Full moon in Transylvania – CFR 1907 Cluj V Man United 2nd of October 2012

When I first saw the team sheet, I thought tonight boded well for a good performance with plenty of goals. In the end, United dominated the game with a possession percentage that would’ve had Pep Guardiola or Arsene Wenger purring. For all that possession, United were always vulnerable to conceding a daft goal. As it was, David De Gea made an outstanding one handed save in the penultimate minute of injury time. With another unexpected result tonight after Sporting Braga beat Galatasaray in Istanbul, it will be a very content Sir Alex Ferguson flying back to Ringway Airport tonight.

Inquest: David de Gea (right) and Rio Ferdinand (centre) react after Pantelis Kapetanos (left) strikes

Inquest just about to commence when Pantelis Kapetanos put Cluj into an early lead

United played Otelul Galati, a Romanian side in this competition last season: one of the worst sides I’ve ever seen. Cluj, while having no chance of winning the competition were tonight a vast improvement. To my surprise (and the bookmakers’ delight), they beat Sporting Braga in Portugal a couple of weeks ago. Tonight Cluj capitalised after Senegalese winger Pape Amodou Sougou quickly realised that he was yet another winger who’s now got Patrice Evra’s number. He got goalside of Evra with an ease which is nowadays all too frequent to play a perfect cross to an unmarked Kapetanos to score on 13 minutes. Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans had decided to give us an encore of their Laurel and Hardy impression for the weekend by appearing to be completely oblivious to Kapetanos’ presence. Ten minutes later, Sougou was substituted after an accidental collision with Evra. United, who’d had almost constant possession, now had Evra free to play as an overlapping full back. Sougou’s departure took a lot of pressure off Evra.

Predator: Robin van Persie clips Manchester United's second goal past Cluj keeper Mario Felgueiras

Robin Van Persie equalises for United

Robin Van Persie scored an equaliser from a Wayne Rooney free kick on thirty minutes with an attempted glancing header which bounced off his shoulder over a disbelieving Mário Felgueiras’ head. The goal was lucky but for all the possession and sometimes suicidal attacking intent United played with, it was well deserved. Four minutes into the second half, Robin Van Persie scored what turned out to be the winner for United with a beautiful flick over an oncoming and flapping Cluj goalkeeper. It was a classic goalkeeper’s mistake; if he’d stayed on his line, he probably would’ve saved it. Apart from the last minute save from David De Gea, United cruised well for the rest of the game. Ferdinand got a daft booking, Anderson had an OK match and Scott Wooton, who came on for Jonny Evans, became the first player involved in a direct transfer between United and Liverpool since Phil Chisnall in 1963 to take to the field.

Robin Van Persie celebrates his brilliant winning goal with his provider Wayne Rooney and Tom Cleverley

United fans were in the usual good voice for a Euro away. With this season’s final taking place at Wembley, there were plenty of songs from United fans about being On the way to Wembley and the old Doris Day classic Que Sera Sera also geting an airing. This time last season I didn’t think United had a prayer of winning the European Cup. This year I don’t feel any differently but having seen a spectacularly average Chelsea side win the trophy last May, I’d rule nothing out.

Andy Jamo, get well soon mate

Rooney hat-tricks with passes from Carrick – Man United fans blog player review 2011 / 2012

(1) David De Gea

David de Gea pulls off a save for Manchester United against Athletic Bilbao

David De Gea saves against Athletic Club at Old Trafford

By the half time of David De Gea’s first class debut for United at Wembley in the 2011 Community Shield, he’d made two bad mistakes which had given City a 2-0 lead. The following week he’d made another bad error against West Brom which had contributed to their equaliser and the knives were already out for him. Undoubtedly a good shot stopper, his lanky physical presence and his early reluctance to assert his authority in the penalty area had people thinking United had signed another Massimo Taibi. Every keeper makes mistakes but any new keeper who comes to Old Trafford is going to be immediately, unfairly and virtually always negatively compared to the two great United number 1’s of the recent past, Peter Schmeichel and Edwin Van Der Sar. De Gea made further expensive mistakes against Basle in the Champions League, Liverpool at Anfield in the FA Cup and against Blackburn Rovers for which he was dropped immediately after. A couple of weeks later, De Gea had an inadvertant stroke of luck when the solid and reliable looking Anders Lindergaard, who’d taken De Gea’s place, suffered an ankle ligament injury. I believe this was the turning point for David De Gea. Since then he’s looked a better and more confident keeper and he’s made some outstanding saves, most memorably in the last minute at Stamford Bridge from Juan Mata and at Ewood Park with three world class saves in the first half alone. For all the doubt expressed about David De Gea in the first half this season, only once has a mistake of his actually cost United points and that was against Blackburn Rovers on New Year’s Eve. As bad a mistake that was, that day, with the exception of Danny Welbeck, there was a whole team of players in red that had a stinker. I’m hoping our doughnut loving new keeper spends the summer getting to grips with his position at Old Trafford and has a long future there.

Continue reading Rooney hat-tricks with passes from Carrick – Man United fans blog player review 2011 / 2012

Bye Bye Blackburn – A review of all teams Man United have played 2011/2012

In alphabetical order, a review of the teams United have played this season.

Aldershot Town

Two days after the 6-1 defeat to City, United played Aldershot Town. The timing of the game was a godsend bearing in mind what had happened 48 hours earlier. Any outside hope that Aldershot would have had by pulling a shock off were evaporated by the City result. League Cup or not, there was no way Sir Alex Ferguson was going to tolerate a defeat to Aldershot in the aftermath of the City match. Everything went alright on the night. Travelling United fans weren’t extorted on the ticket price, United won 3-0 without getting into third gear and 4,000 loyal, salt of the earth and local club supporting Aldershot fans went to their first and last match for ten years.

A mock up picture of Sir Alex Ferguson outside Aldershot’s Recreation Ground

Continue reading Bye Bye Blackburn – A review of all teams Man United have played 2011/2012

Otelul Galati, Bring on Sunderland…Manchester, 2nd of November, 2011

Over the last two/three days, there’s been a steadying increase in received text messages received from friends of mine offering me tickets for tonights match “at face value”, which is real decent of them. As a season ticket holder, I no longer need to get a ticket for European games thanks to the Automatic cup scheme, introduced by our beloved custodians in 2007 which done away with the inconvenience of having to go to the stadium to pick up the tickets by having a compulsory direct debit attached to our season cards/tickets, tonights match cost me £42.00 to witness. Gee, thanks guys.

When all’s said and done, a win’s a win and with the present malaise around Old Trafford, a third win on the bounce was more than welcome, no matter how scrappy it was. The other match tonight in group C, between Benfica and Basle ended in 1-1 draw which means, if I’ve worked things out correctly, all United have to do is draw in Basle to be safely through to the next knockout stages. Judging by tonights performance, what happens when United end up facing a decent side could be quite a sobering experience.

Antonio Valencia scored from Phil Jones cross on eight minutes to calm a lot of nerves around Old Trafford. Anybody expecting the floodgates to open were in for a tedious surprise. There was no onslaught for Otelul Galati to contain, just a disjointed United team performance which had to make an early substitution due to thigh strain suffered by Michael Owen, replaced by Javier Hernandez. The fact that United went in at half time winning was due to the poor calibre of opposition than any other factor, with one notable exception, when David De Gea made a brilliant save from a shot from Ionut Neagu which took a deflection off Rio Ferdinand.

Half time and most of the second half passed by in a catatonic blur. I saw two young lads posing in front of a banner with the United crest on it whilst the match was in play, I saw a young couple who’d decided to get more familiar with each other and there was a flurry of text messages I received from people watching the match both in the ground and at home telling me in Anglo Saxon language what they thought of the game. Up to the 87th minute, the most exciting thing to happen in the second half was the very welcome news from my sister, via text, that Leeds United were losing 5-0 at home to Blackpool. It was just one of those nights. To finish off any faint fears that Otelul Galati could throw a spaniard in the works, Wayne Rooney had a pop from twenty yards and it took a wicked deflection off Sarghi.

I don’t wish to be too disparaging because I don’t remember any of their players or fans doing or saying anything out of order but Otelul Galati have got to be the worst opposition side I’ve seen United play since Pecsi Munkas in 1990. Walking away from the ground tonight, there was one thing that I was pondering heavily on the way home, I was wondering how the hell humanity had ever coped without mobile/cell phones. The match just witnessed, had faded into the haze of the humid Mancunian night.

Fool’s Gold, Otelul Galati, 18th of October, 2011

A tepid match and a stagnant performance from United tonight. Before the game, one bookmaker was offering odds of 2/11 on United winning this game. Otelul Galati apparently started the match believing those odds themselves and but for some lax midfield play and passing from United with some poor finishing thrown in for good measure, Michael Carrick’s effort in particular, United would have been ahead as Otelul Galati seemed in awe of their opponents. Once Otelul Galati realised that United were mere humans and in sloppy mood, just like the Basle match at Old Trafford three weeks ago, they started playing with more confidence and became more of a menace to United’s defence.

In the second half there was a slight improvement in United’s performance but at the same time, no sign of danger. The referee, whilst making the occasional surprising decision, had a discreet first half. Being neutral and possibly bored with what he was presiding over, decided to add a bit of colour to a drab match by suddenly throwing yellow cards around like a croupier for the most innocuous of fouls. The penalty he gave in the 64th minute for Sergiu Costin’s handball was spot on. Wayne Rooney put the ball away confidently and before we know it, Nemanja Vidic gets a red card for a clumsy challenge on Gabriel Giurgiu, definetly a foul and probably a booking, but a red card was way over the top.

A few more bookings thrown in, a second one for Perendija who fouled Javier Hernandez and was sent off in the 89th minute meant that United who’d took control of the game after scoring were now virtually home & dry. The referee then correctly again, awarded United a penalty for a trip by Antal, on Rooney, the kind you see every weekend on the amateur football pitches up and down the country. Rooney scores again with this time an even better taken penalty than the first.

A very good result, ground out against a stout and stubborn opposition in a match that will be quickly forgotten.