Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Captain Marvel: A Career In Photos

I know it's late, but after news six days ago revealing one of United's and England's greatest ever players, Bryan Robson, is battling throat cancer, I thought it's never too late to reminisce his greatness.

Captain Marvel: Making a tackle in his first visit to Wembley...

FA Cup 1983: ...and trophy at United.

FA Cup 1985: Another Cup win, this time under Big Ron; this time defeating Everton 1-0 with Norman Whiteside's stunning goal.

World Cup 1986: Robson was injured during the '86 World Cup, his first as captain of his country, aggravating a shoulder injury in the group game against Morocco.

FA Cup 1990: Leading Ferguson's United to their first trophy. 

Premier League 1992/93: After 26 long years, United finally win the title in the Premier League's first season; with Robbo as captain.

Double 1993/94: Leading United to our second title in a row, as well as the FA Cup to this incredible double-winning season. The side - consisting of Schmeichel, Bruce (pictured), Pallister, Parker, Irwin, Giggs, Ince, Kanchelskis, Hughes, Cantona and Robson - is widely regarded as the greatest United team of all time.

Promotion with Middlesbrough 1994/95: In his debut managerial season, he guided Middlesbrough to Premier League promotion for the first time.

Captain Marvel: Now aged 54, Robson has returned to United as an Ambassador of the club; working alongside other United legend Sir Bobby Charlton.

VIEW: United vs Arsenal. 2-0

Media Reaction: United 2-0 Arsenal, 12th March 2011

Paul Wilson, the Guardian

Manchester United are still on for a treble, while in under a fortnight Arsenal have gone from fighting on four fronts to concentrating on the league, if that hoariest of euphemisms may be permitted. If Arsène Wenger's players concentrate really hard they still have an excellent chance of denying United the title, though this FA Cup defeat was an immense psychological blow. Not only did United win as if the blip of the past couple of weeks had merely been a bad dream, they did so with a much-changed, almost unrecognisable side...

Oliver Brown, the Telegraph

It is an absurd garment, far too large for him, and on the loneliness of the Old Trafford touchline last night he seemed to be retreating deeper into his consoling warmth as Arsenal’s season folded around him.

For Arsenal to tumble out of one competition out of the four they once contested might be passed off as an accident. To slip from two in nine days was unfortunate. But to lose in three in the space of a fortnight looks like carelessness.

If you were an investor, you would never put your shares in Wenger, so dramatically does his stock fluctuate. But as of this morning, they are in freefall. Bookmakers are already offering odds of 9-2 that he will not be at the Emirates next season.

Barely two weeks ago, the Frenchman had allowed Arsenal’s disciples to dream of an unprecedented quadruple. To have frittered away three-quarters of that possibility so quickly invites suspicion that his work in progress, his fabled faith in youth development, may never reach fruition.

Birmingham, Barcelona and now Manchester United: they form an unlikely trinity in the dismantling of Arsenal’s dream, but Wenger’s side, just like their predecessors across five silver-bare years, showed that they have more than one susceptibility...

Quick Reaction, Republik of Mancunia

1. I was fuming when I heard the line-up. I’ve tried to limit knee jerk reactions to the team news given the amount of times Sir Alex Ferguson has made me look a knob head for doing so but I couldn’t hold back today. I was furious. Hearing that Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher were now also injured allowed it to make more sense but I couldn’t understand having Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes on the bench when we were playing a midfield like that. At this rate, we were going out of the FA Cup and who was to say our players would then show up against Marseille. Fabio, who hardly ever plays, and when he does, has been put on the left wing maybe once. John O’Shea, who has been used mostly at right back was the better half of the central midfield alongside Darron Gibson. Then Rafael, who again, is not a winger. This was obviously before I knew that Wayne Rooney was going to be sitting back with the midfield. Still, to play that 4 against a passing team seemed to be like total suicide.
2. The Twins are good are getting forward from their full-back positions and today we saw their value as wingers. The two combined 15 minutes in when Fabio put it on a plate for Rafael to score, but his header was high. It was a taster of what was to come though. Fabio raced forward then played through a great ball to his brother with the outside of his boot. Rafael then passed it back to Fabio outside the box, who tapped it to Rooney, who played in a great ball to Chicharito. A fantastically placed header from the Mexican lead to a great save from Almunia, before Fabio tapped in the rebound. I love those twins.
3. Whilst those two lads were definitely a highlight, there are several positives to focus on today, most important of those, Antonio Valencia’s return. Wow. I was expecting when he did come back, whenever that might have been, it would take him a while to settle, and that would be fair enough. It was like he had never been away. The second goal was all about him. There were just 17 seconds between Van der Sar rolling the ball out to him and Rooney making it 2-0. We’ve got a winger again! Nani has done a great job down that flank this season and the idea of him and Valencia being available for our last few games should fill us all with massive hope. It was great to see him out there again.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

VIEW: United vs Bolton. 1-0


Super super Dimi. His first United league goal coming off the bench may well be his most important. The hattricks, stunning over-head kicks and five-in-a-game performances mean nothing if they don't contribute to a successful season, arguably evident in the fact that our 20 goal man has had to watch on from the bench as the Rooney-Hernandez partnership has flourished in recent games. However on a day that we were being increasingly frustrated by a resilient Bolton team and Arsenal were held by West Brom (they drew and lost two points. Remember that. So any reports you read suggesting it was a great Arsenal fight back are lies), Berbs' scrambled goal in the 87th minute was simply perfect. Our previous two league defeats on the trot were horrible and could have been utterly detrimental to our season, however thanks to legendary Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson's West Brom side playing for their lives against the Gooners, coupled with the dramatic finale to our game, those results have found themselves resigned to mere stat status as we are able to move on and concentrate on the last eight games. It's what we can do now that matters.

Valencia. His first 90 minutes since September was accomplished and comfortable, with know fresh knocks to report. He slotted back into his favoured roll on the right, occasionally switching flanks with Nani, and caused the Bolton full-backs problems all afternoon with his pace and passing. Just the way we love him.


Evans. An undisputed red card that thankfully didn't impact on our performance too muchl, even though we did look noticeably thin at the back in the final 15 minutes, and had Taylor converted his free header when it was still 0-0 (you assume Evans would have had him covered if he was still on the pitch) then things could have been very different. The biggest negative aspect of the awful (yet 50-50) challenge on Holden is the three match ban Evans will have to serve. With no Vidic, Rio and now Brown (who came off at half-time with a knock) we are left with Michael Carrick filling in at centre-back. Fuck.

Player Ratings.

Van der sar 6; Brown 6, Evans 6, Smalling 7, Evra 7; Valencia 7, Carrick 6, Giggs 7, Nani 7; Hernandez 7, Rooney 7.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

On Such Days, Title's Are Won And Lost...

United (Berbatov, 87) 1-0 Bolton

Losers live in the past. Winners learn from the past and enjoy working in the present toward the future.
Bryan Moseley

West Brom 2-2 Arsenal

Manchester United Injured XI

Although a couple of players have thankfully removed themselves from the injured list just in time for this afternoon's potentially tricky tie at home to Bolton, I thought I'd still remind you all of the rather annoying predicament we find ourselves in at this current time...

Lindegaard (knee)

O'Shea (hamstring)

Vidic (calf)

Ferdinand (calf)

Evans (NOW FIT - starts vs. Bolton)

Rafael (hamstring)

Hargreaves (knee)

Anderson (knee)

Fletcher (virus)

Park (hamstring)

Owen (NOW FIT - on the bench vs. Bolton)

Thursday, 17 March 2011

VIEW: United vs Marseille. 2-1

Player Ratings vs. Marseille.
15th March 2011

Van der sar 7. Nowhere near as influential or important as he was against Arsenal at the weekend, simply because he didn't need to be. For all of Marseille's impressive resilience to see them needing only a goal in the final 10 minutes to secure their place in the Quarter Finals, they only managed 5 shots on target in total and zero after they scored.

O'Shea 6. He played a sturdy 35 minutes before his injury. More pressingly however was the fact his replacement at right-back - Rafael - pulled up with the exact same injury on 69 minutes. Two right-backs and two possibly detrimental hamstring injuries (Rafael has already been reported to be out for a month) in the same match. Seriously, what the f**k?

Smalling 7. The hype and astonishment surrounding Smalling's rise up the ranks (for those who miss the 47,000 times a game the commentators mention it, it was exactly three years ago when he was playing for Maidstone United!!) has been deserved. And although there were a couple of moments were the latest make-shift central defensive partnership of Brown and Smalling lacked coherence, he continues to add to his fan base and list of converters.

Brown 6. His biggest contribution of the night was undoubtedly the goal he scored, for Marseille, that made the final 10 minutes nervy as f**k. A couple of typically pounding Wesley Brown tackles did however remind us - if only for fleeting moments - why we will always love him.

Evra 6. A few darting runs up the wing and you even saw him cut inside a few times, but he was given a few problems by Fanni and Valbuena when he came on. Still, the Marseille threat was never too hot for Pat to handle.

Nani 6. Rushed back from the Carragher shanking a game too early resulted in arguably his worst performance of the season. Sloppy on the ball and slow off. It may sound like I'm being overly harsh, but surely that is only a credit to how far our now most influential player has come in the last 12 months. Lets hope this hurried return from injury won't have the same adverse affect as it did on Wazza after the Bayern game last season.

Carrick 5. Did he even play? Seriously?? The full 90 minutes you say?! Well, I never. A quiet display is what I'm getting at, in case my unfunny sarcasm didn't quite hit home. And this is the man, remember we will most probably have to rely on to fill in defence. Gulp.

Scholes 7. Not his best game, but the post-modern holding midfielder (he used to partner Le Roi up front remember) was once again solid. However his greatest asset - his godlike passing - was massively surpassed by the lad playing slightly in front of him.

Giggs 8. No, not Giggsy. Who was always, just incredible - darting runs and causing their full-backs problems when it was needed. Great work and vision for the opener as well as directly assisting the winner.

Rooney 9. What an unbelievable performance by Rooney. His passing was beautiful, visionary (reward) and often ridiculous, yet it almost always reached the target no matter how unrealistic it seemed. So where DID he play? As an attacking midfielder, partnering Scholesy? Or just off the centre-forward, Chico? Wherever he found himself during the game, he was just as affective on the ball as he was off it - matching Chicharito's movement and energy - and admitted after the stunning that he rather enjoyed himself. I'm sure he did!

Hernandez 8. Two great finishes to again enhance his reputation as a natural born goalscorer and further confirm his signing - as well as Ferguson's decision to pick him over the prolific Berbatov - as a stroke of genius. Rooney and Chico had a lot of fun playing together last night. Here's hoping they continue their on-field bromance in the league, starting with Bolton at home on Staurday.

Valencia 7. A special mention to our almost forgotten bullet on the wings, who put the game to rest when he came on; settling things with his reverse pass to Giggs, who slotted into the path of Hernandez for the second. In the two appearances he has made after coming back from injury you can tell that he's lost a yard or two of pace, and his final ball, which were annoyingly near-perfected before hobbling off six months ago, have gone back to the unpredictable level they were when he first joined United. Still, a more convincing display on Wednesday compared to his cameo against Arsenal in the Cup can certainly re-instil us with hope as the title race comes into fruition...and a shocking 11 members of our squad are outr injured.

Monday, 7 March 2011

VIEW: United vs Liverpool (a). 1-3

Liverpool 3-1 United. The FACTS:

1. Firstly, a huge well done to Liverpool for taking a massive step towards another Europa League spot. It looks as though we'll just have to settle for a title race. Again.

2. Secondly: No excuses. Seriously, none. Very little creativity going forward, our best player Nani had the worst 45 minutes of his career, and our defence was completely shattered without at least one of Vidic or Rio controlling things - on that note, I hope Vidic felt a tad guilty for proceedings yesterday after his red at Stamford Bridge. We embarrassed ourselves and I fear have finally drawn a close to our 'getting away with playing shit' style of football this season. We have never managed to step up or maintain a steady run of good form, and so with two defeats on the trot - funny to think we were once tipped as going the whole season unbeaten - we can no longer rely on our winging-it style, or indeed the poor results of others. Arsenal (hardly the most fearsome of title challengers, thankfully) will undoubtedly lose more points as the season draws to a close. However our, I hate to say it, average looking side needs to start showing the one thing that can win us the league; the one thing you feel Arsene's boys don't possess: bottle.

3. Suarez is good, but our defence was horrid. And let's not forget that. His contribution to the impressive scoreline - skipping through the entire back four to single-handedly set-up the first, and striking a decent free-kick to again gift Kuyt the third - warrants a mention of respect in itself. However the lack of coherence we showed in our own half all afternoon warranted a punishing. The one time we have really looked shaky and out of sorts at the back just had to be at Anfield.

4. Look past the jheri curls - Rafael is one mean mutha. If you don't know by now, you do NOT fuck with this kid. Annoying little, money-grabbing Argie fucker who's eternally vexed because he looks like a werewolf?

"Yeh, WHAT!?"

Slovakian gangster pretending to play football on Merseyside?

"Bring yer fackin boyfriends too ya mug!!!"

I'm not sure about anyone else, but the heart and, lets face it, ridiculously oversized balls that little dough-eyed Raf possesses is fast turning him into my favourite player. 

5. Carragher is a dirty horrible c*nt who got away with his second red-card offence in as many matches against United at Anfield. Unbelievable decision to keep him on in a game that, you feel, may have altered somewhat had the correct decision been made and Liverpool's defence been a man short for a full 45 minutes.

6. Kuyt is officially the worst player in the history of football to score a hat-trick.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

VIEW: United vs Chelsea (a). 1-2

Two words:

Robbed. Again.

Player Ratings.
Van der Sar 7; O'Shea 7, Smalling 7, Vidic 8, Evra 7; Nani 6, Scholes 6, Carrick 6, Fletcher 6; Rooney 7, Hernandez 6