Tag Champions League

Tag Champions League

United miss creative beat as kids lose

November 26, 2009 Tags: , Matches No comments

The promise of youth will have to wait for another day after Manchester United’s fringe team lost at home to Beşiktaş last night. While the home side enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, Sir Alex Ferguson’s outfit lacked a vital cutting edge as the Turkish visitors held out for a famous Old Trafford win in Champions League group B.

Opting to make eight changes from the side that defeated Everton on Saturday, Ferguson trusted in the vigour of Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck to deliver the goals that would seal United’s group win. It didn’t happen, as the 17-year-old Italian and his reserve team partner-in-crime drew a frustrating blank.

Defeat was United’s first in 23 home Champions League matches.

The home side started the match brightly with Irishman Darron Gibson a stand-out figure in central midfield for the opening quarter. But United’s inexperienced selection paid the price for not taking an early advantage as the away side took the lead on 20 minutes. Rodrigo Tello’s speculative 25-yard shot beat Ben Foster, recalled in the United goal, at the far post. 

The oft-criticised ‘keeper should have done more to keep out the effort, despite a heavy deflection off Rafael da Silva wrong-footed the England international.

Gabriel Obertan, by far United’s best player on the night, then broke free only for veteran ‘keeper Rustu Receber to stop the Frenchman’s effort at the near post. It would have been some full-debut at Old Trafford.

It could have been worse for United’s kids though as Beşiktaş’ Michael Fink almost doubled the visitor’s advantage before the interval with a shot that hit the outside of Foster’s post.

But the youngsters continued to monopolise possession after the break without overly extending Rustu until the closing moments. With Anderson lying deep and Gibson increasingly delivering obvious balls towards the forwards, it was left to Obertan to offer United’s cutting edge on the right-wing. Ferguson’s summer acquisition from Bordeaux has shown more in a handful of outings than Nani – omitted once again – has in two years at Old Trafford. Adeus, Luís Carlos.

An increasingly desperate United threw players forward, including substitute Michael Owen who made little impression on the match. Another from the bench, Patrice Evra, was then felled in the box as a Turkish defender cut across the Frenchman. Evra and Ferguson stood in disbelief as referee Lannoy waved away the protests. After Darren Fletcher’s erroneous booking for diving in United’s last Champions League match, Ferguson was rightly annoyed.

“I was right to be agitated, ” Ferguson said afterwards.

“If you can’t give one like this and the one against CSKA Moscow then you are in trouble.

“It’s a penalty kick – that’s two games in a row they have denied us stonewall penalties but what can you do about it?”

It nearly mattered little as Rustu saved magnificently first from Macheda, after neat work by Owen and Evra, and then from Wes Brown who brought the best out of the former-Barcelona stopper with a powerful header.

But for all United’s possession, Ferguson’s youthful side missed a creative heart in Wayne Rooney’s absence. How the Scot could have done with the former-Evertonian’s ability to fashion a chance out of nothing, or – perhaps more tellingly – Paul Scholes of a decade ago.

Talented as many of Ferguson’s protégés are, the United side badly missed a ‘number 10’ pulling the strings as the youngsters froze in the face of defeat. It’s a fault that Ferguson recognised.

“I thought we needed a bit of composure. The young players were a bit anxious and that is understandable in a way,” Ferguson said.

“It was an experimental line-up in a way. We have to be fair in the way we assess the players in these games.

“The value is the trust we have got in playing these young players. They are potentially top players.

“We know about Macheda and Welbeck while Obertan has only arrived at the club after having a long spell out through injury.

“The important thing is, though, they showed a good level. In the first half we had good opportunities but got caught on the counter-attack, which can happen of course.”

While defeat is a lesson learned, the consequences could be far more serious. United will now travel to Wolfsburg in December for matchday six needing a result to top the group and ensure a – potentially – easier draw in the knockout stages. The Scot’s yougsters, likely to feature again in Germany, will need to perform better if the side is to avoid a group winner in the next round.

Let’s all laugh at the Scousers

November 24, 2009 Tags: , Just for fun 4 comments

It’s Liverpool’s year, it’s always their year. Touted as just about every pundit’s tip for the Premier League title, the Dippers have blown their domestic chances and crashed out of the Champions League in the matter of weeks. Benitez’ side managed a 1-0 win away to tiny Debrecen but crashed and burned as Fiorentina beat Lyon in Italy.

With Liverpool’s domestic ambitions shot, most boards would fire Benitez’ arse without delay. But the hapless Spaniard will keep his job because the club’s owners can’t talk for long enough to make a decision, let alone afford the massive pay off.

On the day Ryan Babel demanded out of the club – a rat jumping a sinking ship – prey gentlemen, a minute’s silence please!

Tarra la, eh?

Tarra la, eh?

Oh dear Fiorentina win!

Oh dear Fiorentina win!

P45? That'll be £20 million please!

P45? That'll be £20 million please!

Poor liddle Scouser

Poor liddle Scouser

Close your eyes Stevie, there there

Close your eyes Stevie, there there

And this pearl….

Fergie rings changes as reserves get chance

November 24, 2009 Tags: , Matches No comments

Sir Alex Ferguson will offer Manchester United’s fringe, young and reserve players a chance to impress the Old Trafford faithful as the Scot’s team takes on Besiktas in the Champions League Wednesday night. Ferguson, who is without injured Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, John O’Shea, Jonny Evans for group B matchday five game, will bring in youngsters to take the baton.

The United manager will start attacking youngsters Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda against the Turkish outfit, with doubts surrounding Dimitar Berbatov’s fitness and Wayne Rooney rested.

“I will be making changes (against Besiktas). Not a lot, but enough just to freshen it up,” Ferguson said.

“It’s a problem keeping players happy, but everyone has that when you have a squad of players. We use the League Cup for that and, if we can qualify early enough in the (Champions League) group, we can then use the likes of Welbeck.

“He will definitely play (against Besiktas) and Macheda too probably. They are the ones that need to be challenged. They’ve reached a point, and it happens in football, when a footballer has the ability to be a top player and you recognise that.”

“You have to give them the challenge. If you don’t, they lose the scent. But this club has been good at recognising that over the years.

“That’s the nature of football. A young player turns the corner and takes someone’s job.”

United’s place in the knockout stages of the competition is assured, although the prize for topping the group is a potentially easier tie in the next phase. Despite this, Ferguson intends to use Darron Gibson in the centre of midfield and Gabriel Obertan on the left-wing as the Scot aims to cope with the loss of so many injured players.

Obertan, who has impressed supporters with his pace and trickery since a £3 million move from Bordeaux in the summer, has another opportunity to displace the consistently disappointing Nani in United’s attacking quartet.

In addition, Rafael Da Silva will feature at right-back, while Ji-Sung Park will play some part in the match after recovering from an injury that has kept the South Korean out for several weeks.

Ferguson though still expects United to win the match and top group B, with a fixture against a group runner-up in round two the reward for victory on Wednesday night.

“We want to win the group,” added Ferguson.

“Their (Besiktas) form has been transformed in the last six matches. They have won them all and they are in very good form.

“It’s a good fixture in that we are already through. It means I can try one or two things. We could easily have an absolute non-event game, but we will try and challenge the younger players at the back.”

Ferguson is as hungry as ever to win the Champions League – which would take a third final in-a-row – with the pain of last season’s final defeat to Barcelona vivid in the memory. It’s an achievement that the Scot feels was overlooked in the aftermath of the comprehensive loss to Los Cules .Indeed, last season’s opponents face an uphill task to qualify for the knockout stages after losing to Rubin Kazan in matchday four.

“Barcelona could be out tonight and that shows how tough it is to retain the European Cup, as we nearly did last season,” said Ferguson.

“Maybe our achievement has been underestimated because you see how difficult Barcelona are finding it. But if Rubin Kazan with the game, you would not be happy facing Barcelona or Inter in second place.

“But Barcelona are such a good team. They were my favourites to win it at the start of the competition.

“I think there are one or two more difficult groups than we anticipated. The one with Rubin Kazan, Barca, Dynamo Kiev, Barcelona and Inter Milan is a real group of death.

“If Rubin Kazan win against Kiev and Inter and Barca draw, they could both be under the cosh.

“Real Madrid and AC Milan in the same group is difficult, Bayern Munich are struggling, and if Fiorentina beat Lyon, then that’s another big team out in Liverpool.”

With Liverpool’s form as it is, that’s unfair on Debrecen!

PlayPlay

Reina: Liverpool a disgrace

November 5, 2009 Tags: , Shorts 1 comment

Liverpool’s Champions League position is a disgrace, according to Pepe Reina. The Spanish goalkeeper, signed from Villareal in 2005, has seen his team slide to third in Group E after a draw with Olympique Lyonnais Wednesday. Liverpool’s Champions League fate now rests in the hands of others, with a place in the Europa cup the most likely scenario.

“No it’s not the end. We have got two games to go and disgracefully we are not depending on ourselves,” Reina told Dipper rag the Liverpool Echo.

“We need Lyon to get something in Fiorentina. Our priority is to win our two games that remain and we will keep trying. Miracles? They happen, particularly at Liverpool.”

Liverpool conceded at last-minute Lisandro Lopez goal at Stade Gerland to leave the club on just four points, with Lyon topping the group on 10 and Fiorentina second on 9.

“That was our best performance in the Champions League so far this season,” Reina said of Liverpool’s 1-1 draw in France.

“Even in some of our league wins, we didn’t play as well as that. We didn’t deserve anything but a win. I’m really disappointed as we were unlucky. We have got to look for the positives and that is we played well under big, big pressure. We can handle the pressure.

“We can trust in ourselves and we will turn this situation around, I am sure of that. We have got enough quality and enough character. We have to look at the big picture. The team is playing better. It hasn’t been great for clean sheets this season but I would have settled for a 5-4 win.”

Liverpool has lost six, drawn one and won one of their last eight games placing manager Rafa Benitez’ job at risk. A minute’s silence is set to take place should the Spaniard’s team bow out of the competition on matchday five.

United won’t appeal Fletcher card

November 5, 2009 Tags: , Shorts 1 comment

Manchester United will not appeal Darren Fletcher’s yellow card for diving because there’s no scope within UEFA’s rules to do so. The United midfielder, who missed last season’s Champions League final through suspension, picked up a booking in last night’s draw with CSKA Moscow. Replays showed the Scot was clearly fouled.

“It was a penalty,” Fletcher said.

“I turned and the lad swept my feet away. I didn’t try to fall, he just swept my feet away.

“When the referee blew his whistle, my first thought was, ‘Great it’s a penalty, we can get back in the game’ and then he started walking towards me with the yellow card and I couldn’t believe it.”

Sir Alex Ferguson called referee Olegario Benquerenca’s decision the worst he had seen in more than 50 years in the game.

“You can’t appeal a yellow card – it is crucial because to miss an important game because of that is unfair. They should look at that but they won’t,” the United manager said.

In last season’s semi-final Fletcher, suspended for the 2008 Champions League final following a red card against Arsenal, appeared to get the ball before felling Cesc Fabregas.

Once were warriors

November 4, 2009 Tags: , Opinion 3 comments

Manchester United came close to a humiliating home defeat against weak opposition in last night’s Champions League match against CSKA Moscow. The three each goal fest looks flattering for the Russian team –  just four shots on target to United’s ten – but the lack of fighting spirit from Sir Alex Ferguson’s side must have been highly encouraging for Chelsea’s Carlo Ancelotti.

United it seems – a fully fit Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney apart – doesn’t like to fight.

CSKA Moscow sacked former Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid manager Juade Ramos after just forty-six days in his job and replaced him with the unknown and inexperienced thirty-eight year old Leonid Slutski four days after United’s away win in Moscow a fortnight ago. But the new manager can be more than pleased with his Champions League debut, whilst the United players, ashamed of what could have ended a four and half-year unbeaten run in this competition  at Old Trafford, must think again.

Injuries to the preferred central defensive pair, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, will of course be used as an excuse for last night’s weak performance. So will Ryan Giggs and Dimitar Berbatov’s absence, and the late induction of Wayne Rooney. Still, it wasn’t the youngsters given their chance, in lieu of absent stars,  that failed their exams last night; it was their decorated multi-millionaire veterans that didn’t put up a fight.

Wes Brown, a seasoned United professional for more than a decade, was out-run, out-paced and out-muscled along with his young colleague, Johnny Evans, by the CSKA Moscow strikers Alan Dzagoev and Tomas Necid. Edwin van der Sar will go into football history as one of the finest goalkeepers ever to grace the game but he failed to command and direct his disappointingly quiescent defenders. The veteran himself will surely be displeased with his handling of all the three conceded goals.

Paul Scholes’ passing is still the best in the game but when an opposition huff and puff at the Ginger Prince for as long and as consistently as CSKA Moscow midfield duo of Deividas Šemberas and the excellent Milos Krasic did, the old legs of the midfield maestro simply aren’t mobile enough. The distance between United’s defenders and midfield last night was evidence of this.

And Michael Owen up front took his typical poacher goal well but wasted two easy sitters inside the first half and was generally slow, with a poor Tevez-esque first touch.

Most of all, it was the poor work rate from United that stood out. This didn’t change until new father Wayne Rooney entered to lift United to a very late comeback, while potential United target Igor Akinfeev in CSKA Moscow’s net made a series of fantastic saves and but for the unfortunate own-goal from Georgi Schennikov would have steered his team to a win.

One poor performance doesn’t merit criticism for United’s lack of fight, of course, just as one swallow does not make a summer. But it is undeniably worrying that when United lose – or come close to it – it’s often against teams with that fighting spirit. Burnley away this season, Liverpool at Anfield and the home draw versus Sunderland – all proof that United suffers more from the loss of Roy Keane, than Cristiano Ronaldo!

It’s fitting then that United will face Chelsea’s hard-man Michael Essien this Sunday. The Ghanaian will have noted much of yesterday’s match.

Ingar also blogs blogs on United, sport and internationa travel at ingar.blogg.no.

United flatter to deceive against Moscow

November 4, 2009 Tags: , Matches No comments

Manchester United left it very, very late to secure a draw against CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford and with it qualification to the last 16 of the Champions League. United, never in front in the tie, had to come from 3-1 down  in the Group B clash against a poor Russian side.

Sir Alex Ferguson, extolling the virtues of stand in central defenders Wes Brown and Jonny Evans this week, watched in horror as United’s defence, missing the injured Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, crumbled in the first half.

The opening goal came on 25 minutes, scored by Alan Dzagoev following a neat one-two. Youngster Dzagoev, too quick for Evans, fired into the roof of the neat with a finish not dissimilar to that by Fernando Torres’ 10 days ago. The embattled Ferdinand this time thankful he was not on the pitch.

But the goal sparked United into life and four minutes later Michael Owen, who had already missed two good chances, turned to slot past the helpless Igor Akinfeev from close range.

United’s central defenders left another huge gap to allow CSKA back into the game minutes later. Milos Krasic scoring to put the Russians into a shock half-time lead.

Ferguson, hairdryer still warm, could do little as Vasili Berezutsky took advantage of poor marking by Federico Macheda to head in from a set piece just seconds after the restart.

Darren Fletcher, returning after injury, found himself in the book  for diving to add insult to injury. Replays showed the Scot felled in the box following a good turn and a clear penalty denied. Ferguson called the decision “one of the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime” post match.

United, searching for a route back into the game, brought off the disappointing Nani for new father Wayne Rooney, with Fabio making way for Patrice Evra. And Frenchman Gabriel Obertan, on for Macheda, again impressed with his penetration and running.

With the tempo increased, United forced a string of fine saves from Akinfeev. The ‘keeper, linked with a move to United in recent weeks, once against showed why he is CSKA’s most highly prized asset.

With just five minutes to go Paul Scholes headed in from a Gary Neville’s cross to bring United back into the match. The full-back, who caused CSKA problems all night, crossed for the midfielder to score into Akinfeev’s top-right hand corner.

In typical United fashion the home side equalised with moments remaining. Valencia’s wickedly deflected effort, following neat work by Rooney, left Akinfeev with no chance to ensure United maintained a 22-match unbeaten home run.

“We were absolutely fantastic in terms of our desire to win the match and were unlucky at times in the game,” Ferguson told MUTV.

“Their goalkeeper made some fantastic saves, we hit the post and missed a lot of other chances. And we also had a stonewall penalty turned down.

“But we didn’t make it easy for ourselves and it became an uphill fight. That’s maybe not a bad thing though because it’s a reminder that when you leave yourself open in European football it can be very dangerous.

“Their first two goals were soft goals to lose and the third was unbelievable – a free header at the back post on a set-piece. That’s the first goal we’ve lost on a set-piece for a year; it’s a good reminder for us about how we need to defend those situations, especially as we’ll face a lot of set-pieces on Sunday at Chelsea.”

But the manger must restore confidence to United’s brittle defence if his team is to take anything from Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge. Evans and Brown, likely to feature against Chelsea, will take little confidence from this game.

Fergie defends Rio ahead of Moscow tie

November 3, 2009 Tags: , , Matches 1 comment

Sir Alex Ferguson has rejected criticism of Rio Ferdinand and suggested that the defender is playing through injuries for Manchester United. Ferdinand, who has made a series of costly errors in recent weeks, will miss United’s Champions League tie against CSKA Moscow tonight with a recurring calf injury.

“There’s no discernible depreciation in Rio’s qualities, none for me at all,” Ferguson said ahead of United’s group B tie where a win will seal qualification for the knock out stages of the competition.

“In my time here we’ve always had the situation where one of the star players hits a little blip,” Ferguson added.

“Rio is going to get criticism but that’s part and parcel of being a Manchester United player and we are all aware of that. With Rio it’s quite simple. No one likes to be criticised. They all like to be loved and have arms round their shoulders at times but he will come out of it, there is no doubt at all about that.”

Ferdinand, who has made high-profile errors in recent United and England matches, has suffered a series of calf, back, hip and thigh injuries over the past year. The former Leeds and West Ham player, beaten for pace and strength by Fernando Torres for Liverpool’s opening goal at Anfield 10 days ago, has appeared in just eight of United’s 17 matches this season.

Indeed, the defender has missed around half of United’s games over the past calendar year, with the stop-start nature of the player’s appearances having an effect on Ferdinand’s form, according to Ferguson.

While Ferguson has no doubt Ferdinand’s form will return when the injuries clear up, others are less certain. Such is the perceived depreciation in Ferdinand’s form that former England manager Graham Taylor said the defender has “lost his legs” last weekend. Although Taylor’s appreciation of the defender’s art is aptly surmised by recalling how the former Watford boss deployed 6′ 3″ United centre-back Gary Pallister at left-back for a crucial 1994 World Cup qualifier in Norway.

Ferguson also revealed that Ferdinand, 31 on Saturday, has played through the pain barrier for United in recent weeks. While the defender will miss Tuesday’s match, he has a slim chance of making United’s trip to Stamford Bridge next weekend.

“Playing with injuries is not the easiest thing to do but of course we will try to get that right for Rio,” said Ferguson, who will pair Wes Brown and Jonny Evans against the Russian side at Old Trafford, with Nemanja Vidic also ruled-out.

“Calf injuries can be troublesome and, if you don’t arrest them and give them their proper treatment, you can end up the way we are just now with players playing games when they are not 100% fit.”

But Ferdinand’s position at the heart of both United and England’s defence is far from certain should injuries persist. Norman Whiteside, Paul McGrath and Louis Saha will attest that Ferguson is no slave to quality if he cannot deploy it on the pitch.

Wayne Rooney, another player likely to miss the CSKA match, has been given compassionate leave after the birth of his son, Kai. Ferguson will pair Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen in attack, with Italian teenager Federico Macheda drafted into the squad.