Between the Lines

"Of all unimportant subjects, football is the most important" – Pope John Paul II

Archive for October, 2008

Preview: United – West Ham

Posted by hakanrylander on October 29, 2008

A lot of United supporters expect a comfortable win tonight but history suggests that it will be a tight game. West Ham have won three of the last four meetings between the clubs! But in two of those games Carlos Tevez was wearing claret and blue, while tonight he will hopefully be in the red starting line-up. Ferguson now has enough quality strikers to rotate them and Tevez has already been out of the side for too long in my opinion. On form Ronaldo deserves to be on the bench but on the other hand he might need to play to regain full match fitness. The central midfielders Giggs and Fletcher were United’s best players against Everton. Even so at least one of them is likely to be rested tonight. I expect Anderson to replace Giggs.

West Ham manager Gorgonzola faces a selection dilemma in attack. In all his previous games in charge he’s used a 4-3-3 system heavily dependent on a strong target player. With Carlton Cole suspended, Dean Ashton injured and Diego Tristan not yet match-fit he now has no such player available and will have to change his strategy somewhat. The most likely alternative is that Craig Bellamy will be the central striker. This might not be to United’s advantage. I can imagine that Vidic would prefer to mark the strong but comparatively immobile Carlton Cole to the speedy Bellamy.

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Ferguson targets Greek wonderkid

Posted by hakanrylander on October 28, 2008

The Sun today claims that United have opened talks with Greek club Olympiakos to sign 16-year-old Kyriakos Papadopoulos for a fee of 3 million GBP. The central defender is probably the brightest young star in Greece and has been targeted by several of Europe’s top clubs.

Uefa statistics ranked Papadopoulos as one of the best players of this summer’s European Under-19 Championship. This is all the more remarkable since he was the championship’s youngest player, 13 months the junior of the second youngest!

Sky Sports scouted him a few weeks ago and rated him “an outstanding youngster with huge potential”, and “widely expected to be at the heart of the central defence of the national team for the next 20 years”.

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Everton 1 – United 1: A tale of two halves

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!

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Scousers infiltrate world-class performance

Posted by hakanrylander on October 25, 2008

This week I attended a concert by Bryn Terfel, the world’s best baritone and also an avid United supporter. It was a wonderful experience with the highlights probably being his renditions of “Credo in un Dio crudel” from Othello and “Ehi! paggio!…L’onore! Ladri!” from Falstaff. The program, amazingly, ended with “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. But Mr Terfel was careful to point out that “the scousers think this is a song about their football team, but in fact it’s Rodgers and Hammerstein”. He tried to make us sing along, but full marks to the audience who seemed totally unfamiliar with both the tune and the lyrics.

Also present was a representative of leading West Ham-blog Bubbleview. Still Mr Terfel sensibly refrained from a “Forever Blowing Bubbles” encore.

Recommended recording: Cecilia & Bryn (Decca).

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Possebon returns to action

Posted by hakanrylander on October 24, 2008

Despite the sensational performances of Rafael da Silva I still feel that Rodrigo Possebon might just be United’s brightest young star. Great to see him back in action for the reserves this week. He scored in a 3-0 win against Manchester City. It was feared that he had broken his leg after a reckless tackle by Emanuel Pogatetz during a Carling Cup tie against Middlesbrough. But as it turned out the injury was a lot less severe.  I hope, and expect, to see him in the first team again before long.

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Ronaldo struggles to recuperate

Posted by hakanrylander on October 21, 2008

According to the Independent Carlos Queiroz has alerted Sir Alex Ferguson to the full extent of Ronaldo’s struggle to recuperate from the surgery to his right ankle which he underwent three months ago. “[Carlos] said he felt that Cristiano was still finding it difficult to recover for a Wednesday game after a Saturday game,” Ferguson said. “He had played for Portugal against Sweden on the Saturday and Carlos said he was unbelievable – his decision-making, maturity, everything was at the top of his game. But against Albania on the Wednesday, he was flat because he is still trying to find the recovery thing properly.”

If this quote is correct it certainly appears as if Queiroz has lost the plot. Ronaldo wasn’t anywhere near the top of his game against Sweden. The problem for Ferguson ahead of tonight’s game against Celtic is to decide if Ronaldo needs a rest or whether his fitness will improve by playing another match. My recommendation is to start him on the bench and bring him on for the last half-hour if necessary.

Evra is injured while Carrick and Hargreaves are not quite ready. My line-up: Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, O’Shea; Fletcher, Giggs; Park, Rooney, Tevez; Berbatov.

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United 4 – WBA 0

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).

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Preview: United – WBA

Posted by hakanrylander on October 17, 2008

The main selection problem is in central midfield as Carrick, Scholes and Hargreaves are injured and Anderson will be just back from international duty in South America. Ferguson might also decide to rest one or two players with an eye to the clash with Celtic on Tuesday. My hunch is that Ronaldo will start on the bench. At home to WBA is just the kind of game where I would love to see Rafael get an opportunity to impress once again. But it’s more likely that Brown or Neville will be at right-back.

My line-up: Van der Sar; Rafael, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Fletcher, Giggs; Tevez, Rooney, Park; Berbatov.

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Queiroz to return to Old Trafford?

Posted by hakanrylander on October 16, 2008

Former United assistant manager Carlos Queiroz has had a disastrous start to his reign as Portugal coach. After last nights scoreless draw at home to Albania his position is likely to come under close scrutiny from the Portugese FA. Portugal were clear favourites to more or less stroll through the group that also includes Denmark, Sweden, Hungary and Malta. But after losing at home to Denmark and only managing an unimpressive draw in Stockholm they now have only 5 points from four games. During his two spells at Old Trafford Queiroz seemed to complement Ferguson almost perfectly. Now he might soon be unemployed. Should Fergie give him a ring?

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“Little Kaka” on trial

Posted by hakanrylander on October 15, 2008

According to the Daily Mail, United are giving a trial to 17-year-old Serbian starlet Adem Ljajic. He’s a right-sided midfielder who has been nicknamed “Little Kaka” after impressing in CL qualifiers for Partizan Belgrade. He has already represented Serbia at U-21 level, and scored the only goal of the game against Sweden U-21 a few weeks ago.

After an in-depth “You Tube-analysis” there doesn’t really seem to be any need for a trial. Just sign him up, Fergie.

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