Sparky Returns as United Look to Continue Title March

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Another season, another second-half charge by Manchester United. United’s prowess when it really matters has been proven time and again, and it looks to be another case of the same old, same old this season. United left it late against Blackburn, but the end result was a seventh straight league win and a five-point lead atop the Premier League table.

For much of the season, many have pointed to United’s visit to City later this month as the tie that could decide the outcome of the title race, but there’s a real chance things could be all but decided ahead of that match. Three of United’s four matches prior to derby day are at home, whereas three of City’s four pre-derby fixtures are away from home. That’s notable, given United’s present form and the fact that City have won only twice in their last nine away fixtures in the league.

United’s four pre-derby fixtures: v. QPR, at Wigan, v. Aston Villa, v. Everton
City’s four pre-derby fixtures: at Arsenal, v. West Brom, at Norwich City, at Wolves

Looking ahead, if United do as they should and pick up 12 from 12 over the next four matches, they’ll head to the Etihad in the driver’s seat no matter what City do in their quartet of fixtures, but if City’s away struggles continue, it’s quite possible that United could clinch the title on derby day, or perhaps even before.

That sounds exciting and all, but United will be looking at each fixture and each round one at a time and focusing on what they have to do and not what someone else has on their plate, and as hard as it is to not get all giddy about the possibilities, that must be the supporter approach as well. And looking at today, today could be almost as pivotal a day as derby day will be. With a win over QPR, United will be assured of keeping their five-point lead heading into this week’s midweek fixtures, but that lead could very well be even bigger if things go as they could at the Emirates.

United will be expected to do their part, but this is a fixture not to take lightly, especially considering that the win over Fulham was closer than expected and that it took more than 80 minutes to break Blackburn’s resistance on Monday. QPR are 0-2-7 in their last nine away league fixtures, but they do own home wins over Liverpool and Arsenal in recent weeks and are fighting for their Premier League lives, so you can be sure that Sparky’s side will be inspired today.

But knowing how the last two opponents weren’t so easily put away and how important today could be, we could be in for a dominant United win today.

Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Young; Rooney, Welbeck.

Subs: Amos, Jones, Giggs, Park, Hernandez, Cleverley, Pogba.

Queens Park Rangers: Kenny; Onuha, Ferdinand, Hill, Taiwo; Diakite, Busaky, Derry; Mackie, Bothroyd, Taarabt.

Subs: Cerny, Gabbidon, Campbell, Young, Helguson, Wright-Phillips, Zamora.

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  1. Penalty and a red card, Shaun Derry sent off. Shocking decision, Young offside (blatantly obvious from any camera angle) Linesman in line with it but failed to see/give it – Rooney converts.

    1-0 15mins

    😳

  2. 11 men against 10, and United NO cut and thrust. Our wing play not working so far, we are bit too obvious. Wazza has lost his marbles to say Welbeck is United’s POTY, what are you on Wazza? Welbeck has contributed nothing so far, he has zero balance, no ball control that I can see anyway, and zero influence on this game at all so far. Lets see what happens in 2nd half. Everyone knows how to play against United now, park the bus, and make United try to penetrate which they have a hell of a job doing. Need the equivalent of football viagra to get some kind of penetration. They have to get some more goals, it could go down to goal difference as Fergie emphatically says. 😆 When the ref sees his mistake at half time with Young theatrics – shameful, then Ref will be looking for a way to equal things out, so Rafael behave yourself or you will be off mate!

    • @Craig Mc: Some more clinical finishing by Welbeck today 🙄 🙄 🙄

      Yet he acts all arrogant like he’s made it? We need a new striker in the summer, one who can stay on his feet and finish a bloody chance!

    • @Craig Mc: I get that he doesnt fit our style and will most definitely be on the way out in the summer, but really, would it not make sense for us to use berbatov now and then whilst we still have him?
      I mean, im not going to get into the whole “is welbeck good enough for us” debate, but i think its fair to say that right now, he along with hernandez, is not in great form at the minute, so surely theres got to be a case for berba right now, even if only being involved in the side as a sub for 10/15 minutes?
      Just seems silly weve practically already had him out the door since xmas, when theres no doubting, despite his style not fitting with the team, hes still got something to offer in certain games, and right now has got to be a better bet than welbeck when hes playing like this.

  3. How has Balotelli not been sent off? 😯

    Vermaelen’s goalline clearance for City had me punching a wall arghh, Joe Hart produced a first touch better than Welbeck and Rooney combined.

  4. We’ve won the league. It’s now just a question of whether we’ll win it at the Etihad or not.

  5. How many games do we have to win now before City are not able to catch us?

    • @Craig Mc: 8 pts lead and 6 games remaining means we need to win next 4 to guarantee.
      OR
      win next 3 and then a draw should be enough (that is the city game I think)

      • @jos: Thanks Jos. I don’t think United should start thinking its all over, pride before a fall and all that. Hope Fergie doesn’t let the lads get carried away until the job is done. The Everton game at OT will not be easy, because they always perform well against us. Remember last minute chicharito header against Everton – phew that was close. Wigan away will not be easy this time around, because they are picking up points at home, and fighting for their lives. As far as I am concerned, it is still squeeky bum time 😆 😆

  6. Thats that then i guess. City pushed us closer than i expected at the start of the season, but in the end as i predicted, with players like balotelli and tevez in the team, it was all going to unravel when the pressure was applied.
    Mancinis got a good squad of individual players assembled there, but its certainly not a team.
    One thing about city though, is depressingly they arent going to go away.
    Weve rather pushed our luck a bit getting away without strengthening key areas of the side this year, but next year, those are holes that will need to be filled rather urgently, starting with replacements for the overused 38 year olds giggs and scholesy.
    I doubt funds for doing that will be forthcoming, but then thats a discussion for another day.
    For today, i toast a victory to us, and give thanks to wenger and his boys, who to be fair, were very impressive and helped maintain our lead.
    It now looks like no 20 is in the bag, so congrats to the boys. We wanted it more than city in the end, and that, along with our team unity has made the difference.

  7. It’s not over yet, but we are so fucking close now I can smell it. Really smell it. Silverware, champagne, all those sweaty bastards claiming we are lucky and all that…. Ahhh, we’re so close now and I just can’t see us fuck it up. But football is a funny game, so who knows?!

    I think it all comes down to the Wigan game really. If we beat them we only need 2 more wins and then the Shitty game is there for us to clinch it. Lose, and it’s all wide open. If City beat WBA and all their games up to the United clash at Etihad, while United lose at JJB yet still win against Villa and Everton, it’ll only be 2 points in it with 2 games remaining. Still a fucking long way to go, and United always, and I mean fucking ALWAYS, make it hard for themselves.

    Let’s do this lads, there’s a possibility of winning the title with a 14 point gap come the 38th round. I. Fucking. Want. It! 😈

  8. Watching Arteta’s goal again, I just can’t help but wonder what on earth Lescott is doing? When you’re getting a block in, you’re supposed to make yourself as big as possibel. Instead, he strays away like a little girl trying to get himself out of the way. A brilliant shot by the Spaniard, but still…. Horrible defending.

    Compare this to Evans’ and Rio’s blocks away to Blackburn. Full body in, who cares if your testicles won’t see daylight again? You’re supposed to win this title! We want this title, judging by Lescott’s reaction they don’t. You can have all the talent in the world, all the swagger, all the pace, all the power, have a fucking X-Factor audition or whatever on that City pitch but when it comes to personality and character no-one can beat us. We’ve won countless games this season just by buckling down, by showing our mental strength. This is what makes Manchester United so fucking great.

    Red and proud like the most roofied rooster! :mrgreen:

  9. United are defending their honor, while city are trying to get paid. A man defending his home is worth 10 hired mercenaries… Or 11. And our home is top of the league.

  10. Agree about Lescott shying away from Arteta’s shot – odd that no pundit picked up on it…but to be fair he, alongside Kompany and to a lesser extent Hart, was all that stood today between Shitty and a thorough shellacking (pp. Obama). Amazing how little drive or belief anyone showed in a team of multi-millionaires trying to reduce the points deficit on their biggest rivals to 5 – with the possibility of reducing it further to 2 on April 2. None of them seemed to want it nearly as much as Arsenal wanted their CL spot. But then the strutting diasaster that is Balotelli (not to mention l’affaire Tevez) has sucked all the energy and team spirit (such as it ever was) out of that dressing room. Notice how not one City player paused to see how Balotelli was doing when he was down “injured” as they went off for half-time. And Hart’s reaction to the sending-off was priceless – thought I saw a gesture to the bench there, as in “wtf was he still doing on the pitch anyway!?”

    So, good to have Number 20 all but in the bag…but we’ve been lucky. It’s been a poor (if exciting) PL season, with all of our major challengers imploding at various times. We’ve done our work well, with some good performances – but a lot of grinding too (and let’s not forget this is the second season running we’ll have won the title in this style). Today was a good example, like Fulham the other week or several others (espec at OT – we seem to play more expansively and powerfully away from home, which incidentally is a reason we’ll take our usual 3 points at Wigan on Wednesday): dominating manifestly inferior opposition but without ever being really commanding or threatening to put them to the sword – and of course benefiting from one of the worst ref decisions of the season (I’d say that had Ashley not been a mile offside, a penalty wouldn’t have been egregiously unfair there – he did get a shove – but the red card was way OTT, it was never a clear goalscoring opportunity).

    Our sorry performances in Europe this season shouldn’t be forgotten and are a better benchamrk of the absolute quality of the side than relative success in a weak PL.

    So pretty much as you were – champs with a strong squad but with a couple of big question marks still hanging. De Gea seeems to have come through which is a big plus – he can be there for 10 or 15 years now. Evans’ coming-of-age has been great to see. Phil Jones will, I believe, be one of the greatest ball-playing defenders in the world in 2 years’ time (he just needs to learn the defending bit). And our 3 wide men are all top-notch. On the other hand, I’m not convinced by any of our specialist full-backs, especially not the twins – Sourness made an interesting point a few weeks back when he suggested that they may be converted wingers; Rafael in particular always looks to me like a booking waiting to happen (remember Bayern 2 years ago?). If Wazza is off-form or injured, our strikers aren’t reliable: Chicharitto’s on/off second season has culminated in some poor showings in recent weeks with his first touch, in particular, exposed, and he does little creatively; the jury’s still out of Wellbeck. With Berba off and Owen irrelevant, we need a proven striker to partner Wayne. And, last but not least, the perennial favourite: a proven international-class playmaking central midfielder, name your candidate and price. A striker at £25m and MF at £25-30: that’s the level the club needs to be thinking of if we’re to keep hold of the PL next season AND make an impact on the CL.

    Sorry not to be more enthused. 20 times is great. But let’s not kid ourselves we’re as good as we want to be and ought to be.

    • @BazzatheRed:
      Bazza – I think your analysis is pretty much spot on.
      Fergie’s the master in rotating the squad, keeping players relatively fresh despite the horrendous perennial mid-season injury crisis we succumb to. Today city, in addition to their lack of togetherness, looked burnt out almost to a man. I must say that I often get furstrated by Fergie’s (unforced) tinkering as it tends to lead to disjointed, workmanlike performances and a shortage of understanding between players who are played in unfamiliar positions. But over the course of multiple seasons, Fergie has proven it be the most effective way of winning the league, even if it does not always produce the entertaining football we are renowned for. Anyway, let’s all hope that we keep it going for the next few games and get the job done at City!

      Regarding individuals, I agree with you Bazza that De Gea and Evans have probably been the most improved over the season and Ferdinand has also been outstanding over the last few weeks. Our clean sheets during this run-in period speak volumes. At full back, especially left, we need more competition, but I hope Rafael will continue his steady improvement (still needs some work defensively and on his impulsiveness). But he’s been linking really well with Tony V in the last few games and all of our attacking threat is coming down that side.

      Midfield – well I don’t think anyone here needs our deficits in this area going over again – but in fairness Scholes and Carrick have been instrumental to our tempo and confidence in th PL since the New Year. It might not always be exciting to watch, but between them they are like a metronome dictating the play; Scholes in particular is a major reason Valencia is getting so much of the ball and thus being our major supply line. Carrick is Carrick – today I forgot he was playing until late in the first half; not a criticism, but just quietly effective. However, when he reminded me that he can shoot with that Charltonesque screamer in the 2nd half, it left me asking why he doesnt do it more often?? The last few games we’ve been crying out for someone to pull the trigger, rather than always trying intricate 1-2’s around the edge of the box… Fortuntely, like Tony V late at Blackburn on Monday, Scholes finally showed how it should be done today! This all being said, I think we all recognize the need for at least 1 world class ‘lock picker’ to add to what we’ve got and hopefully start bedding Pogba/Cleverley in as well. Its a shame that we’ve not got to see much of Cleverley after the impressive start to the season, so in my mind the jury’s still out on him. I dont think we can afford to rely on what we’ve got next season (which includes the aging Giggs and Scholes); we need an established world class player to provide creative options other than going out to Valencia at every opportunity. Oh, and Anderson… Anderson who??

      Nani, Young?? Both undoubtedly talented, Nani moreso, but as we’ve discussed so many times here, he continues to frustrate in terms of consistency, which hasn’t been helped by injury this season. However, I’d definitely want to keep him and try and give him a run of games at the end of the season. Young – has a great right foot shot, scored some tremendous and important goals, but certainly less effective as a winger than Valencia. Good player to bring off the bench, like Giggsy, but for me, not a guaranteed starter, especially if Nani is on form. Didn’t care for his exaggerated fall for the pnealty today either.

      Up front – frustrating if I’m honest (in relative terms that is!). Rooney has been very effective in terms of his scoring record and is one of the first names on the team sheet for many reasons if fit. But something is up… have others’ noticed in recent games (today there were a number of examples) where he gives the ball away cheaply with careless passes and then very uncharacteristically stands still and doesnt try and atone for his error? The ‘old’ Rooney would have been embarrassed to give the ball away cheaply and certainly would have done his utmost to get it back if he did. Not at the moment. I don’t know what it is, but there’s certainly something not quite right there.

      Hernandez – second season blues, as often happens. Still a great natural finisher, but teams have learned how to play him (offside!) and expsoed some of the weaker aspects of his game (touch and providing the killer ball for a strike partner). I think he would benefit the most from a Silva type creative midfielder as discussed above, though it begs the question whether he would play alongside Rooney in such a formation.

      Welbeck – I think most of us have an affinity for a local lad pulling on the red shirt, especially as there aren’t that many these days. However, my head must rule my heart and though young, I’m not conviced he has the killer instinct or touch of a world class centre forward. Might it come? I truly hope so, and age is on his side. But you think of players like Ole who might only get one or two chances, but you’d put your money on them putting the ball away more times than not. Welbeck doesn’t make me feel that way and I think this is something instinctive, not learned. I hope I’m wrong, but how long can we wait to find out before we bring in some proven back-up for Rooney, especailly with Berba moving on?

      Anyway, long post, apologies, but I think if we can break recent policy and bring in a couple of established (note established) top quality players in the close season that give us different options (midfield & up front, possibly a left back/Fryers??) we can be back in contention in Europe again. Probably not going all the way, but our lack of experience/injuries/team selection cost us dearly this year and a couple of quality additions would make a big difference. Finally I’d also like to see Fergie working on his successor: I know its not the norm in footlball to have a succession plan (at least not public), but I really worry about the day he finally goes – and let’s face it it can’t be long, as he’s said himself. Personally I’d keep it in the ‘family’ with an Ole Solksjaer or Gary Neville type. I think the latter could make an excellent manager, but probably to soon for us and he seems to be enjoying his punditry at the moment!

      Now in the meantime, let’s concentrate on getting the job done for #20!

  11. Welbeck is just not United class. yet at least. He just cant stay on his feet and gets lost inside the box. If the Pea doesnt start, I am amazed why Berba is not even given a look-in. Sometimes just cannot understand Fergie!

    Dont mess it up now lads!

    • I tell you what I noticed yesterday and it bodes well for the future of Danny Welbeck and his United career.

      RvP was interviewed and in it he says that he sees himself as a number 9 and a half! Not a 10, not a 9 but a 9 1/2. He said that when Adebayor left Arsenal, Wenger approached him and said he was now the striker, RvP didn’t score for the first 5 games and his confidence was shot. He then went on a run of 7 goals in 5 games (or vice-versa) and it gave him the belief he could score enough in that position yet still play some number 10 role.

      See the interview here: (from 9.40mins for the bit about 9 1/2 but the whole interview is decent) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Af5mcSFIYg

      Against City yesterday RvP had a goal disallowed where he strayed offside, it’s unusual for him as his timing of runs and his positioning is usually second to none. He looked up made a yard and beat Joe Hart bending it into the far corner…..unlucky.

      Watch United v QPR yesterday and an almost identical situation occurs, this time Welbeck DOES stay onside, does find the space but doesn’t have the composure to just bend it round the keeper and in but hammers it high and wide.

      After the RvP interview I think it was Redkanpp jnr who said “a few years ago when I played against him we all knew we could wind him up, he got sent off once and it was basically his immaturity, but now he’s grown up and those days are gone” (words to that effect anyway)

      My point is, Welbeck has a great temperament compared to RvP at the same age, he’s obviously taking up the same positions RvP does NOW and he likes to play team mates in too. The only ingredient he doesn’t have is RvP’s experience thanks to age and appearances. In my opinion it’s about time and patience with Welbeck. He’ll improve and this season has been immense for him and he’s been immense for United (carrying us in a similar way too the way Nani did last year while we suffered injuries and a loss of form early in the season), it’s almost a given that *any* young player will have dips in form and make simple mistakes or make poor decisions on the fly, in time he’ll iron them out and become a great player.

      Remember, Welbeck’s trying to shine at the biggest club in the country, he did it with ease at Sunderland and if he went to most clubs in the PL he’d probably shine there too, at United it’s a different story…..for now 😉

      • @Ian: Welbeck deserves to stay with United for another year or two. However, HE IS NOT UNITED CLASS (yes). His finishing is awful — but, like you, I have faith.

        • @Opti:

          I wouldn’t want to see Danny leave – I’d like nothing better than to see him firing upfront with Pogba & Cleverly in MF and Jones/Evans/Smalling at the back and an average team age (like it was in the 8-2 Arse game) of 22-3…BUT I can’t see that team, as yet, taking on Barca, Real or even Bayern. Working out how to bolster the parts of the team crying out for world-class reinforcement without smothering young talent coming through the ranks is a three-pipe problem for SAF – but he does get well paid for it… 😆

        • What’s wrong with not competing with Barcelona and Real Madrid for a few years while we develop *another* fooking fantastic team of almost home grown talent? I’d take it if it meant dominating *them* for a few years while *we* were the best.

          Long Term Player Development

      • @Ian: Errr and how many goals did Bambi on ice as Moscow calls him score at Sunderland Ian? I think you will find it was miniscule considering the games he got. 😉 Welbeck can’t stay on his feet in the area mate, his balance is not that of a 1st class striker as I have seen so far anyway, he falls over his feet and finishes up on his arse too often. Maybe he will improve, then again maybe not. How long do we wait, because we are running short of a striker other than Roon who can put the ball in the net with any frequency. If Roon goes on one of his good number of games a season not scoring, who have we got – I don’t have same faith in Welbeck that you have Rimmers – soz mate! 😀

        • Needs time and he’ll be topping the scoring charts like RvP is now.

          Look, the way I see it is, I’ve compared him RvP who’s only now being labelled as ‘World Class’ due to a load of injuries constantly robbing him of weeks/months of football at a time, had he not missed those games he’d be where he is long before now.

          How old is RvP? I think 28 right? So, with that said and using that loose formula then give Danny 4-5 years and he’ll be where RvP is now (that’s not a bad place to be at 24-25).

          His first touch is deceptive, it’s not bad all the time or even as bad as you make out and the fact he’ll improve means his touch will get better.

          Look at the way he moves. Do you think he’s finished growing? I don’t, I think he’s still got some to do, that can explain why he sometimes looks a bit gangly, wonce he’s fully grown and stronger (plus had the experience of a few seasons) he’ll devastate sides purely because he gets in the right areas.

          Leave him alone right!! 🙁 !! 😆

          How many 19yr old strikers do you know who are the finished article?

          GRRRRR!!

        • Haha I wish once was really spelt that way…..looks a much better word! #wonce

  12. I’m sorry but it would be a stupid gamble to leave the strike force as it is. None of our strikers can play without Rooney, so we’re basically a one man team. Berbatov, Owen, Macheda and Diouf are being moved on which leaves us with 3 strikers. Welbeck is a pretty poor striker in my opinion, he couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo and he reminds me of what Park would be like as a striker ie. Bambi on ice. Hernandez will be a great super-sub for us so he will come in handy but ideally we want to make a bid for a world class striker like Higuain. SHOCK HORROR, he can actually finish a chance without falling over when he dribbles the ball. AMAZING. We’ve been deprived of a striker like that since the departure of the injury prone Saha.

      • @johnsom33: Welbeck has scored 4 goals in 2012, 1 goal in the last 3 months. Hernandez has 4 goals in the league to his name in 2012, and his only attribute is supposed to be scoring goals. Now, both of them are supposed to lead the line, how well would we be doing if Rooney was injured for 3 weeks now? Our whole title challenge would be derailed, that’s what.

        • @Moscow: So you are just going to disregard stats then? we have a very balanced attack. rooney’s main role is to score goals and thats why he gets the lion share of them. If you remove Rooneys 22 goals we would only trail Spurs in goals scored by 1.

          Im sorry if stats dont back up your negative delusions.

        • @Moscow: Thanks for the downvote instead of coming back with a rational response. and people wonder why only 4 or 5 people even bother commenting anymore.

    • @Moscow: @Moscow: If you want a world-class striker, I would be in favor of selling Rooney. His wages are bad for business and moves the yard-stick when we bring in players (i.e. “I want to be paid about what Rooney gets”).

      We need to find 2 younger (<25) gems of strikers who would be paid less than 75K / week and then ship off Rooney to Real Madrid (who can afford his salary). Then we would be on track towards sustainable quality football 😉 I'm serious and would do this in FM, if I still played it 🙂

      • @Opti: Selling Rooney is never gonna happen in the Fergie era. I remember the media stunts Fergie pulled to keep him, he is undoubtedly Fergie’s indispensable golden boy.

        He can be that world class striker for us, if only he was spearheading the attack with a world class midfield trio behind him.

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