Tag Premier League

Tag Premier League

Phelan: we’ll all drop points

December 13, 2009 Tags: , Shorts 1 comment

Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan insists that the Premier League’s leading teams will all drop points this season. Phelan’s comments came after United failed to capitalise on Chelsea’s draw at home to Everton yesterday with a fourth loss of the season – 1-0 loss to Martin O’Neil’s Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

“The competition is of a higher standard this year,” said United’s assistant manager.

“There are a lot more good players about and plenty of good teams who are very well organised.

“There is nothing easy and every team will drop points.

“Nobody likes to lose but last week we were five points behind Chelsea, now it is three, so in that respect we are a little bit better off.”

United’s defeat was the fourth for the Premier League champions this season – fifth in all competitions – following defeats to Burnley, Liverpool, Chelsea and Besiktas.

United’s points-per-game average of 2.125 this campaign compares poorly to the 2.37 gained last season in winning an 18th championship. On current form United will finish the season with around 80 points – the club’s lowest points total since finishing third in 2005.

Cautious United defeated by Villa

December 13, 2009 Tags: , Matches 8 comments

Aston Villa won at Old Trafford for the first time since 1983 to halt United’s charge towards the Premier League summit. Chelsea had earlier drawn with Everton but Villa inflicted United’s first home defeat of the league season. Sir Alex Ferguson bemoaned “just one of those days” but in truth it wasn’t good enough from the home side

The Villain’s began the match with intent, winning two early corners and causing United’s reformed defence far more trouble than Wolfsburg had in midweek. Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic, restored to the heart of United’s back-four, added experience but it was Ashley Young, pitted against makeshift right-back Darren Fletcher, who caused most problems.

Young was central to Villa’s opener, headed home by Gabriel Agbonlahor on 20 minutes. The England international beat Wes Brown in the air to score his fourth against United in as many seasons.

Surprisingly, Ferguson reverted to a 4-2-3-1 formation, leaving Wayne Rooney to lead the line, with Park Ji-Sung, Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia in support. It meant no place in the starting XI for Dimitar Berbatov or midweek hat-trick hero Michael Owen.

However, Rooney stoked controversy when he found the referee’s book for diving just minutes after the goal. The Scouser’s lack of protest served only to prove the referee correct.

United continued to create chances though, with Valencia wasting a good opportunity and Michael Carrick forcing a good save from Brad Friedel in Villa’s net. Rooney then went close with a shot thundered against the underside of the bar from six yards out.

At the interval Giggs made way for Owen but the former Liverpool striker lacked the sharpness demonstrated in the midweek Champions League victory. Berbatov and Darron Gibson soon joined the fray but United continued to miss chances as Martin O’Neill’s side defended doggedly.

United’s final ball had been poor throughout but when Carrick found Berbatov six yards out the forward miskicked horribly to waste a good opportunity, before Brad Friedel pulled off a spectacular save to deny the Bulgarian international minutes later.

“Second half I think we deserved something,” Ferguson told ESPN.

“There wasn’t much in it first half, they probably just shaded it and deserved the goal. Second half we pummelled them, had a lot of good chances and didn’t get any. It’s just one of those days it wasn’t going in.

“It’s not an easy league. I say that time and time again. If we get to January within touching distance of the leaders then we’re in with a great chance.”

Nevertheless, United wasted a great opportunity to join Chelsea on 37 points and the manager must take much of the blame. Sir Alex’ decision to field a defensive formation, opting for Park instead of Owen or Berbatov, backfired spectacularly. While Gibson did little to impress after three matches in the side, the trickery of Gabriel Obertan may have offered the penetration United lacked on the day.

It was Villa’s first victory over United in a decade. More tellingly, perhaps, it was United’s fourth Premier League defeat this season.

Team: Kuszczak, Evra, Brown, Vidic, Anderson (Gibson 68), Giggs (Owen 46), Park (Berbatov 63), Carrick, Fletcher, Valencia, Rooney

United replay Avram’s penalty ‘mare

November 29, 2009 Tags: , Matches 3 comments

The Manchester United bus left the South Coast bound for home just two points behind leaders Chelsea after a storming second half performance blew away the home side in rain-swept Portsmouth. Four goals, including a hat-trick from Wayne Rooney, and Ryan Giggs’ 100th Premier League strike were enough to hand United all three points.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s men arrived in pursuit of another maximum haul to maintain their challenge of Chelsea at the head of the Premier League. And controversy, which almost inevitably follows the team, reared its head once again with three penalties awarded by referee Mike Dean. Wayne Rooney dispatched two for United, while Portsmouth’s Kevin Prince Boateng scored for Avram Grant’s side, as the visitors reprised Ferguson’s last confrontation with the new Pompey manager.

United, once again without Rio Ferdinand, Edwin van der Sar and Jonny Evans, rode out Portsmouth’s early fire to take the honors. It must have been pleasant viewing for Sir Alex, forced to sit in the stands for comments made about Alan Wiley in September.

Ferguson’s forwards – Rooney, Giggs and the increasingly impressive Antonio Valencia – in particular stole the show. The mesmerising interchange and dynamic play more reminiscent of United in earlier seasons than this.

It was perhaps fitting then that the reds’ opening goal was fashioned by Valencia and Rooney’s lightening quick break. It was far too good for former-Manchester City midfielder Michael Brown who crudely hacked down United’s striker. Grant’s post-match protests were as false as Portsmouth’s stay in the Premier League is precarious.

Pompey restored parity within minutes though and this time Ferguson had genuine cause for complaint. Stand-in ‘keeper Tomasz Kuszczak punched away Jamie O’Hara’s free-kick but – apparently on the advice of his assistant – Dean point once again to the spot. Nemanja Vidic punished for shirt pulling so minor it could barely have tickled Portsmouth’s Frédéric Piquionne.

Sir Alex, in the stands, would surely have risked a further touchline ban had the Scot been allowed within 50 yards of the official.

“The linesman has put the referee under terrible pressure and he has to listen to the linesman who is 50 yards away,” Ferguson said post-match.

“You see these things every weekend in the penalty box. If you are saying everyone who wrestles at a corner or tugs at a jersey concedes a penalty kick then that’s fine. But it doesn’t happen that way and this linesman has changed the whole course of normal decision making.

“So it was a very disappointing result for us to get a penalty against us in that situation. Half-time came at a good time for us and the important thing was to keep our discipline and composure and play our football.”

Indeed, Portsmouth buoyed by the goal, briefly threatened to make a real fist of the tie. But United’s second half response – led by the wonderful Giggs – was far too robust for Grant’s side.

The visitor’s second, fashioned by the Welshman and converted by Rooney, came just moments after the restart. Giggs’ perfectly weighted through-ball, converted in a single motion by Rooney, was the epitome of the winger’s class on the eve of his 36th birthday.

And it was Giggs’ persistence in robbing Piquionne in the Portsmouth area that led to Dean awarding United’s second penalty. Giggs, hacked down by the Frenchman, offered Rooney the chance to convert United’s third and his personal hat-trick.

But Giggs, star of the show, rightly took the plaudits with a stunning fourth to round off United’s victory. Patrice Evra, fouled on the edge of the Portsmouth area, stepped aside – as did Rooney – for the red legend to fire the set piece low to Asmir Begovic’s right.

Just wonderful from the birthday boy.

“Ryan Giggs is an exceptional player. A rarity. He will play for two years yet,” said Ferguson in praise of the Welshman.

“Happy Birthday. He’s had it 36 times in his life, wait until he gets to 67. I think he’ll be retired by then.

“So many things were happening (in the match). It is a great result for us and some of the football was good. In the second half we kept our discipline and the ball very well and deserved the win in the end.”

And while Rooney and Giggs rightly take the praise, Ferguson can also be happy with the performances of Valencia – bright, direct and skillful on the right-wing – and Kuszczak in goal who made three top-class saves.

Bells tolls for Pompey as United visit

November 28, 2009 Tags: , Matches No comments

Manchester United visit Portsmouth this weekend seeking to build on the win over Everton last Saturday. Sir Alex Ferguson, who will sit in the stands for the match following his FA-inspired touch-line ban, will face new Pompey manager Avram Grant. But Ferguson may have to do without a half-dozen key players as his injury list refuses to clear up.

Rated doubtful for the match are Dimitar Berbatov and Edwin van der Sar with knee complaints, Jonny Evans and John O’Shea who have a troublesome thighs, Fabio da Silva with a stiff groin and Rio Ferdinand who is out, as usual, with a sore back. Long term absentee Owen Hargreaves is unlikely to play until this side of Christmas.

The list means that Ferguson is likely to pair Nemanja Vidic and Wes Brown in central defence, whom the Scot was keen to praise this week.

“I think most people recognise that [Brown is] a natural defender, and you’ve got to also pay tribute to the lad that he keeps coming back from the serious injuries he’s had over his career,” Ferguson said at his Friday press conference.

“He’s had two cruciates, a broken ankle, calf injuries … last season he had a very staggered season in terms of interruptions into his consistency.

“But the previous season he was our most consistent defender, in the year when we won the cup [Champions League] in Moscow.

“Now he’s fit again and is looking fantastic. He gets better all the time.

“Players always need a run of games to get the consistency in the timing and tempo of their game correct. We’re seeing that at the moment, so long may it continue.”

Patrice Evra, assured of a place at left-back, will start but the manager must choose between Rafael da Silva and Gary Neville on the right side of defence. The Brazilian teenager looked uncertain at left-back against Besiktas in midweek but is likely to play as Ferguson seeks to attack a belleagered Portsmouth defence that is without England goalkeeper David James.

Meanwhile, should van der Sar fail to recover Ferguson could stand by Ben Foster in the United goal. The ‘keeper, beaten by a deflected effort on Wednesday night, could do with a confidence boost after a tough few months.

Portsmouth, who overlooked Sir Alex’ son Darren for the vacant manager’s post this week, lie bottom of the Premier League after a shocking series of results. The club’s fate is hardly suprising given the South coast outfit’s player sales over the past year.

In fact, while sacking Hart was almost inevitable, it was the very definition of papering over the cracks. That United will face a Portsmouth side almost unrecognisable from that which took to the field under Harry Redknapp’s stewardship is far more instructive.

The club’s fate now lies in Avram Grant’s hands. Yet in the former Chelsea manager, Portsmouth has chosen not only the least charismatic coach in the Premier League but a man who has achieved close to nothing in a career defined by mediocrity. The appointment came as little surprise though. Indeed, Paul Hart’s fate was surely sealed the millisecond Portsmouth push Grant back through Fratton Park’s doors. The hand, no doubt, of Grant’s good friend Pini Zahavi.

Yet Ferguson was quick to defend Grant, whom he beat to the 2008 Champions League.

“Avram is a football man and there is no doubt he will be glad to get back into the game,” Ferguson said this week.

“He has a task on his hands because his team are bottom of the league. But hopefully he can manage it. Portsmouth have some very good players. I have looked at their videos and they may be in a false position.

“But being bottom of the league does create a reaction from owners and management of a club.”

“It doesn’t matter which club it is, when you have a change of ownership there will be a certain amount of disruption. You get new policies coming in, or there might be a new financial outlook. You can see how it can have an effect on the pitch.

“Owners of a club don’t like to see their team at the bottom of the league. That is the danger position.

“If you are third or fourth bottom you think everything will be OK but when you see your team going bottom it creates a dread about where they are going to be next season.”

Kind words. Bu three points on Saturday and United will contribute heavily to Portsmouth inevitable relegation. The club, which in 2008 won the FA Cup under Redknapp’s stewardship, overspent heavily on meagre revenues in recent seasons and is paying the price.

Not the first club to ‘chase the dream’ and come out the wrong side of a debt mountain.

Hungry United chew through Toffees

November 22, 2009 Tags: , Matches No comments

Manchester United returned to Premier League action after the international break and moved to second place in the table with a convincing win over Everton. United, dominant for long periods, opened the scoring through Darren Fletcher’s outstanding volley and never looked back as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men kept Chelsea’s lead to five points.

Fletcher beat Tim Howard with a swerving shot that flew into the top corner. A candidate for goal of the season from the Scotland Captain. The goal came after some excellent full-back play by Patrice Evra, who’s cross found Antonio Valencia in the box for the Ecuadorian to knock down for Fletcher just outside the penalty area.

United’s midfield general, criticised for his performance in the 3-0 thrashing of Scotland by Wales last weekend, showed excellent composure to score with a volley that even Mark Hughes would have been proud of.

Louis Saha, on his first return to Old Trafford since his move to Everton, then tested van der Sar with a shot on the swivel with the Dutchman equal to the strike. United’s former striker seems to have put his fitness issues behind him with his fifteenth appearance of the season.

Everton introduced Yakubu Aiyegbeni for Dan Gosling at the interval and the Toffees’ best chance of the match fell to the Nigerian. The striker outmuscled Wes Brown before beating van der Sar with a low shot that went inches wide. The substitute then played Tim Cahill behind United’s back four, with an alert van der Sar quick off his line in producing a smothering save.

But United continued to dominate. Wayne Rooney’s shot, picked up by Ryan Giggs at the corner flag, eventually found Michael Carrick on the edge of the box who slotted home to double the home side’s advantage.

United wrapped up the victory when Paul Scholes set up Valencia, who’s shot deflected off Leighton Baines to leave the Red Devils five points adrift of Chelsea.

United will take heart from the performance, even if Everton was as poor as United good. But there is a concern with Michael Owen, who started the match but failed to make an impact. The former-Liverpool striker created a couple of good chances but does not look as if he is enjoying his football at the moment. The striker’s lack of goals looks as if it’s starting to take a mental toll.

United, who will look to continue this form throughout December, will be in a good position to mount a serious title challenge when Chelsea loses the heart of its team to the Africa Cup of Nations in January, according to Ferguson.

“We have to look at all the games as must-win now,” the manager said.

“We need to get on a run and be somewhere near the top of the league by New Year’s Day. Then, in the second half of the season we can have a real go and give ourselves a chance.”

The United manager was also effusive in his praise of Fletcher, who’s outstanding strike started proceedings for the home side.

“Darren is an improving player.

“Each year we have seen his performance level go up and up and it is still doing so.

“But I have to admit I did not expect that goal [against Everton]. It was really well taken.”

Injuries bite ahead of Everton visit

November 21, 2009 Tags: , Matches No comments

Mancheser United’s manager Sir Alex Ferguson finds his troops, returning from a two week international break, in less than fine shape. The Scot’s heart must sink in each of these windows. Definitely out of today’s match with Everton are Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Danny Wellbeck and Fabio da Silva. Add to the list John O’Shea, Jonny Evans and Michael Carrick.

Yet, Ferguson must rally his troops, and not just O’Shea and Darron Gibson from the Irish camp that so controversially lost the World Cup playoff midweek. With recent defeats to Liverpool and Chelsea fresh in the mind, United’s manager faces a somewhat clichéd ‘must win’ match against Liverpool’s second team. Indeed, United faces the prospect of starting the match eight points behind Chelsea. It’s a two-horse race that threatens a runaway leader unless the home side takes three points today.

“Hopefully we can get a back four together that can get us through this difficult game against Everton,” said Ferguson.

“Evans is a doubt. He came off at half-time for Northern Ireland. O’Shea also came off for Ireland against France. O’Shea’s got a thigh problem and I don’t think he’ll make the Everton game. We’re fighting hard to get Evans fit.

“Fortunately he came off at half-time, which has given us seven days to get him fit, but he’s not trained yet so we’re not sure if he’ll be fit.

The Scot is able to call both central defender Nemanja Vidic, who has not played for three weeks, and winger Ji-Sung Park. Each played in Serbia’s 1-0 victory over South Korea in Belgrade last weekend. Park’s return, coming as it does amid Nani’s dismal performances in recent matches, is a boon to the manager who highly rates last season’s Champions League final starter.

“On the plus side, Vidic played 70 minutes for Serbia against South Korea, so he should be available to play against Everton,” confirmed Ferguson on Friday.

“But Gary Neville is still suspended, Ferdinand is still injured, and Fabio Da Silva suffered a groin injury in training, so we’ve got a wee bit of patching-up to do in defence.

“Rio’s problem is back-related. It started off as a calf injury, which can quite often be back-related.

“We’re not putting a timescale on it, but we’re not talking months. Rio will probably be back in training in two or three weeks’ time.”

Returning to Old Trafford will be Louis Saha, the French striker who’s time at United as so blighted by injuries following a £12 million move from Fulham in 2004. But the forward, who scored 26 goals in 86 Premier League games for United, is in a rich vein of form for the Merseyside club and will relish the chance to put one over his former teammates.

Ferguson will also be offered the opportunity to run-the-rule over Jack Rodwell, the multi-talented midfielder, linked with a £20 million move to Old Trafford in recent weeks. The midfielder, who Rant predicted would be nominated PFA Young Player of the year this season, will line up for Everton if he overcomes a minor groin injury.

David Moyes on the opposite bench, so often linked with the manager’s post at Old Trafford when Ferguson retires, encouters United’ for the first time since last season’s controversial FA Cup Semi final. The younger Scot accused referee Mike Riley of being a United fan – a charge of bias that the FA did not punish Moyes for – and then saw his team win after the aforementioned official missed an obvious United penalty.

United, likely to revert to a traditional two-man attack, with England Captain Wayne Rooney partnering Bulgarian all-time top goalscorer Dimitar Berbatov. The pair, each in fine individual form, will need to find the net more often than in recent matches if United is to turn around a significant Premier League points difference.

Proud Reds lose at Chelsea

November 9, 2009 Tags: , Matches 8 comments

Manchester United lost to John Terry’s late header at Stamford Bridge but Chelsea has referee Martin Atkinson to thank for the victory. Atkinson and his assistants made not one, or two but three glaring errors in the lead-up to the Londoners’ goal to hand Chelsea a five point lead at the top of the Premier League.

The manner of defeat, coming after an impressive United display, is particularly galling but Sir Alex Ferguson’s men leave town in the knowledge that the home side was forced to rely on luck – and officialdom – for the win.

Ferguson, without injured central defensive pair Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, predictably selected Wayne Rooney to plough a lone furrow up-front. Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia offered support in wide areas with Dimitar Berbatov also absent through injury. Ferguson, often the gambler, chose to play safe and United produced a disciplined performance against a Chelsea side unbeaten at home.

United edged a tense first half that offered few chances from a solid midfield foundation. Indeed, Brown and Evans, so haphazard against CSKA Moscow in midweek, soaked up everything Diddier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka threw at them.

The officials were to have an early hand in Chelsea’s victory though. Prior to their involvement in the home side’s goal, Atkinson and co. twice denied United in the first half. Firstly when Anderson put Rooney through on goal, only for the assistant to incorrectly rule the striker offside and then Atkinson failed to blow when Terry hauled Valencia to the ground in the area.

Darren Fletcher, dominant in midfield, saw a shot blocked by Ricardo Carvlho while Giggs and Michael Carrick also tested the Chelsea ‘keeper in the opening period.

Rooney twice went close after the break as United continue to ask more questions than the home side. First the Scouser drove inches wide of Petr Cech’s post then the former-Everton striker forced a top class save from the ‘keeper with a curling shot.

But all United’s work was undone as the officials gifted Chelsea a late winner. Fletcher, winning the ball cleanly from Ashley Cole, was harshly judged to have fouled the former Arsenal left-back on United’s right. Frank Lampard swung over the free kick for Terry to head home.

The officials, perhaps blinded by their unity with an insulted colleague, ignored both Drogba’s foul on Wes Brown and the offside position of the Ivorian.

Ferguson sent on Michael Owen and Gabriel Obertan to retrieve the situation but it was too late as United slipped to yet another away defeat to a ‘top four’ side.

Finally, Chelsea’s plastic fans – most of whom only discovered the club existed in 2003 – sprung into life. Meanwhile, United’s travelling army leave town beaten but proud that their team was worthy of much more.

Predictably Ferguson attacked the referee post match, blaming the Yorkshire-born official for failing to spot Fletcher’s clean challenge.

“The referee’s position to make the decision was absolutely ridiculous, he can’t see anything,” said the Scot.

“It was a bad decision. You lose faith in refereeing sometimes, that’s the way the players are talking in there.”

“That goal should never have been allowed,” added Ferguson.

“We’ve dominated the game; we’ve had great chances to win the match and not taken them – and that’s our fault.

“We had great opportunities to get to the edge of the box and some really good chances in and around the box, but we should be finishing it off.

“We’ve only ourselves to blame in that respect. But you do need a break – and we never got the break we needed.”

Stamford Bridge or bust

November 7, 2009 Tags: , Matches 2 comments

On the face of it United’s visit to Stamford Bridge is one of the most daunting in recent years. With Sir Alex Ferguson’s outfit leaking goals and Chelsea scoring freely, many pundits are backing Carlo Ancelotti’s team to take the honours and with it a healthy Premier League points advantage. But with the chips down, it is just the kind of scenario Ferguson relishes.

United travel to the capital without vice-Captain Rio Ferdinand who, back-injury permitting, will not play for the club until December. In the England-defender’s stead Jonny Evans will once again slot into the back four, alongside the returning Nemanja Vidic. It’s an area – United’s principal strength just a few short months ago – that Ferguson is justifiable concerned about.

But Ferguson is not yet ready to countenance the tie as a potential Premier League title decider, coming as it does just a third of the way into the season. Indeed, if the Scot’s team wins on Sunday, United will return to the top of the table. A feat that United has achieved just once in the last 10 visits to West London.

“Our players realise it’s a big game and that our performance at Chelsea is really important,” said Ferguson of Sunday’s match.

“We used to have a terrific record there up until a few years ago, but we’ve let that slip. There’s no point in looking back. We just have to look at our present squad and what they’re capable of.

“They’re capable of winning the game, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. It’s not going to be an easy game for either team.”

With United having narrowly beaten Arsenal at Old Trafford in August but lost at Anfield a fortnight ago, Ferguson is aware that the points spread among the leading contenders will decide the Premier League title.

“These games between the top four could be really important in the context of the title race,” Ferguson added

“It doesn’t come into my thinking that Sunday’s game is a league decider. But it could certainly be a really important one.

“Towards the end of the season you could be thinking ‘I’m glad we got a result at Chelsea’ in relation to where you are in the league.”

But United will need to perform better than in previous games against the so-called big-four if the team is to take the points Sunday.

Much will depend on the tactical system Ferguson chooses to deploy. The manager could throw the die and go for broke by deploying Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov in a 4-4-2 formation.

However, the manager’s respect for his counterpart Ancelotti, who has beaten the Scot in three of their four previous meetings, dictates that the young Scouser is likely to plough a lonely furrow up front.

“Ancelotti was a great coach at AC Milan and he has brought a wealth of experience with him to Chelsea,” Ferguson said of the Italian.

“He’s won the European Cup twice and was also a great player. I thought he’d do well. He has a very experienced team and, when you have that, it’s maybe easier to adapt to new tactics or a new system.”

Sunday’s match will do much to show how far Ancelotti’s team has progressed this season. United, as always, might just have to risk all to come away with the points.

United profit from Rovers lack of return

November 2, 2009 Tags: , Matches 1 comment

Manchester United cruised to a comfortable win over a Blackburn Rovers side that set new standards in lack of ambition. A brace of outstanding finishes from Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov were enough to see off United’s Lancashire rivals on a day when the home side should have matched Chelsea’s five or Arsenal’s six against limited opposition.

United began the game missing both regular centre-backs. Rio Ferdinand’s absence is now a more regular occurence that club or player can now accept. Meanwhile, his partner Nemanja Vidic was missing with a similar calf problem.

But United’s stand-in pair of Jonny Evans and Wes Brown strolled through the match, barely breaking sweat. Indeed, Blackburn made no meaningful effort to attack Edwin van der Sar’s goal until the 87th minute, by which time the game was lost. The great Dutchman is edging towards retirement but will rarely have been so unemployed as against Sam Allardyce’s Rovers in a 20-year career.

United took close to an hour to win the game and  Sir Alex Ferguson need only look at his side’s wasteful finishing. United created a flurry of chances in the opening period, with Dimitar Berbatov guilty of profligacy in equal measure to sublime skill as abuse rained down from the visiting supporters.

But it was the Bulgarian – certainly no waste of money – who finally broke Rovers’ resolve, expertly turning on Patrice Evra’s wayward shot to volley into Paul Robinson’s bottom right corner. It was a fine goal and ample reward for Berbatov’s outstanding recent form.

United, who needed a response to last week’s heartbreaking defeat at Anfield, then wrapped up the game with just a few minutes to spare as Rooney expertly guided in Anderson’s left-wing cross.

In between Premier League debutant Gabriel Obertan, excellent in midweek against Barnsley, missed a brace of chances to cap his Old Trafford bow with a goal. The Frenchman, angry at himself post-match, has done more in 100 minutes of football than Nani in two and a half seasons in Manchester.

The match-winner Berbatov ended the game relieved to have scored in another excellent personal performance.

“In the first half I had a couple of chances to score, and you need to be patient and when another chance comes along you have to score it, and I was very glad to score my chance,” said Berbatov, who will sit on the bench at Chelsea in a week’s time if Ferguson reverts to five in midfield.

“Then Wayne Rooney scored another and that was it finished for Blackburn. We were relieved because they are a difficult team to play against. Every time when you score a goal you are relieved because you feel you’ve done something special and that was the case for me.

“One-nil is a good result, as long as you finish it that way,” the Bulgarian added.

“If it’s three-nil or four-nil, it doesn’t matter. As long as we keep winning I think everybody will be happy.”

But Ferguson knows that United must improve if his team is to take anything away from Stamford Bridge in a week’s time. His side’s stuttering form pales into comparison with Chelsea’s. If defeat at Anfield was the worst result of the season to date then Stamford Bridge marks the campaign’s most significant match to date.

“The players worked very hard as Blackburn set out their stall,” Ferguson said.

“You always get a bit concerned when you haven’t scored. But we don’t panic. We have that experience. We can win games in the 93rd minute.

“You need that patience, though, and we improved our penetration in the second half. That is a strong virtue of this club.

“The good thing about this club is we’re experienced enough to know how difficult it is to win this league. It’s not going to be any different this year.

“We know mistakes are going to happen, we know you lose games you don’t expect to lose but you go for the consistency and hope to carry on with that consistency. If we get to January and we’re still in there then we will have a great chance.”

Ferguson, who will be without both Vidic and Ferdinand at Stamford Bridge, praised their deputies. Brown and Evans will need another outstanding performance next weekend.

“A lot was made about Ferdinand and Vidic being out today,” said Ferguson.

“But when you have Wes Brown and Jonny Evans as back-up, you’re not doing bad. If you take Ferdinand and Vidic out, then there are not many better pairings in the Premier League than Evans and Brown.”

Injuries threaten United comeback

October 30, 2009 Tags: , Matches No comments

Manchester United go into the weekend’s fixture against Blackburn Rovers with a quintet of missing players threatening to derail Sir Alex Ferguson’s Premier League progress. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, together with Ryan Giggs, Park Ji-Sung and the suspended Gary Neville will likely miss the Old Trafford match.

“We have some doubts for tomorrow,” Ferguson said Friday at Carrington, United’s training complex.

“Ryan Giggs is a doubt but we hope he’ll be OK. Ferdinand and Vidic are both doubts – we’ll see what they’re like today. Gary Neville is suspended of course. Hopefully we can get one or two fit for tomorrow but we’re facing an uphill fight.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s first choice centre-backs each have calf injuries. While Vidic’s problem is an ongoing concern, Ferdinand has spent almost as much time in the treatment room as on the pitch over the past year. If neither makes the match Jonny Evans is likely to partner Wes Brown at the heart of the United back-four.

“Vidic has had a calf problem for a few weeks now. We’ve seen a specialist about it so we’ll see what he’s like today. Rio and Vida both want to play after the disappointment of last Sunday,” Ferguson added.

Park, Ferguson added, returned from South Korea with a swollen knee and is likely to miss at least another fortnight. Meanwhile midweek goalscorer Wellbeck, substituted against Barnsley on Tuesday with a knee problem, is out for a similar time. Ryan Giggs, unlikely to be risked, has a tight hamstring.

But Ferguson, impressed with the young and fringe players’ victory over Barnsley on Tuesday, will be able to call Gabriel Obertan for the match. The Frenchman, highly impressive on début, is likely to find a place on the bench for his first taste of the Premier League.

“You have to get on with life,” Ferguson said.

“[The Carling Cup] was good for the young players to go away. Last year the ties were mostly at home. It is a different thing altogether and they acquitted themselves quite well.”

Ferguson must also choose between Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen for the striking partnership. While Rooney is likely to partner the Bulgarian, Owen staked his claim for a place with a high quality goal against Barnsley on Tuesday.

“It was a fantastic goal, real quality. It was a good finish, he showed how quick he is. He did well,” Ferguson said of Owen’s strike.

Blackburn meanwhile, hit with swine flu this week, will also be missing key players for the match. While Sam Allardyce’s team is likely to ‘park the bus’ at Old Trafford, the Lancashire club has tended to collapse in recent games against Chelsea and Arsenal. But a thumping 6-2 Carling Cup victory over Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough side midweek has increased the confidence at Ewood Park

“I spoke to Sam before the Chelsea game and he had concerns about the flu,” Ferguson said.

“He had players missing but David Dunn was back during the week and maybe others will be fit. Flu does happen but so far we are okay.”

But Ferguson, determined to put United’s Premier League challenge back on course after heartbreaking defeat against Liverpool, is wary of the threat from another local neighbour. Injuries to three key players hardly helps.

“I am not sure what kind of team Sam will be able to pick but it will be a hard game as it is a local derby. While I am told they have a poor away record, I think Sam has had to build a different team,” Ferguson added.