Archive | October 2009

Pre-match thoughts on Blackburn Rovers

By Gareth Freeman

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United’s Carling Cup win over Barnsley was encouraging in the fact the ‘squad’ players came in and gave a decent account of themselves.  Michael Owen’s goal was vintage Owen, he showed neat skills and a cool composure to send the ball into the net but, with all due respect to Barnsley, he should have registered a goal against the opposition.

A man who came in and really impressed was Gabriel Obertan.  I didn’t know a lot about the player when he came in but he showed a quick turn of pace and some neat touches against the Tykes and should push for a place in the starting line-up over the course of the season.  Obertan’s performance has already been discussed on the blog so feel free to check out what manutd24 thinks of him there but needless to say he looks a quality player and may be rewarded for his performance in midweek with a place on the bench on Saturday.

So what about the opposition?  Rovers were hit with a ‘swine flu crisis’ in their 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea apparently.  Rumours are rife boss Sam Allardyce has contacted the contagious disease although the club have moved to deny this.  Allardyce orchestrated a few victories against the betting odds in his time as Bolton manager but I think it is fair to say he hasn’t quite got his current charges where he wants them just yet.  I’m not convinced by the strength in depth in the Blackburn squad and I doubt they’ll pick up many points off the top sides this season.  They’re probably a bit too good to go down but I can’t see them taking anything off United at the weekend in all honesty.

Sir Alex Ferguson will be looking to register three points in this fixture following the disappointing display last weekend.  Fortunately United have a big enough advantage over Liverpool for the result not to matter as much as it could do but losing to the old enemy never has any real positive points!

One of the most concerning things about the loss to Liverpool was the performance of Rio Ferdinand.  He seems to be making far too many errors at the moment and he could be in danger of losing his place in the starting eleven to Johnny Evans, who has deputised well whenever called upon to replace either Nemanja Vidic or Ferdinand.  Vidic’s red-card may see Ferdinand retain a place in the starting line up and the England international should be looking to impress – because he hasn’t been performing the way a Manchester United defender should over the course of the season so far.

It is probably a good time to play Blackburn in all fairness and in reality they should be seen as easy-meat for United, especially at Old Trafford.  I doubt many will be backing the Rovers to get anything out of this tie with their online Premier League betting and I expect United to put the disappointment of last weekend firmly behind them by comfortably seeing off Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

Gabriel Obertan shows promising signs of things to come after impressing at Oakwell

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Though it was against lower opposition, you have to be impressed by Gabriel Obertan’s performance yesterday at Oakwell. He has pace, a lot of it, and you could not question his other areas of his game such as his dribbling or his passing ability.

It was very impressive considering that he just come back from a long lay-off in the sidelines. But the question is whether the injury-prone winger can stay fit for most of the season. With many starting to lose faith in Nani, a player who is seen as ‘inconsistent’, it might be time for someone to step up, whether that is Obertan or maybe even Zoran Tosic.

Tosic did come on yesterday, and showed signs of his talent, but the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson left him out of his Champions League squad in favour of Obertan may suggest that the Serbian’s first full season will be largely reserve and Carling Cup games.

Judging by yesterday’s 2-0 win over Barnsley, Obertan should be pushing Nani very hard this season, and if he can stay fit this may happen. He impressed in a reserve game not long ago, showing some neat touches and deft flicks and displaying his ‘unknown’ talent in front of the manager.

Danny Welbeck was also impressive and was unfortunately subbed as he picked up a knock. His header in the 6th minute shows his all round talent as a forward, a tall, athletic player who can strike the ball as well as header it. He looked composed throughout the game, and his dribbling was particularly encouraging for a player who can also so play as a winger, though he is most affective up front.

Sir Alex had once tipped him to make England’s World Cup squad to South Africa, but though that is unlikely, he can definitely aim for the squad for 2014 and most probably 2018. Gabriel Obertan, can also set his sights for Brazil in 2014 with the France national squad as he has a lot of potential. Let’s hope he can continue to impress and maybe what United need after the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo…

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Live Carling Cup: Barnsley v Manchester United

Barnsley 0-2 Manchester United

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Wrap Up: A decent performance from a youthful side but they were prone to many crosses and did not defend well. Ben Foster played well and made a string of saves to deny any kind of goal. We have disclosed our ratings so check that out. Hope you have enjoyed the live text!

Player Ratings: Foster 8*, Neville 5, Brown 6, Evans 6,
Fabio Da Silva 5, Obertan 7, Rafael Da Silva 5, Anderson 5, Welbeck 7 (Tosic 6), Macheda 6, Owen 7 (De Laet 6).

90′ FULL TIME: Barnsley 0-2 Man Utd

90′ Can Barnsley press for a goal? Doesn’t look like it. Three minutes added on. Then two intruders come on to the pitch and one of them score! Past Foster! Stewards take an awful long time to clean the ‘mess’. More minutes to be played now. Surely, the guy who scored should be signed by the Tykes as he is far better than that Anderson da Silva!

89′ Anderson has an effort easily saved by the ‘keeper. Fabio and Hamill clash heads because of Hamill’s challenge on Fabio. Should have been booked. Hamill is a Liverpool supporter too! Tosic is booked minutes after.

87′ Ben Foster kicking is a problem. He can’t clear the ball all that well. He’s a good shot stopper but unlike Van der Sar can’t clear the ball under pressure.

Read More…

Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United: Match Observations

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In all honesty, Liverpool deserved their victory. And whether you decide to blame the referee is your choice, but at the end of the day the team who had far more chances and looked better when they had possession deserved to win.

The harsh reality was that United failed to create much and were lacking any real cutting edge. Liverpool, on the other hand, did not look like a team that missed Steven Gerrard. Instead, the player who probably was going to miss if Gerrard had not been injured was arguably the best player on the pitch. It was Brazilian midfielder Lucas, who ran his socks off, created chances, including one of the goals, and only had one misplaced pass in the whole game.

Jamie Carragher could have been sent off but he too played a great game and someone who Liverpool rely heavily on. Nemanja Vidic had a tough game and was sent off. Though his first card was debatable, his second was a challenge you’d associate with rugby. Edwin van der Sar and Antonio Valencia were two of United’s best players, the former looking very comfortable in goal while the latter continued his good form and looked very much at home. Valencia was also denied by the crossbar; if he had scored then it would have been three goals in three for the Ecuadorian.

United badly missed Darren Fletcher today as Paul Scholes was unusually quiet. Fernando Torres scored a great individual goal, and was too good for Rio Ferdinand but to blame the defender for the goal is an understatement. The final nail was hammered into the coffin when sub David N’Gog finished confidently much to the delight of the Kop.

But as the Red Devils usually do, they have to bounce back from this defeat which will definitely boost the morale of the Liverpool players. Next up is a Carling Cup tie against Barnsley, and one you’d expect Man United to win.

Where the game could be won and lost: Liverpool v Manchester United

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The postal strikes,  the controversial leader of the BNP Nick Griffin and even pesky little Beach Ball’s are things that we have heard of a lot this week in the papers (though in this article, we won’t mention anymore about the postal strikes or politics). The word ‘beach ball’ for many football fans, especially Manchester United fans, would never be thought of in the same way ever again. And it will be unlikely that even though, a week after those unforgettable events, that we will hear the last of it. So despite the ban on them ahead of the crunch game between United and Liverpool, don’t be surprised if you see one or two of them make a cameo appearance on the Anfield pitch.

Liverpool are already seven points behind Manchester United, and surely a defeat on Sunday will all but spell the end of their title challenge. For a team that was tipped by pundits alike to win the Premier League, this is not what anyone expected. In all competitions, they have lost four in a row, and that could be five this week if they lose to United. Here, we assess where this game could be won and lost.

The Central Midfield

Whether Steven Gerrard is fit or not, the central midfield will be no doubt the most important area of the game. Darren Fletcher is doubtful for the game which could come as a big blow, as he would be the ideal player for a game like this. Michael Carrick partnering Paul Scholes , should Sir Alex play them together, would be key. Scholes is able to pull the strings for United and hold up play, and the duo, hopefully, can both use their superior passing abilities to full effect.

If Gerrrard doesn’t start, then much will rest on Javier Mascherano. So far, his season has been pretty mixed, with some good performances and some bad. You feel without Gerrard, Liverpool will struggle and chances will be hard to come by for the forwards.  Manchester United win here.

The threat of the forwards

Liverpool have a big problem with players up front if Fernando Torres doesn’t feature. A makeshift forward will maybe be used, such as Dirk Kuyt or even Andriy Vorinin or the inexperienced David N’Gog. Gerrard will also be considered, but again we have to mention he is doubtful. Kuyt and Yossi benayoun will have to step up from the flanks but they are lacking firepower in this area just like they were against Lyon in midweek.

Both teams have key players who are doubts. Along with Fletcher, Wayne Rooney may not play. But Michael Owen is playing decently of late, while Dimitar Berbatov is in exceptional form. He has scored goals of late for club and country, and has created goals making him a contender for October player of the month. Manchester United also win here if Torres isn’t fit. If he is, then that’s a different story.

The Defence

To be honest, the Man Utd defenders have found life tough in past weeks. Unlike the other two areas of where the game could be won and lost, this one is far more difficult to tell. In the 4-1 defat last year, we saw a shambolic defensive performance which cannot be replicated.

Liverpool haven’t been to good at the back either. Four losses on the trot tells it’s own story. Conceding a goal to a beach ball doesn’t help, but just like United have the quality at the back to deal with it. But, coming to a conclusion on current form, the Liverpool back four will be shy of confidence. And without sounding too bias, you would tip the Red Devils’ back four to come out on top.

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Can United end Liverpool’s title challenge?

By Gareth Freeman

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Torres is a doubt in this fixture as United look to end Liverpool's title bid

On Sunday Manchester United make the short trip to Anfield to face bitter rivals Liverpool.  These ties are always well hyped, important and hard fought occasions but this fixture has even more at stake than usual.  Should United take all three points against their old enemies it will effectively end Liverpool’s title challenge before we’ve even reached November.

With four losses already in the league this season Rafael Benitez’s men are in real danger and no team has ever lost more than five games and gone on to lift the title at the end of the season.  It is paramount for Liverpool to secure victory in this tie, but United are just starting to find their groove and could deliver the fatal blow to the Merseysiders.

Firstly I suppose we’d better look at just why Liverpool have been so inconsistent this season.  As far as I’m concerned, though feel free to disagree – they’ve been weak in more than one are, the key problem is their defence.

Their Champions League defeat to Lyon highlighted these problems, particularly in Lyon’s second goal where goalkeeper Pepe Reina raced out of his goal to claim a cross in the six yard box. There were plenty of Liverpool players who could have got a head to it and cleared the ball but Reina clearly didn’t trust them so decided to try and claim it, he ended up fluffing his catch and the French side eventually scored.

Reina is a decent keeper but he clearly didn’t have faith in Jamie Carragher or Martin Skrtel’s ability to clear the danger.  Both Carragher and Skrtel have been guilty of some ridiculously sloppy play, by their standards, this season and Liverpool’s defensive frailties have really cost them in these early stages of the season.

At the other end of the field Benitez’s side haven’t looked much better.  Fernando Torres seems to have bursts of goal scoring runs but has been absent in too many games this season, though the Spaniard is a slight doubt for Benitez going into the fixture with United.  Steven Gerrard and Torres have both suffered bouts of injury this season, which hasn’t helped matters at Anfield and questions will remain about the strength of the team without those two key figures playing regularly.

The Premier League betting odds have United as favourites despite the game being played at Anfield but it would be foolish to dismiss the Liverpool threat.  Even without Torres and Gerrard they are capable of beating United and players such as Yossi Benayoun are capable of creating something out of nothing.  The danger men could indeed be Benayoun and Torres but the pressure will be on the Liverpool defence to keep the United attack at bay.

United should have Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney back from injury which will be a massive boost for Sir Alex and I feel both players could be vital to securing all three points.  Rooney loves playing against Liverpool and always causes them plenty of problems, while Giggs will be a thorn in Liverpool’s side if he can effectively exploit the gaps left in the Liverpool back four when Glen Johnson gets forward.

There is also Michael Owen to consider, the United striker began his career with Liverpool and was a firm fans favourite but I doubt they’ll welcome him back with open arms if he makes an appearance on Sunday.  Owen has a habit of scoring goals on big occasions – the Manchester derby winner, a goal in El Classico, and THAT England goal against Argentina in the World Cup – and I wouldn’t online bet against him finding the net on Sunday.  With Rooney back it seems unlikely Owen will start but I’m sure Ferguson will give him a run out, especially if United need a late goal.

So can United end Liverpool’s title challenge at this early stage of the season?  Of course they can, they have the better players and head into this fixture in better form.  However, Liverpool’s home form hasn’t been their problem and they have won three out of four at Anfield, their only loss being at the hands of Aston Villa and they’ve notched up 15 goals at Anfield with only Arsenal scoring more on home soil.  It won’t be easy for United, but should they take all three points off Liverpool or even hold them to a draw Benitez’s men will be all but out of the race for the Premier League title.

Possible starting XIs (unless Gerrard is passed fit, which looks very unlikely)

Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Insua, Johnson, Mascherano, Benayoun, Lucas, Kuyt, Babel, Torres.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Giggs, Scholes, Anderson, Valencia, Rooney, Berbatov.

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