Saturday, October 1, 2011


Tuesday nights are often entertaining nights whenever I've got the chance to watch United play. Be it in the Champions League or the Premier League. And this time, it was no different. I got watch it and it was uncannily similar to the Chelsea game which I had seen uninterrupted. Chances galore for both sides, to be fair I think Basel created more. Three goals apiece for both the sides and United having to come from behind in the end after what seemed to be a comfortable 2-0 half time lead.

Injuries to Rooney and Hernandez meant that the manager started the game with just Danny Welbeck up front. What must Berbatov feel inside that icy calm demeanor of his, I wonder. However, the boss seemed to have it right again after two quickfire goals from the young striker in the space of two minutes. mid-way through the first half. Giggs again with the assists. If I haven't got it wrong, he has provided the assist for 11 of the past 13 Champions League goals that United have scored. And the scored remained the same at the halftime whistle. United seemingly in an insurmountable position.
But the first half had already been a sign for things to come in the second half. Basel attacked from the start of the match and would do so the whole night. Their two furthest forward pair of Frei and Streller really caused havoc in the United final third. United's two full-backs were always caught out of position too far upfield and when Basel got in behind Ferdinand seemed too slow for the pace of the game. Jones had his first average game in a red shirt though I say this only because of that pass he made to Valencia in the penalty area, a rather unnecessary attempt to play the ball out from a very tight situation which led to the penalty that gave Basel the lead. Basel could have indeed gone into the break ahead. They knew they were causing the United defence problems and came out of in the second half with intent. United could not keep a lid on the proceedings and were pegged back until they finally conceded.

But for all the defensive frailties we seem to be currently displaying what cannot be counted out is our desire to win and our belief in our ability to get something from a game. Of turning certain defeat into draws and draws into wins. While we could not get the winner this time (Berbatov should probably have played the ball across the face of goal instead of going for it himself) but another late goal from the head of Ashley Young saved United from their first home defeat in... let's just say a really long time.

Sir Alex Ferguson has indeed pointed out during the week that his team might be too cavalier for their own good and this is something that might become the stumbling block in our pursuit of the 20th, not to mention a fourth European title. Ferdinand, for all his warning to the young ones about the fight they are facing to replace him, seems to be the one looking to miss out on more games than the likes of Smalling, Jones and Evans. And he was struggling against the two Basel strikers and was probably lucky not to be sent off after losing his footing and bringing down Frei who would have been through on goal. May be he is still not 100% match fit but it was not convincing defending from him at all. Evra seemed to be doing okay but was woeful during the night. After the Chelsea game, he said the way they defended was not good enough and he seemed to have forgotten his own words. For the second goal, he should have stayed tight to the Basel winger and prevented the cross instead of giving him all the space he needed to put in a beauty of a cross.

So, what has happened to our defence? In one word, injuries. We always seem to be short of the required numbers these past few weeks. Vidic and Rafael are still far from being back in action while Smalling has joined them both on the list while Fabio also seems to have picked up a knock during the Basel game. The lad is pretty unlucky with these injuries and knocks. And these means we have a kind of a rotating back four out of necessity and even midfielders sometimes slotting in. This unsettled defensive roulette means defensive discipline and understanding is not build between the constantly changing participants. And this is one of the reasons we are becoming a bit more porous this season. Let's just hope that our injuries end quickly, especially Vidic's, so we can get some of the meanness back in our backline. With the front end seemingly able to tear into all types of opponents, it would be great to have a more rigid defence behind them soon.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I don't have a television. So for getting a glimpse [yep, sometimes literally due to power cuts, Mother Nature's mood, etc. as mentioned in an earlier post] of the Red Devils in action I make a trip east from my present accommodations to a friend's place. A round trip of about a hundred miles when work permits but this weekend, it did not. And it seems I won't regret not being able to make that trip. Making a return journey when the team don't win is quite a bummer though I must admit coming away with a point from the Britannia Stadium is not the worst of results. But United not winning leaves an aftertaste that is often hard to swallow. I guess United fans are a pampered bunch especially with the sort of start we have had to the season [very unbecoming(?) of a Premier League United side who are traditionally slow starters] not to mention the achievements of the Ferguson era.

From what I've read of the match reports, it was a disjointed performance from the champions due to the injuries suffered by the players who were key to this season's flying start. Rooney was a big miss and Vidic towering presence was sorely missed against an aerially adept attack like Stoke's. The Little Pea's early departure from the action was a further blow as his replacement, Michael Owen, though a poacher like the Mexican, was not going to trouble the Stoke defenders with his lack of pace.

But there were positives that could hardly be missed. Nani is making great strides towards his goal of becoming the best in the world. I've always liked him, and yes, I get frustrated with him like every other United fan. But that I think is because we, the fans, know that he has much more to offer as a player and it is very pleasing to see that he has slowly begun to add consistency to his displays. Jones is turning into everyone's favorite player. And it seems de Gea did a lot towards changing some early notions about his goalkeeping abilities. I think, and hope, that he will prove his doubters wrong come the end of the season.

So, level on points again with the blue-fourth of Manchester. That Manchester Derby on the 18th of next month keeps getting bigger and bigger with each passing week, doesn't it? But next up is FC Basel at home in the Champions League and then the first of the new boys, Swansea I think, to come visit us. Can we rediscover our start of the season verve? I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Where to begin? The first full game of the season that I get to see uninterrupted by power failures or Mother Nature [Arsenal game I'm talking about - my version finished 3 - 1 to United]. And what a game!! End to end stuff from the start to finish, two great goals, some unbelievable misses and the usual Man United vs Chelsea fare - refereeing errors. It was indeed a Super Sunday for real. And to top it off, a United victory that maintains their 100% start to the season while the oiled noisy neighbors dropped two points at Craven Cottage.

What about the match? Well, the linesman failed to spot Smalling, marginally offside for the first goal, headed in from a Young free-kick. He was poorly marked by Lampard. Another assist for the former Villa winger. He's had a wonderful start to his United career. Another missed offside infringement, this time by Nani led to the second goal. A bullet of a shot that rifled into the top corner after the right winger was given too much time and space by the Chelsea players. Then Rooney swept home a third just before half time after another lung bursting run from Phil Jones, very similar to the one he did against Bolton a week ago. This young lad has become a fan's favorite with his powerful all-round displays. And to think he was only considered to be a future prospect when United signed him. Can't wait to see the day when he truly fulfills his apparent potential.

Amidst the goals, Chelsea weren't mere spectators. In fact, they could have gone in level at the break. Torres missed a good chance [this was just the beginning] after Anderson made a mess of his pass near the United box. Then, Ramires got in on the act, contriving to hit the goalkeeper when it was easier to score from a Torres lay-off and De Gea did very well to get back and push the ball away to safety when a goal seemed the only outcome. The misses would continue.

The second half started brilliantly for the Blues. Just half a minute into it, a wonderful through-ball caught out the United backline and Torres scored for only the second time since he switched colors to blue at the beginning of the year. It was a brilliant goal from a man who seemed to have lost his prowess in front of goal. He did atone for it near the end of the match with an unbelievable miss, one which will live long in the memory. But I think the Torres of old is very close to returning. If that had gone in, United might have failed to hold on to their lead and the papers would have been full of talk about the Rooney penalty miss. A reprise of John Terry's Moscow Tragedy. A slip of his standing foot made him kick the ball against his own foot and send it towards the corner flag instead of the goal. He would also scuff one against a goalpost which could have led to Hernandez's leg being broken by Ashley Cole with a reckless tackle. As it turns out, the Mexican has escaped with only bruises when it could have been much worse. Berbatov came in place of him and would miss a very good opportunity right at the end to add a bit of gloss to the scoreline. Rooney's layoff was not the best and the Bulgarian could only direct the ball goalwards with no power and Cole was able to clear it off the line.

The match ended 3-1. And it could have been so much more for either side. Chelsea could even have gone home with a win if they had taken their chances. But it was not to be. The Chelsea Blog has been moaning about the missed offsides that led to two of United goals but I don't think he would have minded the decisions that went in their favor the season before last. But then again, what else are fans supposed to be if not biased?

It was a good weekend. Arsene Wenger gave Arsenal fans more ammunition to question their faith in him or is it the players, it's hard to know. They lost to Blackburn 4-3. King Kenny talked of a refereeing conspiracy against his Liverpool and saw his side dismantled by Spurs with help from the referee. I wonder what he'll make of that? Mancini didn't have enough midfielders to protect a two goal lead against a plucky Fulham side at Craven Cottage. And all this means United are at the top of the Premier League pile alone and looking down on everyone else. I can only hope that after the ups and downs of the season, they are similarly perched come May next year.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Rooney made it back to back hattricks while Hernandez bagged a double and got his season up and running. And I missed the whole game. Oh man!!!

Guess I'll be seeing them grind out 1-0 results later in the season. For the moment, they are flying and long may it continue. I'd even miss the whole season and read about their exploits if they were to keep winning and winning handsomely.

Next up, the return of Champions League football and we're away to Benfica in Portugal. Then, there's Chelsea to come on Sunday. Can't wait for the weekend to come. Forget about what I said earlier. I won't be missing that game. Is it too optimistic to expect another Arsenal-like thrashing? I'd settle for a Tottenham-like bashing though.


Saturday, September 10, 2011



Arsenal - a young team, a team in transition, a team for the future - it was said a couple of years back. And Arsene Wenger was hearing his name being heaped with praise. A genius at spotting young talent and nurturing them to become world-class, they said of him. Then, along came Theo Walcott and Arsenal has only been promises unfulfilled ever since. Just like the lad. And now this, barely a week after Arsene's finest product decided to leave him and his beautiful football project for a much more beautiful football project plus trophies.


And I missed most of the game.


What more can I say?

Friday, August 26, 2011


Manchester United will face Benfica, FC Basel and Otelul Galati in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. Benfica came 2nd in the Portuguese League last season while FC Basel and Otelul Galati are champions of the Swiss and Romanian 1st divisions respectively. the first round of matches will be played  on the nights of 13 and 14 September.

the groupings are as below:

Group A
Bayern Munich
Group B
Inter Milan
CSKA Moscow
Group C
Manchester United
FC Basle
Otelul Galati
Group D
Real Madrid
Dinamo Zagreb
Group E
Bayer Leverkusen
KRC Genk
Group F
Borussia Dortmund
Group G
FC Porto
Shakhtar Donetsk
Zenit St Petersburg
APOEL Nicosia
Group H
AC Milan
Bate Borisov
Viktoria Plzen

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


i made a round trip of about a 100 km for watching my first game of the season. after missing the opener at West Brom, i wasn't going to miss Spurs turn up for their annual ritual at Old Trafford. so, off i went to fill my line of sight with the 23" screen of a friend's TV. it turned out to be a good trip.

in goal, the boss kept faith with his Spanish acquisition and de Gea had a fine game though Tottenham didn't put him under pressure aerially like West Brom did. he made some solid stops from goal-bound attempts. and he was very good with his ball distribution both with his hand and feet. there was a moment after the second United goal where he misjudged the flight of a cross and made a hash of his attempt to collect it resulting in Defoe hitting the post with his strike. towards the end, he also spilled a Tom Huddleston shot but recovered to smother the ball before Defoe could take advantage. i believe some in the press would see that as a sign of more fallibility from the Spaniard but what they would miss is that the shot was struck very well and true (and that too by Tom Huddleston) and that he was quick to get the ball back in his hands. i think he will do fine and the clean sheet will add to his growing confidence.

with the defensive stalwarts in Ferdinand and Vidic missing with injury, Phil Jones made his League start in the heart of defence with the slightly more experienced Jonny Evans and what a fine performance he put in. i think he is a wonderful signing, the best from the summer business, and he is just 19. Evans also performed solidly but for a few rash tackles that earned him a yellow card in the first half and meant that he had to be careful for the remainder of the match. Patrice Evra returned from his injury on the left and did okay. but the pace of Aaron Lennon did cause him some problems and was lucky when the Spurs winger on one occasion having got behind him reverted to type and made a poor effort with his cross when he had teammates in the box that he could have easily laid the ball for. on the right, Smalling was again impressive as a makeshift right back. it seems like he has been playing there all his life. if it weren't for the Da Silva twins, i would have him playing there every game as the middle of the defence is pretty much covered.

in midfield, it was Nani and Young providing pace and trickery on the flanks and the industry and energy of Anderson and Cleverley in the middle of the park. Anderson had an outstanding game, driving forward with pace and purpose as well as tracking back. he was also the finisher of the wonderful second goal latching on to Welbeck's clever back heel and side-footing it pass Brad Friedel, the Tottenham shot stopper. now, if only, he can maintain this kind of form for most of the season, he would be doing justice to the hype that followed him to Old Trafford. Cleverley also performed well enough and put in a wonderful cross for the first goal. this midfield pairing, however, might not be ideal for games with more midfield creativity than the one they faced here. Ashley Young continued his fine form on the left wing but i felt that he sometimes, over-indulged himself with his turning defenders inside out and then getting his crosses blocked in the end. overall, he seems to have made that left wing his own. Nani was pretty anonymous but he will hopefully turn it on again soon. he was magnificent during the first half of last season and he needs to up his performances with the big clashes coming thick and fast this season.

up front, Welbeck retained his starting role alongside the slightly withdrawn Rooney. he was uncertain in the first half but had a wonderful second half. after meeting Cleverley's sumptuous cross with a header, his first goal for the season, there was definitely a jump in his energy levels. and what an ingenuous piece of play that back heel was. he could have tried to take on the shot himself and most probably wasted it, but he saw Anderson continue his run into the box after he made the pass and placed it perfectly for the midfielder to slot home. Rooney was also Rooney, the old Rooney again. full of energy and he seems to be loving the game as well as playing for United again. he also got his goal courtesy of that ever young legend, Ryan Giggs who came on in place of Cleverley.

Tottenham came not having won at Old Trafford in more than two decades. and they left still waiting for that win. United go second behind City on goal difference, playing the kind of football that every United supporter would have easily recognised. the kids seem to be up for the challenge and i cannot wait to make the same journey again this Sunday when Arsenal visit.