Thank goodness the transfer window is coming to a close. A few whispers later and there you have the typical response: “I’d quite like Jack Rodwell, actually.” Of course, these reports have no credible source to my knowledge but, to some, Michael Carrick in exchange for the young, somewhat over-hyped and overrated, Everton midfielder Rodwell sounds like a good deal. Crazy. Sure, Rodwell has plenty of potential and wouldn’t be the worst acquisition but it seems as if some fans would rather see the back of Michael Carrick.
Once described by Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez as the “complete player”, Carrick is exactly that. On the football pitch, he is quite literally a visionary. And Xavi knows a thing or two, for Carrick’s range of passing is comparable to that of the Spanish midfielder. His talents are often misunderstood, and after a frustrating campaign last year, Carrick has found himself below Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes down the pecking order.
Indeed, he only has a couple of minutes to show for this season, but that’s partly due to the good form of both Scholes and Fletcher in the middle of the park. And of course, he may not even be fully fit so it is not wise to read into that too much, something, unfortunately, the tabloids have already done, thus linking United with a £10m bid for Rodwell, plus Michael Carrick as bait.
Carrick was admittedly inconsistent last year, obvious that he was struggling to regain his exceptional form of 08/09. He got off to a lightning quick start last season, but gradually his form and good fortune dried up, to the point where he was no longer first-choice. He is still certainly still part of Fergie’s plans albeit probably third in line for a team that plays just the two in the centre domestically. However, he will slot perfectly in Manchester United’s three-man triangle in European games. As to why his confidence dipped so dramatically it is unclear.
Trapped inside this man apparently short of confidence is another, someone who is blessed with a special gift. He is not ready to depart Manchester just yet, simply because he still has a lot to offer to the Red Devils. A genius on the pitch, able to either hold the midfield or even play in that more advanced role, Carrick certainly isn’t going to end his United career with a feeble whimper. There is still much left in his locker. Mark my words…
Apparently, ex-Liverpool forward Stan Collymore branded Ryan Giggs a ‘cheat’ on his TalkSPORT show. He is said to have thought that Giggs ‘dived’ under the challenge of Jonathan Spector in Man Utd’s 3-0 win over West Ham on Saturday, although replays suggest it was a stonewall penalty. Giggs, a cheat?! Oh, the irony!
Also, on a lighter note, we have set up a ManUtd24 Facebook page. We’d very much appreciate if you guys ‘like’ it!
Till next time…
Manchester United 3-0 West Ham Utd: Observations
6-0 is the new black, or at least that was the case last weekend. For this game could have easily been a 6-0 drubbing, and in hindsight, the 3-0 victory was flattering from a West Ham perspective. Avram Grant, a body double of the Simpsons’ character Fat Tony (which has nothing to do with the article!), was almost certainly pulling out what little hair he had left in the pouring Mancunian rain.
The most impressive thing about Manchester United in this game was that they put on a complete team performance. The football, at times, was sumptuous and United were characteristically good on the break, and encouragingly, solid at the back. Nemanja Vidic brought stability to the back four; it could be that he was inspired a touch by the presence of the captain’s armband around his…arm. United were at no time in danger of conceding, a testament to the solidity shown by the defence and in effect could control the game like they did.
Then there was Dimitar Berbatov. Lazy, he was not. He held the ball and linked up play in a way that opposite number Carlton Cole could only dream of. The Bulgarian even had a time to score a goal, a trademark acrobatic finish late on. He, and Nani, may frustrate a couple of fans with their sometimes hit-and-miss performances, yet it is days like these where they can display such authority and talent. Nani was a delight to watch; he found plenty of room down the channels and, although he missed his fair share, he could at least keep the doubters quiet for another day thanks to his wonderful goal, United’s second, a picture perfect finish worth watching again and again.
And while Paul Scholes continues to make pundits purr on their plush sofa’s, he was complimented perfectly by his partner in crime, Darren Fletcher. The Scot quietly got the job done, and in the process keeping the Hammers midfield at bay. Both even came close to scoring, but even if they didn’t, they demonstrated such control and conducted this authoritative United performance. It was also a day to celebrate if your name was Wayne Rooney, stroking a welcome penalty home and ending his unwanted drought of goals. Honourable mentions also go to Ryan Giggs and Edwin van der sar, the former finding life pretty routine as a top-flight footballer while at the same time defying age.
In truth, the visitors put up a decent fight in the first half but it was almost a case of damage limitation when Nani had fired in the second shortly after the break. They could barely keep possession after what seemed like the killer goal. The concept of passing is a simple one, shame West Ham couldn’t quite grasp it. “Oh, Matthew Upson has given the ball away again…” Certainly, United had dispatched the visitors in ruthless fashion that was not seen at the Craven Cottage last week, and it encouraging to see the Red Devils start the season with more zest and energy than in past campaigns. “More please,” in a cute, adorable Oliver Twist voice.
Ratings: Van der Sar 7, O’Shea 6, Vidic 8, Jonathan Evans 6, Evra 7, Nani 8, Scholes 8, Fletcher 8, Giggs 7, Rooney 7, Berbatov 8.
Subs: Owen 5, Smalling 5, Carrick 5
When Javier Hernandez replaced Wayne Rooney in the opening day fixture against Newcastle a handful of the home support, with a sense of humour, put on sombreros to mark the new boy’s first appearance in a competitive game for the club. Hernandez has already become somewhat of a hero, with plenty of supporters expecting a good season for the Mexican, having made an impact at the World Cup. He’ll do his utmost to impress this year; as will Mame Biram Diouf and Federico Macheda – both of whom starred whilst in action yesterday evening.
Diof, on loan to Blackburn, scored three in a blinding performance in which he powered a strong Rovers outfit to a 3-1 over Norwich City last night. On his full debut, it was exactly was he needed in order to stake a claim for next season. If he impresses enough this campaign with Big Sam’s, you feel Sir Alex will come calling again. Of course, he always had the potential, indeed why Fergie brought him in the first place. Let’s hope there’s more to come from the Senegalese international.
In front of a decent Ewood Park crowd, he delivered exactly what the doctor ordered with a goal on the half hour mark; enough to settle the jitters of the home fans who were sensing an opener. Funnily enough, and encouragingly so, his goals had a similar theme running through it. His first two were easy-peasy, netting from close range and another two were also headed goals. The third was most impressive, a well-timed leap matched by a powerful head. Some may feel he could have had almost double his original tally, missing a whole host of chances yet the message was simple at the end of the day: this guy has talent.
And over at Ewen Fields, Kiko Macheda scored twice in a fantastic display which saw United beat City 3-1 in a reserve game, which featured a whole array of big names such as Michael Carrick, Gary Neville and nearly-fit again Anderson. Tom Cleverley’s performance was also eye-catching, reaping the rewards when he eventually scored the third. His predators instincts as a natural goalscorer were on show as he fired on all of the clichéd cylinders.
Both he and Diouf were superb – a sure sign that the future is bright. The duo may be below Hernandez in the pecking order, although that could be a testament to the club’s great strength in-depth. Hernandez could make a huge impact for the senior side this season, but by next year, he may have a lot to do to keep both of these promising forwards quiet and out of contention. For Macheda, you feel he will have a few more spells with the reserves because of the amount of forwards the club possess, but Tuesday’s performance was at least a message to Sir Alex displaying the young’s lad intent and talent that can get him into the first team. The future’s bright, the future’s red. Well, I suppose in Diouf’s case, it’s blue and white (kidding)…
Fulham 2-2 Manchester Utd: Chalkboard Analysis
It was by far a convincing performance from Manchester United, but credit is due to the way Fulham fought back and earned a deserved point. Of course, there is no shame in the result; Fulham are a tough proposition away from home and the Red Devils have now failed to win there in their last three attempts. Below, we analyse individuals and their impact on the game.
Is there a point in analysing Paul Scholes? His name has been on the lips on nearly everyone associated with the sport, and he displayed just why. Not only did he score a belter, but he once again passed the opposition to death. Below, we have included two chalkboards, Sunday’s performance and a carbon-copy against Newcastle the week previous. Another display worthy of Man of the Match. Is there no stopping him?!
Defensive-minded Etuhu with passing masterclass
Dickson Etuhu is a fine example of a defensive midfielder. Criminally underrated, he can do more than just hold. His passing was excellent on Sunday, not putting a foot wrong throughout. 33 passes, 33 successful. Also, he, and Fulham’s five man midfield, perfectly stifled Manchester United, meaning that Fulham could soon get into the game after a slow start where the Red Devils had dominated proceedings.
Nemanja Vidic: Interceptions not his Forté
Statistically, United’s defending has been the best in the country. That’s hardly surprising, but against Fulham it was disappointing lacklustre. It wasn’t disastrous, but it definitely could have been better. What we can learn from this game is that Nemanja Vidic is the typical,’hard-man’, aggressive sort whose strengths lie in clearances, heading and strong tackling. Intercepting certainly isn’t his forte, evident from the diagrams below. Whilst Jonny Evans managed seven interception, Vidic could only muster…none. Nought, nada. Big fat 0.
Fulham 2-2 Manchester Utd: Observations
This game certainly didn’t have the elements of a 6-0 romp. In truth, the scoreline was fair; yet Manchester United would feel they had the chances to win the tie. It was an untidy game on reflection, and as the game wore on it became a gritty, scrappy encounter which, much to Fulham’s credit because of their effective five-man midfield, had meant that United were stifled offensively.
It had been all United in the first half hour, and unsurprisingly, it was Paul Scholes dictating the play. He has been the subject of a lot of praise this week, and of course, he displayed just why everyone’s talking about him. His positioning was fantastic, his passing was unmatched and his vision was as good as ever. The reason why the Red Devils had dominated the first half was that they had the Fulham midfield in the pocket; with Scholes and Fletcher linking up effectively. Quite fittingly, Scholes had opened the scoring with a trademark finish, incidentally his 150th in a United shirt.
1. Bobby Charlton 249
2. Dennis Law 237
3. Jack Rowley 211
4. George Best 179
4= Dennis Violet 179
6. Joe Spence 168
7. Mark Hughes 163
8. Ryan Giggs 156
9. Ruud Van Nistelrooy 150
9= Scholes 150
Scholes makes the list of Manchester United’s all time top scorers, equalling Ruud van Nistelrooy’s 150 goals.
But if Fulham’s midfield had underperformed in the first half, they certainly ‘performed’ in the second, and suddenly the impetus was on the home side for an equaliser. United were no longer creating freely, and did not pass the ball around with as much as conviction as they did in the first. They got their deserved goal, via Simon Davies, and Fulham grew stronger minute by minute.
Manchester United gradually got their act together and rallied for the winner and they earned their reward; with Rooney absent, it meant that Own Goal had another chance to stake him claim in the team, doing so in the 83rd minute. It came off Brede Hangeland, somewhat ironically, as he had played a fantastic game thus far. United then had a chance to make it 3-1, but Nani had missed a penalty.
The winger had been used as a scapegoat, if he had scored the spot-kick United would have surely won. Although, when he came on, he changed the complexion of the game and brought back the game into United’s favour, so his impact in that sense was crucial to the cause.
Hangeland made it 2-2 in the dying moments, somewhat fairly, redeeming himself for the earlier mishap. Whilst it was true United didn’t defend notably well, there was no individuals to pick out; it was more of a case of tightening up at the back. Don’t worry, we still have another 36 games to go. We’re at a premature stage, so who knows what may happen? There is definitely no reason for a knee-jerk reaction.
Ratings: Van der Sar 7, O’Shea 5, Vidic 6, Evans 5, Evra 6; Valencia 6, Fletcher 7, Scholes 8, Park 5; Berbatov 6, Chicharito 5. Subs: Nani 7, Giggs 6, Owen 6
Although it was no means a complete performance, the 3-0 victory over Newcastle on Monday was at least an encouraging sign of things to come from a side that are usually (historically at least) slow starters in the Premier League.
However, Fulham will certainly be a different proposition, especially facing them away from home. Manchester United’s last two visits to Craven Cottage have not ended well; the Red Devils conceded five goals and failed to fork a reply in either of those games where, in truth, United were dismal. Of course, there’s no reason why Sunday’s game will be exact carbon copies of the two previous but there is reason to be fearful of Fulham, a team that are great exhibitors of the organised and structural approach to a football game, a team that are superb in suffocating play thus frustrating the opponent, something they executed perfectly in their magnificent European run last campaign.
United look in good form though; following a solid pre-season, they convincingly beat Chelsea in the Community Shield, then prevailed in the Newcastle game a week later. In that game at Old Trafford, United displayed such verve that Newcastle were outplayed in every department, and not surprisingly, the home side had 66% possession in that fairly one-sided match-up.
And just like the Chelsea game, it was a certain Paul Scholes who impressed. He masterminded that performance, barely putting a foot wrong in the process, except of course when coming in for one of his trademark rash challenges. Berbatov was also fantastic, and if he can remain consistent in offering his contributions then he certainly can win the tussle with Javier Hernandez to start alongside Wayne Rooney. Rooney has had a bad couple of months, although United fans know of his effectiveness in a red shirt. He does, after all, have an impressive goal-to-game ratio of 0.48. That’s about a goal every two games in simplistic math. A goal would do him a world of good in finding his feet.
This is very much early days, still. Obviously, seeing as only one game has been played (well done, Sherlock). What United have to make sure is that they keep within safe distance of Chelsea, and a good start to the campaign surely won’t hurt the club’s bid for their 19th piece of silverware. If they can control the Fulham game from the offset much like they did against the Toon and keep the ball well, then they will almost definitely triumph in the afternoon game. More of them the same is required for Sunday, please lads, if you don’t mind.
Prediction: 0-1 United win – A gritty, scrappy encounter that will certainly be decided by just the one goal, if any.