Manchester United 07/08 Season In Review With Video Highlights

May 11, 2008

The buzz from my Boddington’s is building to a crescendo, whilst the sun shines brightly on a beautiful Pacific afternoon, and this translates into the best time to write up my full Manchester United Season In Review. Let me just crack open another one here.

I am adamant that if last year’s Manchester United would have remained unchanged, we would likely have finished 2nd or even 3rd. The real shining success from this season is a tough thing to pinpoint precisely, but I think Fergie’s astute signings are the main talking point of the season, despite the incredible emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo as a genuine contender for best player in the world. More on him later, but first, let me explain my hypothesis.

Our early 2000’s team blew pretty hard despite the presence of some bigger names and some success on and off the field. The Van Nistelrooy years stand out to me as an era of poor signings that, while they may have been skilled players, didn’t fit into the United system and the likes of Seba Veron, Kleberson, Djemba X 2, Diego Forlan and Liam Miller all proved to be floppish. While I’m not doubting the ability of some of them (namely Forlan and Veron, Miller is still shite though, Djemba has dropped off the face of the earth) these were the wrong types of signings.

The players that Fergie picked up this year all added a different element to the team, without detracting from our overall style of play. Each of the players are extremely dynamic and while regular readers will know my thoughts on Nani (who I think needs more composure to compete at the highest level) each of these four have played a key part in United’s campaign, thus far. While I’m on the topic of Nani, he did singlehandedly deliver three points early on in the season for us in the match against Middlesbrough. While his actions the other week against West Ham were not the type of football I like to see played at United, the lad obviously has the skills to pay the bills. He needs to spend more time soaking up advice from top pro’s like Giggs, Scholesy and Ronaldo in order to reach that level of maturity and composure necessary to compete in the big games. Look at what happened to Rooney this year, Nani needs a dose of that. But watch this video as testament to Nani’s gamebreaking ability.

Oliveira Anderson has provided something unique for United this year- an element of the unexpected. In retrospect, he was our mystery player this year- nobody knew much about him coming in. People had seen a bit of Nani and people more or less knew what to expect from him. Anderson was a different deal altogether. I expected the young Brazilian to come in and act like, as one of my readers predicted, “THE creative midfielder.” Anderson adapted quickly to the pace and hard-hitting nature of the EPL and he shined as a box-to-box midfielder with vision and guile. Like Tevez, he possesses a low center of gravity and this makes him hard to knock off the ball and also gives him the ability to creep up on opposing players and quickly snake the ball from him. He was much more defensive and mentally aware than any of us predicted at the start of the season. While he finished goalless, his contribution was telling in that other teams still haven’t quite figured out how to deal with Anderson. He will wear a United shirt for many many years.

Somebody’s put together a little Anderson tribute here. I think it’s fitting. Give it a look.

As a Canadian, seeing Owen Hargreaves take to the pitch in a United uniform always fills me with pride. Watching this good old boy from Calgary AB out there kicking ass in the name of Man United is one of the greatest pleasures I have. I admire the man’s commitment and professionalism and while he grew up playing for Bayern, he brings the grit and get’er-done mentality that Canadians bring to everything they do. He is our ambassador to England and the Premier League and I think he is an excellent example of the type of versatility Man U have lacked in previous seasons. He is Phil Neville times three. All the versatility and ability to slot in basically anywhere, but he brings free-kicks and hard, lazer-guided tackles to the fore whenever he steps over the white lines. Hargreaves delivered the points at Arsenal and while he was hampered by injury all year, Hargreaves stepped up when he was called upon. Something that can do every Canadian proud.

This will go down as one of the greatest United freekicks of all time. I was shitting myself when he scored this one. These three points made the difference and Hargreaves fucking delivers.

And now, we’ve got Tevez. What more can you ask for from a player? While he isn’t a 30 goal a season man in the vein of Torres, old Michael Owen or Ronaldo, him and Man United formed a symbiotic relationship this year. Manchester United has brought out the best in Carlos Tevez and Carlos Tevez has helped Manchester United get better. Everybody said that him and Rooney were too similar to succeed and that turned out to be one of the talking points of the season. Him and Rooney are similar, and contrary to predictions, it made them a better strike force. They can track each others runs expertly and both can drop deep, while both can play as out and out strikers. Tevez’s versatility is one of the things that allows Man United to play the free-flowing attacking game that we all know and love. He is short, stout, and has the heart of a lion. It’s an honor to watch this man go to work in the service of our team. He is on course to be a Man United legend and I have a feeling that he’s a favourite in the dressing room.

He has a habit of scoring important goals. Case in point:

Now that I’ve addressed my four reasons why we won the title, let’s get to the season’s other main talking point- THE EMERGENCE OF CRISTIANO RONALDO AS THE BEST FOOTBALLER IN THE WORLD. I will argue it with anybody. Nobody plays the game like this guy and what he accomplished this season helped him break the bank, win the the title and shock the world. Over 40 goals from a right-winger is absolutely unprecedented in English football and I will also defend my theory that Ronaldo is blurring the lines between midfielder and striker. He alternates a Jeckyll and Hyde-style double-bill as a winger and old-fashioned center forward, scoring goals for fun and making opponents trip all over themselves. Always labeled as a one-trick pony thirty seconds away from a shampoo commercial, Ronaldo grabbed the team by the scruff of the neck and delivered the goods. This guy is the one who will sell “soccer” to America, not David Beckham. People in North America want to see goals and they want to see exciting stuff. Ronaldo plays football from another planet and the Glazier’s know that he is their best chance at selling the game to the North American audience once and for all. That is why this guy is going nowhere.

Here’s a few highlights from this season to whet your whistle. I’ll have a full bio and review on him coming up in a few days.

The other main point worth mentioning is our defense. The central partnership of Rio and Vidic has been absolutely unparalleled in recent memory and the two will be operating in tandem for almost a decade, they’re flanked by Wes Brown, who finally emerged as the top player we all knew he was (particularly in the second leg against Barca), and Patrice Evra- a more complete version of Roberto Carlos. These guys and Van Der Sar are the unsung heroes of the season. Like they always say- offense wins games, defense wins championships.

And that’s exactly what our boys did today. Ryan Giggs scoring to put the icing on the cake as he matched the all-time appearance record for the team is a story that you just can’t make up. I think you can’t forget how important it was that Chelsea slipped up against Bolton when it mattered most. That gives us the big mo’ going into the Champions League Final.

Drink up United fans- it’s been a long season and we’ve delivered the goods.

Bring on Moscow.

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Video Highlights as Manchester United Thrash Aston Villa 4-0 After Goals From Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney

March 29, 2008

Gentlemen, today I was privy to one of United’s finest displays in recent memory. Today’s absolute dismantling of Aston Villa has effectively proved that we a) have the best collection of players in the league, b) play the most exciting, attacking football that the Premier League has ever seen and c) that Cristiano Ronaldo really is the second coming of Jesus H. Christ.

Start up that embedded video and let’s get down to brass tax here. I can’t really come up with superlatives to describe the first goal. Only that boy Ronaldo could have put one in the net like that. I mean, the situational awareness and the fucking cheek to even ATTEMPT something so unbelievably audacious is testament to the brilliance of this man. Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. A real contender for goal of the season and I don’t throw that shit around lightly.

Goal #2 was the polar opposite of goal #1 but just as skillful. It was the definition of a flowing team move and was rounded off with an absolutely scintillating finish from Tevez. Both sides of the pitch are used and Villa’s defense was well and truly hoodwinked by the speed, skill and sheer tenacity of the Red Devil’s Counterattack!

Now, goals 3 and 4- Mr. Rooney. If you haven’t read my comments on Steven (wankboy) Gerrard’s astonishing attack on Monsieur Rooney, you should probably check it out on the recent posts box. I think it truly showed Gerrard’s pettiness and the fact that if he puts ina shitty performance he tries to pass the buck. Fuck that. Rooney proved his class today. Let’s see Gerrard round the keeper like that. Seriously. I know Gerrard is a quality player, and he can create goals and score them once in a while. But Steven Gerrard cannot be Wayne Rooney.

Steven Gerrard can’t score goals like Wayne Rooney because Wayne Rooney is a more complete player.

The goals you see in that video are the type of goals Rooney should be scoring for England, but he isn’t. It’s not that he lacks the quality when he’s playing for England, he lacks the service. Rooney can do so much and when the England team isn’t playing up to snuff he takes it upon himself to start making things happen- because he can. And for Gerrard to criticize Rooney after the completely shite match that Stevie put up, just shows his true character.

Rooney’s two goals today are testament to a proper player playing in a proper team. The England team is in disarray (or at best a transition period) while Man U, frankly, is flourishing. Rooney remains the best England player of his generation.

Also, while I will be the first one to admit that my March 29/30 Premiership predictions weren’t spot on, you’ll have to admit that I was at least close. While I missed out on the correct scores, my other calls were pretty decent. I had Ronaldo to score, Rooney to score and have something to prove (which he proved in outstanding fashion), while in the Arsenal game, I correctly predicted a penalty and an Adebayor goal. Not rocket science, admittedly, but I had a go.


Predictions for the March 29-30 English Premiership Matches

March 27, 2008

More excitement to come this weekend as United are facing off against Villa and the Arse go up against their perennial difficult game against Bolton. Arsenal have a habit of losing to Bolton and they haven’t won a game in some time now… If they fall further off the pace, could another team be competing for a Champions League spot? Wishful thinking I know, but it could happen. Fabregas is over-rated. Ronaldo is the best player in the Premier League.

I have a feeling that Rooney is going to be out for blood this Saturday. Watch for him and Tevez to start, I think Fergie’s gonna want to end this one early. Villa are a dangerous team, with Gaby Agbo his usual pacey presence, still I think he isn’t anything that Vidic and Ferdinand can’t handle. Martin O’Neal hasn’t been rotating his squad as much as many of the other teams- possibly an indication of the Birmingham side’s lack of depth. They should be tired with many first-choice players having played in midweek Internationals or under 21 games. Another goal from Ronaldo is a solid bet, and if you’re looking to call correct score, I would say 2-0 United or 3-1 United with Villa scoring first. Goals from Ronaldo, Rooney and why not have a punt on Anderson breaking his duck? It has to happen eventually.

Arsenal-Bolton has always been a tricky match-up with two textbook examples of contrasting styles on the pitch. Arsenal really really need a win to snap this drawing streak, and in previous years I think that Big Sam would have had Arsene’s number. But this is 2008 Bolton- who basically blow ass. I think if Bolton put up one of their best performances of the season, they can eke out a draw, if not, I suspect 2-0 Arsenal with a penalty happening in the first half. Watch for Adebayor to convert. The other goal will come from midfield. Walcott is good value for money.

Chelsea-Middlesbrough…. Tough one, because I think Middlesbrough have had their Alamo moment with Southgate and that they are very much back to winning games again. But at the end of the day, they will always be Middlesbrough and it could basically all fall apart at a moment’s notice. I think they will give Chelsea a tougher time than you would think, but if Avram Grant’s good players show up, I would take Chelsea to win 2-1 with goals from Drogba, Malouda and Aliardiere

Bet on Freddie Sears to score for West Ham at Sunderland, bet on City and Birmingham to be a goal-fest.


Ronaldo Rounds the Keeper on His 100th Premier League Start… Manchester United over Birmingham 1-0!

September 29, 2007

Highlights are right here.
What a tense match… I seriously don’t know how we keep grinding out these victories and I might very well have a heart attack before season’s end. Still though, I’ll take the 3 points any day, any time. It was really open, even stuff. We seemed to get caught up in midfield and we played narrower than I have ever seen before, especially in the first half. Narrow, direct stuff like Sam Allardyce’s Bolton, back when they were a force to be reckoned with, anyhow.

Ronaldo’s finish was first class, capitalizing on Quedrue’s mistake and rounding the keeper. It was the definition of composure and a great way to mark his 100th Premier League start for United.

This is what, our fifth straight clean sheet in the premier league? Our 2-0 win over the chavs was a bit of an anomaly- our only game this season when we scored more than 1 goal. Thing is, what we’re seeing is an improved version of our usual shaky start to the season and I think this is what’s going to give us the edge this year over the rest of the big four.  Here’s why.

United aren’t playing well

This is the truth- we are playing relatively mediocre attacking football. Our hope that Tevez and Rooney could form a strike partnership seems like it may be a long way off. It’s true, both of the players are similar, somewhat negating each other in a Lampard/Gerrard for England type scenario. They move into similar spaces on the pitch and seemed to get in each others way a lot in the first half. Rooney looked particularly frustrated.

But this is exactly my point, we aren’t playing well, yet we continue to win games. In years past, we probably would have lost more than we did given the strength of our performances, but what we’ve really seen has been the emergence of Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic as the league’s best central defensive partnership, but also as the league’s most entertaining defense to watch.  We’ve cleared how many balls off the line this year, and despite many defensive lapses, we have more clean sheets than any other premier league team.

Once our team clicks and finds a rhythm (my guess is mid November) we will be a true force to be reckoned with.

Arsenal can’t keep it up

Despite a residual pounding of Derby, Arsenal haven’t looked that impressive so far. Granted they top the league, and their form has been good… But I don’t think the likes of Adebayor and Fabregas can carry that team, that far. They cannot compete on all four fronts with a squad that thin. A few key injuries around Christmas time could see the Arse drop a lot of points quickly. They could have a good champions league run this year and find that their league form suffers considerably. At this point, the premier league is Arsenal’s to win. The only question is, for how long?

Rafa Benitez can’t manage in the Premier League

The Liverpool Reds can’t string runs of victories together. I think its due to Rafa’s inability to adapt to premier league tactics, although granted, he did seem to have Jose Mourinho’s number. The squad rotation policy benefits nobody. Liverpool also have a bad habit of losing or drawing against mediocre teams. We’ve seen that more than once this year.

Chelsea’s implosion

Was there ever a time under Mourinho where the chavs dropped points on three straight weekends? Nuff said.


English Premier League Matchday 1 Commentary

August 11, 2007

What a great opening day. Honestly, while my beloved Man United are still yet to play (twenty hours away and counting) I was really encouraged by today’s results, not necessarily today’s performances, but the results have been very impressive. I only managed to catch the West Ham- City match live, but I followed the other ones as they happened and I’ll be including some video highlights as they become available.

Manchester City- West Ham
Anybody who’s read this site for longer than six seconds will know that I’m definitely not going to be the first person in the room to big-up Man City, but I’ve always been a firm believer in credit where credit is due. This is a completely different Manchester City team that I have seen in well… ever. Not many of the names were particularly recognizable and knowing that Svenski signed them all by looking at DVD’s makes it all the more impressive. Ironic really, considering that Sven’s men (god that rolls right off your tongue) were reliant on goalscorers coming off the bench. This was pretty much my (and everybody’s) biggest gripe about Mr. Eriksson, that he couldn’t make effective substitutions that would effectively change a game. Well, this time, Sven did it and he did it in style. This Man City team looks like a good Premier League side that doesn’t even closely resemble the confused shit-show of the Stuart Pearce era.

West Ham do not look solid going forward. Bobby Zamora played like a Special Olympics player and seemed to dismantle many of West Ham’s promising moves. Dean Ashton was handed a gilt-edged chance to even the score with that volley in the latter part of the second half. Those are the type of chances you need to finish in order to win Premier League Matches. Freddie Ljungberg was also awful.

A year ago, Manchester City against West Ham would have sounded absolutely dour. But this game was much better than I expected and I think Manchester City have a really exciting squad to look forward to all year. This could really benefit them, because they are an unknown quantity. Almost like when a promoted side comes up full of players that many managers know nothing about. Nobody knew what to expect from Sven’s men, and I was completely impressed. We will not roll over them in the derby (but I’m hoping we beat the shit out of them).

Sunderland vs Spurs
Roy Keane could not have asked for a better result and I could ditto Niall Quinn on that one as well.  From what I could tell it seemed like a relatively quiet contest until Chopra fired the Black Cats ahead in the 93rd minute with literally the last touch of the match. Incredible. This is the win that Wigan deserved two years ago against Chelsea. It would be one thing to say that a promoted side that pushed a solid Premier League team all the way and emerged with a draw were “punching above their weight.” But that type of thing isn’t what wins you your Premier League status back at the end of the season, punching above your weight only takes you so far and to really make your mark you need to win matches and that’s exactly what Keane’s boys did.

Spurs should be worried. Dropping points against promoted sides is not acceptable for a team that is trying to pip Arsenal for fourth. With Liverpool winning today, Spurs will be hoping that either Arsenal, Chelsea or Man U slip up tomorrow, if they don’t- Spurs have already dropped three points you know they expected to pick up. Berbatov was rendered ineffective and the attacking prowess of Aaron Lennon seemed to be sorely missed. Spurs must win next week or a general malaise could set in and see them finish mid-table- which would be an absolute disaster.

Derby against Pompey

The Rams have been widely tipped to go down and they can draw an incredible amount of positives from this match. While they didn’t win, this was not their match to win- it was Portsmouth’s to lose. If you ask me, Derby showed that they will pose a lot more problems than some sides would have thought. The #1 reason why promoted teams get relegated is because they can’t score goals and seeing Derby knock two against a solid Premier League defense will be very reassuring to Rams fans. Andy Todd must be in dreamland, because he is a Championship-level player, but has managed to make a big splash today. Good on him.

Portsmouth need David James, Linvoy Primus and Sol Campbell to rescue this season for them. They will need better performances from these three if they are going to qualify for Europe.

Liverpool against Villa
Stephen Gerrard was up to his usual tricks as he rescued Liverpool from a disappointing draw. Torres was a handful up front, but did not contribute the expected goal on his debut. He looked good linking up with Kuyt and I am interested to see how he plays off of Crouch. Villa were unfortunate to concede the own goal and Liverpool will need to rely less on their inspirational talisman if they are going to push Man U and Chelsea all the way.

Villa show definite signs that their manager did not make the right purchases in the off-season. They will need bigger performances if they are going to fulfill their expectations of a better-than-mid-table finish.

Middlesbrough vs Blackburn
Southgate has got to be kicking himself as his boys blew a comfortable half-time lead against Mark Hughes team and their typically thuggish (albeit effective) tactics. Benni McCarthy being stretchered off is going to be a big problem for Rovers, but they got the three points on the day and I guess that’s what matters. I didn’t see any of this match so I don’t really have too much to say. That and I’m starting to feel the malt liquor I’ve been drinking while I’m writing this. God, it’s 1:30 here…

Everton versus Wigan
A huge performance from Arteta and a late Victor Anichebe goal saw Wigan drop the points (as expected) against Everton- a solid and competitive Premier league outfit. It will be reassuring to see goals come from somewhere other than Andy Johnson while Wigan have not done themselves many favors and remain a good bet for the drop.

Newcastle against Bolton
Big Sam smoked little Sam as the Magpies came out flying. 3-1 was the final score after two clinical strikes from Obafemi Martins and a tight goal from Charles N’Zogbia. This is exactly how Newcastle need to play every game if Sam Allardyce’s charges are going to elevate Newcastle away from being an upper-mid table side.

A typical goal from Anelka was not enough against this Newcastle side and while Bolton shouldn’t be in any relegation danger, you wonder whether the inability to beat a side like Newcastle means that things could be tougher than originally thought for Sammy Lee.

Either way, it was an epic way to start the season and I’ll be posting videos as soon as they hit youtube.