Posts Tagged ‘Manchester United’
“Villa threatened to spoil things when Christian Benteke side-footed over from Andreas Weimann’s pass, only for Robin van Persie to double United’s lead with a strike to rival any goal scored in Europe this season. Wayne Rooney floated a 40-yard pass behind the Villa defence and van Persie met the ball first-time with a technically immaculate volley from outside the box that rocketed past goalkeeper Brad Guzan and into the net.”
My AFP match report from Old Trafford on the 3-0 victory over Aston Villa that gave Manchester United their 20th league title can be read here.
“Saturday’s 1-0 win at Sunderland was Manchester United’s 15th victory by a one-goal margin in the league this season, one game short of the record they set en route to the Premier League title in 2009. For all the goals they have scored, United have rarely been ruthless, and they are on course to finish the league season without having put five goals past an opposing team for the first time since 2006.”
My piece for AFP on the curiously unfulfilling end to the season awaiting Manchester United following their FA Cup exit at the hands of Chelsea can be read here.
You can also read my match report on the game here.
“MANCHESTER, United Kingdom — Holders Chelsea stormed back from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday and take their FA Cup quarter-final to a replay.”
My AFP match report on Chelsea’s cup fightback at Manchester United can be read here.
“MANCHESTER — Cristiano Ronaldo scored the decisive goal as Real Madrid controversially came from behind to win 2-1 at Manchester United on Tuesday and reach the Champions League quarter-finals.”
“In 2011-12 van Persie averaged a goal every 111.1 minutes in the Premier League, according to statisticians Opta, but this season, that figure has improved to a goal every 103 minutes. It might appear that he is simply benefitting from being the spearhead of the league’s most attacking side, but in fact, van Persie’s attempts at goal have become less frequent. Last season he shot at goal, on average, 3.7 times per game. This season, that figure is 3.1, and yet he is scoring more regularly. The apparent paradox can be explained by a sharper focus purely on scoring goals and an increased ruthlessness in his shooting.”
Ahead of Manchester United’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, I’ve written a piece for AFP looking at how Robin van Persie has become an even more clinical striker since leaving Arsenal for Old Trafford. You can read it here.
“The peculiar synchronicity in the ebb and flow of the two clubs’ periods of dominance lies at the root of the rivalry’s ferocity. Where most sporting rivalries thrive on the give and take of even-handed competition, fans of United and Liverpool have each spent decades accumulating enmity while their rivals bathed in glory.”
When is a rivalry not a rivalry? My take on the peculiarities of the relationship between Manchester United and Liverpool for AFP can be read here.
“LONDON — Manchester United kept a firm grip on the Premier League title race by sweeping to a 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic on the first day of 2013 to maintain their seven-point lead.”
My AFP report on the Premier League’s New Year’s Day fixtures can be read here.
“LONDON — Chelsea claimed partial revenge for their stormy loss to Manchester United at the weekend by prevailing 5-4 when the teams resumed hostilities in an end-to-end fourth-round League Cup tie on Wednesday.”
My round-up of Wednesday’s Capital One Cup fourth-round matches, including an extraordinary encounter at Stamford Bridge, can be read here.
“Critics will be quick to point to the absence of a creative central midfielder in United’s ranks, and Ferguson could have been forgiven for casting an envious eye at Basel’s bustling Xherdan Shaqiri as he made raid after raid into United territory on Wednesday.”
Read my analysis for AFP of the task facing Sir Alex Ferguson following Manchester United’s Champions League exit at the hands of Basel here.
“LISBON — Manchester United were indebted to a superb Ryan Giggs goal as they drew 1-1 with Benfica on Wednesday despite a below-par performance in their Champions League Group C opener.”
You can read my AFP match report here.
After a one-sided defeat in the first leg, Schalke will tonight attempt to make history by overturning a 2-0 deficit in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final with Manchester United. I spoke to Dan Levy about the tie on this week’s episode of The Bundesliga Podcast and you can hear our preview of the game here.
“GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — Manchester United produced a devastating attacking performance to record a 2-0 win over Schalke 04 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday.”
Read my AFP match report here.
This season’s Champions League semi-finalists reached the last four with an average aggregate winning margin in the quarter-finals of four goals, making them the most comfortable set of semi-final qualifiers in the Champions League era (post-1992).
The diagrams below depict their tactical line-ups from the first legs of their quarter-final ties, before there were any leads to be defended or deficits to be overturned.
NB: The diagrams show average positions from the first half of matches only, so as to provide a clear indication of how the teams approached each game in terms of formation.
[Squad numbers: 1. Manuel Neuer; 22. Atsuto Uchida, 4. Benedikt Höwedes, 32. Joël Matip, 2. Hans Sarpei; 17. Jefferson Farfán, 14. Kyriakos Papadopoulos, 18. José Manuel Jurado, 11. Alexander Baumjohann; 7. Raúl; 9. Edu]
He may have only been awarded a rather ungenerous 7/10 by L’Équipe, but there was something thrilling about Wayne Rooney’s performance against Marseille on Tuesday night.
Playing in a deep position in support of Javier Hernández, Rooney prowled the pitch demanding the ball from his team-mates and looked full of the swagger of old. His roaming occasionally took him so far from the opposition’s penalty area that he was collecting the ball from his centre-backs, while he created the opening goal with two beautifully measured passes – the first a fading half-volley to Ryan Giggs on the Manchester United left; the second a low cross that Hernández converted from close range. At all times he looked hungry to get on the ball and play.
That Dimitar Berbatov should find himself on the bench for such an important game despite enjoying his finest season to date in a United shirt may seem unfortunate, but it is only when the Bulgarian is not in the side that Rooney can lay claim to the territory in which he longs to operate. Alongside a goalpoacher such as Hernández, who plays on the shoulder of the last defender and thrives on service from midfield, Rooney can position himself in the spaces left vacant by the retreating centre-backs. When Berbatov plays, however, it is he that patrols such areas, forcing Rooney to operate as a more conventional centre-forward.
“[Hernández] has got great movement so I’m playing the position that I did when I started playing professionally,” explained Rooney after the game against Marseille. ”It’s not often forwards get the chance to be on the ball and enjoy playing. I enjoyed tonight.”
Wayne Rooney is a force of nature: a natural, swaggering, street footballer who used to play the game with the reckless abandon of the best player in the playground and who made the dimensions of the pitch seem to shrink whenever he received the ball. He retains all of these qualities, despite his current loss of form, but he only really got the credit his talent deserved in England when he started scoring goals.
With a player as gifted – as potentially world-beating – as Rooney, goals suddenly seem a rather banal commodity. Goal tallies are for players like Michael Owen and Ruud van Nistelrooy: single-minded, stat-obsessed penalty box prowlers, not marauding, bulldozing, game-changing tyrants like Rooney.
The trouble for Rooney is that he is a striker, which, in the reductive lexicon of his country’s football vocabulary, means he is expected, first and foremost, to score goals. Never mind the way he strode into the national consciousness as a freakishly precocious 16-year-old man-boy, or the outrageous lobs, chips and volleys he tucked away in the early years of his Manchester United career, or the devastatingly effective partnership he formed with supposed sworn enemy Cristiano Ronaldo between 2006 and 2009. The English press did not begin comparing him to Lionel Messi, Xavi and Wesley Sneijder until he started converting six-yard headers with almost monotonous regularity against the likes of Wigan and Birmingham last season.