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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Last Friday Night

Aston Villa 0:1 Manchester United

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

UNITED went to Villa Park on the back of a solid if not mouthwateringly impressive opener against Spurs; a keeper who made a few saves, a keeper who sat in the stands and enough positives to keep us going despite the apparent lack of a goal threat in the one goal victory.

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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!

Breaking Into Heaven

How do I even start to do justice to what I witnessed last night? I can’t possibly, however good at writing I pretend to be, but I can try. I will say it was one of the best nights of my life, ever, not just in the football arena. Unless you support Liverpool you cannot disagree that at least 45 minutes of that game was football perfection, not that the second 45 was a let down by any stretch of the imagination. Predictions going into the game were mostly sure of one thing, we’d probably score, but also there was a fair chance we would make it hard for ourselves and that we would end up going out of the competition. The build up in Mancunia and in the real world was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Those going to the game anticipated that it would be a great night and those not going to the game were all along with us, united like no other time I can remember. All predictions were blown well and truly out of the water!

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We Could’ve Had It So Much Better

Yesterday was one of the most anticipated days of the year; everyone was up for it and looking forward to finding out what it would bring. But enough about my birthday, there was also a very important football match too. It was chance to stuff the Gooners and move nine clear of crumbling Chelsea. In the event we did not take the chance and as I write here today I am still unable to figure out really what happened.

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