Written by Gareth Freeman
Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal
United gained a slender advantage over Arsenal in their quest to make it to the Champions League final for the second year in a row with a thoroughly deserved 1-0 victory at Old Trafford.
The Gunners have keeper Manuel Almunia to thank for keeping the score line respectable in the opening 45 minutes as United pummeled the Londoners from all angles. The Spanish stopper denied Wayne Rooney early on with an incredible save from the United striker’s looping headed effort.
Cristiano Ronaldo was in inspired form for the big occasion and the Gunners defence just couldn’t cope with the Portuguese schemer. Almunia was called into action to deny Ronaldo more than once and the Arsenal keeper produced an unbelievable save to deny Carlos Tevez from six yards out.
United’s goal came from the most unlikely of sources, Irishman John O’Shea. Arsenal failed to deal with a corner and O’Shea was on hand to drill the ball into the roof of the net, giving Almunia no chance.
Arsenal had to deal with an almost relentless tide of United attacking for the majority of the game and although it would be lazy to claim it was all down to Carlos Tevez he was a major factor in United’s dominance. The Argentine was selected over Dimitar Berbatov and repaid Ferguson’s faith by working tirelessly giving the Arsenal defence no respite.
Arsenal came back into the game, slightly, after the break but they never looked like getting a goal back. Emmanuel Adebayor was ineffective in his role of lone front man, while Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri could find no way through the United back line. Cesc Fabregas carved out a few half-chances for himself but even the talented Spaniard could do little to halt the United onslaught.
Ryan Giggs made an appearance as a second-half substitute making his 800th appearance for Manchester United. The Welshman managed to get the ball in the net but he was ruled to be offside.
Ronaldo nearly stole the headlines with a fierce drive from 30-yards that left Almunia rooted to the spot. Unfortunately for Ronaldo he was denied another Champions League wonder goal by the crossbar as Arsenal breathed a sigh of relief.
As exciting as the game was it was hardly the ‘perfect’ semi-final Ferguson had predicted. In truth the game was about as one-sided as it could be at this level of football and Arsenal should be out of the tie already. As it stands though the Gunners still have a reasonable chance to progress, though I wouldn’t go betting on it, with just a one goal deficit to recover in the second leg on May 5.
Man of the match: Manuel Almunia
It feels wrong to chose an Arsenal player as man of the match for a Manchester United blog but Almunia is the only reason Arsenal were not on the end of a three or four nil hammering. The Spaniard was in inspired form and if Arsenal do upset the betting odds it will be largely due to the heroics of their keeper in the first leg.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, O’Shea, Ferdinand (Evans 87), Vidic, Evra, Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson (Giggs 66), Ronaldo, Tevez (Berbatov 66), Rooney.
Subs Not Used: Foster, Park, Scholes, Rafael Da Silva.
Goals: O’Shea 18.
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs, Song, Diaby, Walcott (Bendtner 70), Fabregas, Nasri, Adebayor (Eduardo 82).
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Denilson, Ramsey, Djourou, Eboue.
|Manchester United||Team Statistics||Arsenal|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|7||Shots on Target||1|
|6||Shots off Target||3|
Uefa Champions League, Semi-final first leg
Venue: Old Trafford Date: Wednesday, 29 April Kick-off: 1945 BST
Manchester United’s game against Arsenal on Wednesday night will not be easy. Arsenal have been in great form of late with players such as Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas flourishing in the past weeks. ManUtd24 identify the areas in which the game could be won and lost
Down the flanks
One of the areas where the game could be won for either side is down the flanks. Theo Walcott could prove hard to deal with, especially for Patrice Evra. The left back had a tough first half against Tottenham where he had trouble dealing with the pace of Aaron Lennon.
Sir Alex Ferguson may opt to play Wayne Rooney down the left hand side of midfield to make sure that Patrice Evra gets the support he needs. Rooney was terrific in the previous round against Porto on the second leg where he played on the left. He was constantly hassling the opposition looking for the ball to create attacks and on many occasions tracked back in the aid of Evra denying Porto any chance of building their attacks.
Defence will be the key
Arsenal may have problems dealing with Manchester United due to the fact that their defence will not be as strong due to injuries to the likes of Gallas and Clichy. Inexperience may show from their young left back Kieran Gibbs, as he will have to spend the game trying to occupy Cristiano Ronaldo.
Man Utd have had trouble trying to prevent goals in previous games but with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, arguably the best defenders in the Premier League, Arsenal may have difficulties exploiting the duo.
The Central Midfield
Michael Carrick will be the key for United in this game, and his job in this game like any other will be to create and link play with his fellow central partner whether that is Scholes or Fletcher.
After Arsenal’s impressive 2-0 win over Middlesbrough on Sunday, the central midfield partnership of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas. Nasri was in the defensive role and anchored while Fabregas had played in a more advanced role. In that game, as Nasri had his defensive responsibilities, it allowed Fabregas to play to the best of his ability and the Spaniard scored both goals.
Predicition: (1-1) It will be a tightly contested affair so don’t expect too many goals tonight. Both teams may cancel each other out so don’t expect many chances.
Expected Line Ups:
Manchester United: Van der Sar – O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra – Ronaldo, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs – Rooney, Berbatov
Arsenal: Almunia – Sagna, Toure, Djourou, Gibbs – Walcott, Nasri, Fabregas, Denilson, Diaby – Adebayor
Dimitar Berbatov has come in for a huge amount of criticism since his arrival. Some of it has been unfair but a lot has been justified.
Is there a future for Berbatov at Man Utd? Berbatov had a fantastic season at Spurs last season and he looked like a player who could add something new to the team, but instead at times he seems to have taken something away. Man Utd scored a lot of goals on the counter attack last year with the pace of Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez making them unstoppable; however with Berbatov in the team you don’t have as much of this.
Berbatov holds the ball up, puts it out wide etc. and although he does this well he makes it harder for Man Utd to break down teams as we don’t hit the opposition with the same kind of pace as we did before.
Berbatov played well in the victory over Spurs at the weekend but for £30 million we are expecting more. We are expecting the same kind of commitment and drive that we get from Tevez. He is not the same type of player so you can’t compare like for like but you never get anything less than 110% from Tevez and he scores some crucial goals for the club, but it looks like we are unwilling to pay the money to keep him.
If rumours are to be believed then Benzema is still a target for Sir Alex and if we signed him this surely puts question marks over the future of Berbatov at the club. Whichever combination of strikers that turn up in a Manchester United Shirt next year they will definitely have to hit the ground running, because if they fail to perform then there is the potential for a good number of player to be ready to take their shirt off of them including our promising youngsters.
Written by Danny Watson, a professional sports journalist who blogs about football news.
Ryan Giggs has now won the whole lot. Ten Premier League titles, four FA Cup trophies, two Champions League medals and now he has won the PFA player of the year for the first time ever despite being 35 years old.
“It’s right up there with personal accolades – it’s the best to have as it’s voted by your fellow players,” said Giggs after collecting his award. “I’ve been fortunate to win a lot of trophies, I won the young player award twice, but this is the big one.”
It was a surprise decision to many, as the Welshman was named ahead of the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Cristiano Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard despite making just 13 starts this year.
In those 13 starts though, Ryan Giggs has still looked the part and is still a constant nightmare for defenders. In 24 total appearances the winger has managed eight assists, which comfortably ranks him seventh in the top 10 in the assist league.
He gives it 100% on the field, linking up play with his fellow team mates and creating chances at will. Giggs’ performances in the games that matter, the West Ham and Chelsea matches pop into mind is the reason why Sir Alex still has great faith in the veteran and still wants him to stay on for a couple more years.
Giggs has paid tribute to the Scot and insists he may still want to stay at Old Trafford beyond his current contract which expires at the end of the 09/10 season. “The manager has been massive in my career from when I first met him when I was 13,” Giggs said. “That’s over 20 years and he knows me better than anyone and our relationship has been brilliant and just gets better.
“I’ve been so fortunate to have such a great career in so many great teams, it’s not even worth thinking about what it would have been like without the manager.”
“As long as I’m getting picked, enjoying it and injury-free, I’ll carry on as long as I can. At 35 you can’t look too far into the distance, you just can’t.”
Ashley Young of Aston Villa clinched the PFA youth player of the year ahead of Manchester United’s Rafael, who signed a two year extension today that will keep him till 2013, and Irish defender Jonny Evans. United have six players in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year but surprisingly Wayne Rooney is not included.
Premier League team of the year: Edwin van der Sar; Glen Johnson, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra; Ashley Young, Steven Gerrard, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo; Nicolas Anelka, Fernando Torres
Manchester United 5-2 Tottenham
Manchester United recorded a stunning second half comeback after some inspirational football from both Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.
Sir Alex Ferguson must have had an inspiring team talk at half time as his side were trailing 2-0. The Red Devils pulled off a remarkable comeback where in the space of 22 minutes scored five goals. Only Manchester United could do that. Only the Premier League champions could do something that outstanding.
The game may be more significant in the race for the title than the Aston Villa game three weeks ago, where Man Utd also came back from behind to beat Villa 3-2.
Today, Man Utd demonstrated some top quality football that only the best could do. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were at the heart of some breathtaking football in the second half scoring two goals a piece.
Both combined together creating goals for each other as well as linking up superbly with others. Dimitar Berbatov, who scored the fifth, showed some neat touches as well as Carlos Tevez, who said earlier this week that he is considering leaving Old Trafford.
In the first half United created very little and were punished when Darren Bent and Luka Modric both scored and Spurs were dominating.
If there was ever a game of two halves this was it. The definition for the phrase is ‘circumstances have changed suddenly’ and that is what exactly happened here.
Man Utd started the second half better and were awarded a penalty when Micheal Carrick was fouled by Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes. The decision was debatable but that wasn’t really important for United. Ronaldo followed up the penalty and scored before Wayne Rooney equalised ten minutes later.
The home side could not afford to have the scores level, as Liverpool had earlier beat Hull City 3-1. But United stayed level for only a minute as a Rooney cross found Ronaldo who headed past Gomes. Ronaldo turned provider to set up United’s fourth in which Rooney’s strike was scrambled over the line. A jubilant Edwin van der Sar ran across the pitch to celebrate the goal and that signalled the game was all but over.
Berbatov then scored the fifth when he took advantage from some dubious goalkeeping from Gomes.
|Manchester United||Team Statistics||Tottenham Hotspur|
|0||1st Half Goals||2|
|13||Shots on Target||4|
|5||Shots off Target||3|
Man Utd 2-0 Portsmouth
Manchester United maintained their grip on the Championship with a solid if unspectacular win over Portsmouth, with Rooney and Carrick both on the scoresheet.
Wayne Rooney was recalled to the line-up after injury and the England striker opened the scoring after meeting a Ryan Giggs cross and tapping home. It was Anderson’s pass which found Giggs, and the Pompey defence was left wanting as they unsuccessfully tried to play the offside trap, allowing the Welshman to easily pick out Rooney.
Giggs had a couple of good chances as United were wasteful in the first half. First he was well blocked by the diving James while he bundled a header wide when he should have done better. John O’Shea who later picked up an injury after coming on for captain Neville, who also is out for two weeks had a header cleared off the line.
Pompey improved after the break and Crouch and Glen Johnson had their best chances, the striker shooting wide and another saved while Johnson forced a good save from Van Der Sar.
United were not at their flowing best but in Rooney had a player who is determined to see them through. And the game was wrapped up eight minutes from time as substitute, Carrick smashed one past the despairing James after collecting a magnificent pass from Paul Scholes.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Neville (O’Shea 13), Vidic, Evans, Evra, Fletcher, Scholes, Anderson (Carrick 76), Giggs, Ronaldo, Rooney*, O’Shea (Rafael Da Silva 52).
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Berbatov, Nani, Tevez.
Goals: Rooney 9, Carrick 82.
Portsmouth: James, Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson, Davis, Mullins, Hughes, Belhadj, Nugent (Pennant 46), Crouch.
Subs Not Used: Begovic, Pamarot, Utaka, Cranie, Kanu, Basinas.
Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).
|12||Shots on target||1|