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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.