Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Basel roller-coaster: Gary Neville hits nail on head, as Manchester United struggle in average Champions League group...

Manchester United were involved in an error ridden Champions League goal fest at Old Trafford last night. It was a roller-coaster of a game, it finished up 3-3. Basel were two-nil down at half-time, but fought back strongly in the second-half and deservedly led 3-2 thanks to goals by Alexander and Fabien Frei. Ashley Young rescued what could turn out to be an important point, with a late but very important Champions League debut goal.

In taking what was a well earned point, the Swiss champions became the first visiting team to Old Trafford to exploit the gaps in the United defence. Despite hammering Arsenal 8-2, and Chelsea 3-1 recently, United have been somewhat uncharacteristically wide open at the back at Old Trafford this season. A better team than Arsenal might have scored five against United. And let us not forget that Chelsea were also guilty of failing to take advantage of some very good chances to score; including what has been described as "the miss of the season" when £50m striker Fernando Torres missed that open goal.

Basel could and should have, scored more than three goals last night - three was bad enough, but it could have been much more. On the flip side, United also missed several gilt edged chances, especially in the first-half. Danny Welbeck scored two goals within a minute, after good work by Ryan Giggs who provided both. Those goals should have signalled the end for Basel, but to their credit, the visitors kept on attacking United and their enterprise was eventually rewarded in the second-half with two well taken goals and a controversial penalty.

Ferguson will be alarmed when he reviews TV replays of the game, but it should come as no great shock because gaping holes in United's defence have been appearing too often this season.

So where is it going wrong at the back for United? Last night's Sky Sports co-commentator, Gary Neville put his finger on one of the big issues during the game when he said "too many changes in defence". United have been at their best when Vidic and Ferdinand have been at the heart of the back-four. That partnership has been the bedrock of United's recent success. Vidic has been a defensive rock and Rio has been one of the finest interceptors in world football - but alas that is no longer the case.

Rio Ferdinand didn't cover himself in glory at the Britannia stadium last weekend when United could only manage a draw. Ferdinand should have done better against Stoke's goalscorer Peter Crouch. United conceded three goals against Basel, the last one came from a very debatable penalty after Jones failed to clear his lines.  In the wake of that dramatic 3-3 draw many supporters will be blaming Ferdinand. However, if you review the match footage, both fullbacks were at fault when it came to failing to track-back; Fabio was caught out of position on several first-half occasions and when Basel equalised it was Evra who was guilty of failing to pick up a runner.

Gary Neville knows all about Manchester United of course and having hung up his boots, he has in short order, taken to the task of becoming an informative match-day summariser on Sky Sports.

Without being pressed enough by those who share the comfy Sky Sports sofa, Neville has been alluding to Ferguson's unhappiness with his team's collective failure to defend as a unit pretty much all season. Neville made reference to the problems at the back during last night's game, as he did against Chelsea.

Against Basel, it wasn't just the defence that was at fault, it was midfield too. Anderson gets caught out of position often, but this isn't entirely his fault, because if an attacking move breaks down due to a forward losing possession cheaply, then the supporting players will be out of position and that has been a recurring aspect of United's play at times this season.

Danny Welbeck might have scored two goals against Basel, but it should have been at least three, maybe even four. The young United striker failed to take advantage of a great cross late on and he narrowly missed the target with a glancing header. Second-half sub Berbatov should have wrapped up the points late on,  the Bulgarian took the wrong option, when his shot hit the side netting, instead the ball should have been driven across the face of the goal into the opposite corner.

In summary, while fingers will rightly be pointed at Fabio and Jones for their part in that very poor defensive showing, let us not forget that the same two players were involved in at least one of United's goals. When those injuries eventually clear up, United need to get back to some sort of defensive stability. As Neville said last night, you cannot keep on swapping and changing the back-four. While it might well be exciting, United need to improve and as Fergie said in his post-match conference, the performance and the result was a 'wake-up call', and so it was. United have much work to do on the domestic and European front, but Ferguson will get it right, of that we can be fairly certain.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

United look ordinary at Stoke as Walton denies champs definite penalty...

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Manchester United were made to work extremely hard for their point at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, it finished up 1-1 apiece, Nani was the champions goal hero. It could have been so different if Peter Walton had done what he should have done in the opening minutes of what turned out to be a hard fought contest and that was to award the visitors a cast-iron penalty after Jonathan Woodgate had blatantly barged into the back of Hernandez.

As a direct result of Woodgate's poor challenge, United lost the services of Hernandez. Michael Owen came on as a replacement, but he struggled to make any real impact alongside Dimitar Berbatov who had been restored to the starting line-up.

Sir Alex Ferguson was asked about Walton's failure to award United that penalty in his post-match interview, and he said it was "too early in the game" - a comment that many fans will find hard to accept. How can it be too early in the game? It shouldn't matter when an offence is committed - it doesn't matter if it's the first or the 90th minute; Woodgate and Stoke should have been punished, but they weren't. As a direct result of Woodgate's poor challenge, United lost the services of Hernandez, thanks to what looked like a head injury.

United eventually took the lead through Nani who scored a very good individual goal in the 27th minute. Nani's goal was one of the few highlights on what was an otherwise very disappointing day as United completely failed to stamp their class and authority onto what was technically a very poor game.

Peter Crouch equalised with a second-half header, and truth be told, United's defenders didn't handle the former Spurs and Liverpool striker very well. Crouch might have added to his tally, if not for his poor finishing.

After the game, Fergie said that Stoke had deserved a point, but he should have said that if Peter Walton had done his job properly United would have been two up in the first-half and that in all probability the champions would have gone on to win comfortably, but the inaction of the referee ensured that did not happen.

Wayne Rooney wasn't included in the United squad, nor was Michael Carrick or Chris Smalling. According to Fergie, Rooney and Carrick picked up injuries in training, however; one cannot help but wonder if the United manager had taken a calculated risk by resting the aforementioned trio? That would in part, explain the manager's somewhat measured response to dropping two valuable points. Ferguson isn't normally one who accepts poor refereeing decisions lightly, but on Saturday, he seemed somewhat sheepish in is post-match interview and perhaps that's because he felt he had contributed to the result by his own actions when resting three key players?

IF we are to believe Ferguson, then Rooney could be out for up to two weeks; here again, you have to wonder if the player is really injured, or is the boss playing games?

With Manchester City flying high and pressing United at the top of the Premier League table, it's worth asking if the manager can afford to continue to take such risks? Going into this game, Ferguson had several selection dilemmas: Michael Owen scored two goals at Leeds in the Carling Cup, Darren Fletcher needs games, Valencia looked good at right-back in midweek and of course he cannot continue to leave Berbatov out. We can all appreciate those selection dilemmas and Fergie is the best at managing his players and to be fair, the manager usually gets away with it when making the right calls, but that wasn't the case at Stoke.

It's a well known fact that Ferguson doesn't always tell the truth when it comes to explaining his reasoning behind his team selections. As someone once famously said "the Lord works in mysterious ways" and that is certainly the case where Fergie is concerned, because he quite evidently prefers to fabricate injuries rather than tell the truth when someone has been completely axed, but more often than not, it is usually the case that the player concerned has simply been rested in the name of squad rotation.

Whatever the truth behind the decision to shuffle the pack at Stoke, United were pretty awful. There was zero punch up front. Owen and Berbatov didn't have a great deal of joy, but the service was lousy. Young wasn't in the game enough - he seems to play his best football when Rooney is in the team. Nani and Jones were United's star men, but truth be told it was a very poor showing. Darren Fletcher is really struggling to make any real impact following his long battle with that mystery virus.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Giggs and Welbeck came on for Young and  Berbatov respetively. The Welshman missed United's only other really decent goal scoring chance late on when pulling his shot horribly wide of the target.  Welbeck huffed and puffed like the rest of the United team, but struggled to make any real impact on the game and that was the story of the afternoon.

United were a shadow of team we've seen so far this season, there was no creative spark, no zip and in many ways it was a 'backs against the wall performance' against a team of journeymen who play a dreadful brand of robotic football, but United didn't the where-with-all to rise above it. In then end and largely because of poor refereeing, Stoke did deserve their point, but that said as much about United's collective failings as it did about the hard-working home team.

Next up United face, Basle in the Champions League and it will be interesting to see if Rooney, Carrick and Smalling make Lazarus like returns to action..

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hargreaves' turns spotlight onto United's medics following Manchester City debut...

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Owen Hargreaves' made his Manchester City debut this week and scored a very good goal against Birmingham City in the Carling Cup. Manchester City won two-nil and Hargreaves' showed no signs of the injuries that plagued him during this three years with United.

Sir Alex Ferguson and his backroom team took the decision to release Hargreaves' in the summer after trying but ultimately failing to resolve his many injury issues. But, the player's subsequent Lazarus like return to goal scoring action this week has left United looking like chumps with red faces to boot.

Hargreaves' cost United £17m when they signed him from Bayern Munich and with wages, the champions have lost more than £20m following the club's decision to release the player, who had reportedly offered to play for free...

Ahead of United's trip to Stoke City on Saturday, Sir Alex Ferguson was asked about Hargreaves' in his Friday morning press conference, looking slightly and understandably rattled, the United manager tried to rebuff any suggestion that his medical staff might not be up to the job. Nonetheless, the facts are that a £17m player has signed for a major rival for nothing - it is only right that questions are asked and answered. United say they will respond to the player's claims that some of his medical treatment in the last three years might not have been appropriate.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Leeds United well beaten by slick Reds, but one-eyed media bleating about chanting is nauseating ...

United are through to the fourth round of the Carling Cup following the Premier League Champions three goal destruction of Leeds United at Elland Road.

Sir Alex Ferguson confounded many a pundit with his team selection for last night's Carling Cup tie with Leeds. Ahead the game, it was reported that the United manager would send out a team made up of a mixture of youth and experience - many expected Paul Pogba, among others to start. As things turned out, the manager had other ideas. There was no place for Anders Lindegaard, the Dane wasn't even included in the squad - instead Ben Amos was given the nod in goal, which came as a big surprise, as did the fact that Michael Carrick was chosen to partner debutant Ezekiel Fryers in central defence. Ryan Giggs partnered Park Ji-Sung in midfield. Biram Diouf played on the right in front of makeshift fullback, Antonio Valencia. On the opposite flank Fergie picked Kiko Macheda and Fabio with Owen and Berbatov up front.

On paper, it looked like Fergie had drawn the names out of a hat, with the aid of a blindfold, but it went better than most could have possibly hoped for, against what has to be said was a hugely disappointing Leeds United team.

Ferguson had obviously been keen to give everyone a game, but he could just as easily have started with a younger less experienced team; the fact that he chose not to once again illustrated that he is without doubt the fairest manager in the land. Everyone at Manchester United gets a fair crack and his players must respect that fact.

Leeds were given early warning of United's counter-attacking intent when Diouf was put through, however, he had the misfortune to completely miss the ball with a fresh-air shot, but the laughter of the home supporters didn't last long as Michael Owen opened the scoring 15 minutes into the tie. Owen created his own space inside the Leeds box with a quick step inside his marker and with his second touch he tucked the ball into the corner with an unconvincing left foot effort.

If Owen's opening goal was untidy, his second on 32 minutes was anything but. Diouf found Owen lurking on the edge of the Leeds penalty area and once again it was the striker's quick thinking and movement that did the damage, with just two touches, the ball was drilled into the top corner giving Lonergan in the Leeds goal no chance.

Ryan Giggs wrapped up the tie and the scoring on the stroke of half-time after he'd nut-megged his marker on the left edge of the Leeds penalty area; the Welshman's shot might well have taken a deflection but it took nothing away from United's elder statesman who continues to defy the years. Giggs was replaced at half-time, by Paul Pogba and so we can more than likely expect the mercurial Welsh wonder to start against Stoke City on Saturday.

Paul Pogba didn't disappoint on his debut, the French youngster looked assured from his very first forty yard raking pass, one that found Diouf who was hugging the touchline. Pogba certainly wasn't intimidated by the home crowd, although by the time the rising midfield star had entered the action the Leeds team were pretty much in tatters.

Ferguson will have been very pleased with the performances of Pogba and Fryers, but the latter had to leave the action 10 minutes before the end due to an injury, but like Pogba, he too can be well satisfied with a very confident debut.

Ferguson also blooded winger Larnell Cole when he replaced Macheda on 77 minutes, but he didn't see quite as much of the ball in the limited time he was on the pitch, but nonetheless his first-team debut went well.

In the wake of what was a very good night on the pitch for United, much has been said about the events off the pitch. Predictably, there was trouble between both sets of fans and according to one report, the Police were "surprised" by this turn of events.

While this blog does not condone violence in any way, shape or form, we would have been truly amazed if it had turned out to be a trouble free night.

The bad blood that exists between Leeds and Manchester United goes right back to the mid-60s, but much of the trouble is connected to the 1958 Munich Air disaster in which Manchester United lost several players. Leeds United 'fans' have consistently sang songs about the tragedy including the ditty "who's that dying on the runway"... This disgraceful behaviour has continued unabated throughout the decades, by and large, the media have done their level best to ignore the morons who shame the Yorkshire club, but it hasn't stopped them...

Then in the year 2,000 two Leeds fans were killed in Turkey in a football related incident involving supporters of Galatasaray and Leeds. Having taken abuse about the Munich air disaster for donkeys years from Leeds United supporters, sadly some Manchester United fans have stooped to the same sorry level as the morons who sing about the dead of Munich when goading the death of the two Leeds fans.

Manchester United fans unfurled an Istanbul banner at Elland Road last night and both sets of fans engaged in singing songs about their respective tragedies. The media reaction to the events of last night by some pundits has been, to put it mildly, naive.

Manchester United fans have been taking abuse about Munich for a very long time from Leeds, Man City, Liverpool and Bolton fans. But following the events at Elland Road, some well known football journalists have been laying most of the blame on Manchester United fans. These journalists want a reality check - where have they been for the last 20 years? Do they have selective hearing and memories? Or is it the case that these journalists are currying favour with the ABU nation when highlighting the behaviour of Manchester United fans?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

United march on, but injuries taking toll: Should Ashley Cole be forced to pay Chicharito's wages??

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Manchester United's fine early season form continued with that dramatic 3-1 win over Chelsea on Sunday at Old Trafford. But sadly, much of the post-match talk has been dominated by Ashley Cole's reckless challenge on Hernandez. Challenge isn't the right word - 'assault' would be more accurate. Cole took his eyes off the ball as he launched into United's young Mexican striker. That tackle could quite easily have ended the striker's career. TV replays clearly showed the lower part of the striker's leg bending under the force of the impact - it was sickening. Thankfully, Hernandez will only be out for two weeks. The weekend before, Bolton striker Kevin Davies injured three United players when taking out Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans and Tom Cleverley. The Bolton striker was every bit as reckless as Ashley Cole.

Keivn Davies should have been sent-off at the Reebok, but referee Andre Marriner failed to take the correct course of action, when only branishing his yellow card once. Justice was not done. The same can be said of Phil Dowd, who only booked Cole on Sunday. The referee should have sent Cole off and if there's any justice he should also have awarded a penalty. The fact that the ball had just gone out of play shouldn't come into it, the intent was there and that should have been enough. In those situations the referee should have the discretion to award a penalty kick - that punishment would fit the crime.

As a direct result of the Davies and Cole challenges, United have been denied the services of two influential players. If we cannot rely on referee's to do their jobs properly, then perhaps we need rule changes to enforce reckless players of opposing clubs to pay the wages of those who they've injured. If that happened, then maybe the perpetrators would think twice before launching themselves into two-footed airborne challenges.

United are in action tonight at Elland Road in the Carling Cup. Ferguson will use competition to blood a few youngsters, but whatever team he starts with, it will hopefully be a least a match for our old friends from the wrong side of the Pennines.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rooney left tearing new hair out in frustration as old guard struggle against Benfica...

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In the end, Manchester United were happy to come away from Lisbon with a valuable and deserved point, but last night's performance against Benfica will have been a shock to the system for many of the club's followers as it was in marked contrast to the champions early season performances in the Premier League.

It finished up 1-1, veteran Ryan Giggs was United's goal hero, the Welshman equalised on 42 minutes with a thunderbolt from 20 yards out. United had gone behind in the 22nd minute after Oscar Cardozo had opened the scoring with a spectacular goal - one that left Jonny Evans floundering on the edge of the United penalty area.

Ferguson and his backroom team will not be happy when they sit down to review the match video, because poor defending contributed to Benfica taking the lead. The move that led to the opening goal started on Benfica's left flank when Darren Fletcher stood off and failed to make any sort of a challenge on Nicolas Gaitan who was allowed to cross to Cardozo who in turn brought the ball down with one touch and then beat Evans before curling his driven effort beyond the despairing reach of Anders Lindegaard.

In truth, Benfica had been the better side up to that point in the contest, but Ferguson will not be happy with Fletcher or Evra - the latter should have provided cover for Evans, but instead, bizarrely, the Frenchman made no real attempt to help his team-mate.

United have been in fine early season form - apart from the opening day win at that the Hawthorns - the champions have been flying, but what was served up last night in Lisbon was very poor by comparison.

Fergie elected to start with just Wayne Rooney up top, but that ploy didn't really work and the service to the loan front man was diabolical for most of the first-half. All too often United's midfield resorted to lumping hopeful high balls down the middle to Rooney. It was a hopeless cause and so dispiriting to witness.

Everyone has been talking positively about Rooney this season and with good justification following a string of superb performances, but last night we saw the first signs of frustration with his team-mates which manifested itself with Rooney throwing his arms out wide as if to say "what the f*ck is going on?". That reaction was totally understandable, United were playing very poorly against an average Champions League opponent.

With the exception of Anders Lindegaard, United were, for the most part, collectively abject in the opening period, not a single player stood out.

Carrick very nearly cost United a goal early on in the contest when he lost the ball cheaply deep in the United half, which led directly to Lindegaard being called into action. Giggs lost the ball on a couple of occasions in what was a very-disjointed first-half performance.

Park was running around getting nowhwere fast, as so often happens with the South Korean. Fletcher was restored alongside Carrick following his long lay-off due to a 'mystery virus', but he looks a shadow of the player he can be at his very best, but against Benfica his impact was minimal. It came as no great surprise that Fletcher was one of the first to be replaced in the second-half in the 69th minute when Fergie replaced him with Hernandez - the only real surprise was that it took so long for the change to materialise.

Valencia started on the right flank and did okay to a point, but his final ball wasn't quite what we have come to expect; on one first-half occasion, he elected to shoot when the pass looked like the better option, so his decision making was slightly off on the night. Nani replaced Valencia and ten minutes later Phil Jones replaced Fabio who hadn't had the best of games.

In summary, Ferguson had made eight changes to the team that thrashed Bolton on Saturday, two of those changes were enforced due to injury, but with Chelsea set to visit Old Trafford on Sunday, it's a fair bet that the manager was planning to rest a few players.

While everyone will be happy with the end result, few will be happy with the manner of what was for long periods a slip-shod performance. In the absence of Tom Cleverley, and Anderson, United's midfield looked short of ideas, running, technique, guile and know-how.

What we saw last night was a throwback to what some are now referring to as the 'old United', the vibrancy that has so excited the fans' up and down the land was so sadly missing - there was no creative spark.

To a point, we can expect Fletcher to struggle given his problems with illness, but how long will it take the Scot to get back to close to his best? Is there any excuse for Michael Carrick who made errors in dangerous areas? Carrick and those alongside him provided Rooney will little or no decent service.

It is difficult to criticise the veteran goal hero Ryan Giggs given his age. Giggs broke his own scoring record in the Champions League, when becoming the oldest player to score in the competition again, he is also the only player to score a goal in 16 Champions League seasons.

Ferguson is not beyond criticism, because clearly, Rooney would have been better served with a striker partner which would have at least allowed him to drop deep when required - in practise, Rooney did actually end up dropping deep at times in pure frustration and that left United with NO striker up front...

It was a very poor and disjointed performance, United just about got away with it, but it served to highlight the lack of genuine in-depth star quality in central midfield. United need Tom Cleverley back ASAP and we are left wondering if Fergie will live to regret his failure to sign Wesley Sneijder this summer.

Star man: Anders Lindegaard, one of the few United players to come out of the game with any real credit.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Jesus happy to work with meagre resources as Benfica prepare for visit of Manchester United

Manchester United's Champions League campaign gets under way tonight in Lisbon, where last season's beaten finalists take on Benfica. Ahead of the game, coach Jorge Jesus has been talking about the disparity between Benfica and Manchester United, "Usually in the Champions League, the teams at the top are the ones who are strongest economically," said Jesus. "Teams from Portugal have to work in a different way. We have to discover players without money. "We have to work in order to get these top players but our results proved that we can still surprise teams," said the Benfica coach.

United go into this fixture without the first-choice centre-back pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, the fact that the manager won't be too concerned about such high-profile absentees is testament to Fergie's work in the transfer market over the last 12 months.

Phil Jones has rightly been receiving plaudits from pundits' and fans' alike following his faultless performances since his move from Blackburn; the same can be said of Chris Smalling who has been a revelation following his move from Fulham last year. Jones and Smalling are both versatile and therefore they give Ferguson top quality defensive options.

Ahead of the game, Fergie has been talking to the media about Wayne Rooney when making comparisons with the great Pele - while many may think that comparison is stretching it a bit too far, there's no doubting the United striker has so far been one of the player's of the season.

United will be looking to get off to a good start with a Champions League win in Lisbon, in so doing ensuring the team's flying start on the domestic front continues in Europe. Chelsea are the visitors to Old Trafford on Sunday and the manager will be hoping there are no further injury concerns following the Benfica game.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Davies' tackle on Cleverley puts dampener on otherwise superb day for Manchester United...

Manchester United thrashed Bolton 5-0 on Saturday, with what was a near faultless performance by the champions, but the thumping win came at a price with Tom Cleverley leaving the action early in the first-half following a poor challenge by Kevin Davies'.

Quite what was going through the mind of Davies' when he made that tackle is a good question to ask, because there was no way he was ever going to win the ball, not without taking Cleverley out first, because the Bolton striker was on the wrong side of the United midfielder.

While there was no doubting it was a bad challenge, for some reason referee Andre Marriner kept his cards in his pocket, which in itself raises questions. Maybe Marriner thought Davies' had made a genuine attempt to win the ball, but that was impossible from the Bolton striker's position being on the wrong side of the player he was trying to tackle. The fact that Davies wasn't booked reflects badly on Andre Marriner and Ferguson had every right to say it was a bad challenge after the game, but he didn't take the matter any further. In fairness, the challenge didn't look like it was premeditated though, nor did it look like there was intent to injure Cleverley, but technically it was most certainly an ill-judged attempt to win the ball - one that went unpunished and left United cursing their injury luck.

Davies' was eventually booked on 12 minutes for a bad tackle on Patrice Evra and by rights, at that point Marriner should have been brandishing his red card. Davies' made another poor first-half challenge on Jonny Evans and again he was given the benefit of doubt by lenient Marriner.

United have lost Vidic, Ferdinand, Welbeck and now Cleverley due to injury since the start of the season and Jonny Evans also limped off at the Reebok yesterday. Thanks to Ferguson's superb work in the summer in the transfer market, the manager does at least have quality cover. However, central midfield is the single biggest weakness within the squad and the manager will be cursing his luck if worst fears over Cleverley and a broken foot are confirmed.

Injuries aside, it was another superb display by the champions and once again Rooney was the man of the match. Rooney notched his second hat-trick in succession to underline his imperious early season form. But it was Hernandez who opened the scoring on just four minutes from a tantalising cross from the right from Nani. United's Mexican striker gave a textbook lesson in how to lose your marker in the box, with England hero Cahill left floundering as the United striker made the difficult art of scoring look easy.

Rooney scored the second with a near carbon copy of the first and once again it came about following a good ball into the Bolton box from the right, this time from Jones'.

Michael Carrick replaced Cleverley on 24 minutes and went on to have a good game, and boy he needed to impress too because the pressure for starting places is intense, with Cleverley and Anderson looking to have cemented the central midfield slots.

United have been superb down the left flank this season, with Ashley Young pulling the strings when combining well with England team-mate Wayne Rooney, but against Bolton, all of the goal action started on the opposite flank, with Nani and Phil Jones' at the heart of everything.

Jones' was preferred to Chris Smalling at right-back in the starting XI, and the former Blackburn youngster did not disappoint from both a defensive or attacking an standpoint.

It was Jones' who laid on Rooney's first goal on 20 minutes with a good ball in from the right. United fans love to see Smalling supporting the attack with his powerful runs down the right wing, but Jones' looks, if anything, to be even better, as he showed in the 25th minute when he dazzled Bolton with a mazey run into the box which led to Rooney scoring his second and United's third.

From that point on, as as a contest, the game was over. United capped off a fine display with second-half goals from Hernandez and Rooney with assists from Carrick and Nani respectively.

In summary, it really has been a scintillating start to the new season with United and City fighting it out at the top of the table. The champions are ahead of City on goal difference and Rooney has scored more goals than any other Premier League club apart from City.

Ahead of Saturday's trip to the Reebok, Fergie had hinted that David De Gea might be rested; the media speculated that the United manager was fearful of a likely aerial assault by Bolton, as it turned out De Gea kept his place and the young Spaniard went on to fully vindicate the faith shown in him with another faultless display.

Following yet another top-class performance, some pundits are comparing Phil Jones' to the late great Busby Babe, Duncan Edwards - which is some accolade; but comparisons are never a good thing because it is so difficult to compare like for like. Phil Jones' doesn't need the distraction of being compared to one of the club's greatest ever players.

Next up, United travel to Portugal for Wednesday's Champions League tie with Benfica and that could be another cracking game.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Andre Marriner must stand up to "bully boy" Kevin Davies....

Footballers' are often labelled as dim-wits, and in many cases with good justification, ahead of United's trip to the Reebok on Saturday, Kevin Davies - the proverbial Bolton battering ram - has unwisely, and very publicly, announced his intent to "rough up" Phil Jones and David de Gea. It's not a particularly bright idea to tell the world that you plan rough up the opposition, but then again, I suppose we should expect that from a one dimensional striker like  Kevin Davies.

Manchester United's away record on the domestic front was pretty lousy last season, in end the champions were quite fortunate to come away from the corresponding Bolton fixture with a share of the spoils. Saturday's fixture has all the ingredients to make it a real cracker, it is a derby and the Trotters fancy their chances against anyone at the Reebok and of course United have a good record at Bolton.

Andre Marriner is the man in charge and it is hoped he doesn't cave in under pressure from the home crowd - which is the single biggest issue with many so called "first-class referees". By opening his big mouth to the press ahead of the game, Davies might well have done Fergie a favour, because it is one less job for him to do, that is the United manager won't have to warn the referee to be on his toes.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Neville right: England have been s**t since 1970....

So Gary Neville has caused a stir in his new book by stating that playing for England was a waste of time. What is wrong with that? The former England and United defender is quite right: England have been dire since1970. The golden age of English football lasted just four years from 1966 to 1970, but apart from that all too brief period, the England team have consistently failed at the big tournaments. The FA have appointed foreign manager's like Sven Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello, but there has been no improvement.