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.