Between the Lines

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Archive for September, 2008

Preview: Aalborg – United (Champions League)

Posted by hakanrylander on September 30, 2008

After the draw against Villareal United need to take six points off Aalborg for safe passage through the group. A loss of points tonight could put United in an akward position, and Ferguson therefore is likely to field the strongest possible side. Only Carrick, Neville and Hargreaves are unavailable.

Aalborg won the Danish league last season but have not impressed so far this season, much like United. In Denmark tonight’s game has been called “the biggest in Aalborg history”, and there is always a danger that this kind of sentiment could raise their performance. Don’t forget that they managed to keep Celtic to a scoreless draw in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago.

My line-up: Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Fletcher, Scholes; Park, Rooney, Ronaldo; Berbatov.


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United – Bolton: The peacock spreads his feathers

Posted by hakanrylander on September 29, 2008

I missed the game but enjoyed browsing through the match reports that included several positive comments on the performance of Dimitar Berbatov.

Guardian: “For half an hour or so, Berbatov offered the first peacock-like spreading of his feathers since his transfer from Tottenham Hotspur.”

Telegraph: “There was much satisfaction at the continuing integration of Dimitar Berbatov. Ferguson said: ‘You don’t need to pass him in space all the time. You can pass to him when he’s marked. He’s brilliant at that. His touch was fantastic at times.'”

Sunday Times: “Despite never looking like he was trying that hard, the 30m striker produced some sublime touches.”

Sir Alex: “When we understand how good Berbatov is we’ll improve.”

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The enigma of the negative persistence effect

Posted by hakanrylander on September 29, 2008

For some time now I’ve suspected that a number of hardcore visitors to this site share a soft spot for a scientific approach to the good things in life; football, sports betting, medical products, you name it. Those of you who fall into this category, please help me out. While reading a statistical analysis of English football I came across the following statement:

“Analysis of sequences of match results reveals evidence of a negative ‘persistence’ effect: a recent run of good results appears to create either pressure or complacency, increasing the risk that the next result will be bad.”

Does this really make sense? It seems to me that a run of good results would in fact increase the chance of the next result being good. I wouldn’t e.g. bet against Chelsea at least drawing their next home game.

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Preview: United – Bolton

Posted by hakanrylander on September 27, 2008

United were facing a goalkeeping crisis ahead of today’s game with Foster and Kuszczak injured but luckily Van der Sar seems to have recovered just in time to face Bolton. Youngster Ben Amos, who enjoyed a quiet evening against Middlesbrough, will be on the bench. All first-choice defenders are available and should be selected, which in my opinion means that Brown is preferred to Neville. Scholes hasn’t looked anything like his best so far but I still wouldn’t leave him out. Hargreaves and Fletcher will fight for the place alongside him. Ronaldo will probably make his first start this season, and I suspect that Ferguson will rest Rooney or Tevez. On form, Tevez should start.

My line-up: Van der Sar; Brown, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Park, Fletcher, Scholes, Ronaldo; Tevez, Berbatov.

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Lucky escape for Possebon

Posted by hakanrylander on September 27, 2008

More good news about Rodrigo Possebon. Initially it was feared that he had broken his leg after a reckless tackle by Emanuel Pogatetz during Tuesday’s Carling Cup tie against Middlesbrough. Those fears were dismissed the following day, and now Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that Possebon did not suffer ligament damage either. I look forward to seeing him in the first team again before long.

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Jonny Evans: Breakthrough of the Week

Posted by hakanrylander on September 26, 2008


Sir Alex Ferguson heaped praise on Jonny Evans this week. “Jonny showed why one day he will be a regular Manchester United centre-half.”  Ferguson often make positive comments about youngsters at the club, but this was unusually strong words. Particulary considering that to be a regular Evans (born 1988) will have to force himself past Ferdinand (1978) or Vidic (1981) who both appear able to go on for several more years at the highest level. But Ferguson is probably right. Judging by Evans’ performances against Villareal and Chelsea he has a great future in the game.

Up until last week Evans’ most impressive games had been for other teams, with 11 caps for Northern Ireland and 33 games for Sunderland under his belt. Sunderland’s manager was indeed very keen to sign him this summer. Even so I don’t hesitate to call the Chelsea-game his breakthrough. He stood firm during periods of sustained pressure and looked good in the air and comfortable on the ball. If he can cope at Stamford Bridge he can cope anywhere. I hope Ferguson will not restrict his starts to the occasions when Ferdinand or Vidic are injured or suspended.

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Rodrigo Possebon injured

Posted by hakanrylander on September 24, 2008

This was the worst possible outcome of last night’s Carling Cup tie against Middlesbrough. United’s brightest young star, Rodrigo Possebon, was carried off and taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg after a reckless tackle by Emanuel Pogatetz. It’s a tragedy for both United and the lad. During the last few months it has become increasingly obvious that Possebon is a very special talent. This would have been his breakthrough season. Let’s hope for a quick and full recovery, and that he still has a great future in the game.

United won the game 3-1, but this now seems completely insignificant.

Edit: Possebon’s injury now appears less serious than the first reports suggested. A club spokesperson told “We can confirm that Rodrigo did not suffer a break to his right leg. He was kept in hospital overnight for observation and to assess whether there was any ligament damage to his knee.” Good news, indeed.

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Preview: United – Middlesbrough (Carling Cup)

Posted by hakanrylander on September 23, 2008

In the Carling Cup Ferguson traditionally fields a team almost entirely consisting of youngsters. Tonight will be a bit different since Sir Alex has hinted that a number of experienced players will be involved in the starting line-up or on the bench. These include Hargreaves, Park, Anderson, Nani and Ronaldo. Ferguson has said that Rafael and Welbeck will start. I hope that he also takes the opportunity to give Possebon 90 minutes surrounded by players like Anderson and Nani.

My line-up: Kuszczak; Rafael, Evans, Brown, O’Shea; Park, Anderson, Possebon, Nani; Welbeck, Berbatov.

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Chelsea 1 United 1

Posted by hakanrylander on September 22, 2008

This was a big improvement on previous performances this season. For the first half-hour United looked back to their best. The move involving Rooney, Evra and Berbatov that led to the goal was vintage United, and Rio Ferdinand almost scored after surging forward “Mattias Sammer-style” (please do this more often, Rio!). Unfortunately we failed to keep up the pressure, Chelsea were the better team in the second half and a draw was a fair result.

At the kick-off I was disappointed that Ferguson (against my recommendations!) played both Neville and Evans. I was right about Gary but wrong about Jonny. It’s a mystery to me why Wes Brown isn’t first choice at right-back. He was obviously fit enough to sit on the bench. Maybe Neville just needs a few games to get back to his best, but Stamford Bridge is not the place for match practice. Jonny Evans on the other hand was brilliant. He looked even more comfortable than against Villareal. My only concern is that his opportunities will be limited behind Vidic and Ferdinand.

Afterwards, Ferguson complained about the seven yellow cards (including three for dissent) that United received. Instead he should consider himself lucky that Scholes and Neville didn’t receive the red cards they deserved.


  • Van der Sar  5  Looks less confident than he used to.
  • Neville  5  Lacks pace these days. I can’t understand why Ferguson prefers him to Wes Brown.
  • Ferdinand  8  Our best player. As usual.
  • Evans  7  Justified his selection. Very impressive.
  • Evra  7  Created the goal.
  • Hargreaves 6  Stifled the threat from Cole and Malouda.
  • Fletcher  6  Solid.
  • Scholes 5  Lucky to stay on the pitch after several bad tackles.
  • Park  6  Industrious as ever.
  • Rooney  6  Still waiting for the real Wayne.
  • Berbatov  6  Excellent during the first 20 min but faded. Give him time.


  • Kuszczak  6  Solid performance but maybe he could have reached the cross before Kalou did. 
  • Ronaldo  6  Looked lively for a while.
  • O’Shea  Not enough time to be rated.

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Preview: Chelsea – United

Posted by hakanrylander on September 19, 2008

After dropped points against Newcastle and defeat at Anfield United can ill afford to lose this one. I’ve yet to watch Chelsea this season but apparently they have been very impressive so far and Ferguson faces a number of selection dilemmas. One is whether to dare field an attacking formation similar to my line-up below. It’s very tempting to play the full Rotebro-quartet (Rooney, Tevez, Berbatov, Ronaldo), but this might backfire by more or less gifting Chelsea control of the midfield. Another problem is the back-four since Vidic is suspended. I hope Ferguson chooses not to play the inexperienced Evans or the rusty Neville. Instead he should move Brown to the centre and Hargreaves to full-back. In midfield Fletcher deserves to keep his place since he’s been one of our best players this season. I’m nervous already.

My line-up (assuming that only Vidic and Carrick are unavailable): Van der Sar; Hargreaves, Brown, Ferdinand, Evra; Fletcher, Scholes; Tevez, Rooney, Ronaldo; Berbatov.

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