Real Madrid preview: Ronaldo isn’t the only threat for United

Originally published online for Can They Score? on February 13 2013.

In the build-up to their first leg encounter with Madrid, much has been made of Phil Jones as United’s key tactical agent in the battle to muzzle Cristiano Ronaldo. Secondary concerns have also been raised around Xabi Alonso and Mesut Ozil, with suggested solutions ranging from a dropping Wayne Rooney  in deep to unsettle the Spaniard and unleashing Danny Welbeck or Ashely Young on the left to harry the German playmaker.

Negating Alonso’s influence is key – cutting off Real’s supply line will isolate and wither their starving forwards who can often rely on the midfielder’s quick, sharp distribution from deep – but with his fitness in doubt, it’s possible that Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley may instead find themselves facing Luka Modric, Madrid’s almost forgotten man.

With Sami Khedira paired alongside him in a midfield pivot, Modric’s will be a different proposition to the slow-moving, long-pass artillery piece that usually feeds the attack. An effective dribbler and lithe space creator, the Croatian has the ability to beat a man or two in order to unshackle himself of his markers – cutting out opposition players and giving himself room to pick a more penetrative passing option. Continue reading


Time For Some Answers: Valencia Vs. Stoke

When Stoke City Football Club take on Valencia Club de Futbol we should all be paying attention. It is a game that could answer a question or two. Even I can accept that it is not often a Europa League last 32 tie is considered to be one of the years most important games, but this one has some potential.  Continue reading

These Are The Riches Of The Poor – Why the Old Trafford’s footballing aristocrats still hold a future at United

All in the technique? Berbatov and Carrick are both technically excellent footballers, but their perceived lack of energy has them unpopular scapegoats for some fans.

Finding two players more divisive to their own club’s fan-base than Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov is a formidable challenge. The two players should each be approaching a status of senior statesmen within the minds of the United faithful. Instead, they are viewed with suspicion and pessimism: either as incapable, off-the-pace dead weights; mystery men enigmas without a proper place or purpose within the United squad; or martyrs for those who wish to elevate themselves above the ‘idiot masses’. It is common to hear calls for their departures, be it by club transfer lists or under their own steam, to supposedly save their careers at another club more ‘suited’ to ‘their’ football. Continue reading

Joy Division: an attempt to pull the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo debate apart… again

Approaching a comparison between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi with any sense of objectivity in mind is an exercise in bland futility. The facts, stats, analysis and been reviewed, recast, recovered and overdone to a point of utter tedium, ending way the same obvious conclusion. How boring. Why would you want to be boring when discussing the two most exciting players of their generation? Boring…

Ronaldo vrs. Messi: a battle of footballing titans

The conflict between Messi and Ronaldo is one of subjective tastes, embellished back stories and a focus on their preened and presented ‘personalities’, the likes of which are exaggerated and enhanced in a manner that borders on the creepiness of fan fiction online. Continue reading

I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish – redemption is found at home against Norwich but brilliant Basel throw a spanner in the works

From Benfica through to Chelsea and Stoke, United have been rather fortunate in terms of their opponents’ inabilities to take their chances over the past month of September. After score draws in both the league and Europe respectively, their game against Norwich was exaggerated into something of a ‘rot stopper’ for Ferguson’s men.

Rooney, coming back from his brief injury lay off, looked out of sorts against Norwich.

The shock 3-3 draw at home to FC Basel in the week meant that the chance to remain and regroup at Old Trafford for the weekend visit of a newly promoted team looked to be a generous and welcome luxury for the reds. Norwich’s visit, with no disrespect intended, was to be a chance for United to relax back into their ruthless, flamboyant swagger before what looks to be a truly grueling run of games: Liverpool, City and Everton are all October opponents. Continue reading