Posted by hakanrylander on April 9, 2010
I can’t remember when we last lost three straight games (two of them at Old Trafford), let alone three games as important as Bayern, Chelsea and Bayern. Suddenly we’re out of the CL and will find it very difficult to catch Chelsea in the PL with only five games remaining. It took only nine days for our season to disintegrate.
(Edit: As Morten has pointed out in his comment we did in fact beat Bayern 3-2 at Old Trafford. But somehow it felt like a defeat…)
As Sir Alex will no doubt tell you it’s not too difficult to find “external” reasons for a defeat; maybe the referee favoured the opposition or German’s behaved in a “typical” unsporting way. But after these three games we need to take a long hard look at possible weaknesses in our own team. United did in fact play some very good football, maybe their best this season, in both first halves against Bayern. But in the end they were still knocked out. I believe that a major reason was a lack of confidence.
This was most obvious against Bayern at Old Trafford. United were cruising 3-0 ahead when in a short space of time Rooney started limping, Bayern scored a soft goal and Rafael was sent off. These were bad blows, but not bad enough for the team to withdraw completetly into desperately defending the lead. Until then Bayern had found it very difficult to handle the pressing in midfield and in particular Nani and Valencia running at their full-backs. But United now more or less gave up any attacking ambitions thus making life much easier for Bayern’s weakest link Badstuber and freeing Lahm to get forward in support of Robben.
Compare this to Bayern who in both games showed a remarkable resilience and mental strength. In Munich they were second best for most of the game but kept going and managed to turn the game around towards the end. In Manchester they were outplayed for 40 minutes, but even at 3-0 down their heads didn’t drop and to my mind they had begun to change the pattern of the game even before Rafael was sent off.
This is exactly the kind of strength that has characterized great United teams in the past (the semi-final in Turin 1999 springs to mind). Possibly the team’s self-belief is now too dependent on Rooney. I think the team is strong enough to match Bayern even without Rooney, but somehow the players themselves didn’t really seem to think so.
Finally, a note to Sir Alex. The German players didn’t get Rafael sent off, he did that himself. It was a correct decision by the referee.
Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports | Tagged: Alex Ferguson, Antonio Valencia, Bayern Munich, Champions League, Chelsea, Manchester United, Nani, Rafael da Silva, Wayne Rooney | 3 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 December 4, 2008
Last night against Blackburn Rovers it finally became obvious that Gary Neville’s career hastens to its end. He was at fault for two of Blackburn’s goals. The signs have been there to see all season, but I’ve thought that maybe he needed time to get back to full fitness and therefore I’ve given him the benefit of the doubt. Until now. He is now just third, after Rafael da Silva and Wes Brown, in my right-back pecking order, and unlikely to be asked to play in central defence again unless there is an emergency. Jonny Evans has been sensational this season and John O’Shea often plays in this position for Ireland. I expect this to be Gary’s last season.
On a more positive note, it was of course an absolute delight to see Carlos Tevez score three (or was it four?). Hopefully this confidence boost will make him return to his high performance levels of last season.
Posted in Player Analysis | Tagged: Carling Cup, Carlos Tevez, Football, Gary Neville, Manchester United, Rafael da Silva, Wes Brown | 5 Comments »
Posted by hakanrylander on November 11, 2008
Not the most exiting game of the season, but an opportunity to see our most promising teenagers alongside some of the established stars. The best news is that Rodrigo Possebon is back in the first team for the first time since he was injured in the Carling Cup third round tie against Middlesbrough. Hopefully tonight’s performance will be further proof that the present crop of teenagers is the strongest since the early 90′s. Rafael and Evans have already proved that they can be trusted in big games with the first team, and I personally believe that Possebon also falls into this category. Welbeck looks great but has not yet been tested at the highest level. I’ve not seen enough of Darron Gibson to have an opinion either way.
My line-up: Foster; Rafael, Evans, Vidic, O’Shea; Park, Possebon, Gibson, Nani; Tevez, Welbeck.
Posted in Previews | Tagged: Carling Cup, Danny Welbeck, Darron Gibson, Football, Jonny Evans, Manchester United, Queen's Park Rangers, Rafael da Silva, Rodrigo Possebon | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hakanrylander on October 19, 2008
Despite the scoreline I wasn’t too impressed by United’s display. Apart from Rooney of course. It’s a delight to see him back in the form where you feel something dangerous will happen every time he receives the ball.
I don’t mind if Berbatov looks lazy and runs only half as much as Park, if he continues to provide sublime touches. The way he controlled the ball in the centre circle in the move that set up Rooney’s goal was the best moment of the match.
Rafael looked a bit tense walking onto Old Trafford, and wasn’t able to shine quite the way he did in Aalborg. Still a solid game and another important step in his development. Sensible selection by Ferguson with Park in front of him most of the time and Ferdinand apparently told to keep an extra eye on the right flank as Rafael stormed forward.
Ronaldo is far from the player he was last season. Might just be a lack of match fitness, but it was interesting to compare the reactions of him and Rooney after their respective goals. Rooney was ecstatic while Ronaldo (normally happy to enjoy the adulation of the fans) didn’t seem to care much at all. I suspect he’s pining for the fjords (or maybe Madrid).
Posted in Match Reports | Tagged: Berbatov, Football, Manchester United, Premier League, Rafael da Silva, Ronaldo, Rooney, West Bromwich Albion | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hakanrylander on October 1, 2008
As frequent visitors to “Between the Lines” will be well aware, I’ve found it hard to understand why Ferguson prefers Gary Neville to Wes Brown at right-back. This debate can now be put to rest. Last night’s performance by 18-year-old Rafael da Silva surely means that Wes and Gary will soon have to fight it out for a place on the bench. There were one or two occasions when Rafael got caught out defensively, but when going forward he looked an absolutely outstanding talent. Ferguson summed it up nicely: “The boy is special”.
Already ten years ago Ferguson predicted that Ryan Giggs would finish his career as a midfield playmaker, a role that he filled to perfection last night. I must admit that I didn’t think Giggs would make a major contribution this season, but on this evidence he’s probably our best playmaker. His pass to Rooney’s goal was a gem.
The result was obviously a good one, but otherwise it was a mixed evening. Scholes will be out for six to eight weeks with a knee ligament injury, and Rooney limped off after taking a knock to his ankle.
- Van der Sar 6 Quiet evening.
- Rafael 8 Man of the Match.
- Ferdinand 8 Outstanding. Isn’t he always?
- Vidic 6 Looked a bit slow occasionally.
- Evra 7 Usual classy performance.
- O’Shea 5 Can’t remember him.
- Scholes Not enough time to be rated.
- Ronaldo 7 OK, but he can do better.
- Rooney 7 Is gradually coming back to his best.
- Nani 5 Against this opposition he had the space to excel. But he didn’t. Disappointing.
- Berbatov 7 Improved in the second half. Two well-taken goals will have boosted his confidence.
- Giggs 8 Very impressive.
- Brown 6 Not much time.
- Tevez 7 Could teach Berbatov a thing or two about workrate.
Posted in Match Reports | Tagged: Aalborg, Champions League, Football, Manchester United, Rafael da Silva, Ryan Giggs | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hakanrylander on September 11, 2008
During the past few weeks I’ve become convinced that the present crop of teenagers is United’s best since the legendary group including Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, Butt and Neville x 2 in the early 90′s. I admit that this conviction is based on a fairly limited amount of exposure, but two players in particular, Rodrigo Possebon (born 1989) and Rafael da Silva (1990), have impressed me tremendously. Possebon made his league debut as a substitute against Newcastle on the opening day of this season and looked very comfortable on the ball. He also moved well off the ball, hit some good passes and seemed completely unfazed by the occasion. There is fierce competition for places in central midfield, but I have a feeling that Possebon will get more than a few games already this season.
Much the same could be said about Rafael who is a right-back with great attacking skills and could certainly also play at the right side of midfield. He earned rave reviews for his performances against Peterborough and Juventus. And remember that his twin brother Fabio has an even more impressive record and was captain of Brazil Under-17.
A special mention also to Manchester-born Danny Welbeck (1990) a forward who looked very promising with the first team in Saudi Arabia last season, but who I’ve yet to see this season.
Still unconvinced? Watch this video.
Posted in Player Analysis | Tagged: Fabio da Silva, Football, Manchester United, Possebon, Rafael da Silva, Welbeck | 2 Comments »