Between the Lines

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Posts Tagged ‘Barcelona’

The mother of all pre-season friendlies

Posted by hakanrylander on August 10, 2012

A pre-season friendly is not very exciting. The best you can hope for is a glimpse of a new signing or a couple of youngsters knocking on the first-team door. But with United up against Barcelona I just had to be in the stands at Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, despite som financial and geographical inconvenience. It is, however, impossible to draw any well-founded conclusions from this kind of game. So, anyway:

1. Shinji Kagawa is our next star player and crowd favourite. He looks exactly the kind of player we, and Wayne Rooney, have been missing. Excellent control and passing. Only two minutes after coming on he was at the heart of probably our best move. Of all the warm-ups during the first half, his drew the loudest cheers from the crowd.

2. David De Gea has reached a new level of authority and confidence. On several occasions he told Rio Ferdinand where to position himself at goal-kicks. Kept a clean sheet as well. But please note that he was not subject to any aerial bombardment or crude physical challenges. It will be a different story in the PL.

3. The combo of Nani and Valencia make us vulnerable down our right. Barcelona made good use of that space.

4. The squad now give Ferguson several good options in all positions, except left-back and central midfield. This is a problem. It is also a golden opportunity for one player in particular. Step forward, Tom Cleverly.

 

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Unbeaten start to the season, and the symptoms of liver disease

Posted by hakanrylander on September 26, 2011

Andy went to see the doctor. “I’m sure I’ve got liver disease.”

“You’d never know if you had liver disease”, said the doctor. “There’s no discomfort of any kind.”

“Exactly!”, said Andy. “Those are my precise symptoms.”

During the first few weeks of the season we have witnessed a wonderfully fluent attacking game, great new signings, the breakthrough of young stars and even The Second Coming of Duncan Edwards. Seven wins and two draws in all competitions. No discomfort of any kind (at least not after De Gea’s MotM performance against Stoke). Still, the long-term target is to overtake Barcelona, and therefore I worry about two things.

– We give the ball away too easily. This was most apparent against Chelsea, and we were a bit lucky that Chelsea failed to take advantage. A team like Barcelona would punish such mistakes ruthlessly.

– We find it difficult to cope with high pressing. Benfica managed to play this way for parts of the game against United earlier this month, and this immediately put us on the back foot. High pressing is the core element of Barcelona’s defensive system.

In the games we’ve played so far this season these weaknesses haven’t really mattered. But when we come up against Barcelona they will be fatal.

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Match Report: United 0 Barcelona 2

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.

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Preview: United-Barcelona

Posted by hakanrylander on May 27, 2009

A very important, perhaps crucial, factor in tonight’s game is the fact that Barcelona are missing three of their first-choice defenders (Alves and Abidal are suspended and Marquez injured). Not only does it weaken Barcelona, but it might also influence the tactics of both teams. It will be interesting to see whether the percieved weakness at the back will cause Barcelona to be a little less adventurous going forward.

United have two alternative battle-plans. Plan A (“Nou Camp”) is to sit back, contain Xavi and Iniesta, leave as little room as possible for Messi, Henry and Eto’o and punish Barcelona on the break. This will be a little easier to achieve than it normally would because Barca will lack the attacking thrust that the fullbacks, Alves in particular, usually provides.

Plan B (“Old Trafford”) is to be all over Barcelona from the off, pressing the back-four and forcing Barcelona to defend. I hope Ferguson goes for Plan B and then reverts to Plan A after 20 minutes when we’re 2-0 up. 🙂

Whatever tactics we choose our main avenues of attack will be Ronaldo down the middle and Rooney and Evra on the left. This might just leave the occasional opening at the other end of the penalty area. My gut feeling is that tonight’s hero will be Park Ji-Sung.

2-0 United.

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Beauty or the Beast?

Posted by hakanrylander on May 6, 2009

Tonight Chelsea and Barcelona battle for the honour of taking on United in the CL Final in Rome. I belive that United’s chances of winning the trophy will be better if Chelsea reach the final, but I still hope for a Barcelona win for two main reasons:

-United vs Barcelona could be a classic game involving two attacking sides that are widely acknowledged as the best teams in the world.

-If, Eric forbid, we should loose the final I would find it easier to stomach that Barcelona rather than Chelsea beat us, because of their entertaining football.

It’s a difficult game to call. Chelsea were accused of negative tactics in the first leg, but I can’t see how they could have chosen any other strategy at Nou Camp. I don’t think Hiddink will play it much differently tonight. He’ll probably be quite happy to contain Barcelona and hope that a single goal will be enough, and Drogba may well provide it against Barcelona’s makeshift central defence with both Marquez and Puyol sidelined.

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Such stuff as dreams are made on

Posted by hakanrylander on March 20, 2009

Quarter-finals:

  • A. Villareal – Arsenal
  • B. Manchester United – Porto
  • C. Liverpool – Chelsea
  • D. Barcelona – Bayern Munich

Semi-finals:

  • Winner of game A – Winner of game B
  • Winner of game C – Winner of game D

This draw is perfect.

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The game is on again

Posted by hakanrylander on March 19, 2009

The draw for the quarter-finals of the Champions League takes place tomorrow. Most United-fans will hope that we’re drawn against either Porto or Villareal who appear to be the weakest sides, even though the prospect of another couple of scoreless draws against Villareal isn’t too exciting. This is how I rank our seven potential opponents, starting with the one I would most prefer to meet in the quarter-final:

  1. Porto
  2. Villareal
  3. Arsenal
  4. Bayern
  5. Chelsea
  6. Liverpool
  7. Barcelona

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