Auf Wiedersehen, Goals, Pet

United 0:0 Newcastle

Line up: Romero, Darmian, Blind, Smalling, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, Mata, Januzaj, Memphis, Rooney

Subs: Valencia for Darmian, Carrick for Schweinsteiger, Chicharito for Januzaj

There is something quite calming about the team sheet in the early days of this season for United; we don’t seem to need to question Romero, Darmian composed and looking the perfect fit on the right, Luke Shaw world beating on the left, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind becoming something in the centre. The midfield has changed, sometimes personnel but mainly positions and against Newcastle Juan Mata and Memphis were selected to do the damage on the flanks, Morgan Schneiderlin continued his midfield brief alongside débutante Bastian Schweinsteiger. Adnan Januzaj played off Wayne Rooney, who needed to find his scoring boots again.

Facing them amongst the Geordies was Tim Krul, an impressive ‘keeper but one we would hope to have an unimpressive and very busy day. United started well, heaping the pressure on the Newcastle net early on; Mata looked lively and had a shot saved, later he spread the ball perfectly for Memphis to cut in from wide but the shot wasn’t really a test for the Newcastle ‘keeper.

Attacking wise you could see the visting team growing in confidence as the game wore on, Aleksandar Mitrovic eluded the defence and sent a header goalwards that Romero could do nothing about, thankfully the effort hit the bar. Perez also had a chance, wide of Romero’s post. The United fans’ positivity did begin to fade as the match went on; we seem to have become a team eager to put our chances away early as if we know that eventually the opposition will get one and take it and all the good work will be wasted. Such a cheery thought, but one which was passed between the fans around me like a recessive gene. If we started to second guess, those on the pitch certainly didn’t – Mata sent a peach of a ball to Rooney who actually attempted a shot, blocked by Steven Taylor. Morgan Schneiderlin danced through midfield and found Rooney wide on the edge of the box, he delivered a delicious cross and Juan Mata came in and blazed over.

Valencia came on for Darmian at right back, when Matteo was signed the quotes from LVG suggested that the manager saw Valencia as first choice in this position, that should not be the case any more. Javier Hernandez also came on for United and had a perfect chance to steal the points, denied by a save from Tim Krul which was very Schmiechel like, tall to narrow the target, save with the legs.

After much clamouring for Bastian Schweinsteiger to replace Michael Carrick from the start, the German was replaced by the Geordie in Manc exile, during the game due to injury. Carrick will feel he should have done better when he hammered it back at goal from Coloccini’s header, it missed the target and a thoroughly frustrating game came to an end. GTS

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Doing A Fleetwood Mac

DAVID Moyes looked like a happy man on Saturday evening: United had just won so well he might. There was an important first, David Moyes won a league match with Manchester United and although that sounds small, it really wasn’t. Except to anyone else but him.

The knives were out and sharpened before Saturday night, as far back as the league fixtures annoucement. People are waiting for him to fail, they’d be happy with a stumble or two but they’d be practically orgasmic with failure. The fixtures in the opening weeks give the vultures a few chances for a stumble and paragraphs are probably already ready to be pasted in. Moyes gave a post match interview that acknowledged how important the win was but made light of the weight it could have carried. He was correct, he had won games of football with Everton and had to do the same thing with his new team, albeit more frequently now. He showed and has shown remarkable level headedness because if you listen to some it’s a wonder he gets out of bed to go to work. He replaced an institution and is never going to live up to those previous heights, it seems that for his sanity and his career, it’s best not to go near that legacy and instead do a Fleetwood Mac. Go your own way.

Yes we know it’s on a scale he knows nothing about but he has bitter European dissapoinrment, he has fostered great team spirit and he has managed in a city where the team across the city were on there local perch. Add to that the fact he can pull a good face on the sidelines and gives Geoff Shreeves a jokey stern talking to and he’s doing okay. He doesn’t need any more pressure, he’s doing well to act like there is none on him at all. The pressure he has is that which he always, he is surrounded by people who are steeped in the tradition of Manchester United, it is okay to leaver that to them and get on with his job.

As for Saturday, Swansea played well but not for the first time Robin Van Persie did enough to make the difference, his impact allowed the rest of the team the time and space to go on and get the job done. Danny Welbeck made a great start and his second goal was as delightful as any you will see this month. Part of me thinks David Moyes is on a hiding to nothing unless he wins every game in his first month by three clear goals or some similarly crushing margin. If United had beaten Swansea only by the two quick goals in the first half, people would have been saying well yeah but we weren’t convincing enough, in fact there will still be some this week who are of this opinion. It was three points, we move on and we go again.

Put eleven players on the pitch every time they are required, the challenge will take care of itself.

‘We have gained some confidence from this result, but  it’s only the first game. It is just the beginning.’

So says Pat Evra, so say all of us, GTS

Stick Yer Bubbles, We Got Our Trophy Back!

First things first I thought today was going to be all poetic and historic. As it happened, only the historic part caught on because we got our trophy back, or rather the Busby Babes delivered it back to us, nice touch I thought. But I missed the poetic part, the part where we sent West Ham spiraling into the fizzy cola leagues like the rest of the Premiership wanted, and finally gained payback for both of those days at Upton Park when they played their part in denying us championship success. That day when that West Ham no mark turned up and scored to defeat us in 1992, his one and only moment of West Ham glory, and that day when try as we might we just couldn’t put the ball in the net. It was all so poetic, we would finally get revenge and do what the whole of the stadium (bar the ones ‘forever blowing bubbles’) wanted: Send ‘em Down!

Of course the ability to perhaps send them down relied on us actually being able to play a half decent game today and despite dominating the game for huge parts of it, we didn’t seem to be able to shift the wall that the Hammers had erected. Despite my words of praise for Darren Fletcher elsewhere this season, nothing could convince me that Kieran Richardson is worthy of the same praise, certainly not today. You see I freely admit now that Darren Fletcher is worth the medal that hangs around his neck, when we needed him he turned in a solid performance or two. He is the microwave meal of footballers, you can probably get better but when there is no time for absolute total quality, he is adequate enough to fill a hole. You wouldn’t want a microwave meal all the time but when you need it, it is there for you. Like a microwave meal, you can sometimes be surprised by the quality you find in the finished product. I can only hope Kieran Richardson played today and most of the other times in the past few weeks, because Sir Alex wants to sell him.   

The players we had out there should have had enough to win the game so to use the ‘weakened side’ argument is wrong and disrespectful to the players who were out there. Ronaldo, Rooney et al also turned up for the second half and still couldn’t break through. West Ham get one chance and bury it, and it happens to be the player that is at the centre of the storm. A good player he is too, one that I highly doubt will be wearing West Ham colours next season. Most of the league wanted West Ham to go down, me included, not only for the reasons already stated but for the fact that this player who is supposedly legally registered with the club, a fact that many managers and chairman elsewhere doubt, has been the focal point of their revival and possibly should not have been playing at all.

Dave Whelan says that he and other club chairman are prepared to take this further and see that West Ham are dealt with in courts. I do not know how much water any case will hold but I do know that in other cases points were docked and huge potentially crippling penalties were imposed. As a Lancashire lad born and bread I speak specifically of the Bury FC incident when they unknowingly fielded an ineligible player and were subsequently thrown out of the FA Cup and ordered to pay back prize money and gate receipts because of a simple case of one mistake with paperwork. West Ham on the other hand were knowingly deceptive in their dealings and admitted to such to the Premier League. Not for one minute would they have stood up and asked for the points deduction instead of the monetary fine but it does make you wonder. Bury, nor any of the other smaller clubs that this has happened to, do not have 5 million pounds to give away in fines but when a fine was suggested for the Shakers it was suggested by the powers that be that in the interests of equality the punishment should be competition based rather than financial. In the case of West Ham that has not happened. I seriously doubt that anything will now happen to the club, it may all be viewed as done and dusted by the Premier League.

I should also say that this is in no way an intended defence of Sheffield United or their manager Neil Warnock. Warnock has gone through this season blaming every single other person that he can for the results of his side, West Ham, Manchester United’s line up today, referee A, referee B. Quite frankly the man needs to look closer to home as to the reasons for his sides relegation. The sort of form his side put together recently was relegation form, his stubborn desire to stick to 4-5-1 did not help and I am glad that moaning loudmouth is out of the Premiership.

But then again, relegation is not my concern. I did after all just witness my team claim our trophy back. It was the last game of the season for me at the Theatre of Dreams and what a wet, cold, but unbelievably happy way to see out the season. There was this moment where everyone was gutted about the performance and urging us to score then a second later, as the clock showed only a minute remaining it was as if we suddenly remembered that we had a trophy to collect. We must play better next week at Wembley but I have a feeling we will, we would have done if this game had meant more to us in terms of winning the league, it would have been nice to end on a victory but it doesn’t really matter. The gap between us and Chelsea was SIX points at the end of the season, now that is a gap – it’s not the size of the gap it’s what you do with it but the fact that Chelsea didn’t claw us back to within one or two points is impressive.

Nine Premiership titles, 16 in total…we got our trophy back!

“Play For The Shirt, Lads”

A season of fantastic highs and occasional lows essentially came to an end on Sunday with Chelsea’s draw at the Arsenal confirming Manchester United as the champions of England for a ninth time in the Premiership. Manchester United fans all around the world deserve to shout it out loud and truly revel in this moment because this has been a well earned success when few outside Man United actually predicted it. The ‘special one’ himself at various times in the season predicted that the table was false and that his Chelsea team would eventually topple United from the top and eventually win the league. They got close on a few occasions especially when our injury list got longer, and I actually believe that if we had been removed from top spot, Chelsea would have gone on to win the league. That they didn’t says an awful lot for our players, the ones that get the headlines and the ones that do not. I’m speaking specifically here of Darren Fletcher, who I have been critical of in the past but who, even I will admit, has risen to the challenge in recent weeks. Such players may not be first team material on a week in week out basis and there were times I wondered why we kept such average players around even for the bench. The fact that we did shows why Alex Ferguson is the manager and I am not. We built a team mentality that was not based on superstars in every role, but was instead based on players playing for the shirt whenever and wherever they were required.  You do not need twenty two headline grabbers!

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Today Now You’re At The Wheel

This fantastic season is on the verge of blooming into everything we have desired, and more and thanks to the events at Goodison we are in theory a win, a loss and a draw away from the title. If you want to get into ifs and Nicky Butt’s, we could win it at Eastlands on Saturday but let us not get ahead of ourselves. Neither our manager nor the players will be getting ahead of themselves despite the excellent chance we have given ourselves. Everyone seemed to be looking at our game as a stumbler, and in turn completely underestimated Bolton’s chances to make life tough for Chelsea.

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So Far So, Goodison

Happily I still support a team with a chance of making it to Athens, there is huge hill still to climb and a lot of work to do before we get there but we are progressing well and we must be happy. I did say I would be okay with exiting Europe so that it gave us chance to focus on the league, but thankfully the team were happy to take on the added pressure and I’m not exactly disappointed with the way things went on Tuesday. Everyone knows and anyone will tell that Manchester United are a team that is forever making things hard for themselves. Champions League Tuesday, VERY important, Champions League Wednesday EXTREMELY important, and as if to sum up the manic season this Saturday gives us absolutely no chance to take our foot off the pedal.

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As You Were

Hands up all those who expected this at the end of Saturday’s game against Middlesbrough? Still three points clear at the top of the league with one fewer week to play. In the great scheme of things that is like Christmas considering how I felt at full time at Old Trafford. I know it’s terrible to admit it and I should have had faith but for the first time since Christmas when we first went six points clear, I had real doubts about our chances of staying in front and winning this league. I could see nothing but a Chelsea victory, Chelsea team celebrations and an arrogant post match interview with Jose. In the event only one of those things happened, Chelsea looked like a team dented as they left the St James’ pitch and it is all a case of as you were in the league. It would have been lovely to take three points from Boro and get the Newcastle result the same but life doesn’t happen like that. We should thank whoever you like that we were not made to pay for our stumble.

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