United will face bitter rivals Liverpool in the third round of the FA Cup.
The tie, which will be played at Old Trafford on the second weekend of January, was the highlight of the draw.
It could be a make or break game for Liverpool, who lost to an injury time winner at Spurs, minutes before the draw was made.
That leaves the Merseyside club cut adrift from the race for Champions League places and they would hope for a cup run to give some impetus to their season.
The two sides have shared some memorable FA Cup matches, Tommy Docherty's United beat Liverpool to win the FA Cup at Wembley in 1977 and Eric Cantona fired Sir Alex Ferguson's side to a 1-0 win in 1996.
The teams were paired by former Oasis singer/songwriter and City fan Noel Gallagher and Kasabian rocker Serge Pizzorno.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Manchester United went top of the table for the first time this season courtesy of what can only be described as an early Christmas present from Blackburn. By the time the margin of victory became embarrassing in the second half, the visitors were clearly wishing they were somewhere else, though it was the way they started the game that was most surprising.
Sam Allardyce's teams usually display a degree of defensive organisation, but in going behind after a mere 72 seconds then wimping out of the contest completely when a wretched backpass gave United a third goal with less than 30 minutes played, Blackburn put up about as much resistance as a doormat.
Barely pausing to wipe their feet, United duly filled their boots, with Dimitar Berbatov claiming his second hat-trick of the season before going on to finish with five. It was the Bulgarian who struck first, poking Nani's clever cross past a static Paul Robinson as the Rovers marking went astray on United's opening attack. Park Ji-sung was next, finishing confidently by a wonderfully precise return pass from Wayne Rooney, before Berbatov took advantage of another pass for his second.
Sadly for Blackburn the provider was Pascal Chimbonda, committing every cardinal sin in the defenders' handbook under not terribly great pressure from Rooney, and already it was clear that anyone hoping for the sort of Lancashire derby to warm the cockles on a cold day might have been better heading for Bolton.
The second half opened with a third goal for Berbatov, who started the move, and finished it, with clever feet from Nani in between. Arguably United's best player, with Rooney working unselfishly but not seeing all he attempted come off, Nani scored the fifth after producing more footwork to leave Chimbonda looking foolish, before Berbatov scored two more from close range.
The striker could have had six but for Robinson making a decent save near the end, and as Berbatov was also denied a penalty in first-half stoppage time, and Nani hit a post with a free-kick intended for Nemanja Vidic to nod in, Blackburn must have been relieved to escape without the score reaching double figures. It was that one-sided. The Rovers fans chanting "Big Sam, sort it out" midway though the game were either attempting humour or trying to keep warm.
Allardyce listed half-a-dozen players absent through injury, but was not seeking excuses. "Let's face it, we weren't able to cope," the Rovers manager said. "We were completely outplayed, and while I have always been an admirer of Berbatov's quality, our defending was poor. There are occasions when you can come here and block it up, but you need commitment to do that and we didn't show the desire."
Berbatov, who scored his first league goals since his last hat-trick, against Liverpool on 19 September, said it was one of those days when moves practised on the training ground came off on the pitch. "Today we were excellent in supporting each other," he said. Very true. Particularly the reference to training pitch exercises, which is what this game frequently resembled.
United played well, putting together some intricate passing moves, but mainly because Blackburn allowed them to. Even when they won the ball the visitors gave it away again quickly and cheaply. It was hard to say United made a statement to make Chelsea sit up and take notice; they simply took advantage of a poor side and they will not be able to play Blackburn every week. "I don't think it will affect Chelsea at all," Sir Alex Ferguson said. "The important thing is that it was a top performance by us, we are getting some rhythm back into our game."
Becoming only the fourth player to score five in a Premier League match – Andy Cole, Alan Shearer and Jermain Defoe, since you ask – will do wonders for Berbatov's confidence and not much harm to his contract negotiations, though again, while the finishing was impeccable and the poacher's instinct in working order, a striker of his ability could hardly miss with the opportunities and space he was given.
In that respect it was possibly a slight worry for United that Rooney has still not managed a goal from open play for his club all season. He linked up superbly and made chances for others throughout, yet the old Rooney would have run riot in a turkey-shoot such as this, if Blackburn's new owners will forgive the expression. Chris Samba pulled a goal back for Rovers near the end, from a cross by young substitute Josh Morris, but Blackburn will be glad this performance came after their recent takeover had already gone through. It was fowl.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Wayne Rooney has finally said sorry to United supporters for his actions last month.
The United and England striker questioned the Reds’ transfer dealings and then declared he wouldn’t be signing another Old Trafford deal to the universal shock of fans.
Just two days later, after rumours that he might do the unthinkable and move to rivals City, he changed his mind and signed a new five-year contract.
However, his subsequent conciliatory words to fans have lacked an outright apology.
Rooney said: “I feel like I have apologised to the fans, but everyone keeps saying that I haven’t, if that is the case, then I apologise for my side of things.
“I have made my point clear since I signed my contract that I am committed to this club for the long term and I want to be successful with this club.
“Of course it could have been the biggest mistake I have ever made if I’d gone. You see so many players leave this club and not do so well so I am just delighted I have stayed.
“I spoke with the manager and chief executive David Gill and obviously they reassured me the club was moving forward and from that it took maybe two or three hours to negotiate my contract and sign it.”
Rooney was double Footballer of the Year last season winning the Football Writers’ award and the PFA honour for his 34 goals.
But his form collapsed after his ankle injury in Germany against Bayern Munich last March.
He suffered a woeful World Cup then had to face lurid stories over his private life and more ankle problems this term.
His form remained subdued and then the contract row broke and piled on the part self-inflicted torment.
“After a hard couple of months it was such a great feeling to be back against Rangers,” Wayne added. “People are saying how bad I have been playing but I don’t think I have played that many games for my form to have been a disaster.
“With everything that has happened it all goes a bit overboard but I know myself I have been through patches before when I haven’t played well but I have come through them.
“I know 100 per cent I will come through this one. The off-field issues haven’t been a distraction. Not at all. It hasn’t been a distraction to my football because I haven’t played that much.
“But I am just happy it is all over now and I want to put it behind me and look forward. Mentally, I have been OK during it all. I am mentally strong.
“Because the football has not been going well and the other things that have happened everyone has put it down to not being mentally strong enough but I am.
“Obviously, the most important thing for me at the minute is to play and score goals.
“I can get back to the standard of last season. I am a confident person and think I can do it.
“It was great to be back against Rangers at Ibrox. I think I was OK. I had a few chances.
“I was happy that I was in the right positions to get the chances because normally when you come back from fitness problems it takes you a while to get into the positions to be on the end of chances, so I was happy with that.
“The penalty will give me confidence. It was nice to score but the main thing was to get back playing. I am happy with that.” Rooney was sent to Nike’s HQ in Portland in America to advance his fitness.
He spent seven days working on his conditioning and refocusing. “Going to the States has certainly helped me a lot,” he said.
“Normally, when I have been injured it has taken me four or five games to feel I was back to full fitness and I would feel it in the last 20 minutes of matches but at Ibrox I felt good in the last 20 minutes.
“What was my reaction when the manager told me about America? Well, I wasn’t going to argue with him was I?
“I needed to get the training in and, if that is what they wanted me to do, then I was happy to dot it and it worked out well.”
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wayne Rooney has pledged his loyalty to United – and vowed to stay for the long-term.
The England striker signed a five-year Old Trafford deal last month in a dramatic U-turn, after questioning the club’s ambition and insisting he wouldn’t pen a new contract.
There have since been conspiracy theories that the agreement was signed to pave the way for a £50m exit as early as next summer – to stop the 25-year-old running down his old deal and leaving on the cheap or as a free agent.
It has been claimed he will still depart after this season, but with the Reds now getting the best price for their top asset.
But Rooney, set to feature against Rangers in the Champions League tonight, has quashed that idea, saying: "I read that I’ve agreed a new deal so that the club can agree a higher price with a different team somewhere down the line, which was a load of rubbish.
"I signed a new deal to stay here for the long-term future with United.
"I always made it clear I wanted to be at this club. I had my concerns and voiced my opinion but at the end of the day I’m delighted that my long-term future is at United.
"I want to help the young players the way Giggsy, Gary Neville and Scholesy have helped me. I want to be here and to continue to make this club successful."
Rooney made his first appearance for United since the controversial contract saga as a sub against Wigan last Saturday.
It was a mixed reception but the striker says he was happy with the United fans’ response.
"I’ve been out for a long time, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the reaction from the fans but the reception was brilliant and I just tried to help the team win and score goals.
"I can understand fans’ frustrations with the contract negotiations, obviously it happened in the public eye which made it difficult but at the end of the day the main thing is for myself and the club that we managed to agree that deal.
"I’ve signed a new deal to stay here and my long-term future is at United."
Rooney was allowed to fly off to the Middle East for a break within days of ending the contract drama while nursing an ankle injury picked up in training on the day Sir Alex Ferguson addressed the situation in a press conference for the Bursaspor Champions League match at Old Trafford.
"I got injured here at the club and the medical team made it clear that they didn’t want me to do anything for seven-10 days. They said it was best to go away and take that time off," added Rooney.
"The club gave me that time away in Dubai because there was no training for me to do. The media made a big thing of it but it’s happened in the past – it was just the time it came out, the press made a big thing out of it.
"I then went to the States with the United medical team to work on my fitness training. It was really intense – I was starting training at nine and not getting back until six or seven.
"I wanted to make sure when I came back in the team I was fit and ready, and not take four, five or six games to get up to speed."
There have been stories suggesting Rooney’s United colleagues were angry with him over his claims about the club. But the England international refutes that, saying: "The players have been fine. There’s no problem whatsoever since the negotiations, not before or after."
Sir Alex Ferguson hailed Braveheart, Wayne Rooney, as the England striker immediately began paying back his bumper new deal at United.
Rooney’s 87th minute penalty secured a 1-0 win against Rangers as United booked their place in the knockout phase of the Champions League.
It was his first goal since the controversy over his new five-year contract at Old Trafford, making him the highest paid player in the club’s history on around £160,000 a week.
And it will go a long way to winning round supporters still bitter over his threat to quit the club last month.
Ferguson said: “It took courage to take the penalty kick. It wasn’t an easy night, he missed a couple of chances, but that’s what we expect with the rustiness in his game. I’m pleased for him.”
Rooney showed nerves of steel to fire past Allan McGregor in the Ibrox cauldron after Fabio was fouled by Steven Naismith.
But he admits it will take time for fans to forgive him after he came so close to quitting United, questioning their ambition.
“Not all the fans are going to want to be singing my name all the time or going to want to be cheering me all the time and I fully accept that and understand that,” he said. “But I have to go out and prove to the fans that I am here to stay and I want to work and I want to win things at this club.
“Only I can say how I feel and I know 100% it was nothing to do with money. Once I sat down and spoke with the manager, spoke with the owners, they told me how the club was moving forward. The contract negotiations lasted two hours. If it was about money I'd be sitting down for days, months trying to sort that out.”
Rooney also insisted his relationship is as strong as ever with Ferguson, saying: “In terms of any falling out with the manager, there's been no falling out whatsoever.”
And Ferguson is convinced his star striker will have no problem building bridges with fans.
Now the United manager has set his sights on winning Group C with victory against Valencia in their final game.
"We want to go and win the group," added Ferguson. "We've got Valencia at home, we can look forward to that."
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Wayne Rooney has admitted he was worried by the reaction of United fans when he returned to action on Saturday.
The striker came on as a second-half substitute in the 2-0 defeat of Wigan to make his first appearance since he announced he wanted to leave Old Trafford before signing a lucrative five-year extension.
"I've been out for a long time," said Rooney, who is set to start for the Reds in tomorrow night's Champions League clash at Rangers. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about the reaction from the fans but the reception was brilliant and I just tried to help the team win and score goals.
"I can understand fans' frustrations with the contract negotiations, obviously it happened in the public eye which made it more difficult. But at the end of the day the main thing for myself and the club is that we managed to agree that deal.
"I've signed a new deal to stay here and my long-term future is at United."
The England striker also scotched suggestions that some of his United team-mates had been giving him the cold shoulder following the episode.
"The players have been fine," he said. "There's no problem whatsoever since the negotiations, not before or after.
"I always made it aware I wanted to be at this club. I had my concerns and voiced my opinion but at the end of the day I'm delighted that my long-term future is at United,
"I want to to help the young players the way Giggsy, Gary Neville and Scholesy have helped me. I want to be here and to continue to make this club successful."
Monday, November 22, 2010
Evra opened the scoring in the first half of Saturday's 2-0 win over Wigan with his first goal since 2007, and after Chelsea's loss to Birmingham, United are level on points with the league leaders.
"I said before the game that if we beat Wigan and Blackburn next week we would be top of the league, and I am still confident of that," Evra said. "But I think the team can give much more than we are giving right now. We are still at the top of the league, but against Blackburn we need to play from the first minute, not just at the end of the game."
The French full back called for his team to up their performance in their next match against Blackburn and for them to play the "United" way.
"We are Manchester United and we need to be more aggressive and score more goals - and to bring back the way United play always," he said.
He also acknowledged the contribution made by his teammate and close friend Park Ji-Sung, who put in the cross for Evra's headed goal.
"I don't think my son was even born the last time I scored a goal for United,'' Evra said on MUTV. "It was a good cross from my best friend Park Ji-Sung, I think maybe I'll get him a big present for Christmas, maybe a car."
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
- Wayne Rooney has scored nine goals in 11 games in all competitions against Wigan and four in his last four appearances.
- Dimitar Berbatov has scored five goals in eight Premier League appearances against Wigan.
- Manchester United have won all 11 matches they have played against Wigan in all competitions scoring 35 goals and conceding just four.
- Wigan have only won one of their last 13 Premier League away matches.
- Wigan have won none and lost 18 of their 20 Premier League away games at the "Big Four".
- United have won 15 and lost just one of their last 17 Premier League matches at Old Trafford.
- It is 17 Premier League matches since Manchester United last failed to score at home and in only one of those games did they fail to score at least twice.
- Manchester United have the best conversion rate of chances in the Premier League (17 per cent), while Wigan have the worst (seven per cent).
- Nani has set up more goals (seven) than any other player in the Premier League this season.
- 87 per cent of the goals Manchester United have conceded have been shipped in the second half, the highest proportion in the Premier League.
Wayne Rooney is set to make his comeback for Manchester United against Wigan - although he is set to start from the bench.
Rooney has not figured for the Reds since his brief substitute appearance against West Brom last month, since when he has signed a new five-year contract and been to the United States for conditioning work on his troublesome ankle injury.
The 25-year-old has not returned to full training yet but he has done a sufficient amount of work to be considered for a spot on the bench, with Sir Alex Ferguson confirming Rooney will definitely play some part in Wednesday's Champions League encounter with Rangers at Ibrox.
"I don't think he'll start tomorrow," Ferguson told radio station Key103.
"Maybe he will reach the bench. But he will certainly play on Wednesday against Rangers."
Ferguson also has doubts over Ryan Giggs and Rafael as United look to close the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted he is still the number one powerhouse at United and has no plans to retire.
The Reds manager had pencilled in a possible 2011 date to quit Old Trafford.
He’s just celebrated 24 years in charge at the club and next month, just before his 69th birthday, he will become United’s all-time longest serving manager, eclipsing Sir Matt Busby’s stint.
But like his famous 2002 retirement U-turn Fergie said: “I’ve changed my mind – again. I’m in no mood for it. As long as my health is good, I intend to carry on.
“If my health deteriorated it would be different but retirement is for young people – they can do something else. If I get off that treadmill where do you think I’d go – only one way, down.”
Wayne Rooney’s recent statement that he wouldn’t sign a new Reds contract because of United’s transfer ambition, before retracting his words and penning a new five-year deal, was a challenge to Ferguson’s authority and a potentially disruptive episode for the dressing room. Clearly, the 25-year-old striker was sailing extremely close to the wind.
“Some young people today take bad advice,” added Sir Alex. “He’s got an agent who is not the most popular man in the world, certainly not at our club.
“But there’s nothing wrong with making a mistake as long as you recognise it.
“He (Rooney) has apologised and signed a new contract. I think what we want is Wayne back to his best. When that happens I think everyone will be OK.
“My concern will always be control. The minute a player threatens my control in the dressing room I have to take it seriously,” he said.
“I have to consider, Is this worthwhile? Is it affecting the team morale? Is it affecting results? Is it affecting the atmosphere in the dressing room?
“If that is the case, the player has to go, no question. My strength has to be obvious for all to see.
“The minute a footballer becomes more important than a manager, your club is dead. The history of this club goes right down the drain.
“I am the most important man at Manchester United. It has to be that way.”
Ferguson also had some words of advice for “noisy neighbours” Manchester City.
“You CAN buy success if the structure is right,” he said. “They’ve (City) bought some good players, no question, but building spirit is not easy when a collection of different individuals come into the dressing room. It’s a big challenge, it’s not easy.”
Addressing a sports congress in Doha, where he has been lending his enthusiastic support to Qatar’s bid to stage the 2022 World Cup, Ferguson praised United’s controversial American owners the Glazers.
“We have a great relationship, they never bother me, they never phone,” he said.
“They never interfere. What more can you ask for? I’m in a privileged position. I’ve heard of English owners texting managers during training sessions.”
The England player has returned from a week of intensive training in the United States after being sidelined with an ankle injury.
"We have to see if he's ready for the first team," Ferguson told a sports conference in the Qatari capital Doha on Wednesday.
"The only evidence we will have is on the training field and I'll see that tomorrow (Thursday)." United, who are third in the table and three points behind leaders Chelsea after 13 games, meet struggling Wigan on Saturday aiming to make up for the two points they dropped at Aston Villa in a 2-2 draw last week.
"Wayne has had a good week in Oregon. He's done well," added Ferguson. Rooney has barely been out of the headlines in recent months, making the news for his poor form at the World Cup in June, revelations about his private life and the stunning change of heart he had when deciding whether to sign a new United deal.
He eventually agreed a five-year contract on Oct. 22 but fans have not seen him in action since he pledged his future to the club, with his last appearance coming as a late substitute in a 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion on Oct. 16.
It remains to be seen what sort of reaction the 25-year-old Rooney will get when he does eventually return after originally saying he wanted to leave Old Trafford but if he can recapture the sort of form that produced 34 goals last season, he may quickly be forgiven.
"The boy rushed in," said Ferguson. "The minute the ... supporters and press had a say, he changed his mind immediately because he knew he made a mistake.
"He immediately apologised and agreed a new contract in a couple of hours. We want to get Wayne to his best. When that happens everything will be OK."
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Aston Villa are likely to have eight first-team squad members unavailable for the clash with Manchester United. Carlos Cuellar has definitely been ruled out with a calf injury suffered ahead of the midweek win over Blackpool while fellow defender Habib Beye is also struggling after twisting his ankle in the warm-up against the Tangerines.Stiliyan Petrov, Nigel Reo-Coker, John Carew, Emile Heskey, Steve Sidwell and Fabian Delph are out, while striker Gabriel Agbonlahor could come into the starting line-up after making his comeback from groin surgery as a substitute against Blackpool.Manchester United are hopeful of having Patrice Evra available for the trip. The France full-back limped out of Wednesday's Manchester derby with an ankle injury, which it was felt would keep him out of the Villa Park encounter. However, Evra trained on Friday and could be involved, unlike Rafael who is sidelined by a dead leg, and Paul Scholes, who is suspended.
- Aston Villa have won just one of the last 29 Premier League meetings with Manchester United.
- Villa have won none of the last 14 Premier League games against Manchester United at Villa Park, but have drawn the last two.
- Gerard Houllier won five and lost five of his 12 Premier League meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson while coach at Liverpool.
- Gabriel Agbonlahor has scored four of the six goals that Villa have scored against Manchester United in the last 10 meetings with the Red Devils.
- The Red Devils have lost only one of their last 42 Premier League matches in the midlands since 1998: 0-1 at Wolves in January 2004.
- Only Arsene Wenger (9) has won more Premier League matches as a manager against Manchester United than Gerard Houllier (5).
- Aston Villa have lost only one of their last 15 Premier League home matches.
- Villa have kept four clean sheets in their last six home Premier League matches.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Martin Samuel, The Daily Mail:
If Manchester City are going to come anywhere near to achieving their ambitions this season, they need to stop mocking their neighbours and start learning from them.
A catchy slogan is one thing, but it will never make up for the type of bold strategies that put Manchester United on their pedestal. United became a part of Europe’s elite because, in Sir Alex Ferguson, they had a manager who knew when to gamble, when to risk and when to all-out go for it.
Edwin van der Sar, the Manchester United goalkeeper, made one outstanding save all evening and it was from a dead ball, a first-half free-kick taken by Carlos Tevez.
That is nowhere near good enough for the investment in this team. We should have at least been able to measure City against United but were left with more questions than answers.
Jim White, The Telegraph:
By the time those four minutes were signalled, all thought of trying to win this game had dribbled from the City technical area. In a telling move, Mancini ordered on his substitute Emmanuel Adebayor to replace Tévez and the little man walked off as slowly as he could, desperate to waste United’s killing time.
In a sense it worked, there was to be no last-minute horror on this occasion. But nobody can be persuaded after this that the shackles of inferiority have really been removed from the blue half of the city.
Paul Hayward, The Guardian:
City’s lack of ambition sent tremors through Eastlands. Was the culprit Mancini’s fear of the sack, innate managerial caution or fear on the part of his players? With increasing frequency regulars here are saying a £600m investment entitles the club’s owners to expect at least an intention to attack. For City to play as if a draw would be a satisfactory outcome against opponents only two places higher in the table suggests a freezing of Mancini’s critical faculties and a waste of the assets at his command.
City’s followers have seen comparatively mediocre players fight their way to a standstill in these derby games. Their successors, outriders for a world-conquering future, were more meek in settling for a point in a furiously hyped encounter.
With their methodical, precise passing United pursued victory with the textbook of derby strategies in hand. There was no abundance of creativity on show from them, just a steady marshalling of resources against a side who displayed no consistent urge to support Carlos Tevez, their lone striker.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was left frustrated by his team's 0-0 draw at Manchester City.
"I am disappointed we didn't win, we needed to win," said the Scot on a night when Chelsea beat Fulham 1-0 to extend their Premier League lead.
City boss Roberto Mancini was happier to share the spoils, saying: "It was important for both clubs not to lose.
"I think this proves City are at the same level as United at the moment. We just need some more time."
Despite a big build-up, with both teams in the top four in the Premier League, the game failed to spark into life.
Defences dominated, with City's best chance a Carlos Tevez free-kick that Edwin van der Sar saved and United going close when Dimitar Berbatov's volley flew at Joe Hart.
Mancini, who saw his team fall seven points behind leaders Chelsea, believes the result proves City are continuing to close the gap on neighbours United.
"We are improving and I prefer one point to zero points, which was the case in this game last season," said the Italian.
"When you play in a derby it is a difficult game. We did not have many chances to score but it was a good point.
"We tried to win but they defended very well. We play to win but when you do not have many chances it is difficult."
Ferguson admitted City made life tough for his side, who had several players struggling with a virus in the lead-up to the game.
"They set their stall out not to lose," said Ferguson after his 34th Manchester derby. "They are very powerful and experienced and they stopped us from playing.
"Maybe all the tension in the build-up to the game was too much for it to be a real spectacle.
"There were good aspects to our play. We controlled the game and there were good aspects to our play but we didn't create many chances."
We dominated and played some good football, but teams coming here are going to find it difficult."
United keeper Van der Sar was less diplomatic about City's tactics, claiming: ""They were clearly playing for a point whereas we wanted to win. They were more defensive than us."
The point keep United in second place, but they are now four behind leaders Chelsea, while Arsenal closed to within a point of Ferguson's team after winning 2-0 at Wolves.
Mancini said ahead of Wednesday's match that he believes Chelsea will retain the title, but said afterwards that things could change during the tense knockout stages of the Champions League.
"If we are still close then we will see. It is very difficult, but it's important that we stay near the top," he added.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Thirteen Manchester City managers have tried and failed to match the exploits of Sir Alex Ferguson since the Scot arrived at Old Trafford in 1986; incumbent number 14 is discovering just how difficult a job he has on his hands.
While Ferguson was celebrating his 24th anniversary at Manchester United this weekend with a now trademark last-minute victory over Wolves, Roberto Mancini was battling to prolong his 11-month tenure at West Bromwich Albion.
The outcome was successful, but the reprieve only temporary. Defeat in Wednesday's derby would put Mancini under massive pressure and only serve as a reminder of how much work there is still to do before City can emerge from United's shadow.
Mancini has lavished £140m on his squad in 11 months, but is no better off in terms of points-per-games than Mark Hughes's side at this stage last season and rumours of disharmony between players and coach refuse to go away. Nonetheless, a first league victory over United since February 2008 would see City go level on points with their neighbours, who are are looking to extend a 24-match unbeaten run.
The derby will be the first since Wayne Rooney's reported flirtation with City ended with the England striker signing a lucrative new deal to stay at United. Rooney, however, will be 5,000 miles ways as he undergoes treatment on an ankle problem in the United States.
• Manchester United have won their last four Premier League derbies against City, since a 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford in February 2008.
• This is Sir Alex Ferguson's 34th Manchester derby in the top flight. He has won 18, drawn nine and lost six of his previous 33 league matches against City.
• City are looking to avoid back-to-back Premier League defeat at the City of Manchester Stadium for the first time in two years - since losing to Manchester United and Everton between November and December 2008.
• They have won five of their last seven Premier League matches.
• They have failed to win any of the three league matches in which they have conceded the opening goal this season.
• United are the only unbeaten team in the country (all competitions).
• They are unbeaten in their opening 11 league matches for the first time in Premier League history.
• United have scored at least twice in 10 of their 11 league games this season. The only club to stop them scoring was Sunderland in a 0-0 draw at the Stadium of Light on 2 October.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Owen Hargreaves’ career as a football player may be over after he limped off just 6 minutes after starting the match against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday afternoon to be replaced by Bebe. It looked like a hamstring injury after Hargreaves flicked a ball into the area. The match against Wolves was the first start for Owen after 777 days. He joined United on the 31st May of 2007 from Bayern Munich for £17 million and was presented alongside Luis Nani on the 9th July. For Bayern, Hargreaves made 145 league appearances, scoring 5 goals.
However, for United he played 23 league games in the 2007/08 season, scoring two goals, but then he was restricted by injury to just 2 appearances in the 2008/09 season, 1 appearance in 2009/10, and just 2 appearances (including the match against Wolves) this season. Prior to the attempt at making a long-awaited comeback from injury, Owen Hargreaves had stated that this will be his last attempt, and if it fails, he would hang up his boots. The official report of the extent of the injury has not come out yet, but if this injury is somewhat connected to the patellar tendinitis knee injury that has ruined Hargreaves’ football career, or another injury that keeps him out of football for a long time, then the match against Wolves on the 6th November will be the last appearance that Owen Hargreaves made in a Manchester United shirt and the last time he came out on a football pitch as a player.
Monday, November 8, 2010
1. We were dreadful. Couldn’t keep the ball, when on the ball, didn’t know what to do, passing the ball straight to the opposition. Just all round appalling in the first half.
2. Park Ji-Sung. Well, well, well. The player who has been slagged off mercilessly for his poor performances this season popped up with the goods again. Not once, but twice. No, Wolves are no Milan, Liverpool or Arsenal, like opponents he scored against last season, but it’s games like today you need to win, so full credit to him for pulling it out of the bag. The first goal was put on a plate for him, the second was all his own doing, so well done.
3. Poor Owen Hargreaves. Minutes in, to see him hobbling around, was pretty devastating. He jogged off, got sent back on, but he turned around almost instantly to head off down the tunnel. Poor lad. At least it wasn’t his knee though. Didn’t warm up properly for fear of doing his knee? Who knows.
4. Back to the drawing board with Bebe. Was impressed with his bursts of pace and his strength, but his crossing was ridiculous.
5. Darren Fletcher is a confusing one. At times, he was sprinting here, there and everywhere, chasing the ball down, giving his all for the team. Then at other times, like in the lead up to the Wolves goal, he looked like he couldn’t be arsed. Fell over and lost position, then just lay than Ronaldo team and watched Wolves break. As they were slotting home the equaliser, Fletch has made his way back to the edge of the box after jogging back. You’re better than that, Darren!
6. Before the headlines start questioning United minus Rooney, I suppose it shouldn’t come so much as a surprise that we’re below par with so many players missing. Nani, Ryan Giggs, Dimitar Berbatov, Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick and Anderson were amongst the missing, with Paul Scholes waiting until mid-way through the second half to make an appearance.
7. Hard to deny what a difference Scholesy makes to our performances. He pulls all the strings, adds composure and seemed to lift the spirits and belief of the players. I was beginning to think I was mistaken in thinking Scholes was on the bench, given how long it took for him to come on. You had to think it was going to be ‘one of those days’ when even he is slicing efforts miles wide, but all in all, he had a very calming influence on the game.
8. Javier Hernandez struggled without a proper strike partner and through desperation even resorted to diving. Come on kiddo, don’t go down that path.
9. I imagine Marcus Hahnemann felt sorry for all the time he wasted when United scored such a late winner. Imagine what Wolves made have achieved if he hadn’t whittled away so much time delaying the game?
10. How fitting that, as another anniversary of Sir Alex Ferguson’s time with the club arrives, we win the game with always the lack kick of the game. That’s our “never say die” attitude, and an attitude Sir Alex has instilled in our players for 24 years.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Manchester United are trying to minimise the impact of a virus disrupting the Old Trafford club ahead of the clash with Wolves.
Aside from Wayne Rooney's continued absence with an ankle injury, for once the weekly medical bulletin was led by information on the manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.
United officials confirmed the Scot would be absent from his press briefing earlier on Friday.
It was left to assistant Mike Phelan to confirm Ferguson had been struck down by the same virus which prevented four members of his squad travelling to Turkey for the Champions League win over Bursaspor and keeps Darron Gibson out of tomorrow's Premier League encounter with Wolves.
"The manager has been ill since coming back from Turkey," said Phelan.
"He came down with a virus yesterday. He felt a little bit like that on the flight coming back.
"Yesterday he felt worse, so we have kept him away from the club for a little while.
"It is related to the virus that has been going around.
"It is one of those things that gets hold of you and is hard to shake off but he will be at the game tomorrow."
Phelan confirmed that Ryan Giggs is edging towards full fitness after his recent hamstring problems, although it seems more likely the veteran Welshman will make his comeback against City at Eastlands than being rushed back for this weekend's fixture, particularly as Darren Fletcher is set to shake off an ankle problem.
"Darren Fletcher is showing positive signs that he could recover," said Phelan.
"We will have a look at him again this morning and hopefully he will be available.
"Ryan has been back in training and has started his preparation for the matches. Whether he will be available for tomorrow we are not quite sure yet."
There are other virus sufferers who will need to be assessed, although in-form winger Nani will not be considered.
The Portugal international limped out of Tuesday's win with a groin injury amid fears he could be sidelined for some considerable time.
However, he reported an easing of the discomfort yesterday and now he is undergoing treatment it is hoped will have him ready to face City.
"There is a possibility he could play against Manchester City," said Phelan.
"Having reported in yesterday with the injury from Tuesday night, he felt a lot better than we expected, so we are going to progress him as quickly as we can with a view to next week."
Wolves boss Mick McCarthy has no fresh injury worries.
Full-back Ronald Zubar and central defender Jody Craddock have still not recovered from ankle and hip problems respectively while midfielder Adlene Guedioura (broken leg) and winger Michael Kightly (knee) remain long-term absentees.
McCarthy may be tempted to persevere with the line-up which impressed during last weekend's 2-1 home success over Manchester City - their first win in seven league games.
Wolves will be making a quickfire return to Old Trafford, having been beaten 3-2 in a Carling Cup tie 10 days ago.
p/s: prediction from m3:united win 3-0. hope berbatov can be among a scorer..^^
Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou has claimed that Manchester United are their biggest rivals for the title this season.
“If we can be at least five points ahead of Manchester United by the festive period it will be a good step towards the title,” said Kalou. “The goal is to be even further ahead by Christmas. There will be other teams challenging but we will see United as our main rivals.”
United’s remaining 2010 league fixtures
v Wolves (h)
v City (a)
v Villa (a)
vs Wigan (h)
v Blackburn (h)
v Blackpool (a)
v Arsenal (h)
v Chelsea (a)
v Sunderland (h)
v Birmingham (a)
Chelsea’s remaining 2010 fixtures
v Liverpool (a)
v Fulham (h)
v Sunderland (h)
v Birmingham (a)
v Newcastle (a)
v Everton (h)
v Tottenham (a)
v United (h)
v Arsenal (a)
v Bolton (h)
Friday, November 5, 2010
Manchester United star Nani rekcons he can become the best player in the world.
The Reds' in-form winger is expecting to shrug off a groin injury in time to be fit for Wednesday’s mouth-watering Eastlands derby showdown and reckons he is begninning to fulfil his potential.
Nani had a less than impressive start to his Old Trafford career after his £18m move from Sporting Lisbon in 2007 as he struggled to emerge from the shadows of countryman Ronaldo.
But he has been one of the Reds’ key players this season and now feels he is ready to join the global elite and one-day emulate the Real Madrid winger.
“I want everyone in the future to be saying that Nani is one of the best players in the world. That is my ambition,” said the 23-year-old, who limped off during United’s 3-0 win over Bursaspor on Tuesday night.
“Maybe some people are saying it now I don’t know. If they are then I am very happy.
“Since I came to Manchester I always said I believed in my qualities but I said I had a lot of work to do.
“I started to work hard and I got opportunities. I am more mature now and more experienced in the team, I am doing well at the moment.
“I always knew I could be an important member of the team.”
Manchester United's 3-0 Champions League win over Bursaspor came at a cost because winger Nani and midfielder Darren Fletcher both suffered injuries.
Nani limped off with a groin problem and will miss Saturday's Premier League game against Wolves, while Fletcher, who scored the opener, hurt an ankle.
Nani was replaced in the first half of the Champions League match
"Nani has a groin injury and is out for Saturday and I think Darren will be out as well," said boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
"That part has been disappointing but these things happen in football."
Nani was replaced by Park Ji-Sung in the 29th minute but Fletcher lasted long enough to find the net just after half-time.
United are also without strikers Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney at the moment because of hamstring and ankle injuries respectively.
Plus defender Rio Ferdinand, who returned to the Red Devils side in September after injuring a knee when in World Cup training with England in June, missed the trip to Turkey.
"We may have Darron Gibson back after a bout of flu but Anderson has had a virus as well and I don't think he will be ready," added Ferguson.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has ruled out making any new signings in the January transfer window, despite being linked with a host of names after the Wayne Rooney contract saga.
Rooney was upset over the lack of assurances in United's transfer plans - causing him to reveal publically that he wanted to quit the club, before dramatically changing his mind - and the likes of Edin Dzeko, Karim Benzema, Kaka and Wesley Sneijder (until he signed a new deal with Inter Milan) were being talked about.
However, as the Manchester United boss saw his side beat Tottenham 2-0 in the Premier League to keep five points behind leaders Chelsea, Ferguson claimed there was no need to bring any new players to Old Trafford in over the winter.
''We won't be buying in January, definitely not,'' said Ferguson in the Independent. ''If you want someone to play in Europe, you are limited right away. There are hundreds of players cup-tied.
''You have five months left of the season, I will have Antonio Valencia back hopefully towards the end of February, which is a new player coming back. If Michael Owen gets back, it is another new player coming back. So with the squad I've got, I don't see any reason for us to buy anyone.''
Ferguson also revealed Rooney is not set to return from his ankle injury for another five weeks.
''I think Wayne Rooney will be out for another five weeks,'' he added in the Sunday Express. ''He'll have to pick up his fitness again. I would think five weeks should be about right.''