Posts Tagged ‘old trafford’

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.

Weekly Photoshop – Beckham vs Man Utd

16/02/2010

The business end of the Champions League starts this week and one of the best ties will be Man Utd vs Milan and the return of David Beckham to Old Trafford. Perfect excuse for this week’s Guardian Photoshop theme then.

.

beckham milan man utd

Ever the faithful lieutenant, the Neviller knew exactly what to do when Sir Alex said 'Give Becks a nice welcome back'.

.

Lots more to be found here, it seems everyone likes to have a go when Becks is involved.

.

T.

.

Archive.

Weekly Photoshop – 2009 Review

23/12/2009

Hello hello, long time no speak. This week there’s no Photoshop theme in the Guardian, merely a collection of the year’s best entries. They’ve decided to not just use the weekly winners (not sure why) hence Emmanuel Eboue gets in from way back in January while October’s effort for Old Trafford Injury Time also makes it.

.

My three personal favourites from this year are as follows:

3. Nicklas Bendtner (more for Ade as Ike Turner):

Nicklas may think he's "simply the best, better than all the rest" but sadly for him Ade is the Ike in this relationship.

.

2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (proving me wrong to be fair):

zlatan ibrahimovic barcelona guardiola

"Of course you can rely on me in the big games Pep." Zlatan's already epic nose suddenly seems to increase in size...

.

1. Roy Keane (both entries):

roy keane ipswich

There'll be none of this Tractor Boys business now Keane is in charge, it's manual labour all the way...

roy keane ipswich mick mccarthy

Mick McCarthy may have escaped Keane's clutches for now but he'll soon hunt him down.

.

Hope you enjoyed them all, I’m going to try to spend more time on them next year. Alberto Aquilani is first up in the new year.

.

T.

Weekly Photoshop – Newcastle United Naming Rights

12/11/2009

Quite  a funny topic this week, following the revelation that Newcastle United have sold the naming rights to St. James’ Park and for the rest of the season will be playing at the sportsdirect.com@St. James’ Park stadium. Catchy isn’t it?!

I don’t especially have a problem with naming rights (how could I as an Arsenal supporter) but I think you should go either the whole way or not at all. Either call it the sportsdirect.com stadium or stick with St James’ Park. Don’t try and force it all into one joint effort. Can you imagine the Emirates@Ashburton Grove or Aon Insurance@Old Trafford. Doesn’t work does it. Typical Newcastle though, always doing things cack-handedly.

Anyway, in terms of this week’s entry, my lack of internet meant I had to do it in Paint and Word at work. I got the opportunity to redo it below but you can see the original rubbish version on the Guardian site, not that this one is that much better. Jack is Jackie Milburn, 2nd highest Newcastle goalscorer btw.

 

sportdirect.com@St James' Park

Put sportsdirect.com@St James' Park into an anagrammer and you get this. I would think that a very dyslexic signwriter might come up with something similar.

 

This week’s gallery can be found here.

 

T.

 

Archive.

The Six Pointer (super duper late edition) – Wenger’s plinth, Stoke raise stake & more…

01/09/2009
A super delayed six pointer on the weekend’s action but what can you do? It was bank holiday weekend, the weather was nice and your resident scribe was out and about. For what it’s worth, some thoughts on the weekend gone.
.

1. Arsenal will be encouraged by the performance against Man United if not the result. Two costly errors turned a comfortable 1-0 lead into 2-1 defeat which though disappointing showed that the new formation and current personnel can compete against the top teams as well as the bad ones faced thus far. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a United side create so little in a game and the midfield especially was quite pedestrian.

After Fletcher somehow got away with taking out Arshavin in the box as well as handling it in the same move (thanks Mike Dean), the tiny Russian decided to score from 25 yards shortly afterwards. Foster should have done better but it was none the less a good strike. The second half saw Almunia stupidly dive at Rooney’s feet but unlike Boruc with Eduardo, he kept his arms out, allowing Rooney to dive over them and get the decision. There definitely was contact but Rooney was falling already (look at his left foot trailing). If Almunia hadn’t had come out so far, there’s no way Rooney was scoring from that angle/speed. Another error for him against United then (there’ve been a few down the years…).

For United’s second Diaby headed in unmarked from six yards. You don’t even need to see a picture to imagine how silly that sounds. But the reactions of Gallas and Vermaelen below should tell you everything you need to know about how bad an error it was.

Diaby makes a boo boo.

Diaby makes a boo boo.

Arsenal tried to get back into it but it wasn’t their day and van Persie had a goal correctly ruled out for offside in the fifth minute of stoppage time. This led to a great scene where Wenger was sent off for kicking away a water bottle in frustration. I think most fans were amused by the way he made the officials look like idiots by standing arms outstretched amongst a sea of United supporters.

I do wonder when someone will take action over the “sit down you paedophile” chant constantly sung at Old Trafford though. The media silence over it is deafening. Why is something done when Sol Campbell is abused but not when Wenger is. This goes beyond terrace banter and I don’t see how calling calling him a paedophile is any different to being racist or homophobic to Sol Campbell.

I'm Arsene Wenger, who the hell are you?

I'm Arsene Wenger, who the hell are you?

.

2. Chelsea were again efficient in their victory over Burnley and their midfield is working particularly well right now. Drogba and Anelka combined once more and everything is running smoothly at the Bridge at the moment. Their first ten fixtures are very generous and they should be in the clear not too long after the international break.  They were the only top side not to lose anyone in the off season (unless Shevchenko counts?!) but this time last year they were also wrecking havoc before it all suddenly went tits up.

.

3. A nice line in man management by Rafa Benitez during the week. After criticising Steven Gerrard for not performing at his highest level, Liverpool’s captain popped up with the winner against Bolton. Interestingly, until Bolton’s Sean Davis was sent off, Gerrard had done bugger all. Once he was given a bit of space it was inevitable that his influence would grow.

Look how far he was from any Bolton player for the winner. Gerrard mentioned that the same tactic had been used on him by Gary Megson last season (though Bolton still lost that one too) and it could be an interesting tactic for other managers going forward. It does seem right now if you stop him you stop Liverpool.

Gerrard in acres of space to score the winner.

Gerrard in acres of space to score the winner.

.

4. I still think it’s too early to consider Spurs or Man City title challengers but they are both looking capable of getting a top four place. I read a stat today that since Harry Redknapp has taken over they’ve won only one less point than Arsenal and winning four from four so far this year is their best start for decades.

I did wonder how they would go forward following the injury on Saturday to Modric but they’ve gone straight out and bought Kranjcar who is an excellent replacement. Man Utd and Chelsea are next so let’s wait until the end of September before reassessing.

The same goes for Man City really who face Arsenal and Man Utd before a tricky tie against Fulham. Again though, their start has been solid and Adebayor is beginning to look like the striker of 2007/08 once more.

.

5. Stoke have been quietly going about their business and currently find themselves in fifth place. The Britannia Stadium has become a real fortress for them and they are confident enough to start spending a little bigger too, as demonstrated by the £15m or so splashed out on Collins, Tuncay, Huth and Arismendi in the past week or two. They’re not to everyone’s taste but Tony Pulis is doing a great job and the way Stoke are going they could well end up comfortably in the top half of the table.

.

6. Two straight matches without Heskey starting, two straight wins for Aston Villa. It’s unfair to lay all the blame for Villa’s extended poor run at his feet (no Laursen and tiredness was a big factor last season and no Barry is a big loss this season) but their strengths are geared to playing at pace in a 4-5-1.

To this effect Agbonlahor and also Carew (who is much more mobile then Heskey in my opinion) are much better suited to the style of play. Heskey still has a role to play but a much smaller one if Villa are to again push for Europe. However the better Carlton Cole does, the more Heskey’s England place is under threat too.

This may have led to a goal. Probably didn't though.

This may have led to a goal. Probably didn't though.

.

T.

Season Previews 09/10 – Manchester United

13/08/2009

man-utd

Last Season: 1st plus a Carling Cup win, Champions League final and FA Cup semi final.

Say hello to your new teammates: Michael Owen, Gabriel Obertan, Antonio Valencia

Close the door on your way out: Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Frazier Campbell.

Predicted star: Wayne Rooney has it all set up. A central role should be his at last and he’ll now be the key creative outlet following Ronaldo’s departure. He undoubtedly has the talent to score 25 goals in all competitions as well as hand a bucket load of assists, it’s just a question of can it all fall into place.

This is my town now.

This is my town now.

Needs a big year: Antonio Valencia. Mr Ronaldo’s shoes are big ones to fill and Valencia is no 42 goal a season man. Indeed he only got six last season, but he has enough pace and skill to get into double figures at a team like Man United. I think the fact that no one expects him to be as good as Ronaldo means there should be less pressure on him. He has plenty of Premier League experience so should slot right in. I could add Michael Owen to this section too. Everyone seems to have written him off and while he will spend time out injured at points in the season, he will get at least ten goals if not 15 in all comps. For a free transfer you can’t really argue with that.

One to watch: It looks like there’s another crop of talented youngsters coming through the Old Trafford ranks and the likes of Federico Macheda, Danny Welbeck, Darron Gibson and the da Silva twins should provide plenty of interest and talking points over the course of 2009/10.

To me, to you.

To me, to you.

What they want to happen: Title number 19 preferably with Liverpool in 2nd again.

Nightmare scenario: Ronaldo’s transfer sees them drop all the way to 4th as they struggle to replace his goals and influence.

Plan A: With C-Ron gone it looks like it will be back a traditional 4-4-2 this year. The defence is solid and picks itself and Evra and Rafael will provide support down the flanks. Carrick will sit and playmake while a variety of options will compete to play alongside him. Valencia will have much less of a free, roaming role compared to Ronaldo and his job will be to feed Rooney and Berbatov with the latter playing further forward.

Plan B, just in case: Bring Owen off the bench and play it into the six yard box.

Predicted finish: 1st.

Why? So how come I think Man Utd will win their fourth straight title despite losing their best player? I’m not entirely sure to be honest and I’ve changed my mind quite a few times whilst writing these previews. The top four will be very tight but I believe Fergie’s men have the most solid base in their defence. A measly 24 goals were conceded last season and this included a record run of thirteen straight clean sheets. If you don’t concede at all in 24 of your games, it puts a lot less pressure on the attack who thus need to find just one goal.

Ronaldo dug them out of many a game but Rooney is capable of providing a similar level where week by week he finds a way of breaking through a stubborn defence. Owen is an interesting gamble and should prove a match winner on several occasions. If you think Tevez only got five league goals last season, then Owen will certainly beat that. As mentioned before, several youngsters were beginning to make a mark last year and Ferguson seems quite happy to go with the three experienced strikers plus Welbeck and Macheda in reserve.

Owen fears a merking.

Owen fears a merking.

Another of United’s great strengths is the ability to beat poor teams with no fuss, home and away. They failed to win just one game against the bottom twelve last year I believe and that was the opening game against Newcastle United. If you think that their record against the other members of the big four could actually be improved then you begin to see why it’s not unfeasible a fourth successive title is on its way.

The chequebook is apparently closed for the summer but I would be surprised if no one came in, though perhaps it won’t be until January. In any case, every year people think Ferguson is finished and Man Utd will step aside for someone else and nearly every year they are proved wrong. I’m happy to tip them for another and as the old adage goes, if you finish ahead of them you’ll probably be Champions yourself.

.

T.

Weekly Photoshop – Nemanja Vidic

23/04/2009

After last week’s time restricted, piss poor Tim Cahill, I decided to make more of an effort this time around. The theme this week was Man Utd central defender and player of the year nominee Nemanja Vidic. I was tempted to use the Ivan Drago idea again but it’s already been used for Tony Mowbray a few weeks back. Not one to repeat myself, instead a fellow film from the 1980’s was used with the Stanley Kubrick classic Full Metal Jacket providing the inspiration.

 

"What is your major malfunction, numbnuts?" "Lack of pace on the turn Sir yes Sir!"

"What is your major malfunction, numbnuts?" "Lack of pace on the turn Sir yes Sir!"

 

The rest of this week’s gallery can be found here (not that I got in this week).

 

T.

 

Previous entries: Cahill, Shearer, King and the rest.

Champions League Quarter Final Preview – Man Utd vs FC Porto

07/04/2009

Preamble

When this draw was made a couple of weeks ago it seemed like Man Utd were clear favourites to progress against the Portuguese champions. Indeed that is still very much the case – you get 10/1 on a Porto win tomorrow night and 9/2 on Porto getting through full stop. Now I know United are a force to be reckoned with at home in Europe but 10/1 is an absolutely ridiculous price in a Champions League quarter final and is worth £2 of anyone’s money on Betfair. I think the bookies are underestimating Porto, especially in light of Man Utd’s somewhat dubious recent form. 

Fergie - much to ponder

Fergie - much to ponder

 

Squeaky bums

Whilst domestic form doesn’t necessarily always translate into European form, Fergie will be wary of being over confident. Recent defeats to Liverpool and Fulham were followed by a less than convincing win over Aston Villa at the weekend. Considering six weeks ago this side looked like they could never concede, the defence is quite shaky at the moment. This is not helped when Ferguson decides in his infinite wisdom that it’s a good idea to play Gary Neville at centre back against John Carew. The mistake was rectified in game, but not before Neville was given a torrid half hour. Rio is still out so Evans will look to form a solid base with Vidic. A clean sheet would be much appreciated, given ten have been conceded in the last five games. Further forward you’re likely to see the usual suspects in midfield and attack with Tevez likely to partner Rooney up front while in midfield you could maybe expect Carrick, Scholes, Ronaldo and Park. 

 

Jose’s shadow

The last time Porto got this far, they went and won the whole tournament and the world was introduced to the Special One AKA Jose Mourinho. Indeed it was at this same stage in 2004 that they faced Man Utd and proceeded to knock them out with 1-1 draw at Old Trafford after winning the first leg. Cue Jose’s jig down the Old Trafford touchline.

Anyway, that’s all history now but Porto haven’t managed to reach the same heights since, despite winning the league three years running. They currently have a solid, counter-attacking team that has a pair of very effective strikers in Lisandro and Hulk. Both have the ability to cause the United defence some problems – Lisandro has six European goals already this campaign while Hulk is like a good version of Julio Baptista (not saying much I know). In midfield Rodriguez will pull the strings centrally and will be supported by Meireles and Gonzalez. 

Hulk - Is that him angry or happy?

Hulk - Is that him angry or happy?

 

Prediction

It will be interesting to see which Porto turn up, the one brushed aside 4-0 by Arsenal at the Emirates in the group stages or the one that classily won the return leg 2-0 (though against an understrength Gunners). In the last round Atletico were knocked out on away goals in a tight affair, but I remember from the highlights that Porto missed enough chances to have put the tie long beyond doubt. Man Utd will be hoping that following his double against Villa, Ronaldo has come into some form. He always makes sure he noticed in big games, but not always for the quality of his play. They will target the Porto keeper Helton who isn’t the most convincing and hope too that Rooney has one of his nights where everything comes off. I do think the price on Porto is too big but at the same United are justifiably favourites and will hope to take a clean sheet into the second leg, ideally topped off with two goals of their own.

 

T.


%d bloggers like this: