Reds look to avoid St Andrews Blues

Manchester United arrive in Birmingham for the second fixture of a busy week in high spirits. Top of the Premier League, unbeaten and with rivals dropping points, Sir Alex Ferguson’s team aims to capitalise on a profitable period. Yet, former Red Ben Foster stands in the way of a just a second Premier League win on the road this season.

Ferguson should welcome back both Nani and Darren Fletcher to the traveling party, with the pair missing United’s comfortable win over Sunderland on Sunday. The Portuguese has a minor hip complaint while Fletcher is suffering with a heavy cold. However, United will be without winger Park Ji-Sung who has departed for the Asian cup until February, while John O’Shea misses out.

With Birmingham now an established Premier League outfit United can expect a tough fixture, although the Brummies have not emerged victorious from the tie since 1978. Still, Foster has gone some way to re-establishing his reputation following a difficult spell at Old Trafford in the past two years.

“Going down there is always a difficult place to go to,” said Ferguson. “They have always had a strong home record and are difficult to beat on their own ground.”

In Park’s absence Ferguson is likely to retain veteran Ryan Giggs, although Gabriel Obertan and Bébé remain options despite the pair’s limited activity at the top-level so far this season.

Indeed, Park’s absence – despite his many critics – will be keenly felt by United, with Ferguson retaining so few top class options in wide areas. Against a stubborn Birmingham City outfit, United’s lack of width could tell unless Wayne Rooney discovers not only his best form, but his shooting boots too.

“Wayne had a couple of tries against Sunderland,” Ferguson told MUTV.

“He was very unlucky with the chip and there were a couple of shots saved by the goalkeeper. He is getting there. The important thing is he is playing well. That is refreshing.”

However, Rooney is yet to score from open play this season – and not since 21 March – although the former Everton striker has played a noticeably deeper role in recent games. With United’s record on the road poor – just one win from seven Premier League games this season – Rooney might be crucial in turning around the record.

Indeed, there could hardly be a better time for United to win away from Old Trafford with Chelsea losing at the Emirates on Monday night. Rooney might just see the St Andrews fixture as an ideal moment to break his duck and fire the Reds nine points clear of Chelsea.

However, legend Giggs has warned against complacency creeping into United’s game despite the Reds’ outstanding recent form, which translated into a flowing performance against Steve Bruce’s Sunderland.

“You are obviously wary because of the way the league has been this year,” said Giggs.

“Anyone can beat anyone. We are thankful we remain unbeaten and confidence is high. But we realise that nothing can be taken for granted. It is a tough league and we need to be at our best in every game.

“We hope to get better in the second half of the season. Our form over the last few weeks has been really good. We looked sharp against Arsenal and Blackburn, and it was the same against Sunderland.

“Some of the play we produced, the one-touch passing and the movement, was great to be involved in.”

United’s performance in the first half against Sunderland was arguably the finest of the season – including the recent thrashing of Blackburn Rovers. Yet United, comfortable at 2-0 on the hour, eased off significantly. Whether complacency or expediency it is unlikely Birmingham will offer the visitors a similar level of comfort in front of the St Andrews’ crowd.

Meanwhile, Alex McCleish welcomes back former Arsenal star Alexander Hleb for United’s visit. The Belarusian has suffered with a hamstring complaint. McCleish, who played under Ferguson at Aberdeen in the 1980s, will also have Liam Ridgewell for the leaders’ visit.

Opposition
Birmingham – 442 – Foster; Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson, Bowyer, Ferguson, Hleb; Jerome, Zigic. Subs from: Taylor, Derbyshire, Michel, Parnaby, Phillips, Gardner, Beausejour, Murphy, Fahey

United
United – 442 – van der Sar; Rafael da Silva, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Nani, Anderson, Fletcher, Giggs; Rooney, Berbatov. Subs from: Carrick, Kuzszazk, Amos, Fabio da Silva, Evans, Smalling, O’Shea, Brown, Gibson, Obertan, Bébé, Hernández, Macheda, Owen.

Officials
Referee: Peter Walton
Assistant referees: Mike Cairns & Ron Ganfield
Fourth official: Anthony Taylor

Form
Birmingham – DWDWDL
United – WWLDWW

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Comments

  1. says

    I think Rooney tries to see every game as his chance to break his duck. Personally, I could not give a donkey’s arse if he didn’t score again this season.

    The rest has done him the world of good and like Rio at the back, Rooney makes everyone play better in midfield and upfront.

    The squad does not revolve around Rooney and I doubt many people really give a shit so long as we play and win, which is what this is about. This minor soap operas are just what they are; distractions from what is a question of team performance and team result – and in the last two games, Rooney has been very, very good.

    Rooney’s lack of goals plus the fact that we are number one, undefeated etc also slaps down the (dumb) notion that without Rooney we would have been in the shit last year.

    Apart from the the fact that you have to be a complete neaderthal to suggest such thing in the first place, it is has been proven wrong already and it is not even 2011.

    We should win comfortably.

    • Triggs says

      Agreed.

      I remember arguing with someone on here as everyone was so pessimistic about the season ahead and future prospects – yet we’d lost the title by 1 point and would have made the CL final but for Rafa’s sending off. But I was told the only reason we were anyway near the top was Rooney and without his goals we’d not even be top 4.

      I made the point that you could say a similar thing about Chelsea and Drogba and I was shouted down as Chelsea were apparently far superior. Feel somewhat vindicated at the moment, but I accept that things could easily change during the remainder of the season.

      Ultimately, United are not as good as in the past (none of the top 4 are), we all agree on that, but people underestimate Fergie’s will to win, management of the squad and tactical nous.

      This game will be tight, I fancy a narrow United win.

      • mongoletsi says

        And if it wasn’t for that horrendous decision by Mike Dean to give Drogba’s massively offside goal, we’d have arguably won the league.

        • mongoletsi says

          Sorry, just read the rest of your comment. How can such an obviously shit, match-altering decision be shouted down?

  2. bman says

    They’ve only lost 1 at home, we’ve only won 1 on the road. If our away record doesn’t improve we’re not winning the league, and the time to start is now.

  3. bman says

    I thought Park has gone already, or was that a joke? This is a deceptively big game for us — our game in hand, and also a chance for us to get past our shockingly bad away form and prove that we’re real contenders.

  4. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Rooney has been great without actually scoring… not only is he due, but you can see how badly he wants one…

    Our defense is fuckin hard to crack once again and the Brummies are ordinary going forward.

    Foster could be key… he’s been excellent for them… will he play a blinder and keep United out, or will the occasion give him the shits?

    It’s all about getting the opening goal… if we get it early, we should win comfortably.

  5. mongoletsi says

    Doubt Giggs will play two games in 48 hours mate. Nani to start with Giggs on the bench. Might see Rooney or Berba benched I reckon, Chico to start.

  6. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    What the fuck kind of formation/tactic is Ferguson playing?

    Rooney’s at left back half the time here…ffs…

  7. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Well that was a rubbish half of football… Brummie cunts turning it into a grind… we need to open them up to score a goal, but we need a goal to open them up…

    Ferguson needs to show a bit more ambition I think… we’re really missing Nani… so where he’ll get the threat from??? Maybe throw Chico or Obertan on, and go 4-3-3…

  8. han says

    ok fuckos – i’m late but i made it
    judging by the comments thus far we have been playing shite
    hope SAF will change things around this half

  9. han says

    2 points dropped against these cunts
    still, top of the league at the turn of the year is no mean thing
    a long way to go though and nothing won thus far

  10. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    Piss poor… I’ll be amazed if we win the league…utter shit team and it says alot that we are top about how poor the others have been as well…

  11. Sidsidney says

    Fuck sake, we did it to ourselves
    The first half was a fucking write off. How many times have we said that this season – a total non-event for 45 minutes. And in the second half we gave the ball away too often. Their goal, although total bullshit, was inevitable
    Berbatov’s goal was class though – class move; used his guile, pace, power, confidence, technique, finish etc. Top draw
    A draw isn’t the worst result, mind… but our two games in hand are both away, and our away form is fucking, fucking shit. One fucking win FFS absolute shite. It will have to improve if we’re gonna win the league

  12. han says

    just can’t kill teams off away from home so it seems
    birmingham are notorious shite merchants and proved so again but united should have built on berbs goal instead of pussying around again
    saf needs to kick some ass and inject some urgency into this side or else we will be left rueing this season
    city look pretty clued up again and im sure the arse will beat wigan tomorrow night so its not going to go to plan unless this team starts believing in itself

  13. han says

    yes i agree 1 win away from home is abject but our home form is awesome save for the wba result – the away game will improve i’m sure when rooney stats to figure out how to score again and lets not forget, no nani or park today and even worse, no valencia since september – all is not lost

  14. madredmonkeymadredmonkey says

    think we missed nani today, even park, when the hell will rooney score, get him to a prostitute then he will score lots of goals,

    MANCHESTER IS MY HEAVEN- SIR MATT BUSBY

  15. han says

    berbs has scored 14 goals in the league in 14 starts – pretty fantastic return from him
    wish shrek would just score a goal with his foot, head, back, arse etc any thing so long as he gets on the score sheet this season as its obvious with him firing united will be awesome

  16. herbie simms says

    Why did the team go into defensive mode 4 minutes from time when they were controlling the game by keeping possession and going forward. Without Nani, the team lacked pace. Should have brought on Obertan, put him on the right wing and Rooney stay up front with Berbatov.
    Rooney seems to have lost his hunger to score goals, don’t really know whats happening with him. Rooney is everywhere on the pitch and the commentator was saying, Rooney is playing so deep, Birmingham will be happy to see him in that position. No threat to the Birmingham defence.

  17. herbie simms says

    Teams no longer fear United because there is no Wayne Rooney of old. Last season defenders were shaking in their boots just to think they had to try and stop Rooney from scoring. He would run at defenders with vengence but now he seams to be playing a role as a roaming midfielder and this is not helping the team. Not enough shots on goal, just lots of possession. Will need to sort this out quickly. It would be great to have Valencia back in a few weeks. I wonder why Hernandez has not had much play?

  18. Ted says

    Fergie knows we are thin on the ground in the middle of the park, hence why Rooneys instructions will have been to bolster that area. What did’nt help was a poor performance from Anderson, and yet again another game passes the totally inept and ineffectual Carrick by. How the fuck this waste ‘o’ fuckin space keeps getting games for United i do not know? . We used to be able to out pass and out work teams that employed the “get in their face” tactics, Alex McCliesh will have convinced his midfield that it was a “no brainer” against a pedestrian Carrick, a seriously unconfident Anderson and a Giggs who got nearer to his bus pass last night than he did a creative moment.

    In short, we are top of a piss awful league, and again, a decent team would have took us apart. Who knows, we may just keep getting away with it!

  19. herbie simms says

    Yes, Anderson lost it after he got that yellow card and Carrick was ineffective which meant Rooney had to keep going back to help out and thats where the problem lies. Rooney now becomes a roaming midfielder. Fergie will need to solve his midfield problems so Rooney can stay up front and score goals. As for that goal, where was Evra? Why did he not pick up the Birmingham player that scored the goal. The guy was unmarked and all alone at that far post. But yes you’re right, we just might get away with it, but for how long?

  20. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    says a lot about our midfield fergie thought wed need a third man to stop us being overrun by ferguson and bowyer, and by the end it was haappening anyway

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