Mar 21 2011

Berbatov’s Late Winner Saves 10-Man United Against Bolton

Usually I’m not all that enthused about the extended international breaks that occur during the season, because it means that there’s a two-week gap between Manchester United matches.

But for once, I say thank goodness for the international break, because at the rate that we’re losing defenders this way or that, I’d rather us not have a match this week or weekend. If we did, I’m sure we’d lose someone coming out of the tunnel, or in a post-match shower slip.

The latest hit to our depleted back line came on Saturday against Bolton, as stand-in starter Jonny Evans, whose reputation and confidence has already taken a few hits this season, saw straight red at the worst of times. Sure enough, he did get the ball, but he also got plenty of Stuart Holden’s knee with his studs, and he was rightly dismissed, leaving United with 10 men for the last 15 minutes of the match.

On the bright side, he has apologized to Holden, who’s set to be out of action for the next six months, and also on the bright side, his late dismissal didn’t prove to be costly, thanks to Dimitar Berbatov, who was in the right place at the right time in the 88th minute, slotting home the rebound after Jussi (hold on a minute, need to spellcheck his last name) Jaaskelainen had spilled a Nani rocket into his path.

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Mar 19 2011

United Draw Chelsea In Champions League Quarterfinals

My initial reaction on seeing that we were paired with Chelsea in the Champions League quarterfinals?

Disappointment.

Perhaps due to my half-awake state, it hit me harder, but there was an immediate – and audible – negative reaction. I wasn’t disappointed because I felt it was a bad draw, but I was disappointed because this was actually the last draw I wanted United to land, at least for the quarters.

It may not apply for all, but one of the many reasons why I enjoy the Champions League is because it presents the opportunity to see matchups we don’t get to see on a regular basis. Of course, the semifinals and final leave that possibility open, but my superstitious side prevents me from looking that far ahead yet. So, on that note, it’d have been nice to have been drawn against Shakhtar, Schalke, or even Real Madrid.

The idea of playing Chelsea four times in the stretch of a couple of months is a little much, not least because that means having to see John Terry’s ugly mug and Ashley Cole’s smug mug far too often.

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Mar 15 2011

Nani Back As United Meet Marseille In Crunch Champions League Clash

To say that Manchester United have a right to be in the Champions League quarterfinals might be going a bit too far, but a Champions League quarterfinal draw without United in the hat is an oddity and a rarity.

United are the only side to have reached at least the quarterfinals in each of the previous four seasons, and we’ve hit that mark in 11 of the last 14, so there’s tradition to uphold as we face Marseille tonight at Old Trafford.

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Mar 15 2011

Revamped United Down Arsenal, Derby Date Awaits In FA Cup Semis

Anytime Manchester United defeat Arsenal, it’s a reason to have some extra pep in your step the next day and likely for the next day after that.

But Saturday’s FA Cup quarterfinal win, in the situation it came in and in the manner in which United claimed the spoils, could be considered our most important win of the season to date.

After the back-to-back defeats at Chelsea and Liverpool, a third straight defeat to a fierce rival would not only have been a tough, tough pill to swallow, but it also would’ve sent United going into a must-win Champions League tie against Marseille with the worst momentum possible.

Arsenal needed the win every bit as much, after losing the Carling Cup final to Birmingham in shocking fashion (they call it shock, I call it comedy…same difference, no?) and then exiting the Champions League rather controversially at the hands of Barcelona.

Both sides being without their top playmaker necessitated a little tweaking selection-wise, but even though Arsenal would manage to create no shortage of chances even without Cesc Fabregas on the pitch, it was Sir Alex’s creativity with his selections that won the day.

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Mar 11 2011

Is It Panic Time For United After Defeats At Chelsea And Liverpool?

By now, I think most who frequent Red Rants know that I’m generally a positive person, even when the situation should dictate otherwise.

However, the only positive thing about Sunday’s…whatever that was…at that place…against that team was when Phil Dowd mercifully blew his whistle for full time to end it.

All that happening doesn’t bear repeating, because I’d rather not grit my teeth down to the gums, but it’s safe to say that anytime you allow Dirk Kuyt to notch the world’s easiest hat trick, the outcome more than likely won’t be a good one. I think I just threw up a little, excuse me for a minute.

As I watched Sunday, I fumed, cursed, and sent my mobile phone flying through the air on multiple occasions (I’d have preferred the remote, but that was not an option), all the while wondering if it could get any worse.

For much of the season, we’ve successfully skirted disaster, getting away with being unable to defend as well as we should have in key situations away from home and often playing some pretty unsightly football. I was going to insert ‘uninspired’ there, but while that has appeared to be true at times, inspiration has been the only thing that’s saved United from a draw or a defeat on more than one or two occasions, so it wouldn’t have been an entirely true statement.

But in our two toughest and most important trips of the season, those faults were truly brought to the forefront, most notably when Patrice Evra half-heartedly attempted to get a boot on a ball that Chelsea’s David Luiz subsequently deposited into the back of the net to erase United’s advantage at Stamford Bridge, and well, for the duration against Liverpool (cringe). If there was ever a reason for Nemanja Vidic to try to never be sent off or suspended again, what happened at Anfield (times two) was it.

So we stand at a very pivotal point of our season, with an advantage in the Premier League that is a lot more tenuous than it already was before the last couple of weeks and our fate in two competitions set to be decided in the next several days.

And we’ll have to do it without our most influential player, who’s the latest name added to an injury list that’s already seemingly a mile long.

So then, is it time to clench those cheeks and nibble our nails down to shreds, or is the outlook a lot rosier than it appears at the moment?

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Mar 06 2011

Can Manchester United Notch A Vital Victory At Liverpool Without Vidic?

In 1990, I was making the transition from day care to kindergarten. Everything was cheaper, and the technological age that defines the present day hadn’t yet begun in earnest.

In 1990, what’s now the Premier League was still the First Division, Alex Ferguson was just Alex Ferguson, and the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, and the Neville brothers were still very much boys, and Rafael and Fabio da Silva were just making their way into the world.

In 1990, Liverpool were the unquestioned kings of English football, and that year, they wrapped up their 18th First Division title, beating out Aston Villa by nine points.

18.

At the time, to even come near that record no doubt appeared to be a tall order, not least because of Liverpool’s run of success over that last decade and a half. Next closest were Arsenal and Everton with nine, with United and Villa both on seven titles.

But while Liverpool were busy further distancing themselves from the chasing pack, United were busy adding a much-needed piece of silverware to their trophy case as well.

At the time, United were still more than two decades removed from their last First Division title, and that season, they finished 13th, 31 points behind Liverpool and only five ahead of relegated Sheffield Wednesday.

But little did anyone know that magical FA Cup run would only be the tip of the iceberg for a dramatic shift, not only for United, but for the top tier of English football.

Now, it’s United who are the hunted, on the verge of breaking Liverpool’s hallowed record, and Liverpool are the club in the midst of an attempt to rise from mediocrity to the top once again, step by step.

The fact that it’s taken United less time to win titles 9-18 than it did for them to win the eighth shouldn’t be lost on anyone, and the fact that our rise has coincided with Liverpool’s drop from being in the thick of the title race every season – they were either first or second 18 times in 19 seasons from 1972-91 – to barely having a sniff of the title certainly isn’t lost on supporters of either side.

And so, not only does today represent an opportunity for United to take another step towards that record, it also represents an opportunity for Liverpool to build their confidence…and more importantly, play spoiler in our quest.

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Mar 04 2011

Fergie Charged With Improper Conduct And Ivanvic Admits Chelsea Shouldn’t Have Had A Penalty

Things are generally never quiet around Old Trafford and the last couple of days have been no different. Since the defeat against Chelsea the fallout continues to rain down in the media with Sir Alex Ferguson’s comments after the game attracting most attention.

After the loss Sir Alex said “You want a fair referee, or a strong referee anyway – and we didn’t get that. I must say, when I saw who the referee was I feared it. I feared the worst.”

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Mar 01 2011

Can Manchester United Kill Off Chelsea’s Faint Premier League Title Hopes?

A quick look at the top three of the Premier League table, and you will see much the same thing you’ve seen for the better part of the last few months, with Manchester United holding steady at the top and Arsenal and Manchester City battling for second and third.

Still, despite those two being in the nearest distance points-wise, for a while, it appeared that the only team truly capable of preventing United from capturing title #19 is the team that did so last season, a side that currently sits not second, not third, not fourth, but fifth in the table.

Chelsea have done an excellent job of denting their chances of a repeat on their own, but today, we have the opportunity to stick the fork into their flickering title hopes as we visit Stamford Bridge in a heavily anticipated – and for good reason – tie.

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