a corner. In the build up to the opening goal, Fernando Torres was clearly caught on camera with his arms around the Bulgarian's waist, but the Spaniard released his grip and that allowed United's number nine to expertly head home. If Berbatov hadn't scored, a penalty should have been awarded, but thankfully, justice was done.

If Berbatov's first goal was good, his second was sublime, and once again it came about from a cross from the flank, this time from the right from Nani. When the ball was played into the Liverpool penalty area, it went slightly behind the Bulgarian, but he controlled it superbly off his knee with his first touch and then he scored with his second touch - an acrobatic overhead kick. It was a goal worthy of any stage and one that will live long in the memory of those who saw it, the fact it was scored against Liverpool made it all the more sweeter.

Just when it looked like United might go on to hammer Liverpool, the visitors struck back and once again it was Torres who created panic in the United back four; on this occasion it was Jonny Evans who was adjudged guilty of taking out the Spaniard and referee Howard Webb pointed to the spot. Gerrard confidently scored the resulting spot-kick. Game back on.

Just a few minutes later, Liverpool were handed another lifeline, this time when John O'Shea brought down Torres on the edge of the United penalty area. Howard Webb booked United's Irish defender for the foul on the Spaniard, and Gerrard scored directly from the resulting free-kick;

When Ferguson looks at the video replays of Liverpool's equaliser, he will quite rightly be blazing mad with Darren Fletcher and John O'Shea; both players are almost certainly likely to be on the receiving end of a red hot hairdryer. Darren Fletcher was guilty of moving out of the United wall; this schoolboy error left a convenient gap for the Liverpool skipper. O'Shea was not only guilty of bringing down Torres, to compound his error he was also guilty of moving away from the ball like a big-girls-blouse when Gerrard struck the free-kick.

However, Gerrard later admitted his shot was meant to go over the wall, so it was a piece of good fortune. Post-match, some fans have been asking why O'Shea wasn't sent off for his foul on Torres because he was the last United defender; but replays clearly showed the ball would have gone straight to Van der Sar in the United goal and so it wasn't a clear goal scoring opportunity. Howard Webb got that big decision right.

At that point in the contest, United fans as well as an ashen faced Ferguson were thinking, 'here we go again', because it was the third time this season that the Red Devils had thrown away a two goal advantage.

But thankfully, on this occasion the scoring wasn't over and once again Berbatov rose to the occasion and this time there would be no comeback.

United's winning goal came from the right flank, and it was John O'Shea who made amends for his part in Liverpool's equaliser. Berbatov out jumped Jamie Carragher and his towering header flew beyond Pepe Reina at the far post. Justice was done.

There was no doubt who was going to grab the after match headlines and that was United's Bulgarian striker who was substituted and rightly given a standing ovation by the home crowd when he was replaced by Anderson in the 88th minute.

Dimitar Berbatov endured a torrid first season as a United player. Ever since he arrived at the club, the Bulgarian has divided opinion among the fans, who often find themselves arguing the case for and against the former Spurs striker. But, let us not forget, it was Ferguson himself who dropped Berbatov for many of the biggest fixtures last season. The manager had clearly lost a degree of confidence in the £30m striker, and no one can argue that point.

In April, the player himself had this to say about his time at the club "People have not have seen the real Berbatov this season. I wish I could have done more".

Well, so far this season Berbatov has answered all of his critics and if he carries on playing like he did today he could yet go on to become a United goal scoring legend.

Berbatov has out shone Rooney this season, and today was no different. Rooney was off the pace and he didn't look his normal self; we didn't see the all action tracking back and scurrying around that we have been accustomed to. Rooney's body language smacks of a man who is playing with something on his mind. Rooney did OK today, but he's nowhere near his best.

United won and deserved to, because they were the better team. If Liverpool fans beg to differ, they are only kidding themselves.

United played well today especially when going forward, but once again, it was a different story when it came to defending.

Friday, September 17, 2010

United v Liverpool: It's a must win game for both clubs...

United go into Sunday's Premier League clash with Liverpool knowing they cannot afford to drop more points having fallen four points behind Chelsea in as many games. United have been blowing hot cold thus far this season, but the midweek performance against Rangers was hugely disappointing; the Red Devils barely had a shot on target in 90 minutes and the visitors never looked like conceding.

After an awful start to the new campaign, Liverpool are slowing getting back into the groove and ominously Joe Cole scored on his return to action on Thursday against Steaua Bucharest in what turned out to be a romp with the Merseyside Reds winning 4-1.

A win for Liverpool would be demoralising for United, and so the fans and Ferguson will be desperately hoping the players can bounce back and take all three points on Sunday in the mid-day kick-off.

Scholes and Berbatov will return for United after being rested against Rangers, but the manager must decide what to do about out-of-sorts Wayne Rooney who was a shadow of his normal self against the Glasgow club in midweek.

The United manager might decide to bench Rooney, but if he does, he will be inviting yet more media criticism on the back of leaving out last season's top scorer against Everton the previous weekend. However, Ferguson will ignore the media and he will do what he believes is right for the team and if that means leaving out his star striker and bringing in Hernandez that is precisely what he will do.

In other news, Bebe finally made his long awaited debut last night for United's reserves at Altrincham's Moss Lane against Aston Villa, who won 4-1. According to reports, Bebe was largely anonymous.

Atonio Valencia's has undergone surgery on his broken ankle, the operation has been described as a success and the player is said to be doing well.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Comfortable night for Rangers as United run out of ideas without Scholes...

Going into last night's Champions League group game with Rangers, pundits and fans alike were expecting it to be a landslide victory for United - how very wrong we all were. Fergie elected to make 10 changes to the team that threw away two points at Goodison Park on Saturday. Crucially, out went Berbatov and Scholes, the two star players of the season so far; forget about the rest of the changes to the team, it was the omission of these two that cost United against Rangers in what turned out to be a dour encounter which ended goalless and one in which the home team barely had a shot on target.

Two years ago United lost lamely, without so much as a whimper, in the Champions League final against Barcelona. On that night the Catalans made mince-meat of the Red Devils midfield. United went out of the same competition last season when losing against Bayern Munich. But two years on from that embarrassing defeat to Barcelona, nothing has been done to address the very obvious shortcomings in the United engine room - if anything things have just got worse because Scholes is now 35 and still he is the most important creative force in the squad.

The fact that Ferguson has done nothing to address the very obvious issues in central midfield is, to put it mildly, worrying. Scholes cannot seriously be expected to carry on forever, and surely he will not be an ever present this season; what we saw against Rangers was a team devoid of creativity and ideas. This United squad doesn't have a prayer of coming close to winning the Champions League, not based on that performance against Rangers.

'Bad boy' Wayne Rooney came back into starting line-up along with Rio Ferdinand who was partnered by Chris Smalling who was making his United debut proper in what was his first meaningful game for the club.

Rooney was poor throughout and he looked preoccupied, his touch wasn't what we have come to expect. The former Everton striker linked up with Hernandez midway through the first-half, but Rooney's return ball was poor and as a result the Rangers defence mopped up yet another United attack.

Rangers came to Old Trafford with a game plan, one that centered on not getting hammered; down the years, this tactic has usually backfired spectacularly, but last night it paid off, it did so because, frankly, United were clueless in around the Rangers penalty area.

The only player who looked capable of unlocking the door was second-half substitute Ryan Giggs, but even the Welshman failed in this respect.

Of the new boys, Hernandez was starved of decent service, but he looked sharper than Roooney. Ferguson should consider dropping Rooney until he sorts out his private life and get his game back together. Hernandez deserves a chance to prove his worth alongside Berbatov. Playing Rooney isn't doing the team or the player any good.

Like Ferdinand, Smalling wasn't really tested, so it's difficult to make any serious assessment of his defensive abilities, such a pity that Rangers offered even less than United going forward.

It is to be hoped we don't see other teams attempting shut up shop for 90 minutes when coming to Old Trafford, but don't be surprised if it happens, because clearly, without Scholes and Berbatov this United team is seriously lacking creativity.

To make matters worse, Valencia suffered a serious ankle injury which means he will almost certainly miss the rest of the season.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hansen hints at Liverpool win against United...

It hasn't been a great start to the new season with United dropping four points after drawing with Fulham and Everton at the weekend. Chelsea are flying high and already at this early stage in the new campaign it looks like the West London club will be the ones to beat in this year's title battle. In contrast to United, Chelsea have yet to drop a point.

United face Rangers in the Champions League at Old Trafford on Tuesday and everyone connected with the Red Devils will be hoping for a good win. Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand are both expected to start. Rooney wasn't missed at Goodison Park on Saturday - United should have won comfortably, having gone 3-1 up, but inexplicably, they collapsed in injury time and conceded two goals inside a minute.

Rooney's has been in turmoil following lurid allegations in the press about his private life. Following the dramatic 3-3 draw with Everton and the manager's decision to leave Rooney out of the United squad at the weekend, the press have been asking if Fergie made the right call; it was without question the right call, but the player will be expected to help the team get back to winning ways quickly against Rangers.

On Sunday United take on Liverpool at Old Trafford, the Merseyside Reds haven't exactly hit the ground running either, but there was a few signs at the weekend that Steven Gerrard in particular could be about to come good.

United fans will have bitter memories of the 4-1 hammering Liverpool gave the Red Devils two seasons ago at Old Trafford. Fernando Torres has been a major threat whenever United face Liverpool, but the Spanish striker has been on the wrong end of some biting criticism following Sunday's goalless draw with Birmingham. So the stage is set for another titanic clash when between the two North West giants.

Former Liverpool skipper Alan Hansen has been talking to the media ahead of Sunday's game and he's hinted that he believes his club could be about to bounce back; Joe Cole will be free from suspension and he will be keen to impress in what will be only his second game for Liverpool.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Forget Rooney, bad luck and questionable defending costs United at Everton..

Going into the Everton game, all the talk centred on Wayne Rooney, who Fergie elected to rest, following revelations about his private life. Matters were not really helped by the fact that United were without new signing Chicarito, who has been away on international duty.

The prospect of a United win didn't look particularly promising going into this game, especially with Everton desperately looking for points after a dreadful start to the new campaign.

No doubting many United fans were also slightly perplexed at the prospect at Fergie's decision to deploy John O'Shea in the engine room, but what followed will have no doubt pleasantly surprised many fans only for the Red Devils to squander a two goal advantage at the death.

Quite what Fergie had to say to his players following that dramatic collapse which saw United throw away two points in injury time at Goodison Park yesterday would be interesting to know. After going behind against the run of play late on in the first-half, United came back and dominated the game.

After the opening ten minutes, which the home team dominated, United took control and only lady luck denied the visitors two goals. Tim Howard was extremely fortunate to deny a certain goal following a deflection when the American stopper was beaten all ends up, but he somehow stopped the ball from crossing the line with his foot - that was lucky escape number one. John O'Shea came within a inch or so of scoring a rare goal with a driven effort from just outside the Everton penalty area, but this time the woodwork denied United.

The Red Devils came back strongly and equalised through Darren Fletcher just four minutes after going behind to a Steven Pienaar goal. Everton had taken the lead five minutes before the interval following a mistake by Patrice Evra who failed to execute an attempted scissor-kick clearance; Tim Howard made a good save, but there was nothing he could do to prevent the South African from scoring..

Following half-time, United piled on the pressure and deservedly raced into what should have been a match-winning three-one lead.

United went in front from a Nani cross from the right as Vidic headed home. The reds Portuguese winger was a thorn in Everton's side throughout this game and Scholes was once again the man who was at the heart of everything for United.

It was Scholes who expertly supplied the killer pass to Dimitar Berbatov, who went on to beat Tim Howard with a low curling drive with the outside of his right foot to make it three-one. Berbatov should have added to his tally with a similar effort not long after, but on that occasion he pulled his shot wide of the target.

United failed to capitalise on their domination and the chances which followed and with the clock running down it looked as though the result would be a forgone conclusion. Fergie sent on Park-Ji-Sung for Patrice Evra and John O'Shea was switched to left-back.

However, disaster struck twice within a minute as United conceded two late goals; the first was scored by Tim Cahill who managed to find space between Jonny Evans and John O'Shea. Fergie will not be happy with Nani who could have done more to block the cross which led to the goal and he will be equally unhappy with Evans and O'Shea for allowing the Australian to head the ball unchallenged.

Everton's equaliser also came down United's right flank, and here again the manger will not be best pleased with Gary Neville for failing to block the cross which eventually found the head of Fellaini and his headed knock-back eventually found the feet of unmarked Arteta, who smashed home an unlikely and arguably undeserved equaliser.

United could have been and perhaps should have been 5-1 up when the score was 3-1, only luck had kept the scoreline respectable.

When United dropped two points away at Craven Cottage recently, Fergie later bemoaned throwing 'silly points' away, but he was wrong to do so, because Fulham thoroughly deserved something from that contest, but against Everton the United manager had every right to be upset at the outcome.

In contrast, the relief for Everton and David Moyes was tangible and understandable. The Toffees had got out of jail and they knew it. Football, bloody hell. As Fergie once famously said.

Bring on the 'sweaty Jocks' and Liverpool.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Wayne Rooney, fair game, or not?: An alternative viewpoint...

With no club football to mull over until the coming weekend when the Red Devils take on Everton on Saturday, there has been precious little to discuss this week; that was more than likely one of the reasons why the Sunday Mirror decided to out Wayne Rooney. The timing was perfect, that is it was, unless you happened to be Wayne Rooney or Fabio Capello.

There must have been a serious danger that the United striker could have been affected by the lurid sex allegations; he could have opted not to take the plane to Switzerland for that Euro 2012 qualifier, but to his credit he travelled to Basle and scored the opening goal and England went on to win comfortably.

In the build up to Tuesday's 3-1 win over Switzerland, the press were busily blaming Rooney's 'poor form' at the World Cup on the sex scandal; so it's worth asking the question, if the player's mind was occupied by this looming crisis, then how do you explain his last two England performances which came about either side of the Sunday Mirror expose? Rooney has been outstanding in his last two games. If anyone should be blamed for England's failings at the World Cup, it is quite obviously Fabio Capello, who didn't select Joe Hart to play and he also left out Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott. As ever, the press need to find a scapegoat when things go wrong, as they so often do where the England team is concerned and so for now Rooney,
is that man.

In what has been an otherwise pretty crappy week, I now prompt United fans to awake from your collective international break slumbers and read the following article by ex rugger star Brian Moore: this is without doubt the best article on this sorry saga to date.

In other news, sections of the media are still pulling new signing Bebe to pieces, despite the fact that he scored what can only be described as a very soft goal for Portugal's U21 team against Montenegro this week. Manchester United's latest Portuguese signing also missed a sitter. Personally, I want to see more of Bebe before passing judgement on him.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Stop buying replica shirts: Old Shirts Day, United v Liverpool...

If you're one of those who still regularly attends United home games then you will have almost certainly have already heard about "Old Shirts Day". So what's it all about then? Well, it's quite simple. The idea is fans can show their support for the anti Glazer campaign by donning your pre AIG, AON, United shirts in protest against the debt laden regime.

Some fans' took the decision not to give the Glazers any of their hard earned cash back in 2005, but others felt they couldn't give up their cherished season tickets. It was a tough decision, but the point of Old Shirts Day, is to hammer home that even if you're one of those still regularly attends home games you don't have to buy the latest replica shirts, because in so doing you are indirectly helping the Glazers.

Old Shirts Day:
United v Liverpool

For more information check out:
Republik of Mancunia

Monday, September 06, 2010

Rooney needs Fergie more than ever....

This blog is not going to pass judgement on Wayne Rooney following lurid allegations made by the gutter press over the weekend. It is hoped the accusations are not true, for the sake of all concerned. But if the claims are true, then there's no better manager in the game to turn to. Ferguson is the master of man-management, he famously brought Cantona back from the brink on more than one occasion, he might well have to do it again with Rooney.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Bebe makes Champions League squad after all...

The news that Bebe had been seemingly omitted from United's Champions League 25-man squad list provoked much speculation over the weekend, with suggestions from the media that it is likely the transfer will be looked into in greater detail following the £7.4m summer signing.

Matters were not helped when a former agent and coach claimed the player could have been signed for a nominal fee back in January 2010. So when United initially announced that their Champions League 2010/2011 squad list would contain the names of just 24 players instead of the permitted 25 and Bebe's name was not among the list the spotlight just intensified.

It remains to be seen if Bebe will make his Champions League debut this season. But whatever happens in over 40 years of watching Manchester United, I cannot recall a transfer that has created so much controversy.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Rooney masterminds England win, but Bébé disappoints on international debut..

In the wake of England's 4-0 win over Bulgaria at Wembley last night, Jermain Defoe has been grabbing the headlines following a well taken hat-trick. However, while the Tottenham striker deserves to be applauded for what was an impressive display, the man who was at the heart of England's attacking play was Wayne Rooney. The United striker was deployed as the second striker, just behind Defoe; unlike at the South Africa World Cup this summer the tactic worked a treat and Rooney looked sharp and more often than not he picked the right pass. Rooney played a major part in all of England's goals.

Against Bulgaria, Rooney showed signs that he's well and truly on his way back to something like his best; such a pity for England that clearly Rooney was nowhere near 100% match-fit in South Africa.

Ferguson was no doubt watching England take on Bulgaria in that Euro 2012 qualifier and it will have served as a timely reminder that Rooney is among the world's finest second strikers on his day.

Unlike last season, the United manager now has several potent looking striker combination options, which include the current man-in-form Dimitar Berbatov with Rooney as the main striker; alternatively, Fergie could play Rooney as the second-striker with Hernandez leading the attack in a combination that would be very similar to the Rooney and Defoe partnership. The biggest problem for Fergie will be keeping all of his strikers happy.

While it was an excellent night for Rooney, the same cannot be said for United's latest signing Bébé, who made his international debut for Portugal's U21s against England U21s in a vital Euro qualifier. Ironically, it was another recent United signing who was largely responsible for keeping Bébé in check; by all accounts it was an easy night for Chris Smalling at the heart of the England defence. England won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Danny Sturridge.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Real Madrid did not want ‘Bébé says former coach ...

The controversy surrounding the transfer of ‘Bébé shows no sign of abating following revelations in today's Daily Mail. Former Estrela coach Jorge Paxaio claims Bébé was touted around Europe, but no one wanted him as they didn't trust him. According to Paxaio, Manchester United could have signed the Portuguese striker for as little as £150,000 last January.

Perhaps unwisely, Ferguson let it be known that he'd never even seen Bébé in action before sanctioning the move and the relatively hefty transfer fee of £7.4m. The United manager has had plenty to say about lack of value in the transfer market of late, but should Bébé fail to make the grade Fergie could stand accused of wasting money.

According to Fergie, United had to move quickly to sign Bébé because other clubs were interested in the player, but those views conflict with the claims of former Estrela coach Jorge Paxaio.

Hopefully, Bébé will prove the doubters wrong and he will prove to be good value but his transfer to United has certainly caught the attention of the media and until we see the player proving his worth in the red shirt you can expect this story to rumble on.

No one wanted Bébé

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

United's failure in transfer market likely to be costly...

Ferguson has spoken more than once recently about "lack of value" in the transfer market; this at a time when neighbours Manchester City have been spending big. The United manager didn't really help himself when he elected to splash out £7.4m this summer on Bébé - a relatively unknown Portuguese striker and worse still Ferguson admitted he'd never even seen the lad play before telling David Gill to sign him.

Over the course of the last twelve months it's worth noting that contrary to Ferguson's lack of value comments, some of Europe's most sought after central midfield players have been available for not much more than United paid for Bébé and around the same amount the club shelled out for rookie defender Chris Smalling.

United failed to make a move for Wesley Sneijder who was sold to Inter Milan for just 15 million Euros. The club then failed in their 'reported' pursuit of Germany's World Cup star Mesut Ozil who joined Real Madrid this summer for around £12m.

The Red Devils latest transfer failure happened late yesterday on transfer deadline day when United did not make a move for Rafael van der Vaart - who it has been confirmed became available for a knockdown £8m.

The Real Madrid star was expected to join Bayern Munich, but when that deal broke down the Dutchman was offered to Spurs for just £8m. Whether or not Van der Vaart was offered to United doesn't matter - the club has to be judged by their inaction.

United cannot realistically expect Paul Scholes to continue to be the main creative force all season; at 35 it is surely asking too much. Michael Carrick has been pretty much reduced to a bit-part player and rumours suggested he would have been a pawn in a mooted deal that would have seen Everton's Jack Rodwell moving in the opposite direction. However, insider reports suggest Everton want £27m for Rodwell, so no doubting we will be hearing Fergie bemoaning on the sidelines about "lack of value" in the market in the not too distant future.

So Fergie will have to go with what he's got and no doubting some fans' will be questioning the manager's decision to allow Tom Cleverley to join Wigan on-loan at a time when the engine room is lacking quality in-depth and with question marks hanging over the future of Michael Carrick.

It's difficult to see United sustaining a serious challenge on all fronts with a creaking midfield having failed to strengthen this summer, that failure is likely to be costly when it comes to winning the really big prizes in the short-term.