QPR vs Manchester United: Complacency Would Lead To Disaster

Originally published online for Sabotage Times on February 23 2013.

The Premier League title may seem all but secured at this early stage, but dropped points today could let City right back in again…

We’ve all been there. You’re strolling down the street, taking the whole world in your stride as you strut about your daily business. The sun is shining and an attractive stranger smiles at you, distracting you from the laborious task of placing one foot in front of the other in steady succession. Mid-step, your toe catches the pavement and you’re sent flying into a world of scuffed knees, bruised egos and public humiliation, landing in a sprawled heap of physical pain and embarrassment.

QPR are that loose snag of ground; a trip hazard flagstone jutting out to sendManchester United stumbling on their rickety path to an unprecedented 20thleague title. A quick glance at the current standings suggests today’s encounter at Loftus Road should be little more than a formality – a landslide for the Premier League’s current summit versus a team sinking below sea level. However, United must stay mindful and watch their step. Over the past two seasons, Sir Alex’s side have slipped up to supposedly weaker opponents, losing 3-2 against Blackburn last year and 2-1 at Wolves in 2010/11.  Continue reading

Chicharito: the way of the drunken poacher master

Often cast as a narrow and limited footballer, Javier Hernandez’s uncanny ability to score goals is reminiscent of the improbably effective Pippo Inzaghi; a poacher somewhat fondly remembered for being able to do little else but find the back of the net.

With Manchester United’s troubled defence leaking early goals this year, the Mexican has reasserted himself as the team’s modern day super sub, delivering the goods on demand when called upon. A few more pots and titles for Chicharito at Old Trafford and he could one day challenge Ole Gunnar Solksjaer as the club’s most legendary last minute hero.

Compared to his fellow strikers however, Hernandez does look technically deficient. His link up play is relatively poor in comparison to Rooney, Van Persie and Welbeck, who are all about to create, pass and contribute to the approach play with clever touches and feints. Last year the gleeful striker appeared to have become all too self-aware of his short comings, especially as he vied for game time with the technically immaculate Dimitar Berbatov. As he lost the grinning enthusiasm of his breakthrough first year, Chich struggled through a difficult second season with his knack for scoring goals blunted by dwindling appearances and over-thinking the basics of his game. Continue reading

Today’s forwards, tomorrow’s Pirlo’s?

Originally written for Sabotage Times.

How will Rooney and Messi adapt and respond to the ravages of ageing?

Andrea Pirlo’s elegant masterminding of Italy’s Euro 2012 campaign won the veteran midfielder a clutch of new admirers and reminded those who had doubted him just what he was capable of as he approached the twilight years of his career. While Pirlo benefited from facing opponents either unable or unwilling to press him effectively, the regista’s vision and skill lit up the summer tournament.

While his existing fan base looked on bemused, many treated the Italian’s performances as a wake up of sorts, questioning why such player aren’t more widespread or available to their clubs and national teams. Continue reading

Have Manchester United found the solutions to their midfield problems?

Originally published as Has Fergie Finally Got The Midfield Options To Compete With Barca & Real? for Sabotage Times. A follow up to the earlier Some Goals post What’s Missing From United’s Midfield?

Carrick: the midfield logistics man.

Over the past few years Manchester United have become a team that can be bullied. An unbalanced and underpowered midfield has seen hard pressing teams and domineering, powerhouse players punch through Sir Alex Ferguson’s fragile underbelly.

The opening two games of this season featured two such midfielders who seemed to burst through United’s core with impunity. Marouane Fellaini is an awkward player at the best of times, and from his advanced position was also a direct pest and threat to the makeshift defense of Michael Carrick and Nemanja Vidic. Without the legs or familiarity required, the defensive line could not be pushed up high in order to negate the dangers posed by the Belgian by keeping him up-field and away from De Gea’s goal. Continue reading

Rooney’s gash: will absence make Wayne’s football grow fonder?

Wayne Rooney: life imitating art?

Wayne Rooney is out for four weeks with a nasty chunk taken out of his left leg – news that would have been a body blow to United fans just a matter of months ago. With the arrival of Robin Van Persie, Shinji Kagawa however, along with Rooney’s own middling form and fitness issues, its been suggested that this early lay-off could well be a positive for both the Englishman and Manchester United’s season.

When he first burst onto the scene in 2002, the Croxteth wonderkid looked to be one of the most explosive talents around. His play style was electric and immediate, full of enthusiasm, energy and prodigious skill. He was raw, unpredictable and at times unplayable; running, nay, charging at opponents and loose balls with equal aplomb. Continue reading

MUFC: Why have United purchased Robin Van Persie?

Rooney will enjoy playing with the multi-talented Van Persie, but without midfield reinforcements, will they ever get the ball?

It’s confirmed. Robin Van Persie is now a Manchester United player. Having undertaken the decision to begin fasting earlier this week after watching the Horizon documentary, Eat, Fast and Live Longer I’m now sitting here wondering whether my mind has slipped off into some food-deprived state of non-reality. Just why have United bought Robin Van Persie?

Little about the transfer makes sense. The Dutchman is no spring chicken and fast approaching 30 with an infamously poor injury record. Considering the struggles United have had to keep players fit of late, RVP’s arrival will do little to banish the voodoo curse hanging over the treatment table at Carrington.

Secondly, Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad is overstocked with attacking talent with Rooney, Welbeck, Hernandez and Berbatov, the victim of United’s last tilt at purchasing an “established” Premier League striker, taking up four forward spots in the first team. Add to this prospects such as the newly purchased and highly hyped Chilean Angelo Herinquez, Federico Macheda and Will Keane and United’s striking options look wastefully oversubscribed and busy. Continue reading

What’s missing from Manchester United’s midfield?

Would there be any talk of midfield weakness had SAF not lost Hargreaves and Fletcher to ill-health?

From Arsene Wenger’s dodgy defenders to Liverpool’s comic lack of width, the most satisfying transfer window jibes are the ones that prod the exposed nerve of a perennial squad weakness; recruitment issues that always appear so obvious and easy to fix to the press and fans alike. These days the jokes are on Manchester United’s midfield.

Take your pick of lead ins – the financial rot of Glazernomics, another exaggerated “exodus” of youth prospects, Sir Alex Ferguson’s oblivious obsession with forwards and wingers rather than middle men – the punchline is always the same.

It seems that while Spain have taken to winning tournaments without a recognised striker, United have decided to innovate the world’s first midfielder-less squad with, shall we say, mixed results.

Unfortunately, this isn’t anything new, but last season’s pedestrian displays and failures forced the issue anew; over run by a rampant Manchester City, out pressed by a determined Athletic Bilbao and out fought by the European giants of FC Basel.

Continue reading