Arsène loses plot as United win

August 30, 2009 Tags: , Matches 14 comments

United’s record in matches against the top four last season was poor, so Sir Alex Ferguson will have been delighted to walk away from Saturday evening’s match against Arsenal with all three points. With luck on their side, Ferguson’s men got away with a mediocre performance that required a penalty and an own goal to take the honours. But if the manner of the victory was fortunate, then United contributed to its own problems by deploying Wayne Rooney as a lone striker, which left the forward isolated and played into Arsenal’s hands.

United entered the match having played with two strikers throughout seven pre-season games, the Community Shield and three Premier League matches. It was a suprise then when Fergie reverted to type for United’s biggest test of the season, deploying Rooney alone up-front. Ferguson had talked beforehand about countering Arsenal’s new tendency to use three through the centre of midifield. The theory being that Nani and Valencia from the wings would provide ample support. But it was a decision that almost backfired, with Rooney often 30 yards from his nearest team-mates in the opening period, and United’s midfield reduced to punting long balls forward as Arsenal outpassed the home side.

The visitors probably deserved their lead at half-time after Andrei Arshavin’s wonderful strike. Ben Foster, who got both hands to the ball, couldn’t direct the 30-yard effort wide. But Ferguson is a winner and he breeds the same mentality in his troops. United may not have been playing well – possession was lost far too easily in the first 45 – but the team wasn’t about to be beaten meekly. Ferguson’s side, led by the peerless Ryan Giggs, increased the tempo after half time. While the result was certainly not “beyond belief” as Wenger whinged, it was one of those days when the details fell right for United. On other occasions the home side would have paid the price for such sloppy use of the ball.

While Valencia was anonymous on the right wing and Michael Carrick strangely wasteful in possession, Ryan Giggs was superb through the centre of the park. At 35 Giggs’ career should be winding down but on this evidence Fergie can ill afford to leave the Welshman out of the team. Giggs’ ability to change the pace of the game was central to United’s ability to force its way back into the match.

The penalty that brought United back into the game was fortunate but only in so far as Manuel Almunia had no sane reason to make the challenge. Racing out to meet Rooney, who was running away from goal, the Spaniard was always going to make heavy contact. The referee’s decision was spot on, no matter how much Arséne Wenger tries to blow smoke over his own side’s outrageous cheating in the past week.

Indeed, Emmanuel Eboué’s fully deserved yellow card for a blatant dive in the second half exposed the hypocrisy of monsieur Wenger’s faux rage at officialdom in the past week. That Eboué chose to target Evra, who had already been booked, demonstrates the depths to which this Arsenal team is prepared sink. Encouraged by Wenger’s ability to consistently defend the indefensible, the Frenchman’s team has evolved beyond a siege mentality to now act as if they are above all sanction. UEFA and the FA have surely taken note.

There was then some sense of justice in United’s – albeit outrageously lucky – winner. Abou Diaby will forever be an Old Trafford hero for the quality of his headed finish from Giggs’ right wing free kick. That no United player was within yards of the midfielder summed up Diaby’s performance, which was woeful from start to finish. It was a fortunate break but against Wenger’s obduracy all the more satisfying. The Arsenal manager talked about lack of experience in the post-match debrief. Boys against men indeed.

Then came the dénouement and there can have been few funnier scenes at Old Trafford than Wenger’s last-minute dismissal from the touchline. Born of frustration, Wenger booted a water bottle across his technical area. His sanction was obvious but the Frenchman’s refusal to sit in the stands – standing arms outstretched in-between the opposing dugouts – should be met with a lengthy ban. While the League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan has stated the Arsenal manager will “receive an apology from the FA,” he also recognised that the decision to send off Wenger was “correct in law.”

That Wenger’s myopia again failed to observe a correct decision by the officials – ruling van Persie’s goal offside – is utterly unsurprising. The man who would be king has become a national embarrassment.

United then will be able to bask in the satisfaction of victory over Arsenal during the two-week international break. It was a hard won match, if an unspectacular performance. But these are the points – and matches – upon which a fourth title in a row may just be built. It could also reignite the old United-Arsenal rivalry, which has been somewhat lukewarm in recent years.

Rant Cast 5 – what’s up with Anderson?

August 29, 2009 Tags: Rant Cast No comments

In episode three of Rant Cast regulars Ed & Paul talk about:

  • The Champions League draw
  • Wigan 0 – 5 United
  • Anderson’s attitude problem
  • Liverpool’s poor start
  • Saturday’s Arsenal match
  • John O’Shea, Darren Fletcher and Carlos Tevez

Stream the episode below or click here to download the podcast (right click > save as).

Email all feedback to cast@unitedrant.co.uk.

Subscribe on iTunes now.

Hargreaves returns to training

August 28, 2009 Tags: Shorts No comments

Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves will return to Old Trafford from long term rehabilitation in the United States on September 23, according to the club. Hargreaves, who hasn’t played for United in over a year, had operations on both knees to cure a long term tendinitis problem that has put his career at risk. Although no date has been set for the player’s return to the team, the news is some light at the end of the tunnel for a player who has appeared just 25 times for the club since his £18 million move from Bayern Munich over two years ago.

Hargreaves’ return is “a great addition to us,” manager Sir Alex Ferguson told ManUtd.com. “We’re in dialogue all the time with Owen and the physio who’s conducting his rehabilitation in America.”

“He’ll come with Owen for a week for the change-over so we can jointly understand the treatment and rehabilitation he’s been doing. That’s straightforward. The difficulty is getting him back into football work. I say difficult because we’ve not seen him all this time. We’re relying on information we get from the States. We’re certain that his fitness work will be good, we just have to gauge the right time to bring him into football training. You don’t have a player out for a year and then just throw him straight into the fire.

“The important thing is to get him back playing to his level, which is a very good level.”

Liar Tevez moans again

August 27, 2009 Tags: Shorts 2 comments

Winging liar Carlos Tevez has accused Manchester United of showing him no respect, in an interview with Loaded magazine.

The striker, who signed for big spending Manchester City in a £25.5 million deal this summer, made the claims in the September issue of the top shelf men’s magazine.

“I think I deserved more respect than what was shown,” said Tevez. “It was very strange. In the first year everything went
very well – I was part of the team and felt like I was important to the coach and the club. But in the second, there was a big change. There was no communication with the manager and I began to feel as if I was not wanted. Every footballer will say that if they do not feel wanted, then it is the beginning of the end.”

Strange then that Tevez, who earns £150,000 per week at City, said of manager Sir Alex Ferguson that he “treated me with respect from the moment I arrived,” as recently as April this year.

Sir Alex Ferguson has backed new signing Michael Owen to beat the five Premier League goals that Tevez scored last season, as well as saying that the Argentine isn’t worth the money City spent on him.

United avoids Ronaldo in Champions draw

August 27, 2009 Tags: , Opinion 5 comments

Manchester United will not face a reunion with Cristiano Ronaldo after the draw for the Champions League group stage was made in Monaco today. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men avoid Real Madrid, but instead were drawn to play CSKA Moscow, Besiktas and Wolfsburg in Group B as the team looks to reach a third successive final. Ferguson’s side will open with a tough away tie at Besiktas on September 15, and conclude the group stage with a match on December 8.

“These are difficult ties especially the trips to Russia and Turkey,” Sir Alex told ManUtd.com. “CSKA have developed strongly in the last few years and games in Turkey are always difficult. We also know the quality that we’re up against with Wolfsburg, with what they achieved in the Bundesliga last season.”

Sir Alex Ferguson will have mixed feelings about the draw, as it pits his team against some of Europe’s lesser lights, but includes dangerous German champions Wolfsburg and a long trip to Moscow. CSKA were among the lowest ranked teams that United could have drawn from pot two in the Monaco ceremony, but Wolfsburg with no European history were the toughest of the pot four teams. With two of the four sides set to qualify for the first knock-out round, United will still expect to qualify, but will be unhappy with two long midweek trips to Russia and Turkey.

United’s opening tie, away at Besiktas, comes just a few days prior to the first Manchester derby of the season. The final game is away at Wolfsburg on December 8.

Last season’s champions Barcelona has been drawn against Inter Milan, Dinamo Kiev, and Russian champions Rubin Kazan. Meanwhile big-spending Real Madrid’s Kaká will face a trip back to AC Milan, as well as games against Marseille, and FC Zurich.

The final will take place on May 22, 2010 at Real Madrid’s home ground Santiago Bernabeu.

Full Group Draw

Group A: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Bordeaux, Maccabi Haifa
Group B: MANCHESTER UNITED, CSKA Moscow, Besiktas, Wolfsburg
Group C: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Marseille, FC Zurich
Group D: Chelsea, FC Porto, Atletico Madrid, Apoel Nicosia
Group E: Liverpool, Lyon, Fiorentina, Debrecen
Group F: FC Barcelona, Inter Milan, Dinamo Kiev, Rubin Kazan
Group G: Sevilla, Rangers, Stuttgart, Unirea Urziceni
Group H: Arsenal, AZ Alkmaar, Olympiakos, Standard Liege

United may sign ‘at eleventh hour’

August 27, 2009 Tags: Shorts 6 comments

Manchester United is “using August as a testing ground for the current squad and may sign players at the 11th hour,” club sources told Sky Sports News’ James Cooper today. With the transfer deadline next Tuesday at 5pm GMT, United has less than a week to conclude any deals.

Manager Sir Alex Ferguson and managing director David Gill have both said that United will make no more signings in the current transfer window. “We’ve done everything we plan to do and it’s not easy doing business at this stage,” Gill told the channel shortly after the Champions League draw. However, the channel reports that the club is willing to move quickly if Ferguson feel the squad needs strengthening this late in the window.

With question marks hanging over several players in the squad – Anderson and Carrick were both left out of the squad taken to Wigan Athletic at the weekend – Ferguson may still decide to dip into the market despite multiple denials to the contrary. The club has recently been linked with former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben, who is available from Real Madrid for a fee of around £22 million.

United signed Dimitar Berbatov for £30.75 million past midnight on the final day of the summer transfer window 2008.

Ferdinand feeling his age

August 27, 2009 Tags: Shorts No comments

Rio Ferdinand is beginning to feel his age as injuries kick in, he told club channel MUTV. Ferdinand, whose languid playing style has often been compared to legend Paolo Maldini, said that he cannot see himself matching the Italian and playing into his 40s after suffering a series of back injuries last season.

“You could not play to 41 in the Premier League,” he told MUTV. “Games are a lot slower in Italy and they don’t play as many. When anyone comes here from another country they always say they can’t believe how fast it is. It takes a couple of years off your career.”

Ferdinand, who has been suffering with a thigh injury, said he expects to be fit in time for United’s away game against Tottenham at White Hart Lane on September 12. He has missed all of United’s games this season after picking up the knock in training prior to the Community Shield.

“I had never been injured before last season,” said Ferdinand. “I still played 45 games but it was the first time I have had time off and I found it really frustrating.”

Poll: what next for Anderson?

August 26, 2009 Tags: Polls 1 comment

Anderson’s bust-up with Sir Alex Ferguson has placed his United future in doubt. The player has said that he now wants to stay and accepts the manager’s decisions. But Anderson’s second season syndrome, attitude problem and party-boy lifestyle seem to have hampered the Brazilian’s progress. What should Ferguson do next?

What should Fergie do about Anderson?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Berbatov wants European win

August 26, 2009 Tags: , Shorts No comments

Dimitar Berbatov says that Manchester United’s players are determined to win the Champions League this season after defeat to Barcelona in last year’s final. Berbatov, who was left out of the starting line-up in Rome, has begun the season strongly, scoring in United’s 5-0 victory over Wigan Athletic at the weekend.

“For me, losing in Rome was doubly frustrating because I wasn’t at the club when the team won in Moscow,” Berbatov told ManUtd.com. “I’ve never won the Champions League so losing to Barcelona was very upsetting. This year our aim is to make it all the way to Madrid. The Bernabeu is one of the best stadiums in the world and I know we’re good enough to make it back there and, this time, win it.”

The draw for the group stage of the Champions League is made tomorrow in Monaco, ahead of the annual European Supercup match in the principality. United cannot be drawn against another English side or any of the fellow seeds. This means that the club will not meet Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal (if the team beats Celtic tonight), or champions Barcelona in the first stage. If Arsenal makes the group stage then Spanish giants Real Madrid are likely to be in the second group, alongside Inter Milan.


Anderson hanging by a thread

August 26, 2009 Tags: Opinion 14 comments

Anderson Luís de Abreu Oliveira has more than a touch of an enigma about him. Signed for more than £17 million two seasons ago, the Brazilian youngster burst onto the scene with standout performances against luminaries such as Steven Gerrard and Cesc Fabregas in his opening campaign. The player’s assured touch, all-action style and flowing braided hair marked the former Porto player out as a star of the future. But it was a dream that has turned sour for the Porto Alegre-born midfielder, as his off the field lifestyle, attitude and on-pitch form have conspired to halt the player’s development at Old Trafford.

It shouldn’t have come to this. Anderson has long been though of as one of the best Brazilian youngsters of his generation; a future number 10 and ‘meia’ apparent to Ronaldinho in the national side. That the two has each played for Gremio and share a taste for women and a party lifestyle is about as far as the analogy has stretched though. On the pitch Anderson suffered what is generously described as a ‘difficult second season’ – his form and opportunities nosedived as injuries disrupted the campaign. Returning to the team and to some semblance of form towards the end of last season, Anderson made the Champions League final side only to see the game pass him by as Barcelona dominated.

In many ways this campaign was set to be Anderson’s breakthrough season. Or a last chance to shine. In professional football they are two sides of the same coin. With Paul Scholes’ and Ryan Giggs’ opportunities set to diminish as age set in, it was Anderson that Ferguson was to rely on to provide both muscle and flair through central midfield. With the departure of Anderson’s close friend Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, Sir Alex Ferguson talked up the Brazilian’s chances of taking on the mantle of midfield goalscorer. That he has never scored a competitive goal for United was laid aside in the hope of a brighter future.

But Anderson was left out of the team to play Chelsea in the Community Shield at Wembley and the visit to the DW Stadium for last weekend’s match against Wigan Athletic. The hour he played against Burnley at Turf Moor last week was hardly an auspicious start to the midfielder’s season.

Off the field Anderson has long held a reputation for his party lifestyle; once accused by The Sun of taking part in a poolside orgy in which five prostitutes were ordered to Ronaldo’s Cheshire home. Indeed, Anderson was warned by then assistant manager Carlos Quieroz to curb the excesses of drink and late nights. Ferguson is famously intolerant of his players’ nocturnal habits – often having staff follow the team ‘off duty’. As a youngster Ryan Giggs’ is said to have opened the door to his house, expecting fellow party-goers, only to find an enraged Ferguson waiting on the doorstep.

However, it is the player’s apparent reaction to his omission from the Community Shield team that has plunged his Old Trafford future into serious peril. Better players than Anderson have found to their cost that questioning Ferguson’s decisions leads only to the door marked exit. Indeed, Ferguson is believed to have told the player that he is welcome to leave the club if he cannot accept being left out of the side.

“I believed that I would play in the Community Shield but that is forgotten now,” Anderson told the Daily Mail. “I thought that, without Cristiano Ronaldo around, I could play more and that has been my challenge from pre-season onwards. But the coach decides the teams and to discuss this with him is foolish because he is the chief. I do not want to leave United. No.”

“Sir Alex Ferguson has demanded a bigger effort from me and I accept that. Because to get into this United team is very complicated and difficult for any player.”

With that perhaps the penny has dropped. It had better. Failure this time, and Anderson will surely be shown the door come next summer, with Barcelona and Inter Milan waiting in the wings.