United 10/11 – Over-achieving or worthy champions?   2 comments

In my last post, I claimed the current Manchester United side to be their worst in over 15 years. I could have phrased it better.

The current Manchester United side is not their best. This team, unlike others in the past, seem to be on the same par, with players like Rooney being an exception. In other years, more than one player has stood out, leaving the rest of the team to take a ‘back-seat’ – Ronaldo, Beckham, Cantona, etc.

I think this team has great strength in depth, and a good first team squad – a strong first team squad. But is it a great first team squad?

Or is it simply an over-achieving side?

In a way, although I claimed it to be one of our ‘worst’ sides, I can find a slight similarity to the side of the ’99 treble-winning team.

In ’99, Manchester United had a good squad – a strong squad with great players, but they were all so brilliant that by shining in their own way, they constantly made it a team performance rather than an individual one, like in the 07/08 season when United’s season could be summed up by two words: Cristiano Ronaldo.

Great teams ave come and gone at United – Steve Bruce and Bryan Robson’s double-winning side of ’93, the Cantona-era, the Treble team, the 2006-2009 team that won the league 3 times in a  row?

Personally, my favourite United team is either the 06/07 team or the 07/08 Champions League winning team. Of course, I’d love to say my favourite team included the likes of Robson, or Cantona, or Keane, or even Schmeichel – but I believe those are the strongest teams we’ve had in a long time at United.

United still have great players and a great team – Van Der Sar, Rio and Vidic, Nani, Giggs, Scholes, Rooney and Hernandez to name a few – with the Champions League final coming up on the 28th May vs Barcelona, hopefully they can prove the doubters wrong and show that they’re not over-achievers, but can justify their place in the history books as one of United’s strongest teams of all time.

What are your thoughts on the best United team since 1991? Do they match mine? Let me know what you think.

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Man United set to break league titles record   3 comments

A victory over an equally-determined Chelsea side today left Manchester United needing one point from their remaining two games to clinch their record-breaking 19th league title.

A goal in the first minute by Javier Hernandez saw United immediately gain the upper hand in the match, and go on to create more chances, which eventually saw Nemanja Vidic head in a Ryan Giggs’ corner later on.

This game, which finished 2-1, was seen by many fans as one of the biggest United games in years, as a loss to The Blues would have seen them go top of the table on goal difference, leaving The Red Devils a tricky task to overcome with two games left. As a must-win game for United, they went to attack straight away, and it worked with Chicharito bagging his 13th league goal in what is his debut season.

Chicharito opens the scoring vs Chelsea

It was deemed as a very hard task for United to win this match, especially win the pressure that came with a loss, as United havn’t played very well against the ‘big teams’ lately, bar the Champions League; as recent losses to Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City show.

United had gained a lot of courage and strength since their defeats to Arsenal and Man City as they hammered Schalke 04 in what was a very convincing 4-1 victory at Old Trafford.

Ultimately, this victory is United’s 14th successive home win, and leaves them needing, at the most, a draw from their remaining games against Blackburn (away) and Blackpool (home), to break Liverpool’s long-standing record of 18 league titles.

It could be an incredible month for Manchester United players and fans alike as they could be, if they get that point, crowned champions on 22nd May, and then could potentially be crowned champions of Europe if they beat Barcelona at Wembley on 28th May.

If Fergie goes on to win both the Premier League AND the Champions League, I may even claim that this is his greatest achievement yet – even better than winning the treble. For a manager to take a side that is notably his ‘worst’ team in 15-17 years, and lead them to Euro and Domestic glory – well, that is something else.

What did you think of the match vs Chelsea? Are United worthy champions? Will they get past Barcelona? All comments welcome.

Chelsea left with The Blues as United and Barcelona Progress   1 comment

Tonight showed two footballing giants, rich in domestic and european history, progress through to the Champions League semi-finals.

Manchester United beat 10-men Chelsea 2-1 at Old Trafford, and Barcelona made it through with a narrow 1-0 away against Shakhtar Donetsk.

United’s win saw goal-machine Javier Hernandez break the deadlock on the stroke of halftime, thanks to great work by Ryan Giggs. This assist was Giggs’ second in two matches against Chelsea, and continues to show how the 37-year-old is deying time by playing like a player in his mid-20s. After the break, Chelsea’s Didier Drogba pulled one back for The Blues to regain some hope for the travelling fans. But forty-seconds later, United were back on top thanks to a smart finish by Ji-Sung Park. This sees Manchester United enter the semi finals of the prestigous tournament for the fourth time in five seasons, and basically eliminate any threat of Chelsea winning silverware this year.

Hernandez celebrates his opener

Meanwhile, over in the Ukraine, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi scored his 48th goal in all competitions for the 2010/11 season, and his 133rd goal in his 150th appearance under coach Pep Guardiola.

Impressive for a 23-year-old.

Messi continues to referred to as the best player in the world, in what is possibly the best team in the world? Can anybody stop Barcelona?

Time will tell.

Manchester United may claim they will be able to, but it looks like they must first face Schalke (possibly Inter Milan, but unlikely) in the semi finals. Chelsea return to Stamford Bridge after what is their third loss to The Red Devils in the last three European games against them.

Shakhtar knew they were basically out, after losing the first leg against Barca 5-1, which sees the Catalan Giants likely to face Real Madrid in the semi-finals. But Chelsea had other ideas for their game, they had the opportunity to come back, after only being one goal down. Losing their first leg 1-0 was disheartening, but the consistently poor performances of Torres, the goal before halftime, and Ramires being sent off for a second bookable offence did them no favours.

Barcelona and Manchester United can relish the opportunity to play in what is another semi final of a major competition, whereas Chelsea will most likely be left with a severe case of the blues.

United’s Luck Changes at Stamford Bridge   Leave a comment

Manchester United go into the second leg of their Champions League Quarter Final against Chelsea with, literally, a leg to stand on.

After a 1-0 away win at Stamford Bridge, thanks to a superb Wayne Rooney goal – The Red Devils go into the second leg knowing that a draw would see them through. But the post-match focus was not on the result, but on the penalty decision which was NOT given Chelsea’s way in the final minutes of the game.

The match was all but settled, leading into the 91st minute – United were to beat Chelsea for the first time at Stamford Bridge since 2002… when Patrice Evra brought down Ramires in what was, admittedly, a stone-wall penalty and a sending off. The only way I can justify it for the referee was that he was behind the ball, and the ball moved to the left almost as if Evra had touched it. Still, no excuses.

BUT… Here’s a picture of the contact – in the area, or just outside?

Penalty? or no penalty? Your call.

It’s a bold call by the referee, albeit, the wrong one. But it’s a decision that sees Manchester United go back to Old Trafford with an away goal and the tie in their favour.

Alot of anti-United fans have been saying United have cheated. Well, if you see my first ever post on this blog regarding the Chelsea vs United game a few months ago, I spoke about bad refereeing decisions, not the TEAM cheating.

To me, it seems the curse of The Bridge has struck again, but in United’s favour this time.

Swings and roundabouts, some might say?

Or as the old traditional Indian concept goes – Karma.

– – – What was your opinion on the game? Or maybe the penalty decision? Let me know by leaving a comment. – – –

Manchester United – Masters of the Comeback   3 comments

Manchester United today showed just why they’ll go on to make history at the end of the season by winning their record-breaking 19th league title.

An amazing United comeback against West Ham, at Upton Park, saw them 2-0 down at half-time thanks to two Mark Noble penalties. After the break, and no doubt, the infamous Fergie hairdryer, United plucked up the courage and inspiration they needed as Wayne Rooney scored a 15-minute hat-trick, and super-sub Javier Hernandez scoring late on to seal the win.

Rooney gets the match-ball after hat-trick

As you’ll all know, this is definately not the first time that Manchester United have achieved such an impressive feat as this comeback. They are the team everyone loves to hate because they can get away with playing awful for 45 minutes, and then astonish the opposition by appearing faultless in the second half.

Regarding today’s match, people were referring to United’s win as ‘dodgy’, or ‘jammy’ – well, it’s neither. It’s a never-say-die attitude that belongs to the Salford-based team.

Solskjaer's winner in the '99 Champions League final

Many will remember possibly the greatest comeback in the team’s history in the Champions League final of 1999 vs Bayern Munich – although this was not the Red Devil’s first comeback, it was their most important – and one that set the cornerstone for the mind-set that Manchester United fans and players alike share.

A team that knows all too well not too doubt the 18-time league champions is Tottenham Hotspur. 2001 saw Spurs go in at half-time 3-0 up, only to lose the game 5-3 after five second half goals by five different United players. A similar feat occurred in 2009 as Tottenham took a ‘comfortable’ 2-0 lead, only for the masters of the comeback to do the same as they did in 2001, and put five past Spurs in the second half.

A list of United’s top 10 comebacks prior to 2011 can be seen here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/manchester-united/5224806/Top-10-Manchester-United-comebacks.html

Here is a video of some other superb United comebacks through the years:

A prime example of United’s resilience this season would be against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road. 2-0 down at half time, Berbatov’s brace (including the winner) and a goal from Solskjaer’s successor, Chicharito saw United retain their spot at the top of the Premier League.

The comeback is a time-honoured trick by the Red Devils which constantly sees them getting themselves out of a corner that they’ve backed themselves into – thus, the stuff of champions, as we saw today with Rooney shining.

 Worthy of a 19th league title? I think so.

Can you think of any comebacks from your team that have been more impressive than some of the United ones mentioned? I’d love to hear it.

England Youngsters Show Their Potential   1 comment

Friendly fixtures are exhibition matches – where a manager can tweak positions, players and tactics, and suffer no consequences (other than the backlash by angry fans and the totalitarian media). Althhough this is the case, most national teams prefer to put out their strongest team rather than facing the wrath of the public after things have not gone their way.

Tonight, Fabio Capello took full advantage of England’s friendly against Ghana, and seemed to surprise England fans by making SEVEN changes from their 2-0 victory over Wales on Saturday. The match saw the likes of Gary Cahill (Bolton), Stewart Downing (Aston Villa) and Andy Carroll (Liverpool) all featuring in the starting line-up.

England were provided with the better chances throughout the match, but failed to to take advantage, until 22-year-old Andy Carroll pounced on a Stewart Downing knock-down to fire the Three Lions ahead just before half time.  The game showed entertaining moments from both sides, with England doing what they havn’t done in a while – Impressing.

Carroll - Paving the way for a new era?

But it was the influx of ‘younger’, less internationally-experienced players which caught my eye in the game for England. Jack Wilshere, 19, continues to show great promise in what was his 4th cap, playing alongside tonight’s skipper Gareth Barry – with the fusion of youth and experience proving to be a winning formula. The Arsenal central midfielder is ever-improving, and at such a young age, could help to be one of the cornerstones a future England team is built around.

Another example, being that man, Andy Carroll. Liverpool are still waiting to see what he can do for them after his £35million transfer from Newcastle United in January, but the centre forward definately showed his potential at Wembley tonight. In only his second appearance in an England shirt, Carroll picked up his first international goal – thus surely proving he must be a mainstay in the full England side, rather than be demoted back to the Under-21s?

20-year-old Danny Welbeck must also stake a claim for a spot in team with regular outings for Sunderland, no? Or Matt Jarvis?

Even players who havn’t been selected yet, are still pushing their way in – Chris Smalling, anyone?

Although England featured a set-back against Ghana, in the last minute due to an impressive Asamoah Gyan equaliser, a majority of the England players still showed that they have the potential to be more than fringe palyers – which begs the question:

Wilshere now has 4 caps for England

With players like Ashley Young, Andy Carroll and Jack Wilshere, is there room back in the squad for the likes of Theo Walcott,

 Darren Bent, or even Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard? Will they even fit in the system? Or are a lot of the stars past their sell-by-date?

Personally, I think that it’s time for players like Stevie G and Lamps to move aside, in order to create a new golden era for England under Fabio Capello, and to reign supreme in International football once again.

Brazil Wonderboy, Neymar – A Star For The Future   5 comments

Hard to believe that any player can be so good at such a young age.

There have been certain cases, but mainly they are few and far between in recent years; with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Jack Wilshere and others immediately springing to mind. But after watching the Brazil v Scotland game, it was clear to see, there is another star in the making.

Neymar da Silva Santos Junior (or Neymar for short) brought the game to life just before the end of the first half with a fine strike into the corner of the goal, which showed athleticism and agility as the ball strayed behind him.

The boy from the Brazilian club, Santos, has already drawn comparisons with Pele and Robinho due to his playing style – both of whom also started their careers at Santos.

Born in February 1992, making Neymar only 19 years of age, he has already made 64 appearances for his team, scoring 27 goals in the process.

 So, Neymar’s 19… I’m 19… He’s playing for the Brazilian National team; I’m writing a blog about him. I wish I was Neymar.

Neymar celebrates against the Scots

The Samba goldenboy has already attracted interest from some of Europe’s elite, including Manchester United, Real Madrid, and current European Cup holders, Inter Milan. But I think I made a valid point via Twitter earlier today:

”Love how Brazil are bringing in more home grown talents from Santos etc now, rather than high profile European athletes like they used to”.

Although more and more Brazilian exports are becoming noticed and brought into top clubs, I think it’s great to see a Brazil side with players who ply their trade in their home nation like Neymar, Lucas Rodriguez and Leandro Damiao keeping out the likes of international superstars Maicon, David Luiz and Renato Augusto.

I am not naive though, I do think the inevitable will happen and that Neymar will grab at the chance for a big-money move to Europe, but I feel for now, the less we see of him on our screens, the less likely we are to over-rate him.

His game against Scotland today featured very little flaws, and in this, he helped Brazil to a second goal; by winning a penalty with sublime skill, and then converting it.

The scored penalty made it three goals by Neymar for the national team in as many games, therefore strengthening his reputation as one of the game’s youngest transfer targets for this summer. 

With just a glimpse of seeing what the Santos teenager can do against Scotland, I believe I speak for everyone when i say that I look forward to his next game for the national team against World Cup finalists, Holland on the 4th June. The wonderboy has shown great promise so far, and I can reassuringly say that this will not be the last that we hear of from one of the most sought-after striker’s this year, Neymar.

Posted March 27, 2011 by brettmacca91 in South America

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