Posts Tagged ‘ Luis Nani ’

Weekend Review

-by D 

Football is a curious game isn’t it. In the result-orientated world of football and to a lesser extent, life, it’s not about the number of chances that one creates or the manner in which the opportunity is born, it is about whether we make those chances count. United, Spurs and Blackburn did whilst Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Fernando Torres did not.

For Arsenal, their defensive fragility and puzzling inability to defend set pieces saw them throw away a game that they had in the bag. One would have thought purchasing an experienced 6’7 German international in Per Mertersacker would solve their woes at the back.
Blackburn certainly didn’t think so and took full advantage of the London side’s weakness at the back as the Yak( see what i did with the rhyme) and Martin Olsson pummeled them with strength and pace. Not that Yakubu’s deft opener was about any of that but still, it doesn’t take much to breach Arsenal’s defence these days.
Stars players may come and go, but this lack of defensive solidity has been a chronic issue that will continue to deny them success. How Wenger and Arsenal fans must have hoped that the opposing centre-back pairing of Scott Dann and the man-mountain, Christopher Samba, were in the red and white instead of the blue and white.
Still, it was nice to see Wenger maintain his sense of humour, as he quipped, “We scored six goals and lost”. Following another pathetic fantasy week, I’m incapable of such graciousness.
As Arsenal’s self-implosion continues to evolve, lovers of schadenfreude should turn their attention to Liverpool’s faltering revolution.
A 4-0 defeat to a potential top-four contender after having two men sent off for silly fouls and your best defender hauled off due to injury in the first-half was the stuff of nightmares for Liverpool fans.
Utterly slow off the blocks and lacking any form of attacking impetus, Liverpool got what they deserved. A few glaring tactical flaws, which in fairness, are only apparent on hindsight, cost Dalglish’s side dearly.
Although Gareth Bale has had a quiet season so far, that lad still can run exceedingly fast. Like real fast. If there were a time to play Dirk Kuyt on the right, this would be it. Especially so if your right-back is a centre-back and even more so if your team goes down to 10 men.
Kenny goes ahead and plays Andy Carroll on the right after Charlie Adam’s sending off. Martin Skrtel and Andy Carroll could not be any squarer pegs in round holes.
Naturally, Liverpool were torn apart by a swashbuckling Spurs side who look like they have gotten over their teething problems. A huge part of their rejuvenation is down to the purchase of Scott Parker, whose tenacity, experience and defensive nous has given their top-heavy side of attacking talents a nice balance.
Just ask Luka Modric, who had the freedom to roam forward and unleash a stunner from 20 yards out past a hapless Reina thanks to Parker’s steady presence behind him.
Further, Emmanuel Adebayor is still in the stage at his new club when his actually gives a damn and a Adebayor who puts in the effort is a pretty scary proposition for any defender. His hold-up play, distribution and finishing was simply exceptional.
And speaking of teams which are on the rise, the top dog for the past twenty years, Manchester United, continue to show how its done. Its hard for me to even type this but its true.
Demonstrating their new brand of intricate passing football, which is fused with Ferguson’s traditionally strong emphasis on wing-play and carried out at breakneck speed, United won the game in a ruthlessly clinical manner – three goals were scored from three attempts in the first-half.
The first, an emphatic header from a wonderfully whipped cross that appeared a tad offside but was never going to be ruled out because well, it’s Old Trafford and Manchester United, they will do whatever they want.
However, there is no doubting the veracity of the second goal, which has to be one of the goals of the season as Nani gently took down a 40-yard cross field ball, slalomed past three players and rifled it into the top corner from 25 yards out.
That, my friends, is how you strike a ball.
The third was slightly fortuitous -a hashed clearance by John Terry ricocheted off a Chelsea defender into the path of an unmarked Wayne Rooney-  but irrelevant because they put the ball in the back of the net and that’s all that matters.
Which is why Ramires and to a larger extent Fernando Torres, will be rueing their respectively glaring misses for years to come. Chelsea were the better side for most parts of the game but sadly, results aren’t determined by the means.
Games are won and lost and limited chances and the only reason that United and Sir Alex have been at the top of the game is because they take those chances. Winners do that.
And as we welcome yet another miserable week of work and League Cup football, it seems that the ultimate winner is English football. Like Manchester United, they are a brand that never fails to deliver. Exhilarating, high-quality action week in, week out.
Until next week then chaps.

Manchester United Tear Arsenal A New One

-by M with help from D

As Howard Webb blew his whistle to signal the end of the game,  there were no wild scenes of celebration by Manchester United players. Despite beating arch-rivals Arsenal by a record scoreline of 8-2.

It was almost as if the dire situation Arsenal F.C are currently in dampened the celebratory mood amongst the players. Somber handshakes were interchanged and consolatory pats on the back of Arsenal players were dished out by the United players. One wonders what kind words Wayne Rooney offered to Wojciech Szczensy then.

The bigger question however, still persists- how does Arsene Wenger lift his team up from such a terrible, morale-sucking defeat? It was not as if Arsenal were expected to come away with a result against a United side who were so rampant against Tottenham last weekend.

Devastated by injuries and suspensions to key players, coming away from Old Trafford with a point would still have been realistic after a confidence-boosting mid-week win over Udinese that secured the North London’s side entry to the Champions League group stages.

However, even the most pessimistic Arsenal fans would not have been able to imagine the kind of punishment United were about to dish out on their side. Rihanna’s “S&M” comes to mind for Arsenal fans looking for a song to accompany the repeat telecast.

The gulf in class was encapsulated by the polarizing benches both teams set out. United’s bench oozed of quality and experience. Being able to call upon a substitutes such as Dimitar Berbatov, Rio Ferdinand, Park Ji Sung, Fabio, Javier Hernandez and Anders Lindegaard was simply frightening.

On the opposite end, Arsenal’s bench of Lukasz Fabianski, Marouane Chamakh, Henri Lansbry, Gilles Sunu, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ignasi Miquel and Oguzhan Ozyajup was frightening as well; for the Arsenal fan that is.

And as the match began, the gulf in class became a chasm.

The tone of the match was set in the first 10-15 minutes as United were clearly the dominant force in the game. Despite being outnumbered in the engine room, the energetic duo of Cleverley and Anderson completely outran the patched-up midfield trio of Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Francis Coquelin.

After Welbeck nodded in the opening goal after Arsenal’s backline failed to clear their lines quick enough, Arsenal fans knew that they were in for a long night.

Having said that, Arsenal had their chances. After Walcott was felled in the box by Jonny Evans, Van Persie had the chance to level the scoreline only for his dreadful penalty to be saved by David De Gea. Had the Dutchman levelled the proceedings then, the game may not have slipped away as drastically as it did.

And if you don’t take your chances at Old Trafford, the Red Devils will punish you. The irrepressible Ashley Young trotted up the pitch soon after and unleashed a screamer from 20 yards out that bent past Szczesny and into the top left hand corner.

From then on, the flood gates were well and truly opened. Rooney made it 3-0 with a delightful freekick in to the top corner before Walcott somehow managed to squeeze a shot through De Gea’s legs to make it 3-1 before the break.

The Spanish goalkeeper had a decent game in goal but was once again culpable for conceding Arsenal’s first goal. If there was a chink in United’s armour, De Gea has to be it.

Arsenal threatened United in the first few minutes of the second half, prompting optimistic Arsenal fans to hope for what would have been an amazing comeback. However, Rooney dashed the Gunners’ hopes with another brilliantly executed free kick. Whatever Wenger said in the dressing room at half-time became irrelevant.

In a 6 minute blitz thereafter, Nani produced a cheeky dink over Szczesny to make it 5-1 before Park, who was barely on the pitch for 5 minutes, tucked the ball into the bottom of the net with a left foot finish.

Van Persie’s goal was scant consolation for the Gunners as Carl Jenkinson, who is clearly not ready to play week in week out for Arsenal yet, was sent off for hauling down Hernandez. Rooney sealed his hat-trick from the penalty spot before Young, who must surely be United’s man of the match despite Rooney’s hat-trick, finished the scoring with another sublime curler from the edge of the box.

So where do both teams go from here now?

For Manchester United, the skies, or Barcelona, seem to be the limit. Ruthless, free-flowing and intricate passing football played at a breakneck pace characterizes United’s play while promising youngsters in Welbeck, Cleverly, Jones and Smalling continue to shine.

For Arsenal, the pressure just keeps mounting. Lying 17th in the table with eight senior players out due to injuries and suspensions, a beckoning international week is not what they need as there is as good as a chance as any that key players such as Robin van Persie will return injured.

Furthermore, two wins from the last 14 matches since their Carling Cup meltdown suggest that their slump started way before the season begun.

Having said that, it is still early days and the footballing fratenity’s propensity to celebrate and panic is irrationally high. Time will tell if United’s class of 2011 is the greatest of them all but Wenger may not be able to stay that long to see that.

United Show Champion’s Mettle to Shush the Noisy Neighbours

Nani nets a last-gasp winner as he capitalizes on Kompany's mistake

Not many were fooled by Sir Alex Ferguson’s pre-match comments. “It’s very easy to get emotional about this type of game but I don’t think we’ll be changing our policy,” Ferguson said. Yet, the joy and relief on the Scotsman’s face was all too apparent after Nani scored the winner in dramatic fashion in the dying minutes of the game.

In what was a thrilling encounter, United came back from 2-0 down at half time to win 3-2 with a goal by Smalling and a brace by Nani, with the equalizer a particularly tasty goal, cancelling out first half strikes by Lescott and Dzeko.

It seemed as if it was not going to be United’s day. Having dominated most of the first half, they found themselves 2-0 down at the break thanks to goals from Lescott and Dzeko. Yet, in true United fashion, they launched a comeback worthy of winning any game (bar the CL final considering how awesome Barcelona were that day). Ferguson replaced experienced trio Ferdinand, Vidic and Carrick with the youthful Jones, Evans and Cleverley at half time. Whether it was a masterstroke or merely Ferguson trying to downplay the importance most fans have placed on the game, only the man will know but the introduction of the trio sparked United back to life.

United’s comeback was initiated after Smalling tapped home Young’s pinpoint delivery from a freekick, with Young proving why United were willing to spend big money on him. Cleverley was imperious in midfield, combining vision and energy as he kept United ticking, winning the United faithful over with each pass and tackle. United’s equalizer came after a passage of play that even Xavi and Iniesta et al would have been proud of. A series of intricate one-touch passing and flicks between Rooney, Nani and the brilliant Cleverley released the Portugese in the box and he had no qualms, finishing into the top corner with a cheeky chip over Joe Hart.

The comeback was complete when a speculative clearance by Rooney gave Nani the chance to bear down on Kompany who made a rare mistake and gifted the ball to the Portugese International who duly rounded Hart and slotted the ball home into an empty net.

United fans would have been delighted with their team’s showing, particularly in the second half. The introduction of youngsters Jones, Evans and Cleverley brought hunger and drive into the team which culminated in United’s second half comeback. Cleverley was particularly impressive. His vision and drive achieved what Carrick could not as he kept United’s engine running. Spreading the play and winning the ball back, Cleverley made United fans forget for 45 minutes that they did not have a Ginger Ninja pulling the strings in midfield anymore. Smalling was equally impressive at right back. Normally a centre-back, he performed his defensive duties well and linked up well with Nani as United bombed forward in the second half.

On the back of this performance, there will be much to look forward to this season for the United faithful. The fact that they came back from 2-0 down against what was a strong City side (who, admittedly, did not play the best football) without the likes of Vidic, Berbatov and Carrick must have pleased both Ferguson and the supporters.

City may have the money to spend and they might ultimately prove to be United’s strongest challengers this season. But for now, there is still only one club in Manchester and it is the red of United.

Ashley Young on Left Makes Perfect Sense

Young has been tipped to start on the left by manager, Ferguson

-by M, with sincere apologies for the delay in publishing. With the season about to begin, be rest assured that articles will come thick and fast. 

Recent comments by Ferguson that Ashley Young will start his United career as a left-sided midfielder has raised alarm bells amongst certain paranoid United fans, with some claiming that it has cast doubts on the future of Nani, Manchester United’s stand out performer last season. However, it is an astute piece of judgement by the manager more than anything else. Playing Ashley Young on the left makes more sense than paying £40 million for a permanently crocked Cesc Fabregas and definitely much more than releasing your best player on a free transfer (See Barton, Joey).

The first reason why deploying Ashley Young makes perfect sense is because Young has largely played on the left for most of his career. At Aston Villa, he made the left winger spot his personal office, chalking up approximately 80 assists in his 5 season there, propelling him to 7th on the all-time Premier League assists chart. Only Ryan Giggs and Cesc Fabregas have a higher assist rate than Young in the Premier League today. To deploy Young anywhere else where he has to adapt may reduce his effectiveness.

Also, some of Nani’s best performances for Manchester United last season have been when he has started on the right, rather than the left. His quick feet and oscar winning play acting abilities left many a left back dazzled last season and when Antonio Valencia came back into the team and he was shunted to the left, it seemed as if he became less effective. Its probably not due to the fact that he does not have a left foot considering he scored more goals with his left rather than his right foot. It is not to say that Nani is not up to the task when placed on the left. The Portugese international is more than capable of beating his man and putting in a tantalizing cross or having a strike at goal. However, it is clear that the Portugese is more effective on the right. During the period when Valencia was injured, Nani managed 9  goals and 10 assists in 26 games and upon Valencia’s return when Nani was subsequently played predominantly on the left, he only managed a measly total of 1 assist and no goals.

With Young on the left, there is now greater competition for the right winger spot which can only be good for the team. Out of the 4 established wingers in the squad, only Valencia seems to be the least comfortable on the left, with Young, Park and Nani all more than adequate in that position. Add to that the emergence of Danny Welbeck after his successful loan spell at Sunderland last campaign and Manchester United have some serious serious quality and depth in their advance wide positions.

All in all, starting Ashley Young on the left seems like a fairly straightforward, if not astute decision. Playing him anywhere else might reduce the player’s effectiveness and since Nani seems more comfortable on the right rather than on the left, there is no need for United fans to hyperventilate and pass out at the thought of Nani leaving the club. If anything, this has served to strengthen the club and if all else fails, Ferguson can simply choose Nani over Young can’t he?