Posts Tagged ‘Carrick’

The Six Pointer – Wounded Challenges, Slippery Slides & more…

07/03/2011

1. Liverpool convincingly dealt with Man Utd yesterday and Dirk Kuyt will never, ever score an easier hat-trick. It was very surprising to see Fergie start with Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick in central midfield – recent history has normally seen him go with three in the middle in big matches in an attempt to gain control and stop the opposition playing.

Neither Scholes nor Carrick are particularly energetic or mobile in the way Darren Fletcher is, but with the Scotsman left on the bench after his shift against Chelsea (he can only do one big game a week)  it meant United were unable to gain a foothold on the game.

As you can see in the Chalkboards below, between them they won only one tackle and the likes of Meireles would consistently run or pass around them.

Only one interception between them too.

The decision to give Carrick a new contract during the week was greeted with some derision but at the same time I don’t think Ferguson considers him a first choice player. He’s not bad against weaker sides and he has long been found out against the best – playing him yesterday was more out of necessity than want.

Still, with his continued mediocrity, Scholes’ potential retirement, Fletcher’s one game a week effectiveness and Hargreaves and Anderson’s consistent injury problems, Man Utd’s midfield will certainly need some work in the summer.

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2. Yesterday’s match could have easily seen two red cards, and probably should have. Carragher went in high on Nani and created quite the wound (see below) while Rafael was similarly lucky to stay on the pitch following his wild lunge on Lucas. There is something to be said for a referee to take into account the situation and the context, but really Phil Dowd made errors in giving both players just a yellow.

Red drawn, yellow given.

Interestingly, Rafael is developing quite a reputation as someone who may not have the temperament (or indeed the positional sense) to go with his natural talent.

A red card would have meant his third in under a year, while he was nowhere near where he should have been when Suarez tip-toed through the United defence for the opener.

Recently Ferguson has seemed to prefer someone more dependable in tough matches, with Rafael being omitted against Man City, Chelsea and Marseilles. It will intriguing to see when the Brazilian next plays again, I imagine he might find himself out of the team for a few weeks.

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3. In the context of yesterday’s result, it is difficult to say whether Arsenal’s draw against Sunderland is a point gained or more likely two points dropped.

Wenger’s team have struggled in recent seasons against Sunderland having won only one of the last six games, so it was always going to be tricky without out several players and against one of the best defences outside the top five.

Wenger had a similar problem to Fergie in that first choice midfielders weren’t available so he was forced to play Denilson and Diaby alongside Wilshere. They can usually get away with one of those in the team but having to play both meant it was one of those days where the team struggled to get going, Wilshere unable to do all the tempo setting himself.

The weight of the other two on his shoulders...

Sunderland were lucky to get away with Bramble clearly fouling Arshavin in the box and a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside but having said that they also had their moments and drew a couple of very smart stops out of Szczesny.

I would think that once Aaron Ramsey has a bit more fitness under his belt, he will swiftly move ahead of Denilson and Diaby in the pecking order. He might not have the same experience but he makes things happen, and in a game like Saturday’s and indeed for the run in, that could be priceless.

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4. Momentum at this stage of the season is key so it’s fascinating to see who is making a move at the bottom end of the table.

Just nine points separate ninth place Newcastle from bottom placed Wigan but realistically it’s looking like everyone from Blackburn downwards are the ones who should be worried.

Things are swiftly grouping together for a climatic last few games and as the old cliché goes, a couple of wins and “you’re right back in the mix” (© every pundit going).

I’m willing to condemn Wigan already to be honest, they’re tough to beat but they don’t win many either. As I’ve written here many times before, draws can be rather useless at times and a team like Blackpool who either win or lose has a far better shot and getting the points needed to stay up.

Almost good enough, but not quite.

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5. Of the teams not in that bottom group, Stoke are looking a little vulnerable. They’ve won just one of their last seven and still have to play four of the top five. They seem to have a slightly resigned air about them at the moment – certainly away from home where they’ve lost their last six (and not even scored in the last five).

The earlier point about momentum is key – they face Newcastle, Spurs and Chelsea next. Fail to win the first one and you could be looking at mid-April before they are favourites in a match, by which time they could be in a much more serious position.

I do think they should be ok, given the cushion they have, but it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see them need something against Wigan on the last day.

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6. Jermain Defoe has only just scored his first league goals in a year. If he fulfils Harry Redknapp’s wish and gets to ten by the end of the season, then it will go a long way to ensuring Spurs finish in the top four again. As it is, the lack of a striker in double figures for 2010/11 may be what costs them. Van der Vaart’s ten goals should complement not lead.

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T.

Season Previews 2010/11 – Manchester United

12/08/2010

Man Utd

Last Season: 2nd + Carling Cup Winners

New Signings: Smalling, Hernandez, Bébé

Key Player: Wayne Rooney

One To Watch: Javier Hernandez

Needs  A Big Year: Rio Ferdinand

Would Quite Like: To keep City in their place while winning title 19 to overtake Liverpool’s record. Two birds, one stone.

Prediction: 1st

Thoughts: Alex Ferguson came mighty close to another league title last season but ultimately fell a point short of Chelsea, which was impressive given they’d lost both league matches against the Blues. Wayne Rooney carried them with his best ever season but the injury he suffered in March meant the Red Devils stuttered to the line somewhat and were pipped at the post.

Not too much has changed at Old Trafford with just three players joining in the shape of Chris Smalling (who was bought in January), Javier Hernandez and unknown striker Bébé for whom Ferguson has paid £7m or so on the back of a Carlos Queiroz recommendation. This last signing is really out of the blue, and considering how Nani and Anderson have turned out, it might be another case of overpaying.

In terms of the other two, Smalling is clearly being groomed as an eventual successor to Rio Ferdinand, though he wasn’t impressive when he played for Fulham last season. Hernandez or ‘Chicarito’ as he likes to be known is the interesting one. He looked very lively in the World Cup and has had a good pre-season. Double figures in goals could well be possible in his first season.

Bebe Man Utd

The last two Queiroz recommendations (Anderson and Nani) haven't exactly been rip roaring successes.

Elsewhere, there appears to be another crop of good youngsters pushing through, which is probably why Fergie hasn’t spent too much this summer. The likes of Tom Cleverley have been impressive in pre-season and should feature regularly as the season progresses.

The defence is solid if a little injury prone with van der Sar, Rio and Vidic all susceptible to niggles. Evans is a capable deputy at centre back however. Evra was one of the team’s best players last season but a question does remain over right back, where you have the same scenario as last season with O’Shea, Neville and Rafael battling it out.

It might be this for England.

Further forward, there are a huge range of options in midfield and attack. Fergie hasn’t named the same side in well over a 100 games and the likes of Valencia, Anderson, Nani, Park, Berbatov, Owen, Carrick, Scholes and Giggs all provide different options at different times.

Nani especially looked to finally be living up to some of his potential last season and Fergie will hope that he can be consistent over a whole season.

But it's more like this for Man Utd.

Really though it all depends on Rooney. The team is built around him now and he responded with his best ever season last year. After a dreadful World Cup (due to lack of fitness more than anything) he will want to bounce back – he looked half decent in the Charity Shield before being a bit rubbish in the Hungary friendly but I suspect the home comforts of Manchester will see another good season.

As ever, United have a pretty good team and if you come above them, you stand a very good chance of winning the title. I do feel Chelsea won’t be quite as good while Arsenal are still a decent keeper away from being true contenders. Ferguson has seen it all before and still has the same determination to win as he did twenty years ago. I think they’ll come top

T.

England World Cup Squad Predictions – Part Three

18/04/2010

A semi-regular feature (ok, just twice) has been an attempt to look into Signor Capello’s mind and try to make an educated guess on who might make the England squad for this summer’s World Cup. When first written in March last year the following conclusion was reached:

James, Foster, Kirkland.

Terry, Ferdinand, A. Cole, Johnson, Brown, Upson, Bridge.

Lampard, Gerrard, J.Cole, Young, Beckham, Hargreaves, Wright-Phillips, Barry.

Rooney, Walcott, Heskey, Crouch, Defoe.

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Another go was made in November and there weren’t too many changes to be honest:

James, Green, Foster.

Terry, Ferdinand, A. Cole, Johnson, Upson, Brown, Lescott.

Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Hargreaves, Milner, Beckham, Lennon, J. Cole.

Rooney, Heskey, Defoe, C. Cole, Walcott.

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So, what’s changed since then? Quite a lot since you ask. We’ll start with Goldenballs himself David Beckham. A shoo-in for the squad if fit, he injured his Achilles in the last-minute of a Milan league match and will not be fit in time. He’ll still be going to South Africa, but purely as a cheerleader. I think Fabio Capello would sooner pick his mum for England than Michael Owen but he’s been saved the hassle of having to explain to the press why it wasn’t going to happen as Owen is out injured too.

In my last preview I had doubts over Wayne Bridge going just to the low likelihood of needing a second left back but now he won’t be going due to John Terry’s assertion that the role of club and country captain allows you to shag your best mate’s fiance and then pay her to get rid of the consequences. Capello harbours hope that Bridge may change his mind but he won’t.

england squad

Capello's first squad. How things change.

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Goalkeepers:

Five months ago David James looked certain to be first choice but a succession of niggly injuries and a relegation battle with Portsmouth seems to have given a chance for Rob Green. There’s no doubt in my mind James is still better but it may come to whether he can play seven games in a month. Either way both go.

The third spot is now clearly Joe Hart‘s after a great season at Birmingham. He won’t play but I imagine it’s to give him experience ahead of him becoming the first choice for the Euro 2012 campaign. This is the least interesting position in terms of uncertainty; barring injury those three will 100% go to South Africa. Next in line would be Paul Robinson I reckon but the less we think about that the better.

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Defenders:

The first choice back four pick themselves and they should all be relatively fresh given their various injuries this season. Yep Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand being fit are key to England’s hopes (along with Rooney of course) given how poor the back up is. The drop-off in each position is quite worrying and none of the backups really strike me as being international quality.

Matthew Upson is still the go-to centre back if one of the main two go down. Joining him will be Joleon Lescott who can provide cover at left back and probably Wes Brown who can provide cover at right back. It’s a scary thought if either of those two have to play full back – can you imagine them trying to stop a Ribery or a Messi *shudder*.

The more I think about it the more I believe it will be seven defenders only, especially when you can call on certain midfielders to provide cover too. Barry, Milner, Carrick and Gerrard have all played defensive positions adequately. Desperately hoping for an injury or two will be Phil Jagielka who is certainly next in line.

Should Capello go a bit cautious then Leighton Baines will now be the second left-back while shockingly, and mainly due to lack of any other alternatives, Gary Neville would go if Johnson was crocked. Ryan Shawcross has been looked at but the fallout over the Ramsey tackle has put paid to his hopes. Michael Dawson? Perhaps but I doubt it.

A couple of interesting wildcards would be Ledley King and Sol Campbell. When fully fit the former is probably better than Terry but he’s rarely fully fit. The latter meanwhile has been a revelation since rejoining Arsenal in January. As backups they wouldn’t have to play every three days but I guess the risk is that if Terry or Rio were badly injured then they would be needed more often than they could handle. Still though, it could be worth a gamble.

wayne bridge john terry veronica perroncel

No longer friends, no longer teammates.

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Midfielders:

Again we’ll deal with the first choice guys first. Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry have been there and done that. All are super experienced and in the team. Beyond that it starts to depend on who the opposition is. James Milner has gone from nowhere to possibly challenging for a place in the first XI.

Aaron Lennon should regain fitness in time to take a right-wing spot against weaker sides, while the fact Owen Hargreaves still isn’t fully fit means Michael Carrick will be the nominal defensive midfielder. That’s the Michael Carrick who has been found out against every top side he’s faced this season.

If I had written this two months ago Theo Walcott would probably not have been going but he’s recovered form well in the preceding time. You still feel his one weapon is pace though. Stewart Downing seems to be the only left winger under consideration but I haven’t really been that impressed by him.

Joe Cole is desperately trying to find some form in Chelsea’s last few games – he’s under great risk of not going but at the same time he has skills which no other English midfielder has. It may well come down to a straight choice between him and Adam Johnson, who has been excellent in his three months at Man City.

The one thing against the latter is the he normally plays on the right (even though he’s left-footed) and there’s already Lennon and Walcott in the squad. That said Beckham would still have gone if fit so there’s no reason why Johnson can’t be a third option on the right as well as one on the left too. It could come down to the next friendly.

Shaun Wright-Phillips wasn’t in my squad last time I did this and he won’t be in this one either, despite Beckham’s injury opening a spot. Johnson has usurped him at club so no doubt he will at country. Plus it may also be that Wright-Phillips is a bit average. Sorry Ian.

People knocking on the door marked injury backups? Hmm, Tom Huddlestone has had a decent season at Spurs as a central midfielder with centre back skills but I think Jagielka would sooner go as a centre back with central midfielder skills. Ashley Young just doesn’t seem to be liked Capello as for my money he’s better than Downing but is very much on the fringes.

There’s a real dearth beyond that. Jack Rodwell? Scott Parker? Lee Cattermole? Your guess is as good as mine.

capello england

Johnson and Cole? Just one, not both.

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Strikers:

I think it’s still very much four strikers plus Walcott as a fifth forward. Wayne Rooney is so important it’s unbelievable. If he gets injured you’re probably looking at a second round knock-out. With him fit it’s at least the quarter finals woo! Anyway, he’s first name on the teamsheet.

Emile Heskey is under a lot of pressure right now. Obviously the point of Heskey isn’t goals but how he enables others (like Rooney) to play better – the thing is though that there’s only so poor a season someone can have before you have to look at alternatives. He should be fine, I think. Jermain Defoe is an impact striker – not good enough for 90 minutes but capable of being a 25 minute nuisance.

Peter Crouch will need to make sure he performs well in the next squad get together as Bobby Zamora looks set for a call up ahead of the final friendly. Zamora perhaps is more of a replacement for Heskey in terms of skill set and what he’d give the team but Crouch should be concerned too. Carlton Cole would go if Defoe was injured, while Darren Bent would go if Cole and Defoe were unfit. Gabriel Agbonlahor doesn’t seem to be on the radar and rightly so.

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So where does that leave us? Well for my money these are the 23 going to South Africa:

James, Green, Hart.

Ferdinand, Terry, Johnson, Cole, Brown, Upson, Lescott.

Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Milner, Carrick, Lennon, Walcott, Johnson, Downing.

Rooney, Heskey, Defoe, Crouch.

England World Cup Squad Predictions – Mark II

18/11/2009

EDIT: Updated version – April 2010

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Way back in March I wrote a post that tried to predict England’s World Cup squad for next summer’s tournament in South Africa. In it around 50 or so players were analysed; everyone from certainties like Wayne Rooney to certainly nots like Curtis Davies. With the friendly against Brazil fresh in the mind and only one more international break before the end of the season, there isn’t much time for players to impress if they haven’t already. As before let’s work our way through who’s on the plane through to who won’t be going at all. .

Key men (if England are to reach their usual quarter final):

First name in the squad is the captain John Terry simply as he’s captain. I personally think he gets found against the very best strikers but there’s no chance of him not going. He’s swiftly followed by Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. Rio Ferdinand goes as long as he’s fit, though it’s a concern if he doesn’t make it simply as playing style wise he’s harder to replace than Terry – England don’t have a lot of ball playing centre backs but do have a lot of one paced ones.

Gareth Barry is defensive midfielder of choice though may be usurped by a fit again Owen Hargreaves. They’ll both be on the plane however. Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson are the first choice full backs and are far ahead of their immediate competition.

Fabio Capello

Thinking...

On the plane (extra leg room provided):

David Beckham has sorted another loan spell at AC Milan and I’m positive he’ll be going to his 4th World Cup. He’s very much a bench player these days but still offers great set piece ability as well as experience. Emile Heskey has not been in great form and is no longer in Aston Villa’s starting XI but that said he will still be on the plane. He won’t score but he makes Rooney et al play better so for that reason is picked.

David James is first choice keeper, and despite his age should be able to handle that number of games in a month. Theo Walcott has had a succession of injuries but has done enough in the games he’s played to go as a wide man who can play up front. His pace is a big asset, plus he strikes me as someone who does what he’s told hence Capello likes him.

Matthew Upson and Jermaine Defoe should go as first back-up centre back and striker respectively. Neither are going to win you a World Cup final but they’re the best reserves in their position. Defoe just needs to watch his petulance slightly as there’s no point having a player who is going to miss games after needless red cards..

Looking for their passport (they are going out of Europe after all):

Joe Cole should be a little worried, just as he hasn’t found a way into the Chelsea team after injury, but at the same time he offers dribbling ability and creativity that not many can match. I was quite down on James Milner in my last prediction but did say he had a shot of making it. He seems to be impressing Capello right now and can play in a few positions. I do wonder whether he ultimately misses out due to the competition on the right side, though he has been playing down the left for England so you never know.

Aaron Lennon will be there or thereabouts, possibly in a straight battle with Milner for a spot. Rob Green looks like he’s firmly established as England’s number two while Wes Brown’s versatility of being a right back and centre back should mean he finds his way into the squad.

Fabio Capello training

Still thinking...

On the fringes (which bits are chopped?):

Wayne Bridge is doing his best to play his way out of the squad. You could argue about whether you really need to take a reserve left back, especially when the likes of Gareth Barry could play there if needed. Barring injury, the first choice defence are going to play every game so specialist reserve left back may be an area to gamble on not taking.

Of the other alternatives Capello has picked during his tenure, Leighton Baines and Steven Warnock don’t strike me as being quite good enough. If Joleon Lescott goes he provides left back cover too but he is quite shaky defensively so I don’t think he does. There is dearth of centre backs though. What price Kieran Gibbs continuing his rapid progress and staking a claim? Of all those players, he’ll be the only one playing Champions League football but a lot depends on whether he can keep Gael Clichy out of the Arsenal side once the Frenchman returns from injury. He appears to have just injured himself too.

I reckon Michael Carrick probably only goes if Barry or Hargreaves are injured and even then he’s shown countless times for Man Utd that he’s not a big game player. Gabriel Agbonlahor offers pace and will find himself with Peter Crouch, Carlton Cole and Darren Bent in the queue for the 4th striker spot.

Capello has only ever picked seven strikers so it would be a surprise to see him take five of them, not least when Walcott can play up front. Of the four I would say that the Sunderland man had his chance against Brazil and didn’t take it. I think Agbonlahor doesn’t give enough variety when compare to the others – with a 4th striker you want someone who offers something unique.

In that regard I’d say it will be a close run thing between Crouch and Cole.The former has a good international record (against crap teams at least) and is very tall (though not that good in the air) while the latter is a more complete striker who has pace, power and can play the target man role too. It’s a tough choice to be honest and I think Cole may need to break his international duck in the next round of fixtures if he’s to pip Crouch.

Ashley Young may find himself as number 24 on the list of players though personally I would find a space for him. It does seem like Capello isn’t quite sure of him yet. There aren’t too many options down the left but it does seem like either him or Milner would go but not both.

fabio capello press

Still not quite sure...

Too late to make it? (need good form and injuries to others):

Stewart Downing has upgraded clubs but has six months to shine at Aston Villa following serious injury. The same probably goes for Phil Jagielka at Everton. Tom Huddlestone got his first call up against Brazil and while he’s decent player, he’s not yet international standard. Jimmy Bullard? Unlikely but you never know. I see him being a good pundit though. Scott Parker has a very outside chance of being one of the back-up central midfielders; he’s certainly no worse than Carrick in my opinion.

Ben Foster? Joe Hart? Chris Kirkland? Take your pick for the third goalkeeping spot. I doubt it will be the latter though.Of other players we mentioned last time Jack Wilshere isn’t yet getting regular games at Arsenal while Jonathan Woodgate is permanently injured. Dean Ashton has essentially retired.

However Gary Cahill has played well enough at Bolton to come on to the radar as 4th centre back and has a chance of going if Capello takes eight defenders. Everton’s Jack Rodwell could be a dark horse but I think it is one tournament too soon for him. The same goes for some of the West Ham youngsters like Mark Noble and Jack Collison.

Fabio Capello touchline

Now thinking "Why are they so useless?"

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Providing ITV analysis (or BBC if they’re good):

I had Shaun Wright-Phillips as going six months ago but now I think he misses out as you have Lennon, Walcott and Beckham providing all you need down the right (dribbling/goals/crossing). SWP can do all three but not as well and his poor performance against Brazil has sealed a seat next to Papa Wrighty on the studio sofa.

Jermaine Jenas is another who isn’t particularly defensive or attacking. World Cup squad players need be specialists once you get beyond the first team, there’s no room for these jack of all trades types who provide little. Michael Owen has yet to be picked by Capello and barring injuries to four of the seven strikers we mentioned will not be going to South Africa.

Micah Richards needs to get back in the Man City team before he can think about England – it’s all gone a bit pear shaped for him hasn’t it? He hasn’t been picked in a year; Capello just doesn’t like his terrible positional play. Scott Carson had a shot at being third choice keeper but he won’t be going and neither will Paul Robinson, who you could roll the ball to very slowly from 30 yards and he’d still find a way to let it in.

Sadly, Ledley King can barely handle three games in a month, let alone seven. He would 100% go if he could. David Bentley, Kevin Davies, Anton Ferdinand, Gary Neville – no, no, no and no.

fabio capello michael owen shaun wright phillips

The closest Owen has ever and will ever get to being in Capello's plans.

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Possible squad:

James, Green, Foster.

Terry, Ferdinand, A. Cole, Johnson, Upson, Brown, Lescott.

Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Hargreaves, Milner, Beckham, Lennon, J. Cole.

Rooney, Heskey, Defoe, C. Cole, Walcott.

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The three keepers speak for themselves as do the first four defenders. Versatility is the name of the game so to complement Upson you have two centre backs in Brown and Lescott that can cover the two full back slots.

In midfield you have the three main men plus a fit again Hargreaves. Beckham goes for his experience while Lennon and Joe Cole provide the skill and trickery on either wing from the bench.Milner offers the most versatility of the remaining midfield options so gets the eighth spot.

Up front Rooney is a given, as is Heskey due to their partnership. Defoe is the main back up and I think Carlton Cole will play his way into the squad, pipping Peter Crouch whose record of scoring against bad teams is of no use when you only have good teams in the World Cup. Theo Walcott rounds off the squad as a foward player who can play right wing or as striker.

At most risk is Lescott I’d say and possibly Milner too. You may want more cover in central midfield and down the left so perhaps Carrick and Bridge or Gibbs (who could also play left wing) end up going instead.

T.

Champions League Second Round First Leg Roundup: Inter Milan 0 Manchester United 0

27/02/2009
"I refuse to watch this any longer...end match please"

"I refuse to watch this any longer...end match please"

Summary

Billed as the re-acquaintance of Ferguson and Mourinho, the bragging rights for this leg swung firmly in favour of one man, and it wasn’t the smug Portuguese one. Jose will consider his Inter side lucky that they did not concede in this match with United creating several dangerous moments, the best of which resulted in good chances for Ryan Giggs and headers for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Red Devils’ speed, technique and superior passing contrasted markedly with Mourinho’s lumbering, predictable side which all too often relies on getting the ball up to the big boys, Adriano and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Inter looked just like the team that went out of the competition at the early stages in the past two seasons. Nevertheless, the Nerazzuri will head into the second leg in two weeks time guided by a manager that has already performed a smash-and-grab operation at Old Trafford.

Tactical Analysis

tactics

Inter Milan

Jose named the team that he seems to have settled with over the past ten games or so apart from the surprise inclusion of Colombian Nelson Rivas (no don’t worry, not the full back of Arsenal and later Inter legend) at centre half instead of Ivan Cordoba, who Mourinho somewhat unsurprisingly fell out with. What a bad decision that turned out to be, with Rivas being torn apart by Berbatov, Ronaldo and Park in the opening 45 minutes, culminating in his substitution for the aforementioned Cordoba at half time. The diminutive but pacy Colombian of Pro Evo legend made a crucial block in the second half, denying a Giggs opener.

Sulley Muntari had an absolute shocker, leading to calls in the Italian press the following day that Patrick Vieira’s return is a must should Inter progress. The workmanlike nature of Inter’s midfield bereft them of any creativity, leading to many high balls up to the top two. he likes of Figo and Jimenez seem to be permanently relegated to the bench, although perhaps they simply don’t get on with Jose.

On a positive note, young Davide Santon did extremely well (wow that sounds like something David Pleat would say). He was impressive defensively as Mourinho once again restricts the forward movements of his full backs in the Champions League.

Manchester United

Ferguson put out the solid side that has brought them much joy this season. They didn’t look like conceding and were more impressive going forward than they have in some games recently. Quite frankly, Inter’s midfield was out-run by the stalwart trio of Park, Fletcher and Carrick, the last of which seems to be a firm favourite with Italian media, naming him ‘un magnifico Carrick’ (no need for translation).

Ronaldo was his devastating self, although he himself would probably admit he should have scored. European opposition seem to be truly mesmerised when playing against the world’s best player.

Looking Ahead

crystal-ballMourinho will absolutely relish the second leg at Old Trafford and I am sure the mind games over the next two weeks will reflect just that. A first goal from Inter would make the tie extremely interesting. However, there is the small matter of Inter having to actually play well in a European away tie. The inclusion of Vieira may be effective, if only in bringing back memories of his domineering performances when at Arsenal.

The European Champions will be confident on home soil following the superior showing in Milan. An early goal for United would set them up nicely for a counter-attacking game. Should the match remain goalless until the last 30 minutes or so, then perhaps nerves will start to undo United’s game and a repeat of Mourinho’s Porto antics may be on the cards.

I never like to see United win but they will on 10 March and Mourinho will have to admit that he hasn’t had much of a positive effect on an Inter side that was already dominant in Serie A and whose real test was in Europe.

P.

The Six Pointer – Morose Managers, Arsenal’s Relegation & more…

02/02/2009

We’ll focus on the transfer window in a separate post but for now that was the weekend that was. 

1. Liverpool vs Chelsea was pretty dire to watch but the home team just about deserved their victory I’d say. Fernando Torres looks like he is just about fully fit again and he will be the key to Liverpool’s pursuit of Man Utd.  Not for the first time in his career Mike Riley made a terrible decision in sending Frank Lampard off. He clearly got the ball first and the reason his foot was off the ground was that the ball was too. I’m sure the feud between Lampard and Alonso meant the Spaniard made a bit of a meal of it but I expect the red card will be rescinded once the FA look at it again. The Bosingwa incident was just bizarre really but he has already got away with it. I think a yellow card would have sufficed as it was frustration more than violent conduct – I sound like Andy Townsend saying that! Chelsea’s challenge is over though, they just seem to lack the hunger they had under Mourinho. The Champions League may be a different story but it’s obvious the league doesn’t hold that much of a draw.

The earth moved...

The earth moved...

2. Another clean sheet, another win for Man Utd. That’s twelve in a row now, a phenomenal record. They haven’t been at their free flowing best recently due to various injuries but then the defence has meant they haven’t needed to be. They have a nice little cushion and a game in hand while Carrick and Berbatov are in particularly good form right now. Of course they will still slip up before the end of the season but right now I don’t see them slipping up enough to let anyone else catch them.  

 

3. Spurs can sign all the attacking players they want but Saturday’s defeat at Bolton showed that some players with defensive know how is probably what they need most. Bolton’s winner saw particularly comic defending from Spurs and Harry Redknapp can blame Comolli, Ramos and whoever else he wants but he has had more than enough time to at least get his side well organised.

Let's just blame it on someone else

Let's just blame it on someone else

4. Arsenal have been creating so few chances recently they are now relegated to the final brief highlight spot on Match of the Day, usually reserved for the likes of Middlesbrough vs Blackburn. There was a great stat I read the other day, that since the 2-1 win over Man Utd on November 8th they have scored only four goals at home. Here’s hoping they sign Arshavin…

 

5. Tony Adams oversaw yet another defeat for Portsmouth and it gets no easier with a game against Liverpool next week. The problem with giving Adams time is that nothing about his reign so far suggests he has what it takes to drag Pompey from the relegation mire. His record at Wycombe was also poor and he just looks permanently depressed and unable to inspire his aging players. His career record is now 74 games and just 16 wins which is simply not good enough at any level. He is also gaining a reputation as an unlucky manager – and in a sport full of superstitions this is one tag he can ill afford to have. 

Adams & Southgate, Glum & Glummer

Adams & Southgate, Glum & Glummer

6. Gareth Southgate is another man in a bit of a mess. The days of Steve Gibson being very generous with his money have long gone and it means ‘Boro have to rely on local youngsters and players from the secondary tier of European leagues. Middlesbrough have been slipping for a while and haven’t won in the league since a shock win over Villa in mid November. They just aren’t quite good enough in every area and really needed some reinforcements over the transfer window. I quite like Southgate (even though he’s another permanently morose manager) and I’d sooner see Middlesbrough stay up over many other teams. I just worry that the resources aren’t there to do so.

 

T.


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