Thursday, December 31, 2009

Manchester United 5-0 Wigan Athletic

Manchester United moved to within two points of Premier League leaders Chelsea with a resounding 5-0 win over Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford.

Wayne Rooney set the champions on their way on the half-hour mark, while Michael Carrick and Rafael da Silva extended their lead before half-time.
Wigan suffered a further blow as goalkeeper Chris Kirkland was forced off at half-time with a recurrence of his long-standing back injury. Michael Pollitt replaced the England 'keeper, though was unable to stem the tide as Dimitar Berbatov and the excellent Luis Valencia added further goals in the second half.
Though outplayed, Wigan did have chances in the second half, though Charles N'Zogbia fired wide when through on goal and Hugo Rodallega saw a volley smartly saved by Tomasz Kuszczak.
United are now move to 43 points from 20 games, two points behind Chelsea and two ahead of Arsenal, who have a game in hand. Wigan slip to 16th, just one point clear of the relegation zone.
Roberto Martinez's side have been both excellent and woeful on their travels this season, and after they almost shot themselves in the foot as early in the third minute, one suspected this would not be one of their good days. Hendry Thomas presented the ball straight to Valencia on the right, and was fortunate that the Ecuadorian hit a tame shot straight at Kirkland.
The Wigan defence made a fine fist of repelling United's initial probing attacks, with Titus Bramble in particular distinguishing himself with a fine last-ditch tackle on Berbatov.
United were dominating the midfield battles, however, and after Rooney struck the inside of the post with a magnificent effort from the tightest of angles, it was only a matter of time before Wigan's back four succumbed to the immense pressure.

Rooney had hitherto been the biggest thorn in the visitors' side, and it was he who opened the scoring with a deft volley on the half-hour mark. Valencia sent the overlapping Rafael clear on the right, and Rooney timed his run at the near post to perfection to guide the ball past Kirkland.
United doubled their lead three minutes later. This time Valencia provided a fine pull-back to Carrick on the edge of the area, and the England midfielder coolly side-footed the ball low into the corner.
Thomas then raised a few eyebrows around Old Trafford with an audacious effort from 40 yards that nonetheless had Kuszczak flinging himself across his goal, though United continued to dominate possession, and scored their third just before half-time as Rafael showed excellent persistence to bustle past Bramble's challenge in the area and slot the ball low past Kirkland.
Wigan did almost grab a goal back immediately as Jordi Gomez whistled a shot just past the post, though normal service was resumed after the break as United's onslaught continued.
The fourth goal came five minutes into the second half as Berbatov finally got himself on the scoresheet with neat footwork and a fine finish under pressure in the area.
Rooney then hit the bar with a header, before N'Zogbia and Rodallega both passed up chances to give their supporters something to cheer.
It was left to Wigan old boy Valencia to round off the scoring with 15 minutes to go, though the pass from Rooney that released him was a gem. Valencia sprinted in from the right to run onto Rooney's diagonal ball, and dinked the ball neatly over the onrushing Pollitt.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Manchester United 3-1 Hull City

Manchester United closed the gap on leaders Chelsea to two points after a 3-1 Premier League win over plucky Hull City at the KC Stadium.
Strikes from Wayne Rooney (pictured) and Dimitar Berbatov sandwiched an Andy Dawson own-goal, with Craig Fagan on target from the spot for the Tigers and Rooney involved in all four goals.
But the scoreline did not tell the full story as United flattered to deceive while Hull failed to get the rub of the green from referee Alan Wiley.
United were given a battle by the hosts but shaded the first half and took the lead deep into injury time when Rooney finished a Darren Fletcher cross after a good spell of pressure from the visitors.
Hull felt aggrieved to go in behind at half-time as, along with matching their guests, they were denied a penalty when Wiley understandably failed to see Wes Brown's foul on Richard Garcia, understandably as it appeared from most angles that the United defender got the ball.
In between there were chances galore for both sides.
On 17 minutes Ryan Giggs curled a free-kick into the side netting, while Bernard Mendy denied Rooney with an excellent block two minutes later.
Midway through the first half came Hull's penalty claim when Stephen Hunt dispossessed Luis Valencia and slid a superb ball into Garcia, who Brown raced across to meet.
It seemed a perfectly-timed tackle, but replays from one angle showed that the ball - which spun away to the left, giving the impression Brown had won it - actually moved due to Garcia's touch, with Brown sliding into his ankle.
Otherwise, Tomasz Kuszczak saved well from George Boateng while Hunt drilled wide of the far post after Seyi Olofinjana put him through on the left.

Boaz Myhill was similarly busy in the home goal, tipping over from Rooney and saving superbly from Rafael Da Silva, while Dimitar Berbatov fired into the side netting after released on the right by Valencia.
Last season's champions turned on the pressure in the closing stages of the half and, as Fletcher kept in a lost cause on the right, his low cross was missed by Ryan Giggs and dropped to Rooney, who made no mistake from close range.
The opening period of the second half was a grind, as Hull worked hard to peg back United.
They got their break just before the hour mark after an uncharacteristic error from Rooney. The England striker's misplaced pass allowed Fagan to race into the box and, forced wide by Kuszczak, the former Derby forward lofted over a far-post cross.
Jozy Altidore flew in to meet it but was shoved in the back by Rafael, who was booked for the challenge: Fagan stepped up and coolly sent the ball to the right of the Polish keeper to level.
Michael Carrick had a low drive tipped away by Myhill, while Garcia headed wide from a Hunt corner.
United edged ahead though, and there was an air of fortune to complement a superb counter attack that culminated in Rooney's driven cross being knocked in by Dawson, who had to make a challenge with Park Ji-Sung free at the far post.
Rooney recovered brilliantly from his error to dominate the late stages of the game and again got an assist as he latched on to Nemanja Vidic's defensive header and, after he drew the Hull defence wide, played a cute ball that the unmarked Berbatov tapped home.
Mendy almost pulled one back for the Tigers but put inches wide after a clever backheel from substitute Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, while Rooney fired just over after latching on to Fletcher's through-ball.
Hull stay second bottom while United return to second, closing in on Chelsea after they were held to a draw by Birmingham City.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fulham 3-0 Manchester United

Fulham thrashed a woeful Manchester United side 3-0 at Craven Cottage to inflict the champions' fifth Premier League defeat of the season.
Goals from Danny Murphy (pictured), the excellent Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff gave Roy Hodgson's men victory against a United side that found themselves completely outplayed, both individually and collectively.
Chelsea can go six points clear of United if they beat West Ham on Sunday. Fulham stay ninth but consolidate their position in the top half of the table.
Sir Alex Ferguson may point out that he was missing four fifths of his first choice back five - Edwin van der Sar, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and John O'Shea - while Jonny Evans, Wes Brown, Rafael Da Silva and Owen Hargreaves were also unavailable.
However, only the Scotsman will know why his solution was to organise his side into a 3-5-2 formation with his one senior defender - Patrice Evra - playing wide on the left side of midfield.
A back three of Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Ritchie De Laet would hardly be worthy of relegation strugglers, let alone championship contenders, and Fulham naturally set about using Zamora's physical presence up front.
The big striker, who has hit a rich vein of goalscoring form, was a constant menace, and he set up a glorious chance for Zoltan Gera on 17 minutes, knocking the ball down only to see the Hungarian's volley saved brilliantly by Tomasz Kuszczak. But five minutes later Fulham were in front.
Murphy carved out a reputation for scoring against United when he played for Liverpool, and is doing the same in the white of Fulham.

The midfielder found the net in the 2-0 win against United in March, and was similarly deadly when presented with an opportunity by Paul Scholes, who dawdled in possession and was robbed by the Fulham skipper.
Nobody closed Murphy down, and he beat Kuszczak from outside the box with a precise shot that found the bottom-left corner.
With Darron Gibson looking far from the finished article in central midfield, and Michael Owen totally ineffective up front, the visitors created little, and a frustrated Wayne Rooney was reduced to firing speculative long range shots.
Fulham looked the more creative and dangerous side, and might have increased their lead through Zamora just after the half-hour: the striker glanced a header just wide after fine build-up play by Clint Dempsey and Gera.
Alex Ferguson could have been forgiven a half-time blast of the hairdryer, but whatever he said during the break, it is safe to say it did not work.
Within 20 seconds of the restart, Fulham doubled their lead as Duff crossed from the right, Dempsey headed the ball down and an unmarked Zamora lashed his volley powerfully into the net from eight yards - his 10th goal of the season.
The customary second half United surge failed to materialise, and they were arguably even more hopeless going forward than at the back.
Their attacks lacked pace, purpose and invention, while Fulham showed them how to do it with slick passing moves that oozed quality.
The best of the visitors' half-chances fell to Rooney, who hit a diagonal shot that went narrowly wide of the far post and just missed the onrushing Antonio Valencia.
Fulham scored a deserved third on 75 minutes and Zamora, naturally, was at the heart of it. He chested down a Murphy free-kick, flicked it deftly on to Duff and the Irishman buried a low left-foot volley.
The chants of 'Zamora for England' when the striker came off in stoppage time do not seem so fanciful any more - a trip to the World Cup for Fulham's number 25 certainly seems more likely than a successful United title defence if they play as badly as this.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Milan midfielder David Beckham set for return to Manchester United

David Beckham is in line for a return to face his old club Manchester United after Milan were drawn against the Premier League side in the last 16 of the Champions League.

The England midfielder, who won the Champions League with United in 1999 before joining Real Madrid in 2003, will return to Milan in January for a second loan spell from Los Angeles Galaxy.

Beckham has not yet come up against the club where he made his name.

United's director of communications Phil Townsend was pleased with the draw. "It will be fantastic," he told Sky Sports News. "I think everyone at Old Trafford will be absolutely delighted, it's what the Champions League is all about.

"He (Beckham) will get a fantastic reception, as players coming back usually do at Manchester United. He was a terrific servant for the club and we all hope he will be playing."

Chelsea take on former manager Jose Mourinho after being drawn against his current club Internazionale.

Mourinho was dubbed the 'Special One' when he lead Chelsea to Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006 before leaving early in the 2007-2008 season.

Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay was delighted with the high-profile clash. "It's fantastic, it was the talk when we arrived here this morning and it's happened," he said.

"It's fantastic for the fans and for neutrals and it will be quite spectacular, I'm sure.

"I'm sure Jose will get a fantastic reaction from our fans. But at the end of the day he is the opposition and we'll look to go through over the two games."

Arsenal take on Portuguese side Porto as all three English clubs play the first leg of their ties away from home after winning their groups.

Arsenal secretary David Miles believes manager Arsene Wenger will be satisfied with a two-legged tie against Porto.

"I think he will be relatively pleased," he said. "We have played Porto three times in four seasons so they are a team we know well."

Spanish clubs avoided the big names with reigning champions Barcelona drawn against German side Stuttgart and Real Madrid up against French club Lyon.

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas admitted they were facing a tough task against the club of their former striker Karim Benzema.

"It's an extremely difficult draw," Aulas told Eurosport.

"They're a fantastic team and the final will be played in Madrid, we know how that motivates."

Aulas added: "He (Benzema) was a great player for us and it's going to be something special for him to play against his former club."

German giants Bayern Munich meet Serie A club Fiorentina and CSKA Moscow were drawn with Spanish club Sevilla.

Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido admitted that the greatest danger for his side would be the freezing Moscow weather.

"We're satisfied with this draw. I think the biggest handicap for Sevilla will be the cold, we could play in temperatures of minus 18," said del Nido.

"CSKA Moscow is a great team but we're happy that we're not up against Milan, Inter or Bayern Munich," added Sevilla vice-president Jose Castro.

Full draw:

Stuttgart v Barcelona

Olympiacos v Bordeaux

Inter v Chelsea

Bayern v Fiorentina

CSKA Moscow v Sevilla

Lyon v Real Madrid

Porto v Arsenal

Milan v Manchester United

For the first time this year, the fixtures in the last 16 will be held over four weeks with half the ties on 16/17 February and 9/10 March and the others on 23/24 February and 16/17 March.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Manchester United 3-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Manchester United breezed past an under-strength Wolverhampton Wanderers to go joint top of the Premier League with a comfortable 3-0 win at Old Trafford.
Wayne Rooney opened the scoring from the penalty spot on the half-hour mark before Nemanja Vidic doubled the champions' lead just ahead of the break.
Antonio Valencia added a third on 66 minutes to seal victory and send United level on points with Chelsea at the summit of the Premier League.
Chelsea, who play Portsmouth on Wednesday, remain top by virtue of their superior goal difference.
Wolves boss Mick McCarthy decided to make 10 changes for the trip north, with goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann the only survivor from the weekend win at Tottenham. McCarthy clearly had one eye on the weekend's fixture against Burnley - an eminently more winnable fixture than this one.
United were forced into fielding a weakened side themselves, Michael Carrick deputising at centre-back in the absence of the injured-again Wes Brown. Young full-back Ritchie De Laet was handed a rare start, but with Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov leading the line against Wolves' second string, the hosts started the match in confident mood.
Alex Ferguson's side made all the early running and enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges, although the visitors managed to hold firm for the best part of half an hour.
It was a moment of fortune that gifted United the chance to break the deadlock, referee Steve Bennett correctly pointing to the spot after Ronald Zubar's flailing arm inadvertently connected with a cross. Rooney stepped up and made no mistake with a thumping effort from 12 yards.

Rooney had earlier been frustrated in his efforts to open the scoring, and was denied an early chance by Marcus Hahnemann, the Wolves keeper saving with his legs at close range after just four minutes.
Rooney went close again on 25 minutes, controlling Patrice Evra's cross before turning and firing a shot that was deflected wide of the post, while Vidic had a golden opportunity to get on the scoresheet moments later. The Serbia international blazed over from Darron Gibson's neat lay-off - a typical defender's finish.
Vidic was to make amends on 43 minutes as United took a 2-0 lead, his towering header proving too powerful for Hahnemann who got a big hand on it, just not big enough.
There was time for the lively Gabriel Obertan to bring Hahnemann into more action before the first-half was out, the Frenchman linking up well with compatriot Patrice Evra before firing on goal from a narrow angle.
But the opening period was not all United and there was the odd glimmer of hope for Wolves, most notably after 19 minutes when the ball fell kindly at George Friend's feet. His finish will not have made his too many new mates in Wolverhampton though, and the ball sailed high over the bar.
United made short work of wrapping up all three points after the break, Valencia netting the goal of the game on 66 minutes with a fierce first-time strike into the roof of the net. It was a fine finish, but the goal was all about Berbatov's artistry in setting up the chance, the Bulgarian hooking the ball over his shoulder to find the Ecuadorian's run.
At 3-0 up the result was never in doubt - there may even be those who argue it never was, given McCarthy's team selection - and the only question was how many United would score a the clock ran down.
A fourth nearly arrived in the 84th minute when Evra's drive forced Hahnemann into another save, but United settled for three in the end and a result that made some inroads into Chelsea's superior goal difference.
Wolves, meanwhile, slipped into the relegation zone after Bolton's victory at home to West Ham.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Manchester United 0-1 Aston Villa

Gabriel Agbonlahor's first-half header was the only goal of the game as Aston Villa stunned champions Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford.
Victory for Villa - their first at the Theatre of Dreams since 1983 and their first against United, home or away, for 14 years - propelled Martin O'Neill's increasingly impressive side into third place in the Premier League.
For United, defeat represented a huge missed opportunity to join Chelsea at the top of the table after the Blues had earlier dropped two points in a 3-3 draw at home to Everton.
Alex Ferguson's injury-hit side will now end the weekend three points behind the leaders following what was their first home defeat in the league this season.
The fitness crisis which hit United this week improved prior to kick-off with the return of Nemanja Vidic, Wes Brown and Wayne Rooney to full fitness, but Ferguson was still forced into fielding Darren Fletcher at right-back.
Otherwise, it was a strong United side that took to the pitch, although Ferguson will be concerned about a lack of end product that failed to break down an admittedly resolute Villa back line.
Villa took the lead in the 21st minute, Agbonlahor profiting from some excellent service from Ashley Young on the left hand side. The striker held the ball up before playing out to Young, whose eventual delivery to the near post was first rate.
Agbonlahor beat Tomasz Kuszczak to continue his impressive scoring record against United - he has now netted in each of the past four seasons against them.
The goal sparked a spate of chances at both ends before the break that amazingly failed to produce another goal.
Richard Dunne, the former Manchester City player, went closest for Villa when on 27 minutes he powered a header goalwards, only to see it blocked before it reached its intended target.

Three minutes later United had Kuszczak to thank for not going further behind, Edwin van der Sar's understudy reading Ashley Young's intentions perfectly as the Villa winger looked to square to an unmarked Emile Heskey.
At the other end, most of United's attacking promise came through the effervescent Rooney, although the England striker was largely frustrated by a lack of support during the opening period.
That frustration came to the fore in the 25th minute, when Rooney felt the need to take a dive in the Villa penalty area, ostensibly under a challenge from Luke Young. It was blatant and he was duly punished by referee Martin Atkinson with a booking.
Suitably embarrassed by his indiscretion, Rooney then seemed to embark on a personal mission to save face - and find a goal for United.
A clever flick moments later would have ended up in the back of the net had he made more contact with the ball - the lack of a firm touch nearly allowed Antonio Valencia to get to it at the back stick - but his best effort came just after the half-hour mark.
Rooney met Patrice Evra's cross with a deft touch that took him past Carlos Cueller before he hammered a shot that crashed off the underside of the crossbar and away to safety.
Rooney continued his assault after the break, but still to no avail despite the introduction of Michael Owen as a half-time replacement for Ryan Giggs. A shot just after the hour mark was well-blocked while moments later he opted for precision rather than power but Brad Friedel was equal to it.
Dimitar Berbatov was soon introduced as United ramped up their search for an equaliser and the best chance of the game was to fall his way in the 74th minute. But the Bulgarian, usually so adept at volleying, snapped at the cross and his effort from around the penalty spot skewed off target.
United dominated possession in the closing stages as they piled the pressure on Villa: Vidic had a header hacked off the line before Friedel was called into action again to deny Berbatov with just four minutes remaining.
But still they could not find a way through and Villa held on to register a famous win for both the club and their manager - it was the just the second time O'Neill has beaten United as a Premier League boss, after Leicester City's 1-0 win at Old Trafford in January 1998.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A hat-trick from Owen

A hat-trick from Michael Owen gave injury-ravaged Manchester United a 3-1 victory over Wolfsburg at the Volkswagon Arena as they top Champions League Group B.

Owen gave United the lead a minute before half-time with a clinical headed finish from close-range to leave the German champions under the cosh as they battled for second spot in the group.
Bosnian Edin Dzeko hit back for the hosts with an instinctive finish in the 56th minute as his powerful header levelled the match up at 1-1, and the hosts sensed their opportunity.
Armin Veh's side contrived to squander numerous clear-cut opportunities, but it was Owen who showed the required composure as he netted his second with a close-range finish in the 83rd minute.
Wolfsburg midfielder Sascha Riether missed a golden chance to equalise in stoppage time, but United broke at pace through Owen, who coolly dinked his shot over the diving Diego Benaglio to seal his hat-trick.
Having already made the knock-out stages, United's mission in Germany was simply to draw to finish top in their group, but their cause was not helped with 15 players missing.

United were forced to field a makeshift side with Michael Carrick, Ji-Sung Park and Darren Fletcher in defence, but the visitors battled valiantly to frustrate Wolfsburg, with only Dzeko troubling the frantically assembled back-four.
Despite a shoddy surface which was not remotely conducive to passing football, both sides attempted to stroke the ball, with the German champions seeking the valuable points to keep them in the hunt for the group's second spot.
Wolfsburg will feel aggrieved after Carrick brought down Makoto Hasebe in the United box with a clumsy challenge in the 13th minute, but the Dutch referee handed the visitors a reprieve as he awarded a corner.
The German side proceeded to squander two glorious headed opportunities in the first half, as Andrea Barzagli inexplicably headed wide in the 18th minute and, moments later, Misimovic planted his effort wide after meeting Marcel Schafer's cross, unmarked from close range.
It was hard work for the visitors on the turgid surface, but the pacey Danny Welbeck thought he had capped a fine move after a slick exchange from Paul Scholes and Darren Gibson on the half hour as he slotted in smartly, only to look up in dismay to see the offside flag.
With third-placed CSKA Moscow leading at half-time it was crucial the Germans got back into the game and 10 minutes into the second-half that is exactly what they did. United defended stoutly to stifle Dzeko, with the one exception being the Bosnian's free header to level the scores after Schafer picked the striker out in space.
But Owen was on hand to make it two with an opportunist strike after stunning work from substitute Gabriel Obertan, who jinked mesmerically between three Wolfsburg defenders to provide the striker with the simplest of finishes.
Owen's third was an individual effort as he broke down the left, then cut inside and across Ricardo Costa, before a delightful dink over the onrushing Benaglio to clinch victory for United and compound Wolfsburg's frustration.
As a result of the victory, United are now unbeaten in their last 15 Champions League away games and have won the last five, while Wolfsburg are usurped by CSKA Moscow, who clinch second spot.
Ferguson will have been delighted with the application of his players, but will now have to turn his attention to the ensuing selection headache in the lead-up to his side's Premier League clash with Aston Villa at the weekend.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Manchester United 4-0 WestHam

Manchester United made light of an injury crisis, easing to a 4-0 Premier League win against West Ham at Upton Park.

Paul Scholes opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time with a crisp finish, while Darron Gibson, Antonio Valencia and Wayne Rooney added second-half flourishes. But the celebrations were tempered by injuries to captain Gary Neville and fellow defender Wes Brown.
United's defensive options were already so depleted they started the game with Neville partnering Brown in central defence and midfielder Darren Fletcher at right-back.
Neville pulled up in the first half, and Michael Carrick had to fill in at the unfamiliar centre-back position. And, when Brown limped off late on to reduce United to 10 men, Patrice Evra was the only recognised defender on the pitch for United.
Further forward, Gibson was surprisingly preferred to Carrick after scoring twice in the Carling Cup in midweek, but failed to produce much quality until his goal after the break. Rooney ploughed a lone furrow up front with Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen both out of favour and on the bench.
For their part, West Ham face four months without their leading striker Carlton Cole and looked toothless without him. Guillermo Franco offered plenty of honest endeavour but little aerial presence, while Zavon Hines limped off at the break - yet another injury headache for the beleaguered Gianfranco Zola.
While the visiting fans sang Christmas carols - notably the Eric Cantona-inspired version of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' - the fare on the pitch early on was less than festive. Neither side showed enough precision or invention, and the first half bumbled along in ragged fashion.

Ryan Giggs has featured prominently on shortlists for end-of-year awards, but an uncharacteristic error of his nearly gifted West ham the opener on nine minutes. Giggs's sloppy pass across the defence fell to the feet of Hines, whose low cross in front of goal narrowly eluded Jack Collison.
Gibson provided one of the few first-half moments that could pass for a highlight, seizing on a Brown knock down at the edge of the box but hitting a volley so wayward it struck the right-hand corner flag on its way out of play.
West Ham attempted to play out the final minutes of the first half with 10 fit players following Hines's knock, but the ploy backfired.
In stoppage time, a headed clearance fell to Scholes, who chested it down and powered a left-foot half-volley into the top left corner from the edge of the box. Goalkeeper Robert Green got a touch but could not keep the ball out.
West Ham actually started the second half the stronger side. Franco slid a perfect through pass for Junior Stanislas who inexplicably hesitated for long enough for Kuszczak to rush out and claim the ball. James Tomkins also had a good chance when escaping his marker on the right side of the box, but he headed straight at Kuszczak.
Just after the hour, Gibson effectively settled it. Giggs came away on the break and slid the ball into the Irishman's path at the edge of the box. One powerful thump of the right boot later, the ball was in the right corner of the net.
United cut loose, and on 71 minutes it was three. Rooney found Anderson on the left side, and the Brazilian slid a low ball to Valencia to finish from close range.
It was a lovely, slick move and within 60 seconds there was more of the same. This time Valencia turned provider, collecting a Berbatov pass and crossing for Rooney, who was in position for an easy tap-in.
To complete Zola's misery, Green went off after United's fourth goal and was replaced by the debutant Peter Kurucz. Green, apparently, was sick - and few inside Upton Park could blame him.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Manchester wins by Gibson

Darron Gibson scored twice as Manchester United booked their place in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Tottenham.
The Republic of Ireland international put the disappointment of failing to qualify for the World Cup behind him with two fantastic first-half finishes to end Tottenham's involvement in the competition.
The midfielder fired low past Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes after 16 minutes before doubling their tally with a beautiful curled effort from 25 yards six minutes before the break.
Spurs had chances of their own with Jermain Defoe guilty of wasting a gilt-edged opportunity in the first half.
But despite being second best for much of the encounter United held on comfortably for the win.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, as promised, kept faith with the youngsters who had fallen to defeat in the Champions League just six days earlier against Besiktas and after the early exchanges it looked as if a similar result could be on the cards.
Spurs looked the more composed in possession and threatening on the attack, while United chased shadows in the rain at Old Trafford.
Defoe fired in a rasping drive from outside the area that Tomasz Kuszczak, preferred to Ben Foster, did well to save low to his right, while Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale were causing all sorts of problems for Gary Neville down the Tottenham left.

But while Spurs were unable to deliver the killer blow that their possession merited, United clinically put them to the sword.
Gibson opened the scoring after 16 minutes with a stinging low drive from outside the area that nestled in the bottom left-hand corner with Spurs keeper Gomes well beaten.
At the other end chances came and went. Defoe, the five-goal hero against Wigan in the Premier League, shot straight at United defender Ritchie De Laet from six yards after being picked out by a pin-point cross from Bale, while Robbie Keane was twice tackled by Nemanja Vidic as he looked to pull the trigger.
Park Ji-sung failed to connect with a cross from the left when he was unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box before Gibson doubled United's lead with an exquisite curler.
Gibson received the ball from Danny Welbeck 25 yards from goal before bending it into the top corner.
Spurs continued to pile on the pressure after the break as United struggled to maintain possession.
David Bentley had two chances to drag Spurs back into the game after the re-start, drawing a good save from Kuszczak with a side-footed finish after being picked out in the area by Bale before heading another cross from the Welshman wide of target.
But the Spurs threat gradually waned as United got a grip on the ball in midfield and Tottenham's hunger ebbed away.
The visitors brought on Peter Crouch in an effort to add another dimension to their play, but the striker was given little but scraps and long balls into the box to feed on.
Substitute Federico Macheda found the side netting in stoppage time with a low drive from outside the area as United ended the game in the ascendency.
Ferguson's side join Aston Villa in the semi-finals after Martin O'Neill's men beat Portsmouth 4-2 at Fratton Park.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rooney gets a hat-trick & Manchester wins 4-1

A Wayne Rooney hat-trick helped Manchester United to a 4-1 win against Portsmouth in an eventful encounter at soggy Fratton Park.

The England striker converted two disputed penalties and finished off a superb counter-attack, before Ryan Giggs netted his 100th Premier League goal with a late free-kick.
Kevin-Prince Boateng found the net for the home side - also with a controversial spot-kick.
So Avram Grant's career picked up where it left off; losing on penalties to United in the rain.
Eighteen months ago, the Israeli was sacked as Chelsea boss after an epic Champions League final shoot-out defeat in Moscow.
In his first game in charge of the Premier League's bottom side, United again prevailed but needed some questionable decisions from referee Mike Dean to help them.
Tomasz Kuszczak was surprisingly picked in goal for United, with England's Ben Foster on the bench and Edwin van der Sar absent entirely - still suffering the after-effects of a knock to the knee last weekend.
After a nervous start, the Pole excelled himself, making a superb close-range save from Aruna Dindane and an even better one to tip Jamie O'Hara's volley over.
But Dean proved the central figure. First he pointed to the spot when Rooney stumbled past Michael Brown and made the most of minimal contact on 25 minutes.
While not an outright dive, it was a soft penalty and the England man stepped up to place the kick into the right corner past Asmir Begovic, standing in for the injured David James.
If Pompey felt aggrieved, the sentiment did not last long. Just after the half-hour mark, Kuszczak leapt to punch clear a high ball into the net and Dean mystifyingly awarded a spot-kick.
Neither side had any idea what the supposed infringement was, but a forensic examination of replays shows Nemanja Vidic and Frederic Piquionne were indulging in some mild mutual shirt-tugging.
It was still a baffling decision, since Piquionne was just as guilty as Vidic, but Boateng duly converted from 12 yards.

Sir Alex Ferguson watched the game from the stands serving the first match of a touchline ban, for which the fourth official's eardrums must be very grateful.
Both sides poured forward. First Paul Scholes dragged one of many long-range efforts just wide, then Dindane headed wide at the culmination of a rapier-like Portsmouth counter-attack.
The first half ended with a scuffle, as Darren Fletcher and Boateng grappled on the turf after the Scot tackled overzealously.
Within three minutes of the restart, United were back in front after a counter-attack that showed them at their incisive best.
Darren Fletcher lofted a pass down the right channel for Giggs, who squared for Rooney and the striker finished low past Begovic.
Then, on 54 minutes, Rooney grabbed his third. Piquionne half-tripped, half-barged Giggs over just inside the box in an innocuous position. While hardly a stone-waller, it was the clearest of the three penalties. Rooney again found the right corner with minimal fuss.
Grant's Portsmouth put on a spirited display and showed signs they may yet beat the drop.
Boateng was especially lively, and tested Kuszczak again from the edge of the box following a Nemanja Vidic slip, while John Utaka hit the bar with a late volley.
Three minutes from time, Giggs capped an accomplished display with a clever goal, curling a low free-kick around the outside of the wall and into the left corner past the unsighted Begovic.
United rode their luck, but these fixtures are often an exercise in banana skin avoidance, and - without performing at their best - they nimbly dodged a costly slip-up.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Besiktas ends Man united 23 matches unbeaten record

Besiktas JK may have already been eliminated from this season's UEFA Champions League but they at least made their mark on the tournament after becoming the first away team to win at Old Trafford in the competition since 2005 thanks to Rodrigo Tello's solitary strike.

Famous scalp
Manchester United had gone 23 matches unbeaten here in Europe but after rescuing a two-goal deficit late in their preceding outing against PFC CSKA Moskva, their proud record finally fell as the Turkish champions claimed their first UEFA Champions League away victory in six years. In truth, the hosts were already assured of reaching the last 16, hence Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to make eight changes from his side's last Premier League game, but that is unlikely to dampen the celebrations of those Besiktas fans who had endured an 8-0 thrashing at Liverpool FC on their previous trip to England.

Bottom-placed Beşiktaş knew only a win would keep alive their faint hopes of taking third place in the section, following PFC CSKA Moskva's early-evening victory. Though penned inside their half for much of the opening phase – when Nemanja Vidić was off target with a header – they gave their noisy supporters something to sing about as Tello fired them in front on 20 minutes. When a United attack broke down outside the Beşiktaş box, Matteo Ferrari sent İsmail Köybaşı away down the left. After passing the halfway line he delivered a crossfield ball to Tello yet there still seemed minimal danger as the Chilean cut infield some 35 metres out. However, with Rafael stepping back, Tello let fly and his shot glanced off the full-back and arced past Ben Foster into the far corner.

Defiant keeper
United responded with Daniel Welbeck and Federico Macheda – the teenage strikers spearheading a much-changed team – combining cleverly to get the latter behind the visiting back line but he failed to get his low cross past Rüştü Recber. The veteran goalkeeper had conceded six on his last visit here with Fenerbahçe SK in 2004 and would have been grateful for Sir Alex Ferguson resting Wayne Rooney. Though United dominated possession they struggled to create chances, with Rustu equal to the best of them, saving Gabriel Obertan's near-post effort after Welbeck had played in the winger.

The hard-working Fabian Ernst was catching the eye in the Beşiktaş midfield and his fellow German Michael Fink nearly doubled the lead four minutes before half-time. The visitors opened up the United rearguard as Tello slipped a ball infield to Bobo and his touch let in Fink, whose side-footed shot went behind off the post. United had fought back in their two preceding home matches and as the second half unfolded, they began to apply pressure, Obertan drawing a fingertip save with a low drive, then nodding on to the roof of the net.

Late scares
On came Michael Owen, Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra but it took until added time for United to seriously threaten an equaliser, Rüştü making a flying stop to tip over Macheda's header, then turning away Wes Brown's header from the resulting corner. United must now wait for their trip to VfL Wolfsburg next month to settle who finishes top of Group B.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Manchester United 3-0 Everton

With Chelsea winning so convincingly earlier in the day, it was imperative Sir Alex Ferguson's side answered the call. And they did that in style, as goals from Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia capped an impressive performance.
United's victory kept them five points behind Chelsea and the manner of the win as much as the result will have pleased Ferguson, as his players shrugged aside an Everton team who came with the intention of defending for their lives.
Everton deployed Louis Saha in a lone attacking role and the 4-5-1 formation simply invited United on.
And at Old Trafford, or any other ground for that matter, the champions do not need a second invitation to attack and for the first 15 minutes the game resembled a siege.
But a shot that fizzed wide from Wayne Rooney was United's only noteworthy effort as Everton defended with spirit and in numbers.
Everton were rarely seen as an attacking force, although Saha showed his prowess in the penalty area when swivelling and shooting on target from Leighton Baines's cross.
Fletcher has grown in stature over the past 18 months and is an integral player for United. He dominated the midfield in the opening half and it came as no surprise that he fired his side ahead on 35 minutes.

The impressive Patrice Evra delivered a long cross from the left that was nodded to Fletcher on the edge of the box. With the ball bouncing high, Fletcher got his leg over the ball and made sweet contact, sending his shot arrowing into the top corner.
David Moyes threw on Yakubu for Dan Gosling at the interval to provide his side with some added punch and it had an impact.
Sylvain Distin found himself in an advanced position and shrugged off Rafael before teeing-up Saha, but his shot drifted wide, while John Heitinga fired straight at Edwin van der Sar.
Everton opened up United shortly before the hour and Marouane Fellaini tucked the ball home, but he had strayed fractionally offside.
Shortly afterwards Van der Sar had to be alert to race off his line and gather with Tim Cahill closing in as Everton threatened an upset.
Yakubu was the man who played the ball in for Cahill and his impact was impressive. The big Nigerian's presence was an unsettling one for United and he shrugged aside Wes Brown before shooting narrowly wide.
United have the ability to take the wind from opponents' sails and they did that on 67 minutes.
The second goal had a touch of fortune to it as Rooney's shot from a corner was so poor that it went all the way back to Ryan Giggs who had taken the corner. The Welshman looked up and picked out Carrick and he slotted the ball into the corner to nip the Everton resurgence in the bud.
Paul Scholes turned 35 this week and the legs may not have the zip of old, but the mind remains sharp and he fashioned the third for Valencia on 76 minutes with a short burst and neat pass.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United

United were excellent at Stamford Bridge, and Sir Alex Ferguson’s near-perfect game-plan only went unrewarded after the Reds conceded a goal from a highly dubious second-half free-kick which led to Chelsea skipper John Terry’s winner.

The Reds had bossed possession for large periods of the game and had looked the stronger, more confident side – with Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney both outstanding. United at least deserved a draw, but the residing feeling is one of injustice, made worse that the Reds slip to third and Chelsea now boast a five-point lead at the top of the league.

Chelsea are formidable at Stamford Bridge, boasting a 100 per cent home record under Carlo Ancelotti this season and having conceded only once. United also haven’t won in West London since April 2002, a record Sir Alex was keen to arrest. Not only that, Arsenal’s 4-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday had seen them leapfrog United into second place on goal difference, while leaders Chelsea’s two-point cushion at the top would be far more imposing were it extended to five.

However, the opportunity was also there for United to return to the league’s summit, and though most outsiders predicted the Reds would have no joy at Stamford Bridge, Sir Alex has his men fired up to prove any doubters wrong.

He would have to achieve it without either of his first-choice central defenders, however, as a troublesome calf problems meant Rio Ferdinand was absent and Nemanja Vidic had to settle for a place on the bench. That meant a centre-half pairing of Wes Brown and Jonny Evans up against the pace and power of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

It was a positive and pacy start from both teams and the Reds looked full of confidence and belief. Chelsea got in behind United’s defence on the right in the first five minutes, with Ivanovic eventually forcing a save from Edwin van der Sar, but other than that the Reds dominated possession and dictated play early on.

The match became far more open than is usual for United-Chelsea games of recent times – and all the more entertaining for it. One example of the game’s openness, and perhaps United’s best chance of the half, came after 29 minutes when Fletcher’s arced pass scythed open the home side’s defence and Giggs. The Welshman struck his shot first-time on the volley, looping the ball just a little too high over Petr Cech, and subsequently the crossbar.

Chelsea finished the first half with a flurry of attacks as United’s passing became a little sloppy. But all in all it was a positive first 45 minutes for the Reds, with Sir Alex’s tactics of pressing Chelsea’s midfield working very well overall.

United began the second half equally as positively as the first, with Rooney stepping it up a gear. Fletcher flashed a shot over after good work from the United front man, then a well-worked move across the area involving Rooney ended with Giggs crossing just too high for Anderson at the far post. Fletcher was denied with another attempt on the hour mark, as Ricardo Carvalho brilliantly raced out to block the Scotsman’s 20-yard effort.

With Fletcher and Carrick pulling the strings in midfield, and Rooney providing the spark up front, this was fast turning into one of United’s finest displays of the season so far.

The Reds’ best effort came in the 67th minute. A quick free-kick from Anderson allowed Rooney to press menacingly on into the final third. He played a clever one-two with Antonio Valencia and then drilled his shot inches wide. A minute later, the outstanding Rooney curled a shot from 25 yards which had Cech scrambling desperately across goal to tip the ball wide for a corner.

But all United’s good work was undone by a shoddy refereeing decision after 76 minutes when Fletcher clearly won the ball in a challenge on Ashley Cole. But Martin Atkinson thought differently. United were angered by the decision, and that soon turned to indignation when John Terry glanced his header home from Frank Lampard’s free-kick delivery on the left. Even then, the goal came under dubious circumstances as Drogba – in an offside position – flicked his foot at the ball and should technically have been adjudged to have interfered with play. To rub salt in the wounds, Rooney was booked for protesting the initial decision.

In the 84th minute Valencia flashed a shot just wide from a good position inside the area, and that was followed by a double substitution for the Reds – Giggs and Anderson being replaced by Gabriel Obertan and Michael Owen as Sir Alex rolled the dice.

It made for a frantic finish and with five minutes of injury time – largely due to, you guessed it, Didier Drogba spending time injured on the floor – the Reds gave it a big push. But there wasn’t enough in the tank to break the home side’s stubborn resistance, and if you were to be critical of this performance, then United's inability to score has to be at the crux of it. It’s far from a title decider, but even at this stage it is advantage Chelsea.

will Manchester United beat the odds

Check out all the facts and stats ahead of Chelsea's Premier League clash with Manchester United from Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea are unbeaten at home to Manchester United in the last seven Premier League seasons.
United have scored a total of just two goals in their last six league trips to Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea average 1.29 goals per game at home to Manchester United in the Premier League.
United average 1.29 points per game against Chelsea in Premier League history, fewer than against any other side.
United have failed to win 13 times at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League era, only at Arsenal have they been as consistently unsuccessful.
Sir Alex Ferguson has won only one and lost three of his four meetings with Carlo Ancelotti.
Paul Scholes is the top scorer in this fixture in the Premier League era with six goals.
Five of Dimitar Berbatov's last six Premier League goals for Manchester United have come between the 51st and 62nd minute.
United have failed to score in the first half of seven of their 11 league games this season.
Didier Drogba has unleashed 55 shots this season, more than any other player in the division.
Drogba has scored nine goals in his last nine appearances (in all competitions).
Chelsea have conceded just three second half goals all season.
Chelsea have come from behind to win nine points this season, more than any other side.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Manchester United 3-3 Cska Moscow

Manchester United had to come from two goals down to grab a point in a 3-3 draw with CSKA Moscow in the Champions League at Old Trafford.

Antonio Valencia's injury-time leveller was enough to seal United's qualification from Group B after Paul Scholes had pulled a goal back on 84 minutes.
Michael Owen cancelled out Alan Dzagoev's opener but goals by Milos Krasic and Vasily Berezutsky had put the Russian club on course for a famous upset.
United rallied in the closing stages and in the end their never-say-die attitude prevailed, although it was another far from convincing performance from last year's finalists.
Wayne Rooney started on the bench after having become a father earlier in the week, while United were also missing central their first choice defensive partnership Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic through injury.
Wes Brown and Jonny Evans started in their place, with Fabio deputising for Patrice Evra, who started on the bench, at left-back.
CSKA sounded their intent early in an open and entertaining start to the game, with Deividas Semberas firing just wide of the post in the third minute.
But United soon asserted themselves and nearly hit back six minutes later when Valencia made inroads down the right hand side. His cross into the middle found Owen but he could not connect cleanly and a good opportunity to break the deadlock went begging.
Owen was guilty of profligacy in front of goal for a second time on 17 minutes, the summer signing poking a weak shot straight at Igor Akinfeev after having done the hard part by breaking through the visitors' backline.
In between those efforts, Darren Fletcher, returning from injury, saw a fierce drive drift inches wide of the post before Federico Macheda, making his European debut, fizzed a shot inches the wrong side of the upright.
United were on top, as they had been in the game in Moscow a fortnight ago, so it was a shock to their system when Dzagoev opened the scoring with a terrific strike on 25 minutes.
The 19-year-old Russia international lost his marker Wes Brown all too easily before running onto Tomas Necid's chested ball through. He appeared to take it a little too wide, but his shot was angled into the roof of the net and powerful enough leave Edwin Van der Sar rooted to the spot and wondering how he had allowed the ball had beaten him.

Just four minutes later it was third time lucky for Owen as he demonstrated he still has the finishing instinct that once made his name as one of the deadliest strikers in Europe. Valencia's cross was back-heeled by Nani - disappointing again - into Owen's path, via a deflection, and the former Liverpool and Real Madrid man did the rest.
But parity was to last just two minutes as Krasic was allowed to run onto Necid's layoff on the edge of the penalty area, round Van der Sar and slot into an empty net.
United rallied as the half drew to a close, Macheda and Paul Scholes both bringing Akinfeev into further action, but the hosts went in at the break trailing 2-1.
That soon became 3-1 as another bit of lapse defending from the hosts allowed Berezutsky to head home a deep free-kick at the far post on 47 minutes. This time Macheda was the guilty party, the young Italian losing his man as the ball was whipped over.
United should have been given a chance to level for a second time just three minutes later, but referee Olegario Benquerenca waved away strong appeals for a penalty as Fletcher was tripped in the box. Replays showed there to have been contact, but the Portuguese official opted to caution the Scot instead of pointing to the spot.
Alex Ferguson brought on Rooney and Evra just before the hour mark and the introduction of the pair gave United an immediate lift.
Rooney glanced a header wide on 63 minutes before he was denied by Akinfeev, who had just saved another effort from Owen.
United continued to press and Macheda nearly pulled one back with a header than thumped the base of the post before Scholes signalled his own personal intent with a rasping drive that stung Akinfeev's fingers.
The midfielder was not to be denied and he found the back of the net from the resulting corner, heading home from close range amid some shockingly lackadaisical CSKA marking.
Buoyed by the goal and lifted by the now vocal crowd, United pushed in search of a late equaliser and it arrived in the second minute of injury time, as Akinfeev was foxed by a hefty deflection on Valencia's shot from the edge of the penalty area.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Manchester United 2-0 Blackburn Rovers

Manchester United moved back up to second place in the Premier League with a 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford.

Dimitar Berbatov scored a sublime goal 10 minutes into the second half before Wayne Rooney struck late on to secure United a win that gives them 25 points, two behind leaders Chelsea and three ahead of Arsenal.
Berbatov's last goal in a United shirt was an excellent bicycle kick in the 2-2 draw with Sunderland, and he followed that acrobatic effort with one that arguably surpasses that strike.
Patrice Evra played the Bulgarian in with his back to goal, and with one touch teed up the ball before swivelling and firing a volley on the turn past Paul Robinson.
Despite having a relatively quiet game, Rooney doubled United's lead in the closing moments when he steered Anderson's near-post cross into the far corner for his eighth of the season.
Results elsewhere on Saturday mean Rovers stay in 17th, one place above the relegation zone, as their terrible away form continues. They have now lost all four of their away league matches this season, shipping 18 goals along the way.
United began the evening with Jonny Evans and Wes Brown at the heart of their defence, as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were both injured. However, their defence was not unduly tested as Rovers set out to frustrate United and silence the crowd, which they did to good effect for much of the opening period.
Following a rather low key opening half-hour, United finally gave the subdued Old Trafford crowd something to shout about when Berbatov had two chances within a minute.
First the striker received the ball with his back to goal on the penalty spot, but his shot on the turn was blocked by a well-timed tackle from the impressive Gael Givet. Moments later, the club record signing forced Paul Robinson to tip over the bar with a strong header.
Berbatov did have the ball in the back of the net five minutes before half time, only to see it disallowed. The Bulgarian stole in to tap home Wayne Rooney's cross from close range, only to wheel away in celebration and see the linesman's flag up for offside against Rooney.
United boss Alex Ferguson brought on Gabriel Obertan on the hour mark in place of Nani, who once more disappointed as he struggled to deal with the rough treatment dished out to him by Rovers' defenders.
The young Frenchman, who impressed on his debut at Barnsley in the Carling Cup in midweek, failed to mark his Premier League debut with a goal as he fired wide of the target from eight yards out. However, he did have a small part to play in Rooney's goal, as it was he who brought the ball down the left flank before leaving it for Anderson to cross.
Striker Nikola Kalinic replaced lone frontman Franco di Santo for Rovers, and the Croat had the ball in the back of the net in the first of four added minutes at the end of the 90, only to see the linesman's flag incorrectly raised for offside against him.

Michael Owen was another late attacking introduction for United, and his low shot that flashed inches wide of the far post was the last act of a match that United won without ever really impressing and Blackburn lost without ever looking poor.

Rest of games results:
Bolton 0-4 Chelsea
Burnley 2-0 Hull City
Everton 1-1 Aston Villa
Fulham 3-1 Liverpool
Portsmouth 4-0 Wigan Athletic
Stoke City 2-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Sunderland 2-2 West Ham United
Arsenal 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Manchester United beat Barnsley 2-0

Danny Welbeck and Michael Owen gave Manchester United a 2-0 victory over Barnsley at Oakwell to go into the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup.

Welbeck, pictured, scored after six minutes with Owen scoring just before the hour mark on a night that saw Gary Neville sent off for the visitors.
Barnsley had plenty of chances to score but consistently failed to find the target as their cup run came crashing to an end.
It was the visitors who started the match in more aggressive fashion, pushing upfield at every chance with Welbeck on the left and debutant Gabriel Obertan on the right causing problems for the defence.
And it took just six minutes for United to open the scoring, with Anderson's perfectly-struck corner going straight to the completely unmarked Welbeck, who headed powerfully past Luke Steele.
United continued to dominate the early exchanges as they looked completely in control, with Obertan drawing a superb save from Steele on 19 minutes as he looked certain to score on his debut.
But from then on the Tykes seemed to get the measure of their visitors, hanging on to the ball well and beginning to make chances.
On 23 minutes a corner curled in by Adam Hammill found Malta international Daniel Bogdanovic, whose header clattered against the left upright.
And twice in the next 10 minutes Barnsley defender Stephen Foster had two good headers from corners, one that went wide to the right and then the second just over the bar.
The changed pattern of the match seemed to wake up United's dormant midfield, and they once again began to hang on to the ball better and played the half out safely.
Just three minutes after the break Owen had a chance to put the visitors out of sight, being played through by a terrific ball from Anderson and having just the keeper to beat from inside the box.

But fast-charging defender Foster came through in time to put on a bit of pressure, and Owen's atrociously feeble finish dribbled weakly off the pitch.
It was just the sort of finish that would make Fabio Capello's life easier by removing any prospect of Owen going to South Africa next year - but the diminutive striker made amends 10 minutes later with a great bit of control that gave him the second goal.
Anderson put the ball through to Owen from the left, but the goal was made by the striker's deft control and short burst of acceleration that took him past three Barnsley players, giving him the space to fire a perfectly-placed shot into the bottom right corner.
Barnsley refused to give in despite the second goal, and their hope was bolstered when Neville was dismissed three minutes later for keeping his studs up on the follow through of an otherwise well-won challenge against Hammill.
The decision seemed harsh on Neville, but Barnsley nonetheless used it as a springboard to launch a series of raids upfield in the last half-hour.
And the hosts managed to create a series of good openings, with Hammill and Bogdanovic each hitting a pair of great chances just wide of the uprights.
Substitute Jacob Butterfield did even better on 79 minutes with a stunning piece of football, controlling a tricky pass from the left and side-stepping to beat three United defenders, then rifling a brilliant shot back across goal towards the bottom right corner.
But Ben Foster showed the class that has earned him international honours, pulling out an outstanding diving save to his left that prevented a seemingly certain goal.
It was a cruel blow to a side who deserved at least a consolation goal, and with the players' legs fading and the crowd's singing dying down United closed the match out comfortably.
Though the holders were good value for their spot in the next round, Barnsley's players will be lamenting the lack of quality finishing that saw them blow all the chances they had to make a contest of it.
For United, there were two down sides: first, the poor defending at set pieces that should have seen them punished; and second, the injury to the superb Welbeck, which saw the player limp off with just over half an hour to go.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United

Fernando Torres and David Ngog struck as Liverpool downed bitter rivals Manchester United 2-0 at Anfield to give their season a much-needed shot in the arm.
Torres broke the deadlock on 65 minutes before Ngog added a gloss to the scoreline deep into injury time with both teams down to 10 men as Liverpool's run of four straight defeats ended.
Nemanja Vidic was dismissed for a third straight game against the Merseyside club in the final minute while Javier Mascherano also received his marching orders in time added on.
Antonio Valencia had earlier hit the bar as United rallied but Liverpool held on to record a crucial victory that sees them move into fifth place, allowing manager Rafa Benitez to finally celebrate something on his 200th Premier League match in charge.
United stay in second, having lost top spot to Chelsea on Saturday.
Liverpool may have been missing inspirational skipper Steven Gerrard, who was forced to watch on from the stands through injury, but Benitez was boosted by the return of Torres. The Spaniard did not disappoint.
Having failed to have a sniff of goal during the opening 65 minutes, Torres proved his worth to his club when he was played through on goal by a fantastic Yossi Benayoun pass. He held off the challenge of Rio Ferdinand before lashing into the roof of the net, leaving Edwin van der Sar no chance.

As United pressed forward for a late equaliser, they were exposed at the back and Ngog took full advantage in the sixth minute of time added on, the substitute keeping his cool when played clean through on goal to fire home and seal victory.

Liverpool v Manchester United preview

Check out all the facts and stats ahead of Liverpool's Premier League clash with Manchester United at Anfield.This will be Rafa Benitez's 200th Premier League game in charge of Liverpool.If Liverpool lose this game then it will be the first time they have lost three successive league games under Rafa Benitez.
Liverpool have failed to score in their last two league games. They have not gone three in a row without scoring since March 2005.
Only one of Liverpool's last 21 league games has ended as a draw.
Manchester United have gone 14 Premier League away games without a draw.
The only Premier League home team to score more than once against Manchester United in 2009 are Fulham, back in March.
United have lost only one of their last seven Premier League trips to Anfield.
The last five league meetings between these sides in Liverpool have seen a total of just six goals, three of them in last season's match.
Manchester United have delivered the most crosses this season (232) but Liverpool have played the most successful crosses (55).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CSKA 0-1 Manchester United

Manchester United maintained their 100 per cent record in Champions League Group B with a well-deserved 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium.
United controlled much of the match, but they left it late to take all three points, Antonio Valencia swooping to confirm their dominance with just four minutes remaining.
The result means Alex Ferguson's side are five points clear at the top of the table, after Wolfsburg had to settle for a goalless draw against Besiktas. United can now seal qualification from the group stage with a point against CSKA back at Old Trafford in a fortnight.
Pre-match talk centred on how the visitors would cope with the Luzhniki's infamous plastic pitch and as expected the ball bounced higher and held up more than usual.
The result was a cagey opening period during which chances were few and far between, but the synthetic turf did not appear to give either side a clear advantage.
United edged possession early on and Paul Scholes went closest to breaking the deadlock after 25 minutes, the veteran midfielder cleverly unleashing a shot from 30 yards out that bounced awkwardly just in front of Igor Akinfeev. The CSKA keeper had to be alert to make an effective, if ungainly, save.
Fabio Da Silva, playing at left-back in the absence of the injured Patrice Evra, impressed with his attacking play, and the Brazilian was keen to support Nani down the left hand side at every opportunity.
Nani, meanwhile, was also busy and United's only other real chance of the first half came from one of the many crosses he put into the CSKA penalty area. This one eventually fell to Gary Neville, who sent a measured side-footer just over the bar on 37 minutes.

At the other end, a Tomas Necid header preceded a cross-shot from the dangerous Milos Krasic and an Alan Dzagoyev free-kick that caused panic in the United box, but otherwise United's back line was not troubled, even though Nemanja Vidic looked uncertain on occasion.
After the break Vidic lost his central defensive partner Rio Ferdinand, who was taken off as a precautionary measure with one eye on Sunday's big clash against Liverpool.
But with United upping their game in the second half, much of the action took place at the other end and Wes Brown, Ferdinand's replacement, was comfortable for the remainder of the evening.
Just once did CSKA threaten to get on the scoresheet, when Sergei Ignashevich nearly prodded home a dangerous free-kick after 64 minutes.
But otherwise, United controlled the game during the second half and the only thing lacking from their play, until the later stages, was a final product, although they came close to finding one on several occasions.
Nani was denied a diving header on the hour mark by an excellent save from Akinfeev before the CSKA skipper raced off his line to smother at the Portuguese's feet seven minutes later.
Michael Owen was introduced with just under 20 minutes remaining in the hope the striker could make a breakthrough, although the striker failed to make a difference, swinging and missing at his best chance with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Valencia fared better and the Ecuadorian rattled the frame of the goal with a superb strike following a neat passing move from United, again involving Nani, on 82 minutes.
Four minutes later, United's pressure eventually told as Valecnia settled the match, lashing past Akinfeev from Dimitar Berbatov's flick on to give United their first victory over Russian opponents in UEFA competitions.

CSKA vs Manchester United FC preview

PFC CSKA Moskva coach Juande Ramos is relishing the opportunity to pit his wits against Manchester United FC and Sir Alex Ferguson when the three-time UEFA Champions League winners travel to Russia for their third Group B game holding a three-point lead in the standings. Sir Alex has already experienced plenty of euphoria at the Luzhniki Stadium, venue for the 2008 final win against Chelsea FC, but despite the emotions stirred by a return to the Russian capital and the prospect of facing Liverpool FC at the weekend, the United manager is fully focused on the task in hand.

Juande Ramos, CSKA coach
What I like about Russia is that the players are very disciplined, ready to listen and take on new things so training is very positive. Some United players won't feature but I'm sure they will find replacements, just as we will replace the players we are missing. The game will be a kind of barometer for us, showing how close we are to clubs like United. We will be looking to win, to pick up three points and have the chance to do that at home. They have a big match against Liverpool this weekend but [Wednesday's] game, in terms of emotion and the challenge will be comparable to Liverpool. I don't think they will take it easy in any way. Of course, two big matches so close to each other will make their coach shift the workload somehow, but they want to win the group so they need to play for victory.

Sir Alex Ferguson, United manager
Obviously I have fantastic memories [of the Moscow final] but these are things of the past. It was wonderful and I won't forget it but we have a more important match tomorrow. We have analysed CSKA quite a lot in the last two weeks. It is an interesting combination: they have more experienced players in the back four and good young players in front in [Miloš] Krasić and [Alan] Dzagoev. They keep the ball down all the time and show good speed. The [Russian] league becomes stronger and can be compared to other good leagues like Germany and France. There are new teams like FC Zenit St. Petersburg and FC Rubin Kazan – it shows there is room for people with ambition. CSKA are now fifth and need to win all the games to qualify for Europe, so that shows the level of the league. It's not an easy league at all. Our advantage is that we have very good players.

Wayne Rooney is among five key Manchester United FC players ruled out of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League fixture at PFC CSKA Moskva.

Hope over duo
Rooney misses out with a calf strain and remained in England along with Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra, Ji-Sung Park and Darren Fletcher as the rest of the United squad headed to Russia on Monday afternoon. Giggs and Evra picked up knocks in Saturday's 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers FC, while Park and Fletcher both sat out that match. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson is nonetheless hopeful that striker Dimitar Berbatov and defender Nemanja Vidić will recover from minor complaints as United aim to keep up their perfect record in Group B.

Weekend results
17/10/09 PFC Spartak Nalchik 1-1 CSKA
(Amisulashvili 26; Krasić 2)

• The draw with Spartak Nalchik ended CSKA's run of three successive away defeats in the Premier-Liga, but with leaders FC Rubin Kazan winning they are now seven points off the summit.

17/10/09 Manchester United 2-1 Bolton Wanderers FC
(Knight 5og, Valencia 33; Taylor 75)

• The win took United back to the top of the Premier League as Chelsea lost 2-1 at Aston Villa FC. United have scored 20 goals in their last seven league games.

• Antonio Valencia scored his first goal for United since his summer move from Wigan Athletic FC. It was his first Premier League goal since December 2008, though he has scored twice for Ecuador this season.

Team news

Out: Mark González (ankle), Guilherme (thigh)
Doubtful: Vasili Berezutski (cold)
Suspended: none
Misses next match if booked: none

Out: Wayne Rooney (calf), Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra, Ji-Sung Park (knee), Darren Fletcher, Owen Hargreaves (knee),
Doubtful: Nemanja Vidić (ankle), Dimitar Berbatov
Suspended: none
Misses next match if booked: Nemanja Vidić

• United are unbeaten in 13 away games in the UEFA Champions League but they are without a win in five matches against Russian clubs.

• Ramos faced United twice while manager of Tottenham Hotspur FC from October 2007 to October 2008, the first a 3-1 FA Cup fourth round defeat at Old Trafford in January 2008 and then a 1-1 league home draw the following month.

• United trio Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney were on the losing side at the Luzhniki Stadium with England in a UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifier against Russia on 17 October 2007. CSKA's Aleksei Berezutski, Vasili Berezutski and Sergei Ignashevich were in the Russia team that earned a 2-1 victory, despite Rooney hitting the opening goal.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Manchester United 2 Bolton Wanderers 1

Manchester United received more last-gasp salvation at Old Trafford - this time from Edwin van der Sar as they scrambled back to the Barclays Premier League summit.

Late goals against Manchester City and Sunderland have kept United afloat at Old Trafford this season. This time the drama was all at the other end.

Two goals up and cruising against Bolton Wanderers thanks to an early Zat Knight own goal and Antonio Valencia's first since a £17m summer move from Wigan Athletic, United looked destined to ease home.

Instead, the whole match changed following a series of superb saves from Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Matt Taylor pulled one back 15 minutes from time. And with almost the final touch, Gary Cahill went agonisingly close to snatching a point with a point-blank header which the returning veteran Van der Sar somehow managed to keep out.

United could have been ahead before Patrice Evra charged forward on the overlap and drove a cross to Michael Owen at the near-post.

With Wayne Rooney missing due to a groin injury, Owen could have done with getting his own name on the scoresheet.

Instead, his off-target header fell to Knight, who misjudged an intended clearance and instead trundled the ball into his own net.

More should have soon followed. Jonny Evans gave Jussi Jaaskelainen the opportunity to make a fine block when really his far-post header should have been guided in from a Ryan Giggs cross that came at the end of some excellent approach play.

Dimitar Berbatov, celebrating the birth of his first child - Dea - on Thursday, blazed a decent opportunity wide, while Jaaskelainen stood tall in the face of Valencia's long-range effort.

It meant Ferguson's side had to wait until the 33rd minute to double their lead, before which Kevin Davies had wasted a golden chance to equalise.

Valencia has made a promising start in his new surroundings, with the exception of his efforts in front of goal.

The Ecuador star has rarely given the impression of being prolific and there have been many better chances than the one he belted past Jaaskelainen.

However, after collecting Michael Owen's square ball, he raced forward before prodding a pass to Gary Neville, whose return was delivered with precision, inviting what followed.

Had Jaaskelainen not managed to beat away an acrobatic Berbatov volley, the Bulgarian would have had a fitting way to celebrate such a momentous week in his life.

The Finn also denied Valencia, whose rasping angled drive was heading for the far corner and the worth of Jaaskelainen's immense contribution was proved 15 minutes from time when Bolton dragged themselves back into the contest.

United failed to heed the warning offered by a disallowed Ivan Klasnic effort, and when Kevin Davies launched a far post cross towards Taylor, the midfielder steered his header into the left corner.

The move highlighted Evra's weakness in the air, which Bolton desperately tried to exploit.

Ivan Klasnic, whose introduction had thrown United's defence into a panic, fired narrowly wide, then Knight was off target before Cahill was presented with his glorious chance.

Ferguson had already placed his trust in Van der Sar to make his first appearance of the season after breaking his fingers in the summer, and the 38-year-old did not let him down.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Manchester United draw 2 - 2 Sunderland in the last minutes

Manchester United scored another dramatic late goal but still had to settle for a 2-2 draw against Sunderland at Old Trafford.

Patrice Evra's 93rd-minute shot deflected in off the luckless Anton Ferdinand to earn United a point they hardly deserved.
Sunderland were the better side and led twice. First, through a brilliant seventh-minute goal by Darren Bent, then through a header just before the hour from his strike partner Kenwyne Jones.
But a sensational overhead kick from Dimitar Berbatov and Ferdinand's own-goal gave the champions a share of the spoils in a thrilling climax, two weeks after Michael Owen's 96th-minute winner in the derby against Manchester City.
United old-boy Kieran Richardson was sent off for a second bookable offence after kicking the ball away, and 10-man Sunderland failed to hold out.
The point takes Steve Bruce's side to the dizzy heights of sixth in the Premier League, while Chelsea can knock United off top spot with a win at home to Liverpool on Sunday.
Sunderland deserve credit for an organised, combative display built on a central midfield fulcrum of Lee Cattermole and Lorik Cana. Yet United were poor throughout, especially in midfield where Ryan Giggs was sorely missed.
Giggs made a match-winning contribution from the substitutes' bench against Stoke City last weekend, but was mysitfyingly left out of the 18-man squad here.
With his flicks, tricks and tendency to run down cul-de-sacs, Nani is an easy target for critics. But it becomes even simpler to point out his deficiencies when he completes none of his first six crosses and continually makes bad decisions in important situations.
Wayne Rooney left his foot in on Andy Reid in a moment of frustration at his side's dismal performance. A stricter referee might have sent the England striker off, but Alan Wiley chose to give Rooney no more than a talking-to.
Bent's goal was a gem. He received a slick pass from Cattermole, turned sharply and hit an early shot low past Ben Foster into the left corner.
Foster was recalled after being dropped for United's Champions League match against Wolfsburg. It cannot have been part of the goalkeeper's plans to concede within seven minutes.

Berbatov admitted this week that he has been a disappointment since his £30 million arrival from Tottenham Hotspur, but he did plenty to win over his doubters with a magnificent equaliser.
John O'Shea crossed from the right and the Bulgarian met the ball acrobatically, directing it past Gordon into the right corner with a perfect bicycle kick.
Old Trafford fully expected United to do what they have done so many times and go on to win the game, yet they contrived to surrender the initiative again.
Seven minutes later Sunderland were back in front when Andy Reid clipped a hanging cross into the United box and Foster, Jones and the ball all converged at the same time.
A stronger goalkeeper would have have taken out man and ball with authority; Foster allowed Jones to muscle in front and bundle the ball home. Edwin van der Sar's return cannot come soon enough.
Yet United roused themselves for another piece of stoppage time magic. Nemanja Vidic headed across goal and Sunderland cleared to what they thought was safety, but Evra returned the ball with interest and a wicked touch off Ferdinand took the ball into the corner.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Manchester United 2 - 1 Wolfsburg

Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick were on target as Manchester United came from behind to beat Wolfsburg 2-1 in an entertaining Champions League clash at Old Trafford.

The German champions took the lead after 56 minutes through Edin Dzeko's towering header but evergreen midfielder Giggs fired home a free-kick to pull United back on level terms just three minutes later.
Carrick curled home what proved to be the winner with 12 minutes remaining to give United two wins from two in Group B and inflict Wolfsburg's first defeat in the competition.
The Bundesliga side, making their debut in Europe's premier club competition this season, kicked off their campaign with an impressive 3-1 win over CSKA Moscow a fortnight ago, Brazilian striker Grafite completing a hat-trick with four minutes to go.
And Armin Veh's side continued where they left off in Germany, taking the game to their hosts in a rainy Manchester and making most of the early running.
Grafite and strike partner Dzeko started for the German club, with Obafemi Martins again forced to start on the bench, and early interchanges between the pair helped reinforce their reputation as a force to be reckoned with.
Certainly, United's backline appeared slightly unnerved by Wolfsburg's strong start to the game and both Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra gave the ball away cheaply within the opening 10 minutes.
Vidic's aberration, after just four minutes, allowed Zvjezdan Misimovic, Dzeko's Bosnian compatriot, the chance to shoot on goal and Tomasz Kuszczak, preferred to Ben Foster in United's goal, was forced into making his first save of the night.
As an attacking force, United struggled during the opening stages of the game, and part of the reason became clear when Dimitar Berbatov, who was overlooked in favour of Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney, started to warm up on the sidelines on the quarter-hour mark.

In front of the watching Fabio Capello, Owen had tweaked his groin and was forced off the pitch with just 20 minutes played. Enter Berbatov, and United's attacking play became noticeably sharper.
His impact was almost immediate, the Bulgarian's backheel finding Antonio Valencia, who wastefully shot wide of the mark on 25 minutes.
Wayne Rooney then found the back of the net from Berbatov's ball across the face of goal but the strike was chalked off for offside. Replays later showed Berbatov to have been onside when he received the ball.
It was not the last time United were to have a goal disallowed on the night - Giggs also had an effort ruled out for offside after the break, and again it was a contentious decision as replays showed the Welshman was played in as the ball pinged off the legs of Misimovic.
With Berbatov pulling the strings, United looked a different proposition and Carrick nearly opened the scoring after having profited from the Bulgarian's clever through pass in the 30th minute.
Berbatov himself then fired over from Giggs's back-post cross before Carrick saw a diving header saved by Benaglio.
But Wolfsburg maintained a threat of their own and Christian Gentner's header over the bar on 34 minutes served as a reminder that at 0-0 this game was still up for grabs.
But it did not stay goalless for long and as Berbatov's influence diminished Wolfsburg broke the deadlock when Dzeko leapt above Evra to direct a header past Kuszczak 11 minutes into the second half.
United hit back almost immediately, Giggs notching his 150th goal for United with a heavily deflected free-kick that wrong-footed Benaglio in the Wolfsburg goal.
The goal gave United a lift and they surged forward in search of a winner. Rooney almost found it with a sumptuous curling effort that flew inches wide of the angle of post and bar before Carrick finally did, the England midfielder sending a shot into the top corner after Berbatov and Giggs conspired to tee him up on the edge of the penalty area.
But still the visitors refused to accept defeat and when Josue lifted his head with six minutes remaining, Old Trafford hearts were firmly in mouths. But his stabbed effort bounced wide and with it went Wolfsburg's hopes of getting anything from the game.
United are now three points clear at the top of Group B with six points. Wolfsburg and CSKA Moscow have three apiece while Besiktas are bottom with none after their defeat to the Russians in the day's early game.

Manchester United FC vs Wolfsburg preview

Led by a front pair of Grafite and Edin Džeko even Sir Alex Ferguson concedes is "incredible", Armin Veh says there is no reason for his VfL Wolfsburg charges to be initimidated by the Old Trafford atmosphere when they take on Manchester United FC. He feels the experience of big Bundesliga crowds will mask the fact this will be the German side's away debut in the UEFA Champions League group stage, even if they are up against three-time European titleholders.

Sir Alex Ferguson, United manager
The two Wolfsburg [strikers] scored 71 goals between them last season which is incredible, so we're looking forward to the game. I believe that if the home record is good it gives you a good chance to qualify for the next stage of the Champions League. And over the years our home record has been pretty good. We won our first match away from home which is a very big bonus to us. Germany is a good football nation. It says a lot for Wolfsburg's ambition: the progress they made last year, they did it in a very positive way. Sides from countries like Germany are always capable of winning the Champions League. The last few years it has been dominated by English teams, but there's always the possibility of someone coming in.

Armin Veh, Wolfsburg coach
Despite the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tévez, United are still strong. When you take a look at the table you see that they haven't lost in six matches so I see no significant changes – Manchester United have the same quality. This is a special game. United have played in more than 150 Champions League matches, while for us it's just our second game, but we're not going to sit back. I can't say if the lads will be inspired or scared of playing their first match at Old Trafford, but we'll still play our game, otherwise it'll be tough for us. But if you talking about the atmosphere, nothing beats the Bundesliga where crowds are enormous. There is a chance that Obafemi Martins will be brought into action and we'll play with three strikers, but of course it's not easy for him to win the competition with two strikers like Grafite and Edin Džeko.

Weekend results
26/09/09 Stoke City FC 0-2 United
(Berbatov 62, O'Shea 77)
• The win at Stoke was United's seventh in a row in all competitions. United have won 14 and lost just one of their last 16 Premier League games.

• United have scored 16 goals in their last five league matches. Of the 17 league goals they have scored this season 13 have come in the second half.

26/09/09 Wolfsburg 4-2 Hannover 96
(Misimović 8, Gentner 45, Hasebe 48, Džeko 62; Balitsch 28, Madlung 50og)
• It was Wolfsburg's fourth loss in six matches, their worst sequence since November/December 2007.

• Wolfsburg are yet to draw this season. After ten competitive games, they have won six and lost four, three of those defeats coming in the Bundesliga.

• Zvjezdan Misimović scored his fifth league goal of the season against Hannover, making him joint top scorer in the Bundesliga.

Team news
• United
Out: Owen Hargreaves (knee), Rafael (shoulder), Gabriel Obertan (calf), Edwin van der Sar (broken finger)
Doubtful: Ji-Sung Park (illness)
Suspended: none
Misses next match if booked: none

• Wolfsburg
Out: none
Doubtful: Josué (knee)
Suspended: none
Misses next match if booked: none

• United have not lost a home game in the UEFA Champions League since a 1-0 defeat by AC Milan in February 2005.

• This is Wolfsburg's maiden trip to England, although they did emerge victorious from their first encounter with an English team last season – beating Portsmouth FC 3-2 in the UEFA Cup group stage with goals from Džeko, Misimović and Christian Gentner.

• United forward Dimitar Berbatov scored twice in eight Bundesliga matches against Wolfsburg during five and a half years with Bayer 04 Leverkusen.

• Wolfsburg striker Martins was on target for Newcastle United FC in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on the opening day of the 2008/09 Premier League season.

Did you know?
Sir Alex has twice claimed European honours against German clubs – his Aberdeen FC side defeated Hamburger SV to land the 1983 UEFA Super Cup and United beat FC Bayern München in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Man United Scores Twice against Stoke City

Manchester United went top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.

The champions' victory, coupled with Chelsea's 3-1 defeat at Wigan, meant they overtook Carlo Ancelotti's side on goal difference.
Second-half goals from Dimitar Berbatov and John O'Shea secured the points, but it was the introduction from the bench of Ryan Giggs that proved decisive.
The veteran midfielder unlocked a previously solid Stoke defence, setting up both goals and proving his enduring ability.

Sir Alex Ferguson kept faith with under-fire keeper Ben Foster, but the England man could hardly have had an easier time against his former club.
Foster had such an easy afternoon, he could have sat in the United goalmouth with his pipe and slippers and still kept a clean sheet.
United are used to being patient; just four of their 17 Premier League goals this season have come in the first half.
The only clear-cut chance of the first half fell to winger Antonio Valencia, who has made a slow start to life with the Champions.
The Ecuadorean winger raced in from the right flank and bore down on goal, but clipped his shot just past Thomas Sorensen's left-hand post.
Elsewhere it was just half-chances for United; Wayne Rooney hooked an early volley over, Nani was equally wayward and Berbatov saw a shot blocked.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis is an arch-pragmatist, putting results ahead of romance. Their performance in the top flight since summer 2008 shows it is working, and the Potters were happy to defend in numbers in front of their home crowd.
Time and again, there would be 21 players inside the Stoke half but no breakthrough for the champions, who were expertly forced wide from where the delivery of Nani and Valencia lacked quality.
Dave Kitson provided Stoke's main threat, bothering Rio Ferdinand to distraction before a collision with Valencia saw him pick up a shin injury that put him off his game.
Stoke's disciplined display hardly made for great entertainment, but the 28,000 roaring fans inside the Britannia Stadium were clearly prepared to sacrifice that in exchange for a point against the champions.
However, on 54 minutes, Ferguson brought Giggs on for the disappointing Nani and the veteran soon showed what United had been missing.
Just after the hour mark, he received a Darren Fletcher pass in the left channel, then played a clever square ball across the six-yard line to present Berbatov with a tap-in.

It was just the sort of simple, intelligent play United will miss when the 35-year-old eventually ends his glittering career.
Having been geared to protect the stalemate, Stoke struggled to shift into a more attacking gear.
The visitors continued to dominate possession and chance were fleeting and few for Stoke.
James Beattie and Tuncay Sanli came off the bench, but Giggs continued to exert his magisterial influence.
Having claimed three assists in last weekend's derby, the Welshman made it two against Stoke with a pinpoint free-kick that O'Shea glanced inside the far corner.
Giggs might have added a goal of his own when Paul Scholes found him unmarked, but sent the shot high over with the outside of his left boot.