Saturday, May 28, 2011

EXTRA-TIME with VMN; The Dream Final

Manchester United and Barcelona return to the site where they first won the world's most prestigious club trophy as Nike sponsored teams continue to dominate the richest competition in club football.
Whilst many say United must forget about what happened in Rome against Barca two years ago, I think they need to rewind the tape, take a close look at it and make sure that lightning doesn't strike twice on the same spot. Failing to plan is planning to fail but many won’t blame Ferguson for negligence and poor planning if lightning does strike twice because the current Barcelona side is near perfect.

I disagree with those who say United are a better team without CR7. They lacked a genuine challenge on the title race and had a relatively easy ride to Wembley. His departure might have paved a way for a better atmosphere in the dressing room buoyed the mood of the team.

 As generals wouldn't go to battle without a plan, Pep and Fergie are not expected to temper with their winning teams, they might stick to the 'don't fix what’s not broken' saying. Defensively, van der Sar gives Devils the edge but the battle will be decided on the middle of the park. In as much as United has to attack Barca, they need to keep the game closed, they must make sure they have enough men behind the behind the ball the moment they lose possession.

The 1st thing United has to do to keep the game under control is avoid Barca from taking the lead. The moment they do so, the Xavi driven team will do what they do best; parade their 'pass them to death football.' For his breath-taking 50 yard passes from the 'Pirlo role', Scholes might be United's impact player on a game like this. Anywhere, Carrick and Giggs' passing is excellent enough to utilise their best weapon; speed and urgency upfront. They might benefit in playing balls behind the Barca defence, turn the defenders towards their goal by sending in quick tricky crosses between Valdes and his defenders. Valencia has to attack Puyol and Park keep Alves pinned at the back. United has to score 1st, Barca will throw more men upfront then United will have make the full use of their speed and the width of the ground.

 I have observed something in such games, teams dominating play against Barca in the 1st 10 min which leads to Barca committing fouls which goes unpunished. Trouble starts when Barca gets into 1st gear, gets kicked and the opponents gets punished.

Barca is a special team that needs special treatment. The Blaugrana juggernaut will squeeze life out of United if they don't strengthen their midfield that must protect their defence. They have mastered the art of keeping possession as never seen before. Their movement on and off the ball in the final 3rd is 2nd to none. The perfect scenario for this game is Barca failing to take an early lead because on that they will put United on their conveyer belt and they won't get off it.

Edwin van der Sar must make sure his last game ends in style unlike another Hans Vonk who saw his blunder losing Ajax Cape Town the title on his last day. Pep knows that a team of United's pedigree can't be taken lightly especially in a game of this magnitude. Fergie is wise and old enough to have learned from the Catalans' masterpiece in Rome. Giggs is experienced and strong enough to remain focussed amid Liberal Democrat MP's Twitter allegations of that he tried to prevent the publication of an affair he had with a former reality TV star but that remains a story for another day.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Manchester United win 19th title as City make their intentions clear

Manchester United have won the English their 19th league title, more than any other team in history, beating Liverpool's record of 18. This comes after a season that saw them garner all criticism for playing badly and winning their matches, and then the issue of referees and Howard Webb being touted as their 12th player.

To be fair, United achieved this feat in style. They fought their own battles and never depended on anybody to beat their main rivals. They invested well in the squad getting Chicharito to assist big name Wayne Rooney and free-scoring Dimitri Berbetov, kept faith in the manager Sir Alex Ferguson through all these years and kept their shape by nursing veterans like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs who gave them the experience to guide youngsters.

Chelsea were close on their heels in the final straight, but then, it was a little too late as they tried to recover from a very bad spell that saw them labelled a finished squad. Other challengers, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City counted themselves off with dismal displays at the beginning of the season or a few weeks earlier, and United coasted home without much pressure and with a match to spare.

To dilute huge Old Trafford celebrations, Manchester City stood up to be counted, beating Stoke City in the FA Cup final by a Yaya Toure goal at Wembley. While this is an inferior achievement by comparison, it comes in after decades of waiting for City. It is a trophy in the cabinet. This must also send shivers down bitter rivals's spine as City booked themselves a UEFA Champions League spot a few days back.

All these may not be much to many United fans, but City fans see that as a sign. And to us the neutrals, the City intentions are loud and clear; they are gunning for the big price next season and they have the cash to do it. They may be getting a coaching to do it as well. SAF knows really well and he is likely to brush it off as part of his mind games. All the same, whether United or City, at the moment Manchester is the place to be for the time being.

Are City here to stay or they will be a one season wonder like Spurs?

Sunday, May 8, 2011


God save West Ham United
In admitting that West Ham will release England stars; Scott Parker, Matthew Upson, Carlton Cole and Robert Green, co-owner David Gold maybe giving up in the fight against relegation.

His partner co-owner David Sullivan recently said he missed West Ham’s defeat at Eastlands because he is tired of seeing his team lose. The London based side currently anchor the English League log with only 3 games to play.

The Irons seem to have the easiest run in compared to other sides fighting relegation. They have to play Blackburn at home then visit fellow relegation candidates Wigan Athletic away and round it off with a home fixture against F.A Cup finalist Stoke City. With 32 points West Ham need to win their remaining games to have a better chance of surviving. Wolves have 34 whilst Wigan and Blackpool both have 35 points.

Nicknamed The Academy of Football because of producing premier league stars, Paul Ince, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand and Glen Johnson are amongst the players that came through their youth system. Current vice-captain Scott Parker was chosen as the best player in the league..

West Ham’s relegation could be a massive blow to English football, the 1966 English Legends were lead by a Hammer; Bobby Moore and the scorers [Geoff Hirst and Martin Peters] were all Hammers. Gianfranco Zola, appointed in 2008 was their first non-British manager. West Ham has had only 13 managers in their entire history, the lowest in the league.

Could they be relegated, their dream of playing in the 80 000 sitter Olympic Stadium could suffer a major blow, will they be able to fill and maintain the stadium in the championship?

We have enjoyed watching them play with players like Julian Dicks, Paulo Di Canio and Scott Parker amongst others.

Barak Obama alongside all Hammers will keep on Forever Blowing Bubbles even if they go down.

Sunday, May 1, 2011



No to Ill-Tempered Matches

Going to their second legs on home soil Manchester United and Barcelona carry candles of genuine belief and hope with Wembley in their thoughts after comfortable away wins.

United made it clear who the bosses were, pressing and squeezing life out of a poor Schalke side that had pinned their hopes on Champions League record scorer: Raul Gonzalez. So poor was Schalke’s gameplan and approach such that even with a prolific scorer like Raul, they failed to trouble Man United’s rearguard, of coarse it was well organised but they should have tried to win the midfield battle.

Giggs, like old wine, keeps on getting better with age though the main threat was the sorcerer’s apprentice: Wayne Rooney. United mustn’t relax as if they have broken the Germany hoodoo yet because football is a funny old game and they may be in for a surprise.

It’s good to see the El Classicos coming to an end and we won’t miss them because we don’t like ill-tempered matches at all. Pep Guardiola twice called Mourinho this “f***ing man” after the Real Madrid mentor called him Pep. Someone must make it clear who should and shouldn’t call Josep Pep Guardiola; Pep.

Barca is known for beating 10 men in the later stages of the Champions League. They have a history of having decisions going their way [just like Man United in the EPL] when the going gets tough.

After the Champions League El Classico 1st leg Mourinho had this to say. “Barca should be ashamed if they go on to win this trophy…….. Why? Why does a fantastic team need this? Why? Football is equal to everyone. If they won by merit we would accept it. Why in a balanced game like tonight did it happen? Even last year we managed to beat them with 10 men. Why did they live us with 10 men? Why did they turn down four penalties against Chelsea three years ago? I hope one day I will have an answer. I always try to be honest but I just want to know why.

Taking the pressure off his players ahead of the 2nd leg at the Nou Camp, Mourinho said he thinks they as good as eliminated though they will try and get a result for their fans. He has to be careful for having much faith on Raul Albiol is risky. Albiol is one of the main reasons why Pellegrini left Madrid. Pathetic as he is, he is in the national team setup; they are no great defenders in Spain anyway. The sooner he stops playing him, the better. We have seen the Portuguese influence in the Los Blancos camp, its high time Mourinho throw the Argentine contingent into the fray.

Mourinho has showed that kind of hope and optimism that is borne of a desire to erase the years of anguish and sorrow Madrid has suffered at the hands of Barcelona, but that won’t happen because even those that didn’t realise which team Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter support or favour, now know.