“I’ve seen this happen in other people’s lives and now it’s happening in mine” – United draw as Stoke City dominate in midfield

Strong-arm, long-ball, set-piece, wide-men: the elements that make up Stoke City in 2011. In a league forever vaunted for its power and speed, their tracksuited taskmaster, Tony Pulis, has built a side bigger and ‘arder than the rest of them. They are a team infamous in the air, in the challenge and out on the flanks where Jermain Pennant and Matthew Etherington patrol and charge forward with under-appreciated guile and skill.

Tony Pulis' achievements are forever scarred with backhanded compliments.

It’s usually sexy yet impotent Arsenal whose on-the-floor passing circus grinds to a halt against Stoke City, the ultimate no-nonsense straight-talking pragmatists. It could be said that Manchester United have been flirting with the prospect of becoming poster boys for their own brand of attractive, modern tippy-tappy, and they faced similar problems thanks to the every prepared Pulis and his men. Stoke fans, of course, need little encouragement when approaching a fixture against the reds. They’ve long held a quizzically well developed hatred for United, viewing the Manchester club as a bemused, major rival. Saturday’s 1-1 draw was a delicious result for fans of the Potters, having tripped up the league leaders’ 100% record, but their team’s performance would have been worthy of all three points. An inability to finish more than one of their many wing-born, box crashing balls meant that the scoreline was held level in United’s favour.

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Boxing clever: anticipating the imminent arrival of Paul Pogba

As Manchester United continue their dazzling start to the domestic season, one aching niggle still resides at the heart of the league leaders: midfield. With Paul Scholes retiring to the Old Trafford coaching roster and Owen Hargreaves’ shifting his allegiances to the noisiest of neighbours next door, questions still remain regarding United’s relative strength in depth in the middle.

Paul Pogba: Man United's latest midfield dynamo?

It must be said that neither of the two names dropped above have been first team regulars for some time, but in losing the seasoned safety net of Paul Scholes and his latter day, ‘problem solver’ cameos, along with the never-ending reservoir of perpetual hope that Hargreaves might find redemption and match fitness any day now, Manchester United have scooped away the overgrowth to reveal a threadbare patch beneath. Besides the emergence and re-emergence of Tom Cleverley and Anderson, respectively, the other midfield options appear thin on the ground. Fletcher is still fighting for form and fitness, Carrick has become a conservative, tactical sub, Gibson is nowhere to be seen and Giggs, whilst still retaining the qualities and ability required, is now a rare but welcome commodity rather than the dependable resource needed in an injury crisis. Continue reading

This Night Has Opened My Eyes – Chelsea reveal United’s short comings at Old Trafford

It was 3-0, and as the half time whistle blew up, Chelsea looked deflated and beaten. Whispers abounded infront of pub TV’s and social network chat windows across the land that Sir Alex was about to mastermind another famous victory against one of London’s giants only 21 days after 8-2 the demolition of Arsenal.

Torres almost looks back to his best. All he needs now is goals!

In truth, the score line at the mid-point somewhat flattered United as Chelsea created a number of opportunities for themselves. Finishing them off was another story however, thwarted time and again by United’s defensive kindergarten of Evans, Jones, Smalling, and the old man himself, Patrice Evera. Whilst the red’s back-line looked in good form and up to the task of closing down Villas-Boas men, their lack of positional awareness and organisation meant that United had to resort to last-ditch tackles at times to contain attacks. Continue reading

How Soon is Now? 8 points on how the Premier League’s perennial slow starters have become its early pacesetters.

Call it the ‘business end’, ‘the run-in’ or, god forbid, ‘squeaky bum time’, but Manchester United are usually the last team standing when at the climax of a football season, not the first team sprinting off from the blocks in August. With a 100% record so far maintained into September, and an impressive haul of 18 goals in four games, Sir Alex Ferguson looks to be taking the initiative early this year with a new-look side playing ‘fantasy’ football.

Anderson and his increasingly deadly eye for goal.

I’ll be looking at some of the factors, features, players and performances that could yet make this the red’s best start to the season in twenty years. Follow on after the jump! Continue reading

Benfica vs. Manchester United – LIVE BLOG

Aimar will be a danger slinking between United's midfield and defence.

In amongst house swapping, job starts and attending a music festival in a strange island land cast across open water, Some Goals Are Bigger Than Others has become a whispery retreat.

Fear not however! A blog of this colossal magnitude (at least in terms of punnery) is tougher than Bruce Willis on a trip to the Nakatomi Plaza, and so tonight, I bring you our first ‘live blog’ covering the Benfica versus Manchester United group C opener. The time is 7:45pm. The channel is ITV. Let’s go!

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