Archive | November 2010

On that showing, Manchester United look like worthy champions

Manchester United 7-1 Blackburn Rovers: Match Observations

That was more like it. While, rightly so, Dimitar Berbatov will steal all the headlines, this was a complete team performance and United, dare I say it, had the look of champions. It was truly beautiful to watch – for Anderson and Michael Carrick had passed Rovers to death, Nani had dribbled seamlessly as if he hadn’t a care in the world and Wayne Rooney, well, he was close to his very best.

Anderson was most impressive. It was a near-flawless display, very Scholes-esque, managing a monster total of 99 passes, 94 of which were successful. With his future at the club a talking point earlier this week, this was the perfect response. And has he found his position? Partnering an in-form Carrick, he played more centrally and flourished, playing a part in the first two goals before earning an assist of his own. What he has to do now is nail down some proper consistency, and he’ll definitely have a future at the club. The Brazilian was not the only one on top of his game; in fact I could easily write another ten paragraphs for the rest.

While Anderson was busy exercising his samba (?), Nani was too in a rich vein of form. For the opener, he delivered a sumptuous cross and played around with Rovers’ full-backs as if he were they were semi-professionals in the Ryman League. A lovely interchange with Berbatov included one of those rather flashy stepovers, then after a long delay, found Berbatov (who ran 50 years after finding Nani free on the flanks) free and he duly finished. In the process, Pascal Chimbonda was made to look rather silly. Even Park, the frustrating genius, was once again in the goals.

And then there was Berbatov. Love him or hate him…you’ve got to love him. What he displayed was a bit of everything: his finishing was great, as was his vision and positioning, not to mention he even ran the length of the field to score his hattrick goal. lazy? Not on yesterday afternoon’s evidence.  He has eleven to his name – almost half of that number was scored at Old Trafford yesterday.

It was the partnership with Rooney which did the trick. Not surprisingly, considering the last time the Bulgarian even found the net was when he was alongside his favourite strike partner; that was against Liverpool, and that was another hattrick. Correlation. The two complemented each other perfectly, as Rooney was in truly scintillating form. He might have not found himself on the scoresheet on the day United were scoring for fun, but he was the protagonist, dropping deep and creating chances at will.

Blackburn are much better than this, however United could not get much better than this. The visitors played so badly that, really, they didn’t even deserve the consolation goal. United, on this showing, look like champions. But things don’t work like that – a 7-1 result doesn’t automatically mean guaranteed silverware come May. But, considering how badly United played prior to this game, it was definitely a breath of fresh air. Onwards and upwards, they say.


The Red Report – Episode 7: Anderson, Welbeck, Best tribute and Chelsea’s decline

Welcome to the seventh issue of The Red Report, the round table discussion of all things Manchester United by your favourite United blogs: The Busby Way, Stretford-End, Bangalore To Old Trafford, ManUtd24, and Red Force Rising.

This week we look focus on three players – one currently playing for the club; one out on loan; and one true Red legend. After three defeats in four games we also assess what’s going on at our rivals, Chelsea.

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Dimitar Berbatov: Genius, indeed

The king is dead. Long live the king.

Dimitar Berbatov

This is how you do it. Even the great man himself, Eric Cantona, would’ve been proud; heck, he’d have been jealous. Having not scored for two months, this is how you do it. With your future deemed uncertain by the press, this is how you do it.

Poor Blackburn. Poor Paul Robinson, for he’ll have nightmares spanning an eternity. But Berbatov loved it. Five goals and, to be brutally honest, he could have had a couple more. And in doing so, Berbatov becomes only the 4th player in Premier League history to net 5 goals in match after Andy Cole, Alan Shearer and Jermain Defoe. Those three were goalscorers; Berbatov isn’t – he’s more.

His first touch was magnificent. His second even better. His third – back of the net. Well, maybe that isn’t exactly accurate and exaggerated a tad, but it goes far enough to say how well the Bulgarian performed. Actually, his goals came in a true forward fashion. Some were ugly, others beautiful. The third was immaculate, involving some lovely interchange with Nani and Patrice Evra and perhaps, more impressively, he ran the length of the field which puts paid to all the ‘lazy’ jibes.

And it was the re-emergence of his favourite strike partner, Wayne Rooney, that brought him unimaginable happiness. Rooney was spectacular, as was Nani, Anderson, heck…the whole team. But today was about one man. It was a pleasure to watch. That’s eleven goals and counting. And you feel there is more to come. Much more.

The Red Report – Episode 6: Lindegaard, PIK and Macheda

Welcome to the sixth issue of The Red Report, the round table discussion of all things Manchester United by your favourite United blogs: The Busby Way, Stretford-End, Bangalore To Old Trafford, ManUtd24, and Red Force Rising. Unfortunately this week The Busby Way have had some technical issues. If we are able to fix them we will include answers from The Busby Way as a later amendment. This week we discuss a potential new player; take on the contentious topic of PIK and debt; consider Kiko’s progress; and we try to settle the club vs. country conundrum.

We kick off this week by discussing a potential new signing. Rumours have been rife all week with reports of a new goalkeeper. Both David De Gea and Anders Lindegaard have been heavily linked, with the latter seemingly very close to signing. Here’s what we think about our potential new Dane:

Doron | Stretford-End: Who am I to judge a player I’ve never seen play before?! It seems very very likely he’ll be joining us and from what I’ve read it seems he’s a solid player. I don’t believe he’ll be signed to replace Edwin, I think it’s more likely he’ll be replacing Kuszczak (who seems to want out). If Lindegaard does prove to be good enough to challenge for the number one shirt then great but I think when Edwin does decide his time is up, another goalkeeper will be signed to replace him (whether that does prove to be De Gea or someone more experienced like Buffon, we’ll wait and see).

Siddarth | Bangalore to Old Trafford: The transfer hasn’t been confirmed yet, but looks very likely to happen though. but I don’t think Lindegaard is good enough to our no. 1 GK, and i doubt he’s been bought to be our first choice GK, he’s a good GK, but just not good enough to be replace Van der Sar, but I might be proved wrong also. His rise from obscurity has been meteoric, he was an unknown even in his Denmark when he moved to Norway, but since then he has been exceptional and has rightfully earned a move to bigger club. I’m sure we’ll see another GK sign for us, probably going by the rumors it will be De Gea.

TG | ManUtd24: While I haven’t seen Lindegaard in action, I’m pretty excited to see what he could bring. Former Watford scout and Norwegian Tor-Kristian Karlsen has seen plenty of him and kindly agreed to fill me in on the stopper, with his views posted on the blog earlier this week. I hope he can settle in quickly and be given a chance. I’d hate to dismiss him as a no.2 already. And I thought Schmeichel’s attack on his fellow Dane was needless, to be honest.

Alan | RedForceRising: I have personally never seen Anders Lindegaard play so it would be remiss of me to make any sort of judgement, but I think it fair to say that opinion amongst him is split – even amongst former pros. In an interview with Beyond the Pitch, United legend, Peter Schmeichel, dismissed United’s interest in Lindegaard by saying he didn’t believe the rumours for one minute. He then went on to talk about the qualities needed to be United keeper and the experience he think was required to be United’s number 1 keeper. This would seem to indicate that he didn’t believe Lindegaard had those qualities, but Schmeichel didn’t directly say so. However, I think Schmeichel does have a point that even at 26, Lindegaard doesn’t have the experience of paying in a top league or much big-game experience. One could even argue that UNited’s other goalkeeping target, David De Gea, has already more experience being Atletico Madrid’s main custodian and having played in an Europa League final. Time will tell, but I believe Eric Steele believes Lindegaard has the potential to be a keeper at United. Whether he will start regularly or provide cover remains to be seen. I’m quite certain this will see Tomasz Kuszczak leave the club though.

Kyle | Stretford-End: Everything I’ve read seems to suggest that the Lindegaard deal will likely be concluded this week. There’s a good chance that by the time this edition of the Red Report is published the deal will have already been announced. I’ve never seen him play, and it’s been a bit of a mixed review from what I’ve read. I know Eric Steele has scouted him quite a few times now and must’ve liked what he’s seen. However, it seems that until a year ago he was struggling for first team football. That’s fine, he’s a late bloomer. As long as he is top quality now, that’s fine. He recently made his debut for Denmark, which is promising. There seems to be a lot of positive reviews about him now. Reading the great Peter Schmeichel claim that Lindegaard isn’t good enough is a bit worrying, but I’ll wait until I see him play for United to judge. Regardless, it is nice to see United making moves to fill the void that may soon be left by Edwin van der Sar. I think this may be Van der Sar’s final season, especially with David De Gea also reportedly on the verge of joining United. I’m also thinking that Kuszczak may leave to be first choice somewhere. This is all speculation though. When January rolls around I look forward to welcoming Lindegaard and seeing what he’s capable of.

None of us have physically seen him play so if he signs we can all form our own proper opinions then.

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United’s jigsaw still missing its pieces (Match Observations)

Manchester United 2-0 Wigan Athletic: Match Observations

Patrice Evra opened the scoring for Manchester United against Wigan Athletic just before halftime

For years, Manchester United have done this. Win a game without playing necessarily good. Although, there’s cause for concern as United have been far too consistent at doing this one thing. Being consistently dull, that is, and lacking any real cutting edge. For a blog that usually oozes with optimism, this game was good for a couple of things: the result for one and some individual performances which will be covered later.

Perhaps, the result is the only thing that matters – especially as both Chelsea and Arsenal could not master the art of avoiding the metaphorical banana skin that the Premier League throws out every so often. On the balance of play, United were considerably better but that was maybe because they could only find some proper rhythm once the visitors were reduced to nine men. Prior to that, it was a struggle.

If United play like this and still get three points, then you wonder what they’ll be like on top form. There is still much to do to improve the current side, although I wouldn’t quite suggest signing in January. It is more of an issue of the system and how the team is organised. The 4-5-1 was very ineffective, as Kiko Macheda struggled to make much of an impact with little or no service. When Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez came on, United, albeit against opposition reduced to nine men, were much improved.

The jigsaw is far from complete, that we know. Looking at the positives, now, it was the full-backs who prospered. Rafael, with an assist to his name, was a revelation down the flanks and could have had a brace had Chicharito managed to convert his beautifully executed low cross with the score at 2-0. Patrice Evra, with his future at the club a talking point, was excellent again. He headed in the first and played in an almost advanced role which at least gave United something extra where they had little anyway.

But with everything that happened elsewhere, there is much reason to feel optimistic. United are somehow level on points with Chelsea, and will surely be boosted by the return of Wayne Rooney and an in-form Michael Carrick. A classic 4-4-2 might be best suited to United, too. It’s all a bit bizarre this season; it’s a wonder how United can play like this and be right up there in the title race. Say it again, imagine what they’ll be like on top form.

“Anders Lindegaard’s progress over the last 18 months has been meteoric.”

Aalesund goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard

It was hardly a typical Thursday afternoon if you were a Manchester United fan. You could only muster a gasp ideal for a courtroom drama upon hearing an almost ‘revolutionary’ change at Old Trafford. Surely, the news of Anders Lindegaard on the verge of signing for the Red Devils took some by surprise; but even more so upon hearing that Atlético’s David De Gea is to join the club in the summer. A reason as to why that is could be that the Spaniard will cost something in the region of €20m to buy him out of his release clause; how much a risk that is remains to be seen in the future.

Yet, it is the man from Norwegian Tippeligaen outfit Aalesunds FK for whom everyone will show some sort of desired interest in, in the coming months. Lindegaard, although known, is a player many have seen very little of, understandably so. But should everything fall into place he will suddenly find himself under the watchful eye of everyone associated with the game should he become a United player come January.

The respected football analyst, scout and writer, Tor-Kristian Karlsen, feels that in Lindegaard, Manchester United have a goalkeeper who would, from the looks of it, fit in fine at Old Trafford. “He’s very well suited for English football,” Karlsen told ManUtd24. “Time will tell where he fits into Sir Alex’s plans. In any case he gives them options – a fine 2nd/3rd choice should they land De Gea as well. Plus a year as Van der Sar’s understudy can surely not be a bad thing either”.

Having worked as part of Watford’s scouting network and as a chief scout for Hannover 96, Karlsen knows a talent when he sees one. “Lindegaard is a commanding goalkeeper with presence who dominates the box,” Karlsen says. “Brave, he likes coming for crosses and stamping his authority. He has good reflexes and shot stopping skills.” If reports are to go by, he’ll cost £3.5 million, a sum which contrasts heavily to that of the expected fee for De Gea. And if Karlsen is to go by, United might have just found themselves a bargain. “Lindegaard is like a ‘good old fashioned’ number one rather than a technically brilliant and agile goalkeeper,” he adds.

Even when he received his first cap for Denmark in the summer, most Danes went ‘Anders who?’

The last couple of years have been, with no better word to put it, crazy, or eventful for the Danish international. Karlsen, like many other Danes and Norwegians, have been impressed with the speed of which he has developed.”His move to Manchester United marks an amazing raise to fame for the 26-year old,” says Karlsen. “When he set off to join Aalesund in Norway from his club OB Odense a couple of years ago – intially on a loan – he was virtually unknown in his home country. Even when he received his first cap for Denmark in the summer, most Danes went ‘Anders who?’ Since then he’s been impressive for both club and country, his progress over the last 18 months has been meteoric.”

Eric Steele, United’s goalkeeping coach, had told Sir Alex that Lindegaard would be the ideal successor to Van der Sar, but being Danish you could hardly blame those touting him as the ‘Next Peter Schmeichel’. His six-year stint at Danish club Odense Boldklub hardly reaped any rewards, so he left and looked elsewhere. He required some sort of kickstart in his career, and he got that, albeit it coming in a rather amusing circumstance. Tor-Kristian Karlsen told us: “It’s ironic that it was Roy Carroll’s move to Odense BK that forced Lindegaard to look to Norway for a starting spot.”

With Van der Sar and Tomasz Kuszczak look set to be going their separate ways, it’s all change between the posts next season. With De Gea’s presence, it may seem Lindegaard would have to settle for a place on the bench – yet it probably wouldn’t be as simple as that. While the Spaniard is recognised as far more established than the Dane (although six years his junior), they are sure to be given their equal time and chance to shine at United. As we are sure to find out soon, Lindegaard has plenty to offer the Red Devils – so don’t discount the man as a bench-warmer before he’s even started.

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