Posted by hakanrylander on March 11, 2010
A very good performance from United last night and several positive signs going inte the quarter-finals. On yesterday’s evidence Park (my MotM) is probably our best option as the attacking central midfielder. Fletcher again proved that he has that rare quality of playing better the bigger the game. Valencia dominated the right-wing completety (with a little help from Ronaldinho, see below). Nani had a shaky start but improved as the game went along, and provided the best moment of the match with his superb pass for Rooney’s second goal. As for Rooney himself, another proof that he’s England’s best player.
Even so I think the main reason why United were so dominant was that Milan more or less handed us the game on a plate by poor work-rate and lack of tactical awareness. The most glaring example was that the left-back Jankulovski, one of the weakest individual links, was given virtually no support at all from Ronaldinho. As a consequence, Valencia and Neville could do pretty much whatever they pleased down that corridor. Furthermore, the other attackers, Huntelaar and Borriello, spent a lot of time waiting for the ball rather than take part in the build-up. This was a huge difference to e.g. Rooney and Valencia.
In fairness, Milan probably suffered a lot from the absence of Pato and Nesta. Milan still created a couple of chances early on, and with crisper finishing from Ronaldinho and Huntelaar it could have been a much tighter game. But I’m sure United would still have prevailed given Milan’s weaknesses.
I’m already looking forward to the next round.
Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports | Tagged: Antonio Valencia, Champions League, Darren Fletcher, Gary Neville, Manchester United, Milan, Nani, Park Ji-sung, Ronaldinho, Wayne Rooney | 1 Comment »
Posted by hakanrylander on November 22, 2009
1. Normally I’m on the edge of my seat worrying that the game will take a turn for the worse even when United are dominant. Not so in this game. I felt that United were totally in control throughout. This probably stemmed mostly from central midfield. Darren Fletcher (now generally known as “football genius“) had a great game, but so did Michael Carrick. Carrick’s brilliance is sometimes understated as it’s often “just” about positional sense and hitting the simple passes right. You tend to notice Carrick’s importance most when he’s not on top of his game as the United engine then tends to stutter.
2. Antonio Valencia gets better and better. He has the rare quality that every time he gets the the ball I feel he will make something happen. The only other United players that give me this feeling are Rooney and Evra. Valencia even smiled after scoring.
3. We will probably have to get used to a mixed bag of performances from Ryan Giggs this season. Sometimes he makes brilliant use of his vision and experience, while at other times he drifts out of games. Pehaps not surprisingly at his age. This was not one of his better days.
4. If we can sign Jack Rodwell for £20m he will be worth every penny. Nothing very remarkable in this game, but he looks total class.
Posted in Match Reports | Tagged: Antonio Valencia, Darren Fletcher, Everton, Jack Rodwell, Manchester United, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs | 2 Comments »
Posted by hakanrylander on November 9, 2009
There are reasons, of course, to feel depressed after a defeat that left us five point adrift in the league. But I’m actually more positive about our prospects this season after this game than I was at kick-off.
Best of all was the shape of the team. On paper it looked like 4-5-1 designed mainly to contain Chelsea’s strong diamond by crowding the midfield. In reality it was often more like my favourite formation 4-2-3-1 with Carrick and Fletcher sitting deep and Anderson given licence to move forward between Valencia and Giggs and behind Rooney. This allowed us to control the midfield while maintaing flexibility to attack in numbers, and Rooney rarely looked as isolated as I feared he would be.
We’ve practiced this system from time to time in the past. Most successfully for a spell of perhaps a couple of months (I can’t remember during which season) when Louis Saha wasn’t injured. Saha up front with Ronaldo, Rooney and Giggs formed a very impressive unit. I hope we’ll see more of it in the future.
A solid performance also from the back four including third and fourth choice central defenders Jonny Evans and Wes Brown. The fears that they would be ripped apart by Drogba and Anelka were certainly not realised. In my opinion this too stemmed to some extent from excellent work by our midfield in cutting off the supply lines. So a little less need to worry about the fitness and form of Ferdinand and Vidic.
I suppose I might soon get tired of myself praising Antonio Valencia at every opportunity. He was involved in many of our best moves and also found time to keep Ashley Cole very quiet.
I fully understand why Ferguson preferred Giggs for this game, but next time please let us see more than just a few minutes of Gabriel Obertan. Another good cameo from him.
All in all a very promising game. Pity about the three points.
Posted in Match Reports | Tagged: Antonio Valencia, Chelsea, Darren Fletcher, Gabriel Obertan, Jonny Evans, Manchester United, Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney, Wes Brown | 1 Comment »
Posted by hakanrylander on November 6, 2009
At the moment seven players in United’s first team squad are injured: Berbatov (knee), Welbeck (knee), Giggs (knee), Vidic (calf), Ferdinand (calf), Park (knee) and Hargreaves (knee) according to PhysioRoom. This is more than the average of four injuries among PL-clubs, but not particularly alarming since e.g. Liverpool have eight and Arsenal seven. Of the seven probably only Ferdinand and Hargreaves are long term worries.
The number of injuries of course fluctuates over a season and I can’t say that United have been worse hit than other clubs. I did, however, get seriously worried by an article in yesterday’s Guardian. It concerns Darren Fletcher’s ankle injury that kept him out for the five games previous to the CL-tie against CSKA this week. A bit of bone has broken off the back of his ankle and stuck about an inch away. This causes him significant pain during matches and will eventually require surgery. He’s had an injection to clear it up for a while.
I was under the impression that Fletcher picked up this injury this season, but it turns out that it is in fact a long term recurring problem.
“I have had it for a couple of years now and the build up of fluids and other medical things that the doctors know far more about than me has been constantly aggravating it”, says Fletcher.
So why didn’t he have an operation at the end of last season??!! One possible explanation is that with Hargreaves still missing Ferguson was very reluctant to risk being without Fletcher for the beginning of this season.
Maybe I’m too critical but I see similarities to the injuries of Ferdinand and Hargreaves. In Ferdinand’s case it seems as though the treatment focus on relieving the symptoms rather than the root cause in order to get him back on the field within a week or two. With Hargreaves I find it hard to shake off the feeling that he should have had his operations a lot earlier.
It’s a difficult balance to strike, but my impression is that Ferguson and/or the physio team should look for long term cures for injuries a bit earlier, rather than push on through pain.
Posted in Manchester United, Uncategorized | Tagged: Darren Fletcher, Manchester United, Owen Hargreaves, Rio Ferdinand | 3 Comments »
Posted by hakanrylander on October 24, 2009
After losing to Lyon in mid-week, Liverpool’s CL campaign is hanging by a thread and defeat against United at Anfield tomorrow would leave their hopes of a PL title dead and buried. It seems a timely moment for United to adminster the last rites to their rivals.
This could, however, prove tricky. Tomorrow’s game is much more crucial to Liverpool than to United, and more often than not the more motivated side tend to get the upper hand. My prediction is that Liverpool will dominate the first half after which a customary hairdryer will reinstate United to the driving seat.
It’s possible that injuries will play a major part in deciding the game. Torres, Gerrard, Rooney and Fletcher are all doubtful. These four player’s have arguably been the most influential for their respective clubs this season, and game plans will be affected quite significantly if some or all of them are absent. My guess is that both clubs are using smoke screens and that all four players will start tomorrow.
David Pleat makes a good point in today’s Guardian about the need for Liverpool to speed up their passing. This is easier said than done, but whatch out for the other point that Pleat is making, namely that Liverpool will use crosses from the left to the back post to try to exploit Evra’s weakness in the air.
One of Liverpool’s major failings this season has been their inability to defend set pieces. United could therefore go 4-5-1 to control the midfield and look to score mainly from free kicks and corners. The downside is that this risks leaving Rooney or Berbatov isolated up front. With Rooney and Berbatov in tandem we have a much better chance of putting Carragher under pressure, which is another obvious strategy given the number of uncharcteristic mistakes he’s making at the moment.
Finally. As penance is an important part of the last rites we can hopefully look forward to an act of contrition from Mr Benitez at the post-match press conference. Something along these lines: “Oh my God I am heartily sorry for ranting about ‘facts’, tinkering obsessively with line-ups etc etc…”.
Prediction: Liverpool 0 United 1, Owen to score in the 85th minute.
Posted in Previews | Tagged: Darren Fletcher, David Pleat, Dimitar Berbatov, Fernando Torres, Liverpool, Manchester United, Michael Owen, Rafael Benitez, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney | 2 Comments »
Posted by hakanrylander on September 20, 2009
This was electrifying! A wonderful game of football completed by a calm Michael Owen finish after 96 minutes. For me the turning point came during the break when someone in the United dressing-room came up with the brilliant idea to use the wings. In the first half I hardly noticed Ryan Giggs, in the second he was the best player on the pitch. And this was not because Giggs suddenly improved, but because the team started feeding the ball to him. The attacking threath down the wings was intensified further with the introduction of Valencia.
Apart from Giggs, the obvious MotM was Darren Fletcher who continues his remarkable transformation from squad-player to world-class midfielder.
Even though I’m riverdancing as I write this, I feel obliged to point out a couple of negatives. The most important is the difference in the way the two teams reacted to the other scoring. When United scored (except obviously for Owen’s strike) City raised their game and went in search of an equaliser, but when City scored their first goal United lost their rythm completely and were second best for the remainder of the first half. Secondly, and unfortunately, I was again unconvinced by the performance of Ben Foster. He gifted City their first goal and could have done better for their third.
And finally. Yes, I agree with all the City-fans who find it hard to understand how the ref could add more than 6 minutes.
Posted in Match Reports | Tagged: Ben Foster, Darren Fletcher, Manchester City, Manchester United, Michael Owen, Ryan Giggs | 4 Comments »
Posted by hakanrylander on August 26, 2009
No, I’m not thinking of our first three games as a prelude to a golden season. In fact, I don’t think this season will be particularly successful when it comes to winning trophies. Even so I look forward to the next nine months with great expectations. Which might seem a bit peculiar considering that we’ve sold the best player in the world and lost another world class attacker to City, and failed to sign replacements of similar stature.
The reason for my optimism is that I believe that we will see a rapid positive development of several players, which might in a year or two create an even better team than we’ve had for the last couple of seasons.
Firstly, we have a group of hugely talented youngsters of a quality that might even be about to rival the peerless fledglings from the early 90′s; Giggs, Butt, Beckham, Gary, Phil and Scholes (below).
Rafael and Fabio da Silva have taken to the PL like ducks to water. I’ve been amazed by how unfazed they’ve seemed when playing for the first team at only 17. This indicates mental strength to add to their obvious football skills. Only the excellence of Patrice Evra can stop them from both being first-choices before long.
Sir Alex has predicted that Danny Welbeck will travel to South Africa with England next summer. I find this rather unrealistic, but the last time I remember thinking that Ferguson praised a youngster a bit too much he was talking about – Paul Scholes.
Federico Macheda needed only 20 minutes or so against Villa to make it onto most people’s short-lists for both Goal of the Season and Player of the Season. Nick at the excellent manunitedyouth describes Macheda as a mix of Van Nistelrooy and Berbatov. Sounds good enough to me.
I admit that i didn’t think that Darron Gibson would ever make it to the first team, but he keeps on improving and will do so again this season.
Apart from the youngsters I believe we’ll see continued development from some of the more established players. The obvious example from last season is Darren Fletcher. Rarely has a player’s reputation been so enhanced by not playing a game as when Fletcher was suspended for the CL-final against Barcelona. A year ago very few would have predicted that Fergie’s main selection problem in midfield would now be who to pick alongside Fletcher. I think we will see him move on to yet another level this season.
I hesitate to include Nani in this group. Perhaps I’d better not. I’ll get back to him in a seperate post.
Finally, to achieve greatness we need a catalyst, much like Eric Cantona was in the 90′s. Regular visitors to Between the Lines will be well aware that in my opinion “le prochain Cantona” is already present at the club. It’s just a question of Dimitar Berbatov fulfilling this potential, as I think he will begin to do this season. I re-use my favourite quote: “All strikers must be soloists when appropriate – but rare ones, like Berbatov and Cantona, can also conduct the orchestra.”
Those were the days
Posted in Player Analysis, Previews | Tagged: Danny Welbeck, Darren Fletcher, Darron Gibson, Dimitar Berbatov, Fabio da Silva, Federico Macheda, Manchester United, Nani, Rafael da Silva | 8 Comments »
Posted by hakanrylander on May 28, 2009
It’s no disgrace to lose to a side like Barcelona. But what really disappointed me last night was that Barcelona won comfortably without having to be at their best. Instead we witnessed what can only be described as a mental collapse of a kind I never thought I’d see from a team managed by Sir Alex Ferguson.
It started well enough. The first nine minutes looked exactly the way I wanted them to, with United pressing high, beginning to create chances and both Rooney and Ronaldo starting in a confident mood. Park even came close to scoring from a rebound. Then in the tenth minute the game was turned on its head when the United midfield did what they must have been under orders not to allow under any circumstances; they gave Iniesta time and space to run at the defence.
The goal seemed to drain all confidence from every United player. Within minutes Vidic, Carrick and Anderson had all made school-boy mistakes, and this set the pattern for the rest of the game. From now on United more or less stood around admiring Barca, while feeling inferior.
Guus Hiddink was widely criticized for negative and physical tactics against Barcelona in the semi-final, but last night I soon found myself longing for some physical tactics. If only to prove that we cared about this game. When at last we got physical it was in a reckless way when Scholes came on and lunged into a tackle that deserved a red card (but only got him a yellow). I never thought I’d miss Darren Fletcher as much as I did last night.
Finally, even though I’m disappointed with United I have to give full credit to Barcelona. They were the better team by a mile. And if you love football you have to admire the passing of Xavi and Iniesta as well as the wonderfully executed header by Messi.
Posted in Match Reports | Tagged: Alex Ferguson, Barcelona, Champions League, Darren Fletcher, Manchester United | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hakanrylander on October 26, 2008
I’m rarely as relaxed watching United as I was during the first half against Everton. United seemed in total control. But for some reason (a David Moyes hairdryer?) the game looked completely different in the second half. With Everton more aggressive and United unable to handle this.
At the beginning of the season most fans, myself included, probably ranked Giggs and Fletcher as fifth and sixth in the central midfield pecking order, behind Scholes, Carrick, Hargreaves and Anderson. Yesterday they were United’s best players. Ferguson can look forward to another difficult selection problem when Carrick and Hargreaves (and later Scholes) return to full fitness.
Rooney’s badge-kissing in front of the Everton fans was simply stupid. Grow up Wayne!
Posted in Match Reports | Tagged: Darren Fletcher, Everton, Football, Manchester United, Premier League, Ryan Giggs | Leave a Comment »