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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fletcher takes ‘extended break’



Manchester United have confirmed that midfielder Darren Fletcher is to take an extended break from football on account of health reasons.

The Scotland captain missed two months of action towards the end of last season due to a stomach illness and also sat out the club’s pre-season tour of North America. He returned to footballing action for his national team in the Euro 2012 qualifiers in September and has made 10 appearances for the Red Devils this season.

However, the 27-year-old has been long suffering from an inflammatory bowel virus and is to take a break from the game.

A United statement read as follows:

"On behalf of Darren Fletcher, Manchester United wishes to announce that he is taking an extended break from football for health reasons.
                                  
"Over the past year he has had several absence periods which we have attributed to a viral illness in order to respect his right to medical confidentiality. Darren has, in fact, been suffering from ulcerative colitis (a chronic inflammatory bowel condition) for some time preceding this.

"Whilst he was able to maintain remission of symptoms for a considerable period this has proved more difficult recently and Darren's continued desire to play and his loyalty to both his club and country has probably compromised the chances of optimising his own health and fitness.

"He has therefore accepted medical advice to take an extended break from the demands of training and playing in order to afford the best chance possible of achieving full remission once again.

"We request that his privacy is respected and hope that the removal of the additional stress associated with speculation regarding his health will also aid his recovery."

Friday, December 9, 2011

Evra slams whole United side


Patrice Evra included himself in a withering attack on Manchester United's failings in the Champions League and demanded the entire squad "look in the mirror" to work out the best way forward.

The three-time winners of Europe's elite club competition headed to Switzerland needing only a draw to get out of Group C but were beaten 2-1 by Basle and must now prepare for the come-down of competing in the Europa League. People looking at the Premier League betting odds will be wondering what sort of impact it will have on their domestic season.

The Premier League champions were the architects of their own downfall, with three draws – two at Old Trafford – ultimately costing them the chance to dine at Europe's top table again.

"We have to be honest and say we haven't been professional from the beginning of this competition," said France defender Evra.

"I don't know why."

He added: "Maybe one or two of us have to look in the mirror and say we can do a lot better than we have done. Everyone. And I am the first."

Sir Alex Ferguson's men must now concentrate on making a return to winning ways – starting on Saturday against Wolves.

United have gone five games unbeaten since the derby mauling by leaders and local rivals Manchester City but, worryingly, have not scored more than two goals in a Premier League game since a 2-0 home win against Norwich on October 1.

Match-going supporters have pointed to a lack of creativity in central midfield but Evra refused to go into specifics.

He said there was still plenty to play for and refused to concede United's season was over following their Champions League exit and the football odds show they still have a great chance of winning trophies.

"We are Manchester United," he added. "We won't throw the season away.

"We still have things to win this season and we have to make sure we do that.

"We need to play with heart and the fans deserve more than us throwing away the Champions League and the Premier League."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ferguson Calls Newcastle Penalty Decision ‘An Absolute Travesty’


Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson furiously hit out at refereeing standards after his team dropped two points at home to Newcastle United on Saturday. John Flynn, the assistant referee was the subject of his wrath for awarding a contentious penalty against Rio Ferdinand for fouling Hatem Ben Arfa, which helped Newcastle to equalize and salvage a point from the match. However, he did not spare referee Mike Jones either, and blamed him for allowing his original decision to be overturned.

Speaking to in-house television channel MUTV in a post-match interview, Ferguson said:

“The penalty decision was an absolute travesty. The referee saw the incident and gave a corner, and he was in a far better position to judge than the assistant because he was only about eight yards away. I don't think anyone in the ground apart from the assistant thought it was a penalty, but he then let the linesman overrule him. The problem is that assistant referees are not full‑time, even if referees are. I could not understand the decision at all.

“Everyone, including the referee, was astounded when the linesman put his flag up. He was put in a terrible position. Why can't the referee overrule it when he is only eight yards away? It is not for me to decide whether the assistant referee gets another game again but it was an absolutely shocking decision.

“It costs you, a decision like that. Two years ago, when the linesman gave the offside goal against Chelsea, it cost us the league, so hopefully we're not saying that at the end of May. I don't think we played badly at all today – if we carry on playing like that I'll be happy – but we slaughtered Newcastle and not to get the three points was a travesty.”

Even Newcastle United manager, Alan Pardew, admitted that his side had been lucky with the penalty decision, though he believed his side deserved a point for their overall performance at Old Trafford.

Pardew was quoted as follows after the match:

“I can understand Sir Alex being disappointed with the decision but we deserved a break and on this occasion we got one. It was a great run from Hatem, and it was one of those situations where you either get the decision or you don't. You could tell from the players' reactions that there was a good case for a penalty.”

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Match Preview: Swansea City vs. Manchester United

[This post first appeared on Sportskeeda.]

The international break is finally over and it’s time for some real football action to take over our TV screens! Okay, though the past two weeks did not disappoint in terms of footballing quality (England beating Spain 1-0, Germany dominating Holland 3-0 or Uruguay thrashing Chile 4-0), one cannot help but admit that in the end, it’s club football one craves for. Nothing ever matches the excitement than watching your favourite team walk out the tunnel onto the field.

So in Saturday’s late English Premier League fixture (in India), it’s the defending champions Manchester United who visit new boys Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium. Swansea City have been unbeaten at home this season so far (won 3, drawn 2) and have conceded only one goal at home, that too from an own goal. However, Manchester United are determined to make a statement after their humiliating home defeat to Manchester City, having won all their games since then. And what better way to keep doing that than grabbing all three points at a venue no other team has been able to conquer till now.

Team Form:

Swansea City: Swansea City have been sort of a neutral’s favourite this season, with their easy-on-the-eye, slick passing style of football. One might be reminded of Blackpool’s exploits last season, but the difference is the defensive discipline of the Welsh club especially at home. As mentioned before, Swansea have let in just one goal at home, from a Danny Graham own goal against Bolton. In their last league fixture, Swansea outpassed and outplayed Liverpool at Anfield but failed to score, resulting in a goalless draw.

Last five results: WLDWD

Current league position: 10th

Manchester United: Manchester United’s season till date can be divided in two halves – pre-derby defeat and post-derby defeat. The Red Devils started out in top gear, sweeping aside rivals such as Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea with relative ease but it all came to an abrupt halt with the grounding 6-1 defeat to Manchester City at Old Trafford. However, United haven’t conceded a single goal in four games since then and are making a strong recovery.

Last five results: LWWWW

Current league position: 2nd

Injury Updates:

Swansea City: Midfielder Stephen Dobbie is set to return after he suffered an ankle injury last month against Norwich City. Neil Taylor is also available but defender Steven Caulker is still out with a knee injury.

Manchester United: Midfielder Tom Cleverley and striker Michael Owen have been sidelined till Christmas. Ashley Young and Ryan Giggs are back in the squad, the former being a likely starter. Fabio Da Silva is doubtful after injuring himself while on national duty.

Predicted Lineups:

Swansea City (4-3-3): Vorm; Rangel, Williams, Monk, Taylor; Britton, Gower, Allen; Sinclair, Graham, Dyer.

Manchester United (4-4-2): De Gea; Jones, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra; Nani, Fletcher, Carrick, Young; Rooney, Hernandez.

Scoreline Prediction: Swansea City 1 Manchester United 3.
                     
Kick-off Time: 11 pm IST on Saturday, 19 November

Coverage: Live on ESPN

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fletcher wary of Swansea banana skin


Darren Fletcher is aware Manchester United must be on their guard against Premier League newcomers Swansea on Saturday.

The promoted Swans have raised eyebrows with their easy-on-the-eye brand of keep-ball and boast an impressive home record at the Liberty Stadium.

Brendan Rodgers' men have not lost in five top-flight games on home soil so far this season and have only conceded once, against Bolton, but Saturday's visit of the champions represents their biggest test in Wales yet. Those placing football bets will be expecting an away win.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side have not lost away from Old Trafford this season and make the trip to Wales having not conceded in four games in all competitions.

Fletcher is relishing the chance to knuckle back down to domestic duties but is aware United face a potential banana skin.

The 27-year-old Scotland international told his club's official website: "It's a new experience for us all.

"They're the first Welsh team in the Premier League and going there will be a great experience."

He added: "I'm sure this is the sort of fixture Swansea and their fans have been dreaming about for years.

"Welsh fans are always passionate and I'm sure the stadium will be packed out so it should be a fantastic atmosphere."

Rafael and Anderson have both had the international break to fully recover from injuries, but Ashley Young and former Wales international Ryan Giggs are doubts. Anyone planning a Premier League bet will be keeping a close eye on their fitness.

A muscle injury picked up by Danny Welbeck means Wayne Rooney could be restored to a central striking position if his team-mate is deemed unfit.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Luis Suarez Charged By FA In Racism Row


Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has been charged with racism by the Football Association after a complaint was lodged by Manchester United defender Patrice Evra during the 1-1 draw between the sides on 15 October. The FA’s statement, published on its official website on Wednesday, said: “It is alleged that Suárez used abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour towards Manchester United's Patrice Evra contrary to FA rules. It is further alleged that this included a reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Patrice Evra.”

Evra had told the French media that Suarez had been trying to “to try to wind me up” and that “there are cameras, you can see him say a certain word to me at least 10 times. There is no place for that in 2011”.

Liverpool responded to the FA charge by releasing a statement on their own website:
“The club this afternoon received notification from the Football Association of their decision to charge Luis Suárez and will take time to properly review the documentation which has been sent to us.

“We will discuss the matter fully with him when he returns from international duty, but he will plead not guilty to the charge and we expect him to request a personal hearing. Luis remains determined to clear his name of the allegation made against him by Patrice Evra. The club remains fully supportive of Luis in this matter.”

If Suarez is proven guilty, it will be a big blow to Liverpool as a lengthy six-match ban accompanied by a hefty fine could be imposed on him. The Uruguayan playmaker has been their best player so far this season, and displayed some brilliant goal-scoring form when he scored all four goals when Uruguay beat Chile 4-0 in the third round of the South American qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Owen Sidelined With Thigh Injury


Michael Owen has injured his thigh and will not be risked when Manchester United return to Premier League action against Sunderland at Old Trafford on Saturday. The former England striker lasted just 10 minutes of a rare start against Romanian minnows Otelul Galati on match-day four of the Champions League on Wednesday and manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed he expects the 31-year-old to be out of action for some time.

The former Real Madrid and Liverpool favourite picked up the injury during the move which led to Antonio Valencia's opener as the three-time winners edged closer to qualification for the knock-out stages of Europe's elite club competition. The football betting suggests they should make it through without too many problems.
Victory against Benfica next month at Old Trafford and Group C table-toppers United will go through to the business end of the Champions League.

Ferguson admitted the win – and second clean sheet in succession in all competitions – had come at a cost for the luckless Owen, whose career has been disrupted by a string of injury lay-offs.

"It's a blow for the lad," said the Red Devils' boss. "He's done a thigh muscle and it's a complete freak.

"I feel for him. It's difficult to say how long-term it is."

Owen would have been unlikely to start in the Premier League that often, but he will be a miss in terms of options from the bench.

Ferguson said he was looking forward to the visit of the Portuguese giants – the team United famously beat to win the 1968 European Cup final – and was pleased the club were not in control of their own destiny off the back of two draws in Europe.

The Scot added: "Given the history between both clubs (us and Benfica) it should be a good night, a good atmosphere, a really big game and we can look forward to that one."

Former United defender and current Black Cats boss Steve Bruce has tried to beat his old manager and club 17 times with Sunderland, Wigan and Birmingham, but remains without a win.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

High Fives: Things We Learnt From United's Win At Goodison Park

[This post first appeared on BigFourZa.]


Manchester United faced their first real test on their road to recovery against Everton today. And they came out all smiles as they grabbed 3 points for the first time at Goodison Park since 2007. So here go the five of the few things we learnt from this victory –

Chicharito Scored The Lone Goal
1. The Recovery Has Begun

As I pointed out earlier, we had not won at Everton since 2007. United put up a disciplined performance against the hosts, and that was evident with no United player being booked. Everton had more shots compared to United's tally, but our skipper Vidic was a rock in central defence on his Premier League comeback & De Gea impressed once again as we held out to a vital win that helps keep the pressure on league leaders Man City.

2. Evans Was Shaky, But He'll Be Alright

I was not surprised when my fellow United fans on my Twitter timeline expressed sort of an outrage when both Evans & Evra were named in the starting lineup. I've been in the defence of Evans even after that red card last weekend, and I believe that Sir Alex was right to field him ahead of Ferdinand. His performance today was bit nervous & shaky, making some wayward passes which could've resulted in goal-scoring chances for the home side. Fortunately, we did not concede. Evans will need some more games to regain confidence after that derby fiasco. He's been our best defender this season, and he will eventually come good. So guys, just lay him off for a while.

3. Cleverley & Fletcher Can Click Together

The return of Tom Cleverley was welcomed whole-heartedly as Man United's midfield was desperately crying out for creativity. And boy, he almost carried on from where he left. That slick one-touch passing, that extra bit of endeavour & dynamism was back in United's gameplay. Until he pulled his hamstring at the stroke of the hour & was substituted as a precaution. As for Darren Fletcher, he was our unsung hero. He made important interceptions blocks on the Everton players throughout the game and seems to be finally getting back into his groove. Fletcher's energy should prove vital if we have to stay on course for a 20th league title.

4. Everton Need To Be More Clinical In Front Of Goal

Everton had 17 shots compared to United's 8, so the stats say. But they were still unable to find the net. Louis Saha often tried to do it all by himself, which shows lack of trust in his fellow teammates's abilities. Everton need to make most of their chances otherwise they will suffer by not scoring goals. On-loan Royston Drenthe was missed coz he is one possible outlet for goals for the Toffees. With limited resources in hand, it has to be seen if David Moyes can unearth someone from the academy ranks.

5. Wing Play Needs To Improve

Needless to say, Nani & Valencia weren't very effective while attacking today. Nani, when he shifted onto the left, was already less then half the player he usually is. Valencia seemed ineffective too most of the time. Maybe that's coz he played the whole 90 minutes at Aldershot during midweek. Ashley Young is out for two weeks due to injury, and he hasn't been so impressive either in the last few games. Giggs is also out & his experience was missed in big games like the Manchester derby. Manchester United's style of football demands our wingers to be on top of their form most of the time, and I personally feel it's time the players on the flanks stepped up their game by another level.

Hope you also enjoyed Arsenal's 5-3 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Always delighted to see those scum moneybags losing like that!

You can follow the author on Twitter @AbhinavCJ.

That's all!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fletcher - Derby Woe Could Linger

Darren Fletcher has admitted it could take Manchester United a while to recover from the 6-1 mauling at the hands of local - and title - rivals Man City on Sunday. United went down to their biggest defeat since 1955 as City ran riot at Old Trafford as they secured a famous triumph.

The win leaves Roberto Mancini's side five points clear of the champions but the manner of the performance and scoreline has caused shockwaves on the red half of Manchester with some suggesting the balance of power is now shifting. Those following the FA Cup betting odds may be wondering if the side can make a clean sweep of things this season, though United will be determined to stop them.

Fletcher admits the huge defeat is particularly difficult to stomach and feels for the United fans who will be subject to ridicule from their City counterparts.

He told MUTV: "Without doubt we realise how much stick and how much banter there will be for our fans.

"We know how much it is hurting, the players are hurting just as much.

"We have to live in the city as well so we are going to have to deal with it as well."

Fletcher, who scored United's consolation in the game, says they must bounce back from the heavy loss but conceded that may not necessarily be easy.

"We are disappointed, really disappointed, but we will have to bounce back.

"It is a problem to bounce back from a scoreline like this - nobody wants to lose by the margin we did."

United are next in action when they go to Aldershot in the Carling Cup on Tuesday and the football odds make them strong favourites to win.

However, boss Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to field a much-changed line up with the likes of Michael Owen, Dimitar Berbatov, Federico Macheda and Antonio Valencia among those set to get a run-out.

Monday, October 24, 2011

High Fives: Reactions To The Chastening Manchester Derby Loss

[This post first appeared on BigFourZa, where I write as a football columnist.]

Well, I'm speechless to think up even an introduction. From beating Arsenal 8-2 to getting run over 6-1 by City - how times change.  So let us just fast forward to the five things I observed from the humiliation this evening. Apologies in case you find your knees jerking after reading this.

1. Evans' Red Card Changed It All

Till the time Evans was sent off just after the interval, City were 1-0 up. With 10 men & chasing the scoreline, it was always gonna be an uphill task for United & they learnt it the hard way. City kept on launching counterattacks thereafter & the result was there for all to see. Also, our defensive discipline possibly took a flight out to Honolulu just alongwith Evans down the tunnel. Smalling at CB & Evra were caught out of position too many times, which is unforgiving in such a big fixture like this.

2. David Silva Can Be One of the World's Best Players

Everytime the ball fell to his feet, you knew that he'd do something magical. You just knew it. And boy, he didn't disappoint at all. Everytime he entered United's penalty area, most of the United players were confused whether to stop him or not as he dribbled past defenders with relative ease. He was pretty much unstoppable today & if he can carry on this sort of form throughout the season, he might be spoken of in the same tones as Messi & Ronaldo.

3. United Need That World-Class Defensive Midfielder

Anderson. Fletcher. Carrick. Cleverley. Gibson. Pogba. Now those names might be familiar to most Premier League fans, but they are quite short of the tag 'world-class'. Anderson went missing tonight completely, and he's too inconsistent for United quality. Carrick or Phil Jones is simply not the way out. Cleverley is blessed with creativity & the laid-back role is not for him. Pogba & loaned-out Tunnicliffe are still in their formative years & need more time. That simply means, we do need that hard man in midfield. Someone in the mould of Keane or Hargreaves, or say De Jong of our cross-town rivals City. Who can act as cover for the back four & can intimidate the opposition with crunching tackles. Whether one likes it or not, this kind of player has become a vital cog in most successful teams of modern football & we need one, that too desperately.

4. Balotelli Showed Why He Better Keep His Head In The Game

I read this morning that Mario Balotelli set his house on fire by blasting fireworks in the middle of the night. Well, that's nothing surprising given his history for keeping us entertained with his off-field antics. But he started the game ahead of Dzeko & justified Mancini's faith in him by scoring a brace. During his celebration after the first goal, he raised his shirt to reveal 'Why Always Me?' written under it. Well, I couldn't help but smile broadly thinking of the obvious answer. The problem with Balotelli is that he's just bit too eccentric for our tastes. If he can shift more of his focus to his on-field performances & maintain this kind of consistency (6 goals in his last 5 games), he's worth the trouble to hold on to at the club. Credit to Mancini for the way the Italian has handled him so far.

5. This is Not the End of the World, Please!

Okay, we were properly humiliated & now I know what it feels to be an Arsenal fan! (I'll make it a point to treat Gooners with more respect, I promise) Harsh reality check for the team who just gave in to City in the second half. But then, looking at it the other way, most of our toughest fixtures in the first half of the season are pretty much over, which will surely ease the pressure at the club. Let's not discount the fact that we had the toughest start to the season among all Premier League clubs, and we have emerged quite unscathed barring the defeat to City. Manchester United has always been about reacting to adverse situations, and I know in my heart that we will rise & fight back even harder than before. This is how it has always been, and I have immense faith in our manager that he will lift us out of the mess we looked against City. So cheer up my fellow Red Devils, and look forward to the occasion when our lads take the field next time. Go on, have a laugh about it. After all, you lived to see the day when United were steamrolled by City at Old Trafford. Coz you might not witness this EVER again.

You can follow the author on Twitter @AbhinavCJ. You can be friends with him on Facebook here.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rival Rendezvous: Battle of the Goliaths

It's being tipped as the biggest encounter in the Premier League this season, and rightly so. The powerhouses of Manchester lock horns & resume their rivalry this Sunday when Manchester City come to visit Old Trafford for the first Manchester derby (okay okay, the second!) against defending champions Manchester United. Being a top-of-the-table clash, this is no more David versus Goliath but Goliath taking on Goliath at the Theatre of Dreams. 

For this week's Rival Rendezvous, we managed to catch hold of Joe Moran, who is a lifelong City supporter, season ticket holder & also harbours a dream to be the CEO of his beloved football club one day. Joe gets candid, straightforward & quite blunt at times, as he answers the questions posed to him -

1. First up, what are your thoughts on the game this Sunday?

Joe: I think this Manchester Derby is one of the biggest in recent times, as well as being one of the biggest games of the season altogether. A win for either side will be priceless, not only in points, and obviously bragging rights, but a derby win can always become a platform for the side to use as momentum, and go on a winning streak.

With Mancini's new attacking ways, there will be goals. Not only is this derby one of the biggest, I think it will be one of the most exciting to date, too.

2. How do City fans view the Manchester Derby fixture? Has this become important only since the Abu Dhabi takeover (like in case of United fans) or has it been an important game to win always?
 
Joe: The derby has always been big for us, I feel, from when we had Macken upfront, to Sibierski, to Tevez. In the rather darker City days, the derby was the one time the team could give the fans something to shout about, as we wasn't exactly challenging for numerous titles.

To say United held the derby back then in the same regard would probably be false, as you could say then they had bigger fish to fry, but not anymore. The Manchester derby is again a more significant occasion than the Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea games.

3. Manchester City have spent over £300m in the last 4 seasons & won only a single trophy - the FA Cup last season. How much of that lavish spending is justified?
 
Joe: All of it. The majority of successful teams have established themselves through money. City are no different to Chelsea in terms of spending, and it's refreshing to see a new team challenging for titles.

4. Tell us your most favourite signing City has made since the Abu Dhabi royal family assumed reins at the club.

Joe: Top of the list has to be David Silva. He's only just completed his first full season here, and the first part of that was spent injured after winning the World Cup with Spain. Regardless, he was the difference last season and he has the ability to take us to another level. Right now he is one of the best players in the world, and £24m suddenly seems like a bargain.

Bargain for Brilliance
5. How do you rate Roberto Mancini as a manager?

Joe: I rate Mancini highly. I've had my doubts at points, but that's always going to happen. When he came, the team was just a collection of individuals, not anymore. He's assembled a very good team. He's managed to get some of the worlds best players together, as evidenced this season. I hope he remains at the helm for a long time to come yet. Roberto will only improve, and the team will improve alongside him.

Thumbs Up From The Fans Too!
6. Give us your thoughts on the Carlos Tevez saga.

Joe: I think how Tevez has treated the manager, team-mates and fans has been nothing short of a disgrace. You cannot get any lower than refusing to do your job. Tevez as a footballer is paid millions of pounds to do something he loves, how many of us would love this opportunity? Yet Tevez seems all too keen to squander it. He's a great player, one of the best to play for Manchester City, but when we rid ourselves of the poison that is Tevez, and his agent, Kia Joorabchian, the better it is for the club as a whole.

Sour Grapes For Everyone!
7. Back to the game, do you advocate City adopting an attacking style of play against Man United, also used against the lesser teams in the Premier League?

Joe: I really hope we adopt an attacking style for this game. With the attacking talents at our disposal, it would be a great shame if we did not exploit them. United's defence is nowhere near perfect, so by attacking we could really cause some serious problems.

8. Both Manchester teams played each other in the season's curtain raiser i.e. the Community Shield at Wembley & United won after making a fantastic comeback of sorts. What do you think went wrong for City that day?

Joe: I think we just lost concentration, and you could argue we were rusty, too. The City side you saw that day will be foreign to the one you'll see come Sunday afternoon. That's for sure.

9. Sergio Aguero is back in the team with a last-minute goal against Villareal in the Champions League. Will he be key against Manchester United, despite having never played them before?

Joe: Sergio could definitely be the key on Sunday. He's a world-class striker, one of the best in the world. His movement, control and finishing is second to none. If the game is a tight affair, he's the sort of player that could produce a moment of magic that could decide the game.

Can He Make The Difference For City?
 10. Who are the players you think will be significant for City, as well as United?

Joe: Firstly, Vincent Kompany will have to again put in a nearly perfect performance as the captain. Despite, his blip, Rooney is in top form, and he will be important in deciding which side of Manchester the three points go to. At the other end of the pitch, top scorer Sergio Agüero will also be a significant player for City. If Agüero maintains his form shown in the past few weeks, he could be the difference. The man supplying him, David Silva will also have a big part to play in proceedings. Without his creativity, we may become unstuck, but again, if David can carry on playing the way he has, the United defence will have their work cut out. Nani is a threat to us, he always seems to put in a sterling performance against us, and I'm worried if we can get to grips with him. If not, Nani can destroy us.

Talismanic Rooney - Saviour Again?
The Game Changers
11. Which has been your favourite Manchester Derby encounter till date?
 
Joe: My favourite derby so far has to be the first Etihad Stadium derby, where City ran out 4-1 winners. Back then, as I've said, it was one of the rare opportunities the team could give us something to shout about.

12. Tell us your predicted Manchester City starting lineup for the Old Trafford game.

Joe: Nasri and De Jong are doubtful, but if they are fit in time, I would slot them in for Milner and Barry, and push Yaya Toure back.
Joe's Predicted Man City Lineup
13. On a final note, your scoreline prediction for the game.
 
Joe: It's such a big game, nobody will want to lose, it will be a very anxious affair, so I'm going for a 1-1. Agüero for City, Rooney for United. It will be an exciting encounter, though.

I thank Joe for talking to Traffordshire County. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeMoran21.

You can follow the author on Twitter @AbhinavCJ. You can be friends with him on Facebook here.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

One Year On...

At this very moment on 20th October 2010, I started this blog then called 'Traffordshire.com'. Then it became 'Traffordshire County', and yes - today we have completed a year! What a journey it has been for me since then! I'd like to thank everyone of our 20,000 readers in the past year who have loyally supported us all along, and also our well-wishers. And not to forget, my dearest friends on Twitter who always retweet links to my blog posts! We will keep doing our level best to ensure you enjoy reading the blog, besides making steady improvement in terms of content & quality.

Thank you once again, as I go back to devouring my cake...

That's all Folks!

You can follow the author on Twitter @AbhinavCJ.

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Ferguson Relishing Manchester Derby

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is licking his licks at the prospect of a domestic dust-up with local rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The Premier League champions huffed and puffed their way to a 2-0 Uefa Champions League win against Romanian title winners Otelul Galati in Bucharest on Tuesday thanks to two Wayne Rooney penalties.

The result moved the three-time winners into second spot behind Benfica in Group C - and the focus is now firmly on reminding Roberto Mancini's men that United remain the top dogs domestically.

A 4-1 rout against Aston Villa lifted City above United at the top of the table at the weekend and expectation is high among the blue contingent of Manchester that the Reds' rule of supremacy is nearing an end. Those looking at the football betting online will be expecting a close game on Sunday.

City have not beaten United at Old Trafford in all competitions since February 2008 – the 150th Mancunian derby – and on that day they snapped a losing run at the home of their rivals dating back to 1974. It was also the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster.

Fans have seen Man United bowling over opponents this season their but the arrival of a raft of marquee signings, including the likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero, has given weight to the suggestion that a power shift in Manchester is looming.

For his part, Ferguson will not entertain such a notion and is confident United's "noisy neighbours" will be brought back down a peg when the two sides clash on Sunday.

"The last couple of years they [the derbies] have become more intense and there is more importance attached to them," Ferguson told Sky Sports.

"On Sunday it's top of the league and second-top, and it really builds up into a fantastic prospect for everyone. I am looking forward to that."

Monday, October 17, 2011

EPL Weekly Round-Up: Even Stevens At Anfield, Man City Go Atop, Newcastle Still Unbeaten And More!

Defending champions Manchester United fared one better than their previous 3 encounters at Anfield when they managed to hold on to a 1-1 draw against arch-rivals Liverpool on Saturday. Sir Alex Ferguson
surprised one & all with his defensive approach when the team sheets were announced, by leaving regulars like Rooney, Nani, Chicharito & Anderson on the bench and giving Phil Jones his first start in midfield. Luiz Suarez, supported by the likes of Steven Gerrard & Charlie Adam continued to threaten the United defence without any result in a goalless first half. The second half brought out the best & worst of the Liverpool-Manchester derby, be it Suarez's unabashed theatrics, his alleged racial abuse towards Patrice Evra or some brilliant free-flowing attacking football on display. The hosts drew first blood in the 67th minute when Rio Ferdinand brought down Charlie Adam just outside the penalty box & captain Gerrard made no mistake in
sending his side ahead with the subsequent free kick. Manchester United sent on the attacking trio of Rooney, Nani & Chicharito, which paid immediate dividends when Chicharito headed in Nani's deflected corner to score the equaliser in the 80th minute. Liverpool tested Manchester United's young goalkeeper David De Gea in the final moments of the game, Henderson first with a well-measured volley & then when he failed to score with a free header. The final whistle meant that Manchester United have finally broken their losing streak at Anfield dating back to 2008.

How The Rivals Fared

Manchester City went on top of the league table, beating Aston Villa 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium. Mario Balotelli, who started as lone forward, scored with a magnificent strike in the 28th minute, followed by Adam Johnson & skipper Vincent Kompany in the second half. Stephen Warnock pulled one back for the Midlands club but former Villa midfielder James Milner inflicted further wounds with a 71st minute goal that sent the hosts two points clear of city rivals United, who are due to play them next weekend.

Chelsea strolled over to a comfortable 3-1 win over Everton at Stamford Bridge. Daniel Sturridge continued to impress one & all when he opened the scoring in the first half. John Terry & Ramires also registered their names on the scoresheet before substitute Vellios grabbed a consolation goal for the Merseysiders. The London club are still in third place, a point behind Manchester United.

Arsenal stumbled through a hard-fought 2-1 win at the Emirates over misfiring Sunderland. Talismanic skipper Robin van Persie scored both goals for the Gunners, one coming in the very first minute & the winner from a brilliantly-taken free kick. Ex-Arsenal player Sebastian Larsson's equally wonderful spot kick couldn't salvage anything for the hapless Black Cats, and Steve Bruce's side still float just above the relegation spots.

Newcastle held Tottenham to a exciting 2-2 draw at St. James Park & maintained their unbeaten streak in all competitions this season. Rafael van der Vaart put the visitors ahead in the first half but in-form striker Demba Ba equalised for the home side just after the interval. Defoe seemed to have sealed 3 points for the London club with a sleek left-footed finish but substitute Shola Ameobi struck for the Geordies four minutes from stoppage time to share the spoils. Newcastle United are still 4th in the league table, above the likes of
Liverpool, Spurs & Arsenal.

The current Top Four standings are as under:

Man City - 22 points

Man United - 20 points

Chelsea - 19 points

Newcastle - 16 points

The Weekly Verdict:

Team of the Week: Chelsea

Player of the Week: Robin van Persie

You can follow the author on Twitter @AbhinavCJ.

And do vote for the player you think is Wayne Rooney's best strike partner on the blog poll!

That's all Folks!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rival Rendezvous: Paint It Red!

 The needless & boring international friendlies' break is pretty much over, and apart from Wayne Rooney's red card against Montenegro in a Euro 2012 qualifier, there wasn't anything that made headlines over the last few days. But I believe every Manchester United fan is now geared up for the big clash this weekend - yes it's Liverpool vs. Manchester United! So I searched Twitterverse & finally happened to catch up with Sid Alva, who has been an ardent supporter of Liverpool since he started watching the beautiful game. So here goes the first-ever conversation with a Liverpool fan on Rival Rendezvous -

1. First up, what are your thoughts on the game this Saturday?

Sid: Should be one hell of a game as usual. Looking forward to it this time because as much as I hate to admit it, United are in a rich vein of form at the moment which would make a victory for us so much sweeter.

2. Liverpool have made a fairly good start to the season. Do you think their current form will be enough to sustain a challenge for the top four?

S: We haven’t had an ideal start to the season, form wise it’s not been bad but I feel we still have to improve a little bit. We’ve got a lot more depth in our squad now and that is something we’ve not had for some time now, so that is definitely something that would help us because the battle for the top four gets tougher each season and like always it’s going to go down to the wire. Plus we have the added advantage of not having to make long European trips during the week. So I feel we should be able to mount a serious challenge for a spot in the top four.

3. Who do you think deserves most of the credit for Liverpool's surge in recent times - Dalglish, Comolli or FSG?

S: Tough to pick one actually. Kenny is the living embodiment of ‘the Liverpool way’ so there no one better to be in charge. His impact on the team and the way we play is there for everyone to see - right from bringing back ‘pass and move’ to adding quality to the coaching staff in the form of Clarke. Comolli’s done a pretty good job with the transfers so far [both in and out]. FSG are light-years ahead of our previous owners. Financially they’ve put us in a far better situation, they’ve invested quite a bit in new signings and just looking at the way they run the Red Sox, you know that the club is in good hands. So I’d say all 3 have had their part to play in our recent revival.

4. How happy are you with the signings the club has made in the last two transfer windows? Tell us your 3 favourite ones.

S: I don’t think you would be able to find any Liverpool fan that isn’t happy with the signings. Top 3 would be Suarez [the obvious choice], Enrique [cause LB has been a problematic position for us] and my last pick would be Downing [provides that natural width which we haven’t really had in some time].


5. Do Liverpool fans still miss Fernando Torres's once-upon-a-time goalscoring prowess, given Andy Carroll's Anfield career hasn't had the best of starts?

S: Fernando Who? I think Suarez has managed to flush out any residual feelings for Torres from our systems. Andy Carroll hasn’t had the best of starts here but I’m that he will come good and the goals will start rolling in soon.

6. Liverpool's fortunes have certainly changed under Kenny Dalglish. Do you think he can do better than Houllier & Benitez and bring the league title back to Anfield in say, the next couple of seasons?

S: It won’t be an easy task but I certainly think he can after all he’s done it before with us and with Blackburn.


7. Do you agree with the view that Liverpool have a problem of plenty in their midfield?

S: Not really. That was a problem before we offloaded the likes of Meireles, Poulsen, Cole and Aquilani. Right now the size of the midfield is ideal and there is healthy competition for spots which is great for the team.

8. Coming back to the game, who do you think will be the key men for both Liverpool & Manchester United in this game?

S: For Liverpool It would have to be Suarez, Carroll and Lucas. For United I’d say Rooney, Young and Nani.


9. Steven Gerrard is back from injury. Assuming he will indeed start, in what role would you like to see him in Liverpool's midfield against the Red Devils?

S: The wonderful thing about having a player like Gerrard is that he can pretty much play anywhere and still pull of an amazing performance - be it in the center of midfield, behind the striker or even on either side of midfield. For the United game I’d like to see him partnering Lucas in the center of midfield because I think defensively he gives you a little more than Adam does which I think we will need when facing a side like United.

10. Liverpool have had some problems at the back. Who do you prefer as the central defence pairing for the team?

S: I’d have to go with Carragher and Agger as my choice. Carra might be prone to the occasional mistake but no one comes close to his organizational skills, every team needs a leader at the back and Carra is that man. Agger when fit is one of the best ball playing defenders around.

11. Which is the most memorable Liverpool vs. Manchester United encounter you've ever watched?

S: If I was to pick only one it would have to be 1-4 at Old Trafford 2 years ago.

12. What's your probable Liverpool starting lineup for Saturday?

S: I think it should be Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Lucas, Gerrard, Kuyt, Downing, Suarez, Carroll.
 13. On a final note, your scoreline prediction for the game?

S: Hoping for a Liverpool win but I'm going to have to say 2-2.

I thank Sid for talking to Traffordshire County. You can follow him on Twitter @4_ever_red.

You can follow the author on Twitter @AbhinavCJ.

The Traffordshire County app is now available on the Nokia Store. Click here to download it for free!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Premier League Match Preview: Manchester United vs. Norwich City


After an exhilarating midweek 3-3 draw against FC Basel in the Champions League, Manchester United prepare to put behind their defensive woes to face Premier League new boys Norwich City on Saturday at Old Trafford. The Canaries might not be one of the most daunting opposition as such, but the midweek game taught just that the Red Devils better not take their opponents lightly.

Norwich City have been on the rise for the past two seasons since Paul Lambert took over, and have achieved promotion twice to make a huge leap from League One to the Premier League. They are also currently riding high on confidence, having beaten the likes of Bolton & Sunderland in their last couple of games.

As for Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson was unhappy with the kind of defending that took place against Basel. From being 2-0 up at half time, the home side were 3-2 down until Ashley Young saved the blushes with an injury-time strike. It is very unlikely that the manager will change the entire lineup, however he will demand no complacency from his players against Norwich City.

Coming to our possible lineup for tomorrow, David De Gea has played two consecutive games now, at Stoke last Sunday & then against Basel on Tuesday. So it will be ideal if Sir Alex decides to give the young Spaniard some rest & hand Anders Lindegaard his first ever Premier League start. Both of those results were exhausting draws, and De Gea no doubt needs bit of a break to recover & be fresh for the Liverpool game after a fortnight's break.

Good news is that our first choice strike duo Rooney & Chicharito are fit to face Norwich City, and so is defender Jonny Evans. Skipper Nemanja Vidic, Smalling & Cleverley will be back for the Liverpool game as well, so that provides some relief as far as injuries are concerned.

The Red Devils will probably miss Rio Ferdinand's presence in central defence (given he's played two games on the trot & is embroiled in a court case at the time of writing). So Jonny Evans will take his place, alongside young Phil Jones. Evra will retain his place on the left, which means either of Fabio or Valencia plays right back.

Midfield shouldn't be much altered from what we saw in the game against Stoke City, and the central midfield pairing of Anderson & Fletcher would do just fine. Young & Nani (who didn't play on Tuesday) will be the automatic choice for the flanks.

As reported earlier today, both Wayne Rooney & Javier Hernandez are back from injuries & should probably start. Daniel Welbeck played the whole 90 minutes on Tuesday, so he will probably be used from the bench as an impact substitute. Berbatov, who was a late substitute against Basel, might have a distant chance of getting a start in case Ferguson has any doubts as such over Chicharito's fitness.

Manchester United Possible XI: Lindegaard; Evra, Evans, Jones, Fabio; Young, Anderson, Fletcher, Nani; Rooney, Hernandez

Scoreline Prediction: Manchester United 3 Norwich City 0


You can follow the author on Twitter @AbhinavCJ.

The Traffordshire County app is now available for your Nokia phone. Click here to download it for free from the Nokia Store.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

EPL Weekly Round-Up: Red Devils Held, Title Rivals Grab Victories and Demba Ba Scores Three for Newcastle!

Manchester United's five-match winning streak in the Premier League this season finally came to a halt as they were held 1-1 at Stoke City. The Potters put on an impressive display at the Britannia Stadium & dominated the game often for large periods. Luis Nani put the visitors ahead in the 27th minute when he finished a beautiful move showing his exquisite dribbling skills. However, the hosts struck back strongly in the second half & equalised when new signing Peter Crouch headed in his first Stoke goal from a well-taken corner by Etherington. David De Gea was particularly impressive in goal, pulling off a string of close range saves to deny the home side any sort of advantage. The result might be a tad disappointing for the high-flying Red Devils, but as they say - "You can't win them all." Stoke City totally deserved atleast a point from this game, and they seemingly got their due. This result means Manchester United are still on top of the points table, with 16 points from 6 games so far.

How The Rivals Fared

Manchester City kept the pressure on league leaders & city rivals Manchester United with a laboured 2-0 win over Everton at the Etihad Stadium. Mario Balotelli & James Milner both came off the bench in the second half to score the only goals of the fixture. The Citizens are currently level with Manchester United, behind just on goal difference.

Fernando Torres was sent off for a straight red card even as Chelsea prevailed 4-1 over Swansea City at Stamford Bridge. Torres broke the deadlock in the 28th minute & Ramires doubled their lead in the 35th minute but the former was sent off just 3 minutes later, leaving the hosts with 10 men on the field. Ramires again scored in the 2nd half & Drogba also came off the bench to score, while Williams pulled back a consolation goal in between for the Welsh club.

Liverpool fought off a stern challenge from Wolverhampton Wanderers to march on to a 2-1 victory at Anfield. Roger Johnson's own goal & Luiz Suarez were enough to keep Wolves at bay despite Steven Fletcher's strike early after the break. The victory kept the Merseyside Reds in the hunt for a top four finish this season in the Premier League.

Robin van Persie was on target as Arsenal beat Bolton Wanderers comfortably 3-0 at home. The Dutch forward, now captain of the Gunners, struck just after the interval & then in the 70th minute, while Alex Song also put his name on the scoresheet just two minutes away from stoppage time. This was the Gunners' second consecutive win after the League Cup victory over Shrewsbury on Tuesday.

Tottenham Hotspur recovered from their midweek League Cup defeat to Stoke City with a 2-1 victory over Wigan Athletic away from home. Rafael Van der Vaart put Spurs ahead as early as the 2nd minute & Welsh winger Gareth Bale scored twenty minutes later to make the scoreline 2-0 at half time. Diame netted for the hosts just 3 minutes into the 2nd half but it was not enough to prevent the Latics from their third loss in 6 league games.

Newcastle United maintained their unbeaten start this season with a 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers at St. James Park. Demba Ba, who signed on a free from West Ham this summer, stole the limelight as he opened his account for the Magpies with a brilliant hat-trick. Junior Hoilett tried to get Rovers back into the game with a beautiful strike before half time but Newcastle & Demba Ba were simply too good for them.

The Weekly Verdict:

Team of the Week: Newcastle United

Player of the Week: Demba Ba

You can follow the author on Twitter @AbhinavCJ.

The Traffordshire County app is now avialable for your Nokia phone. Check out the Nokia Store to download it for free!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Manchester United

The Britannia Stadium might have been one of the rarest places where Manchester United managed to grab an away league win last season, but the challenge doesn't get any easier this season. Stoke City are not exactly what you call pushovers in the Premier League, as Chelsea & Liverpool might testify from what they have experienced earlier this season. Physical as much as their style of football is, the Potters are indeed a formidable side to play against in front of their home crowd.

Having qualified for the Europa League by virtue of being FA Cup finalists last season, Stoke City have reasonably strengthened this summer, with quality additions in the form of Peter Crouch, Wilson Palacios & Jonathan Woodgate from Spurs and Matthew Upson from West Ham. Most of the players have hit the ground running, which is evident from their league position i.e. 5th with 8 points from 5 games. Though they lost their last Premier League match 4-0 at Sunderland, they bounced back to beat Tottenham Hotspur on penalties in the League Cup during midweek. Stoke City tend to raise the level of their game when they face big name opponents, and manager Tony Pulis will hope that his side do just that when the Red Devils come visiting on Saturday.

Coming back to Manchester United, the Red Devils will continue to miss their skipper Nemanja Vidic, Rafael Da Silva & Tom Cleverley to injuries. However, strikers Danny Welbeck & Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez are back & have resumed training from midweek.

David De Gea will be back in goal, replacing third choice keeper Ben Amos, who played in the 3-0 win over Leeds United on Tuesday. The back four would include the experienced Evra & Ferdinand, with Evans & Jones possibly filling up the rest two slots since Smalling is doubtful to start. In case Sir Alex Ferguson decides to go with Jones to partner Ferdinand at centre back, Fabio might be in with a chance to start as right back.

Guessing United's midfield doesn't seem like rocket science, as Anderson & Fletcher would take up central midfield duties. Michael Carrick, who played against Leeds United as CB, will probably make the bench. They will be flanked by the dynamic wingers Ashley Young & Luis Nani, with Antonio Valencia also vying for a place in the starting lineup. As for who will partner in-form striker Wayne Rooney upfront, that is a selection headache for Ferguson. Chicharito, who scored both goals in the same fixture last season, is fit but Ferguson will prefer not to rush him back into the starting lineup. The Mexican therefore might have to be content with a place on the bench, letting the gaffer choose from Welbeck, Berbatov & Michael Owen. Both Berbatov & Owen played the whole 90 minutes on Tuesday, which may tilt the scales in favour of young Danny Welbeck, who's rapidly blossomed this season alongside Rooney.

The probable Manchester United lineup looks like this -

Manchester United Starting XI: De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Nani, Fletcher, Anderson, Young; Rooney, Welbeck.

Scoreline Prediction: Stoke City 1 Manchester United 3

You can follow the author on Twitter @AbhinavCJ.

The Traffordshire County app is now available for your Nokia phone! Check out the Nokia Store to download it for free.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Carling Cup Preview: Leeds United vs Manchester United and Chelsea Match Review


Dumped out of the competition last season at the hands of West Ham by losing 4-0 at Upton Park, Manchester United prepare to regain the Carling Cup as they start their campaign on Tuesday at Elland Road, the home of fierce rivals Leeds United. Leeds might be currently lying a division below in the Championship, but Sir Alex Ferguson will know very well that Leeds are capable of raising their game when they play the Red Devils in front of their crowd.

Traditionally, Ferguson has utilised the tournament to give the youth & fringe players a chance to challenge for the first team spots, and this time should be no different. There are quite some players in the team who haven't been utilised till now, and it would be ideal for the manager to provide them with game time.

As Sir Alex told the press after last week's midweek Champions League draw at Benfica, Anders Lindegaard will don the keeper's gloves on account of his sparkling displays. Given the lack of quality defenders in the lineup due to injuries to Vidic, Ferdinand & Rafael, the back four will bear a similar look apart from the position of left-back, where Fabio Da Silva might start to give Patrice Evra some much needed rest. Michael Carrick, who didn't play in the game versus Chelsea, will probably start in the centre of the park. He will be possibly complemented by out-of-favour midfielder Darron Gibson, who hasn't played a single game for the first team this season. However, Gibson faces stiff competition in the form of highly-rated youth player Paul Pogba, who has been tipped to play by the gaffer himself -

"He's got a slight injury, it's not too bad, though. So he wasn't available for Sunday but he should be able to play on Tuesday and I intend to play him against Leeds United."


Will Pogba Start?
On the flanks, it is safe to say that Luis Antonio Valencia will start on the right while either of Ji-Sung Park or Ryan Giggs will play on the left. Given the nature of the fixture, Ferguson might go with Giggs as he provides the required calm & composure to a young United side, apart from invaluable experience.

Coming to the striking department, this is where Ferguson has a selection headache. Experience in the form of Dimitar Berbatov & Michael Owen, or the vivacity of youth in the form of Macheda & Diouf? The manager surely has some questions on his mind, but it will be sensible to rely on experience & hand rather rare starts to Berbatov & Owen. According to me, Manchester United's starting lineup tonight will look somewhat like this -


Scoreline Prediction: Leeds United 1 Manchester United 3


And now for some after-thoughts on the Chelsea game by our guest author Hanzla, which are as under:

Celebration to Match!
WOW! Almost two days after a scintillating 90 mins at Old Trafford, and I am yet to catch my breath. Arguably, it was the biggest game of the season so far for both of the sides involved but in Manchester United‘s case, it couldn’t have come at a much better time. Chelsea on the other hand had enjoyed a very decent start to the season themselves as well. However, not many could have expected how things would pan out at the Theatre of Dreams.

United started as favourites largely due to the start they‘ve had. It was even stevens in the opening exchanges. It was great to see Fletcher back in the heart of the midfield doing what he does best i.e. breaking up the play by putting the hard yards in. The first goal was a major error at the back for Chelsea. Smalling left unmarked with the goal at his mercy, - he just couldn’t afford to miss. Was it offside? Yes, it was marginally. But remember Drogba scored an offside goal at the opposite end, and that goal potentially decided the title? Judging that in real time was next to impossible. I really feel for the linesman because most of us would have got it wrong. And for those who could have called it right, it would have been a fluke - nothing more.

Chelsea were impressive throughout the game. Credit to them for taking the game to United but once again they were very poor in front of the goal. Fernando Torres should have buried his initial chance and Ramires, who was there to put it away in the back of the net, put it instead into De Gea’s gloves. United upped the ante after that and what a breathtaking goal it was by Nani. Almost ripped out the net! Believe me - you could’ve had 3 keepers guarding that net & none of them would have got a hand to stop that! It was that special. Chelsea’s centre backs were slow to close him down but none of them could have imagined being punished like the way they were. It was indeed, a very special strike. Rooney was on hand to score the 3rd one in a rather fortunate manner. The ball fell kindly to him after an attempted JT clearance bounced off Nani & fell in his way. Special mention for the part Phil Jones played in the goal. It was his ‘never give up’ attitude that created the opening.

United took their foot of the paddle in the second half and they were made to pay very early in the second period. Lovely disguised through ball by Anelka (I still don’t know what he was doing on the bench) which was exquisite. Torres made a very fine run behind Jones & compounded it with a cool and cheeky finish. Alarm bells started ringing for United. Chelsea dominated & had they put those chances away, we could have had a very different result on our hands.

The game will probably be remembered not for the enthralling football on display, but for its bloopers. There was Rooney’s bizarre JT-like penalty miss since he lost his footing. But the headlines will be dominated by Torres. No words really to describe his miss. He promised to do wonders for Chelsea, and I think he fulfilled it. How did he miss? It seems unbelievable! Berbatov wasn’t far behind. A very tame effort when it was easier to score than miss.

Miss of the Decade?
This certainly was United‘s worst performance of the season so far. Still, they were good enough to get the result. Quite incredible, isn’t it? I hope it’s an eye opener for them and the mistakes will be rectified. Most notably, the game should be put to bed as quickly as possible - something traditionally United are very good at. As for Chelsea, AVB will take lots of positives out of the game. Especially the way Chelsea played in the second half. Torres looked agile and hungry. He had a decent game minus the miss when he scuffed his effort wide.

Overall, a great game of football. A complete roller-coaster ride for every one who watched on from their TV sets. United got the three points and that’s the thing that will matter the most come May. This game may not have an enormous effect on the title race but it is definitely a boost for United, having already defeated Arsenal and Chelsea this early in the season.


You can follow Hanzla on Twitter @Busby_Babez.

You can follow the author on Twitter @AbhinavCJ.

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