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.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

a new beginning

well, two years and more have passed. and much has happened since my last post in April of 2009. i was in Delhi then, now i am in Agartala. i was unemployed then, feeling guilty about leaning on everyone around me. now i am fortunately employed and very happy to support my parents back home instead of the other way round.

however, some things have stayed the same. Sir Alex Ferguson remains manager, the greatest ever and his charges are the Premier League Champions again after a one year hiatus in their relentless acquisition of trophies under him. that's four League titles in five years now and what's more United are now ahead of everyone in England with 19 League titles. and to think 12 of them are won in the Premier League era under Ferguson. but some things still hurt the same come the end of May. back then, it was in the Eternal City and this year at the 'home of football' where the hypocrites footballing wizards of Barcelona pipped us in the battle for four European Cups with a masterful display (and there i was thinking United was in with a chance after Rooney equalized).

this summer has, however, brought changes to United. there are three new signings in Phil Jones, David de Gea and Ashley Young. and early signs suggest that Ashley Young will be a major threat for opposing teams on the left wing. Phil Jones will most probably have to wait a couple more years for a regular starting role in the centre of the defence but will get opportunities as cover for the injury-prone Ferdinand. of the new signings, the new goalkeeper, David de Gea will need tie to settle after his big money move from Atletico Madrid. he is still very young in goalkeeping terms but without a shadow of doubt has huge potential. and if he can adjust to the change in his surroundings quickly, i think United have a goalkeeper of the highest class for the next 10-15 years minimum. and as would any United fan, i hope he settles in very quickly. also, it looks like we will get to see some of the young talents at the club more regularly this time, especially Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck who spent last season on loan at other Premier League clubs gaining valuable experience. I'm sure we'll also get to see more of Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison as well during the course of the season.

all this is because of the retirement of no less than three United legends during the past year. Gary Neville hung up his boots mid-season while Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar did the same after the Wembley heartbreak. and the team also lost two faithful and loyal servants in Wes Brown and John O' Shea who both moved on in search of more pitch time and signed for Sunderland. it seems such a massive loss for the club to have to lose such big players and their years of experience playing for United. but the manager seems to be confident that the current youthful United side is what is needed to continue the quest for more trophies.

here's hoping to a new and exciting as well as another trophy-winning season for United.  GGMU.