Between the Lines

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Archive for July, 2009

Pre-season tour full of Eastern promise

Posted by hakanrylander on July 28, 2009

I’ve watched three of the games on the Asia tour (Korea, China and the second in Malaysia). I found the opposition reasonably strong in Korea and Malysia, but poor in China, which was also reflected in the scorelines. After just a few pre-season friendlies it’s of course impossible to make any well-founded predictions for the new season.  But this will certainly not stop me from jumping to a number of conclusions.

Michael Owen looks a brilliant signing. Not only because of his four goals in four games, but even more for the movement he brings to the attack and the way he immediatly seemed to click with his team-mates. But for some strange reason he was rarely, if ever, on the pitch at the same time as Rooney.

I suppose most of you were drooling over Berbatov‘s masterclass against Hangzhou, where he had a hand in all six of the goals scored while he was on the pitch. Yeah, yeah, I know the opposition were second-rate, but this was still a glimpse of the true Berbatov combining efficiency with delightful entertainment. When he’s at the top of his game there’s no other player in the world I’d rather watch. Let’s hope he can show this in the PL.

Kiko Macheda wasn’t as impressive in the build-up moves as I remember him from last season, but he took his goals with calm confidence. Very promising.

I’ve read a number of positive reports about the performances of Tosic and Nani, but unfortunately I don’t agree with them. I didn’t find them particularly impressive in Malaysia or Korea, and they “shined” in China only because they were given acres of space. Both of them will struggle against top-class opposition.

And finally, the two players that I predict will have perhaps the most positive impact this season, Welbeck and Valencia, didn’t even travel to Asia. Plenty to look forward to.

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A mixed bag of summer shopping

Posted by hakanrylander on July 22, 2009

According to Sir Alex Ferguson there will be no more signings this summer, so it’s time to evaluate the four new arrivals. (Even though I wouldn’t trust Sir Alex on this issue, it might just be his way of telling Gremio that they will have to lower their asking price for Douglas Costa.) So anyway:

Antonio Valencia is a great signing. He was very impressive for Wigan last season and is just the kind of player we need. He’s got pace, skill and knows how to get past a full-back. Should provide an excellent supply of crosses for Rooney, Berbatov, Owen et al, something that was often lacking last season. I predict that he will force his way into the first eleven already in his first season.

The signing of Michael Owen is supposed to be a bit of a gamble. In fact it’s nothing of the kind. With no transfer fee and a low basic salary it seems a very shrewd piece of business by Ferguson. I admit that I thought he looked past it at Newcastle, but this season he will be in a team that creates lots of chances for him. And Owen is very good at converting goal-scoring opportunities. Judging from the game against Malysia the day before yesterday he also brings a lot of movement to the attack. My main concern is that he’s been injury prone in recent seasons.

The capture of Gabriel Obertan, on the other hand, sets off all kinds of alarm bells. I can’t recall ever hearing the selling club’s chairman (Triaud) and coach (Blanc) express such a combination of surprise and relief. On the record! They were simply amazed that they were able to sell him to Manchester United. Blanc even said that Obertan needed to “overcome mental challenges”, which seems to indicate problems with discipline and application. Looks great on youtube, though. And please remember that Cantona was considered impossible to handle before he arrived at Old Trafford.

Mame Biram Diouf is unknown to me but he’s top scorer in the Norwegian league. Let’s hope he’ll be as successful as our previous signing from Molde. Edit: Could any of our Norwegian readers provide some input?

Even though I have high hopes for the new signings it must be said that the arrivals of Valencia, Owen, Obertan and Diouf don’t fully compensate for the departures of Ronaldo and Tevez. We have a weaker squad this season.

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