Between the Lines

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

Posts Tagged ‘Michael Owen’

Six conclusions from United vs Hull

Posted by hakanrylander on January 24, 2010

1. Premier League Top Scorers

  • Wayne Rooney       19
  • Darren Bent            14
  • Jermain Defoe        14
  • Didier Drogba         14
  • Carlos Tevez           12
  • Fernando Torres     12

2. We don’t want Wayne Rooney to get injured.

3. Apart from Rooney the game was dominated by massive protests against the Glazers. It strikes me as odd that the owners make no visible attempt whatsoever to improve their image. They just don’t seem to care. This is rare in the corporate world where companies are normally very keen to put a positive spin on their actions and strategies. Maybe the family members are not comfortable in the media spotlight, but they could at least hire some public relations experts. This could be payed for by the club so that the family would not have to dig into the consultancy fees they are busy putting in their own pockets. The previous sentence  pretty much sums up the way in which the Glazers are now perceived by lots of fans. That the owners fail to respond to this indicates that customer relations is not a priority.

4. The old Michael Owen would have scored a couple.

5. Darron Gibson only played for 20 minutes but still managed to impress me. Maybe I’m getting carried away, but I feel that Gibson will be a very important player for us.

6. And while I’m at it I might as well get carried away once more. Mame Biram Diouf scored a hat trick for the reserves on Thursday. All three goals were very well taken. I’d love to see him start alongside Rooney against City on Wednesday.


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Match Report: Sir Alex Ferguson 1 Between the Lines 0

Posted by hakanrylander on December 9, 2009

Ahead of the game against Wolfsburg I tried to figure out the best way to line up considering the severe injury crisis among defenders. But I have to admit that 3-5-2 never even entered my mind. And I wasn’t of course anywhere near suggesting that we use a  very lop-sided 3-5-2, with one of the wing-backs, Park Ji-sung, running his socks off and joining both attack and defence to great effect, while the other, Nani,  had little impact going forward (apart from that cross to Owen) and in customary fashion didn’t track back. I’m still not sure why it worked, but it certainly did. Maybe there’s a reason why Fergie is manager of Manchester United and I’m not.

A lot of the credit must go to Park who, particularly in the first half, found an awful lot of space going forward, and still found the time to defend. Despite the contribution from Park and the Owen master-class my MotM was Paul Scholes who again showed the rare talent to make it seem as if he always had plenty of time on the ball. Several good touches from Welbeck as well.

In the first half I couldn’t see what all the hype surrounding Dzeko was about. In the second I could. But I’m afraid all the signs are that he’ll join Milan.

Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Time to Administer the Last Rites

Posted by hakanrylander on October 24, 2009

After losing to Lyon in mid-week, Liverpool’s CL campaign is hanging by a thread and defeat against United at Anfield tomorrow would leave their hopes of a PL title dead and buried. It seems a timely moment for United to adminster the last rites to their rivals.

This could, however, prove tricky. Tomorrow’s game is much more crucial to Liverpool than to United, and more often than not the more motivated side tend to get the upper hand. My prediction is that Liverpool will dominate the first half after which a customary hairdryer will reinstate United to the driving seat.

It’s possible that injuries will play a major part in deciding the game. Torres, Gerrard, Rooney and Fletcher are all doubtful. These four player’s have arguably been the most influential for their respective clubs this season, and game plans will be affected quite significantly if some or all of them are absent. My guess is that both clubs are using smoke screens and that all four players will start tomorrow.

David Pleat makes a good point in today’s Guardian about the need for Liverpool to speed up their passing. This is easier said than done, but whatch out for the other point that Pleat is making, namely that Liverpool will use crosses from the left to the back post to try to exploit Evra’s weakness in the air.

One of Liverpool’s major failings this season has been their inability to defend set pieces. United could therefore go 4-5-1 to control the midfield and look to score mainly from free kicks and corners. The downside is that this risks leaving Rooney or Berbatov isolated up front. With Rooney and Berbatov in tandem we have a much better chance of putting Carragher under pressure, which is another obvious strategy given the number of uncharcteristic mistakes he’s making at the moment.

Finally. As penance is an important part of the last rites we can hopefully look forward to an act of contrition from Mr Benitez at the post-match press conference. Something along these lines: “Oh my God I am heartily sorry for ranting about ‘facts’, tinkering obsessively with line-ups etc etc…”.

Prediction: Liverpool 0 United 1, Owen to score in the 85th minute.

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Carling Cup: Step forward Danny and Kiko

Posted by hakanrylander on September 23, 2009

A Carling Cup tie against Wolves is unlikely to provide anything near the excitement of last Sunday. It’s not a trophy that too many fans care a lot about, but what makes it interesting is of course that it’s the main opportunity to see some up and coming stars in action.

Sir Alex might have a bit of a selection headache. He should pick some youngsters on the fringe of the first team and also some newcomers who are unlikely to start a single game in the PL this season. But he should also consider that some more established stars need games to keep sharp (Owen), find their form after an indifferent spell (Foster, Carrick, Nani, Tosic) or regain full fitness (Brown). Among these players the case for inclusion is strongest for Brown and Owen. Owen needs to play a bit more than just the last 20 minutes of big games while Brown is probably still our best right-back but need playing-time to get back to full fitness. Perhaps Tosic also deserves another chance to prove himself after being left out of the CL-squad.

Among the young fringe players Macheda, Welbeck, Fabio and Gibson virtually pick themselves, which leaves room for three more outfield players. My choice would be Corrie Evans in central defence, Magnus Eikrem in midfield and Ritchie de Laet (who improved beyond recognition towards the end of last season) at left back.

Ferguson has made some disturbing comments about Macheda and Welbeck lacking focus and forgetting “where their real place is” due to international commitments. Hopefully it’s just his way of stirring them into action tonight. Time to step forward for these two exceptionally promising youngsters.

My line-up: Kuszczak; Fabio, Brown, Corrie Evans, de Laet; Welbeck, Gibson, Eikrem, Tosic; Owen, Macheda.

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Riverdancing around the living-room: United 4 City 3

Posted by hakanrylander on September 20, 2009

This was electrifying! A wonderful game of football completed by a calm Michael Owen finish after 96 minutes. For me the turning point came during the break when someone in the United dressing-room came up with the brilliant idea to use the wings. In the first half I hardly noticed Ryan Giggs, in the second he was the best player on the pitch. And this was not because Giggs suddenly improved, but because the team started feeding the ball to him. The attacking threath down the wings was intensified further with the introduction of Valencia.

Apart from Giggs, the obvious MotM was Darren Fletcher who continues his remarkable transformation from squad-player to world-class midfielder.

Even though I’m riverdancing as I write this, I feel obliged to point out a couple of negatives. The most important is the difference in the way the two teams reacted to the other scoring. When United scored (except obviously for Owen’s strike) City raised their game and went in search of an equaliser, but when City scored their first goal United lost their rythm completely and were second best for the remainder of the first half. Secondly, and unfortunately, I was again unconvinced by the performance of Ben Foster. He gifted City their first goal and could have done better for their third.

And finally. Yes, I agree with all the City-fans who find it hard to understand how the ref could add more than 6 minutes.

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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.

Posted in Match Reports, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

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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