Sunday, January 31, 2010

Manchester United invade Arsenal by three

Manchester United dealt Premier League title rivals Arsenal a heavy blow with a resounding 3-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium.

An inspirational first-half performance from United winger Nani produced an own goal from Manuel Almunia and a strike from Wayne Rooney. Park Ji-sung added a third for United soon after half-time before Thomas Vermaelen grabbed a consolation for the Gunners with 10 minutes remaining.
United's reward for completing a league double over Arsenal is to hold on to second place in the table, and they are now one point behind leaders Chelsea, who the Gunners travel to face in their next league match.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was once again without a recognised striker in his starting line-up due to injuries to Eduardo and Robin van Persie, while Danish target man Nicklas Bendtner started on the bench having just returned from a lengthy lay-off.
The early signs were that makeshift frontman Andriy Arshavin could still pose a threat to the champions after the Russian cut into the box and shot wide of the far post.
Arshavin was involved in all of Arsenal's most promising attacks, but his side struggled to trouble United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar too often.
However, after a hotly-contested opening half an hour, it was United winger Nani who stepped up to create the opener.

The Portuguese cut into the Arsenal box after finding a way through two defenders with an audaciously skilful turn and he chipped a ball towards the far post that Almunia turned into his own net with his fingertips.
The Spanish keeper was forced into trying to take action, despite being at full stretch, as Park Ji-sung was lurking unmarked at the far post ready to tap the ball in had it fallen to him.
United were two up five minutes later when they scored a counter-attacking goal reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo's on the same ground in last season's Champions League semi-final.
Wes Brown steered Cesc Fabregas's shot away from goal and Rooney found Nani. The winger galloped upfield with the ball as Rooney continued his run, and the England striker was played in with an inch-perfect pass that was swept home for his 100th Premier League goal.
Any hopes of Arsenal salvaging something from the match were extinguished seven minutes after the restart.
Carrick instigated another United break with a ball over the top for Park. Gael Clichy was the only defender back and Park had Rooney and Nani in support, but the Korean drove forward and fired a low finish that beat Almunia at the near post for his first goal of the season.
The Gunners stepped up a gear as they desperately tried to avoid humiliation and United relaxed into their three-goal lead. Fabregas, Arshavin and Alex Song all fired efforts off target, but the slice of fortune that delivered their consolation only serves to highlight the lack of cutting edge they otherwise possessed.
With 10 minutes left an Arsenal cross was headed clear but only as far as Vermaelen on the edge of the box. The centre-back, who has a keen eye for goal, struck a volley back on goal that Jonny Evans tried to half-heartedly block by sticking his leg out, but he succeeded only it steering the ball past van der Sar.
Arsenal were spurred on by that goal, but they left themselves susceptible on the break as they continued to commit men forward, allowing United to launch several more counter-attacks before the final whistle blew.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Man United in the Carling Cup Final

A last-gasp goal from Wayne Rooney put Manchester United in the Carling Cup final after a 3-1 semi-final second-leg win over bitter rivals Manchester City gave the hosts a 4-3 aggregate victory.

In the second minute of injury-time, Rooney headed Ryan Giggs's cross past Shay Given for his 21st goal of the season after City thought they had forced extra time through Carlos Tevez's third goal over the two legs against the club he controversially left in the summer.

Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick had earlier put the hosts two up in a game that was soured by a missile incident involving City striker Craig Bellamy, which is sure to have repercussions for United.

Bellamy was hit on the head by a coin and narrowly missed by a bottle in the passage of play before United's opening goal, in an emotionally charged atmosphere not helped by a war of words between Tevez and United defender Gary Neville.

As expected, United started the game looking for an early goal, pressing forward at all opportunities but faced with a wall of Sky Blue as City sat back and looked for the break.

The counter-attack policy seemed more effective: Rio Ferdinand - playing after appealing his FA charge for violent conduct - nudged Tevez off the ball after his mazy dribble put him clean through, while Edwin van der Sar acrobatically saved Tevez's diving header.

Given was barely tested, keeping out Giggs's drive with ease and snuffing out the danger when Dedryck Boyota's slip nearly let Rooney through.

The second half started in reverse fashion, with City coming out all-guns blazing and Micah Richards forcing a save from Van der Sar with a left-foot drive.

Then, on 50 minutes, came the Bellamy incident. The Welshman was ultimately unhurt by the coin and one positive outcome is that the bottle - which contained liquid and could have done serious damage - missed.

From the next move the hosts took the lead in fortuitous circumstances.

A superb ball from Rooney freed Giggs but he was forced wide by Given and had to play the ball back to Nani. The Portuguese winger lost the ball but Carrick, impressive in an advanced midfield role, knocked it back to Scholes, who rifled a low drive that was deflected into the bottom left.

United regained their impetus after that and City did well to survive a couple of slick moves, including a goal-mouth scramble that saw Rooney inadvertently block a Carrick shot and Rooney denied a simple finish by Boyata's sliding challenge.

They made it 2-0 on 71 minutes when, after a quickly-taken throw found its way to Fletcher, Carrick latched on to the loose ball to side-foot into the bottom left from 12 yards.

Rooney, the Premier League's top scorer with 19 goals in 22 matches, missed a sitter when he put Patrice Evra's low cross wide from close range, and it could have been a huge error had he not atoned in injury-time.

Three minutes later, Tevez - who scored both of City's goals in the first leg - pulled one back to level overall with an audacious flick as he spun around Ferdinand to send Bellamy's cross into the bottom left.

With nine minutes left, Carrick missed a great chance to put the tie to bed when he fired wide after the ball broke kindly to him near the penalty spot, while Given seemed to have forced extra-time when he pulled off an incredible save to bat out Fletcher's point-blank header.

But Roberto Mancini's side failed to clear their lines from the poorly-taken short corner that followed, allowing Giggs to pick out Rooney who headed past the Ireland keeper, rooted to his line as the ball nestled in the left-hand side of the goal.

United face Aston Villa in the final at Wembley Stadium on February 28.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rooney hits four Goals

Wayne Rooney hit four goals as Manchester United went top of the Premier League with a 4-0 win over Hull City at Old Trafford.

Rooney made his league tally 19 for the season - a career-best total only mid-way through the campaign - with an early opener and three late strikes to put down a brave effort from the Tigers, who stay in the drop zone after the loss.
It was not all sweetness and light for United though as captain Rio Ferdinand, returning to the team after a worrying back injury, could be in trouble with the FA after his elbow on Craig Fagan was missed by the match officials.
United were utterly dominant in the first half but only had Rooney's eighth-minute poacher's goal to show for two-thirds of the possession and almost 20 chances.
Michael Owen was particularly profligate, notching his first miss in the second minute when his finish came off Anthony Gardner and spun wide for a corner after good work by Rooney.
Rooney soon notched his 16th Premier League goal of the season though, poking the ball home from close range after Boaz Myhill could only parry a Paul Scholes distance special.
Myhill arguably could have done better with Scholes's initial effort, but he kept them in the contest afterwards.
Ji-sung Park headed wide five minutes later, off-balance as he met Darren Fletcher's cross, and Ferdinand poked Nani's corner just wide of the near post on his return from a worrying back injury.
The now usual haphazard United defending reared its ugly head soon after though, with consecutive suicidal defensive headers from Scholes and Jonny Evans forcing Edwin van der Sar to save bravely at Nick Barmby's feet, and the Dutch keeper flapping at the resultant corner and only saved by a Ferdinand clearance from Gardner at the far post.
After that though it was business as usual for the Red Devils.
Rooney had a half-volley deflected just over by a last-gasp Paul McShane block, while Nani saw a penalty appeal waved away after a reckless challenge by Geovanni, although the Brazilian seemed to pull out just in time.
United were all over the Tigers, as Owen was denied when Myhill stopped his spectacular volley and Kamil Zayatte blocked him on the rebound, while Rooney sent a superb free-kick inches wide with Myhill rooted to his goal-line.

Rooney then spooned the ball well wide from 12 yards after another swarming attack initiated by the evergreen Scholes, while late in the half Owen fired weakly at Myhill from eight yards out after some great build-up saw him play one-twos with Rooney and Nani.
Somehow it stayed 1-0 into the break, with Hull fortunate not to be long gone as they went down the tunnel.
The second half started slowly as, while United had almost all the possession, they failed to create any clear-cut chances until Myhill spilled Nani's low cross on 57 minutes.
Lone striker Fagan, while not getting any quarter in front of goal, defended from the front for Hull and chased everything and anything put in the United half, while Gardner and McShane in particular impressed at the back.
They gained in confidence, testing Van der Sar with some crosses and winning a corner on the right that bounced dangerously in front of goal before hitting Zayatte and going wide.
United woke up, and Rooney went close with a low drive before Park mis-hit another good low cross from Nani straight at Zayatte.
Owen was responsible for another miss, heading inches wide after getting behind Gardner to meet a perfectly-weighted free-kick won and delivered by Nani.
Hull came agonisingly close to an equaliser when substitute Kamel Ghilas did brilliantly to control McShane's cross before turning and firing a low drive across Van der Sar but just wide of the far post.
Another sub, Darron Gibson, nearly made it 2-0 for the hosts but his lob landed just the wrong side of the crossbar, while there was a moment of controversy in the build-up to that chance, with Ferdinand potentially in hot water after seeming to aim an elbow at Fagan in an off-the-ball-incident missed by referee Steve Bennett.
United got their second soon afterwards though.
On 82 minutes Nani - who would have been man of the match but for Rooney - smashed a free-kick off the bar: with Andy Dawson hurt after colliding with Myhill while clearing the rebound, Hull decided not to put the ball out of play and Nani fed Gibson, who slid Rooney through to smash the ball into the roof of the net.
Hull's resolve was broken and Rooney added a third four minutes later, arriving unmarked to head into the bottom left after yet another great delivery from Nani.
The England striker added a gloss to the victory with a fourth - the first time he has scored that many in one match - when he drilled into the bottom left after sub Dimitar Berbatov's pull down put him in, although Hull's defence backed off him to allow the shot.
United go two points clear of Arsenal and Chelsea, who have one and two games in hand respectively: Hull stay 18th, with a goal difference of -26, the worst in the division.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Manchester City beats Manchester United 2-1

Tevez, who controversially joined City last year in a move that has heightened the rivalry between the two clubs, wiped out United's early lead when he smashed home a 42nd-minute penalty.
The Argentina forward headed their second goal against the holders after 65 minutes when he was left unmarked in United's six-yard box with only goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar to beat.
United went ahead after 17 minutes when City failed to deal with an Antonio Valencia cross leaving Ryan Giggs with a simple tap-in after City keeper Shay Given blocked a Wayne Rooney shot.
The first semi-final between the two Manchester clubs since 1969 will be decided in the second leg at Old Trafford next Wednesday with the winners meeting Aston Villa or Blackburn Rovers in the final at Wembley Stadium on February 28.
Villa hold a 1-0 lead after the first leg at Blackburn.
United settled first at a sold-out Eastlands and took the lead after Patrice Evra picked out Valencia on the right. His low cross into the box found Wayne Rooney and although Given saved his shot the ball ran to Giggs, a former City youth player, who scored his first derby goal since 1996.

United dominated much of the half after that but City, whose Italian manager Roberto Mancini was experiencing his first Manchester derby, equalised after a controversial call by referee Mike Dean.
United defender Rafael tugged at Craig Bellamy's shirt outside the penalty area and, while the City forward tried to stay on his feet, he fell inside the box.
Dean ruled there was another foul inside the area but TV replays clearly showed there was not.
Tevez ignored the pleas of his former team-mates and the time-delaying tactics of Van der Sar, which earned the keeper a booking, to blast the penalty into the net.
With United personnel claiming in recent days that the club were right to let Tevez leave at the end of last season, the Argentine cupped his ear with his hand to celebrate - and teased the United bench again after his second goal.
That came when he made it 2-1 with his 13th goal in his last 11 games, taking advantage of some slack United defending to head in from close range.
United attacked relentlessly for the equaliser for the remainder of the match with Rooney twice being thwarted by Given and substitute Michael Owen having a shot saved on the line.
Although the visitors failed to find another goal, the tie is still evenly balanced with next week's second leg likely to be just as lively.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mnachester United grind down Burnley by three

Manchester United kept up the pressure on leaders Chelsea as they ground down a gutsy Burnley side 3-0 at Old Trafford.
Goals in quick succession from Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney midway through the second-half put United in control before Mame Biram Diouf came off the bench to score his first United goal in stoppage time.
United dominated but Burnley had chances too as new boss Brian Laws refused to put out a team who were just going to sit back.
That led to an entertaining contest but United took control when Berbatov broke the deadlock in the 64th minute and Rooney then clinched the points five minutes later with a close range finish.
Sir Alex Ferguson then had the luxury to take off his two strikers soon after and while Burnley's Steven Thompson did head off the post before the end, United never looked in any danger of surrendering their lead once in front with Diouf's late header adding further gloss at the death.
However, United's fans still used the match as a chance to voice displeasure at the club's current owners with chants of "we want the Glazers out" ringing around the ground in the final moments.
The match was open from the start and United had countless half chances in the opening 45 minutes.
The returning Nani saved their best moment of the half till last as he flicked up Antonio Valencia's cross himself before firing a spectacular bicycle kick towards the corner of the net. Brian Jensen got down well though to push the ball away.

Rooney also had a couple of attempts and Berbatov flapped at another chance from eight yards out after Valencia's check back.
However, the best chance of the first-half actually feel to Burnley after just seven minutes but Steven Fletcher dragged his effort wide after being sent clear by David Nugent.
Fletcher was also forced off in the 36th minute after being on the wrong end of a nasty Valencia challenge with the Ecuadorian lucky to escape without at least a booking.
The second-half followed a similar pattern with Berbatov missing a great chance in the 57th minute when he superbly took a Valencia pass into his path before then scuffing a left foot shot off the post when it looked easier to score.
United nearly paid the price three minutes later when the excellent Chris Eagles, playing against his former club, slid in David Nugent after a superb run forward.
Nugent then outpaced Gary Neville and looked all set to score but he put the guilt-edged chance wide of the target.
Soon after Berbatov scored the opener as Rooney's clever ball allowed him to drop the shoulder on Michael Duff. From a tough angle the Bulgarian then fired on target and helped by a deflection off Duff it then flew past Jensen.
It was a Berbatov shot that led to the second too as Jensen could only push into the path of Rooney. The England striker took his time to find his feet before placing it into the corner of the net.
Diouf and Michael Owen then replaced the United front two and it was the young Senegalese man making just his second appearance that made much the bigger impact.
He sprung the offside trap in the final moments to get his head on the end of Valencia's chipped ball before Jensen, and he celebrated his first goal for United with a spectacular somersault.
The win means United stay just one point behind Chelsea although the Londoners have a game in hand.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Birmingham City 1-1 Manchester United

manchester united missed out on the chance to pinch top spot from Chelsea after they could only manage a 1-1 draw against Birmingham City at St Andrews.

The hosts had taken the lead completely against the run of play through Cameron Jerome six minutes before half-time, but a Scott Dann own goal drew manchester united level just after the hour-mark.

Despite creating a host of first half chances, the Reds failed to test Joe Hart after the break. Tomasz Kuszczak, on the other hand, was forced to make a string of fine saves as manchester united struggled to hit top gear.

Sir Alex made seven changes to the side that lost out to Leeds manchester united in the FA Cup – the 100th successive game he’d tinkered with his starting eleven – with Paul Scholes, Rafael, Patrice Evra, Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Ji-sung Park all returning. A niggling knee injury ruled Dimitar Berbatov out of the gane.

The game was one of only two Barclays Premier League clashes that had survived the big freeze – Arsenal’s match with Everton at the Emirates was the other – but both sets of players and fans still had bitterly cold conditions to contend with, indeed the temperature gage read -3 at kick-off.

It was manchester united’s first outing since their shock Cup exit, and with Chelsea’s trip to Hull called off it was a chance to regain control at the top of the table. The Reds set about getting back on track straight away with Darren Fletcher almost giving the visitors the perfect start. Having seen his initial corner cleared, Antonio Valencia weaved his way into the area, and while his attempted cross was blocked, it dropped to Fletcher just inside the box whose fizzing effort was deflected wide by Sebastian Larsson.

It was somewhat scrappy thereafter with manchester united struggling to find that killer pass in the final third. Wayne Rooney almost found it on 24 minutes after capitalising on Stephen Carr’s failure to deal with a long punt forward. But his curling cross towards the far post, where Valencia was waiting, was well cleared by James McFadden who had got back to cover.

60 seconds later the roles were reversed with Valencia dinking a lovely pass towards Rooney which put the striker through on goal. Unfortunately Joe Hart, one of the league’s in-form stoppers, stood tall and cleared with his legs. Rooney headed just wide soon after as manchester united began to turn the screw.

Fletcher released Park on 32 minutes but Carr did enough to put the Korean off balance and the chance was gone.

Carrick saw successive shots well blocked by Birmingham’s resolute defence as the half neared its conclusion, while Hart was on hand to claim the midfielder’s looped effort soon after.

Birmingham, who had seen very little of the ball up that point, made their first venture into the opposition box on 38 minutes as Cameron Jerome was finally afforded some service. The striker cleverly worked space, but Scholes stole in to block his close range effort. From the resulting corner, Birmingham unbelievably took the lead.

McFadden’s ball in eventually fell to Lee Bowyer who headed it back into the danger area. It rebounded back off Jonny Evans and into the path of Jerome who had the simple task of slotting home from three yards out. It was extremely harsh on the Reds who had totally dominated the opening period.

Things almost got worse at the start of the second half when a Birmingham corner was only half-cleared. Christian Benitez chested down the loose ball before turning and striking it goalwards. Thankfully it was straight at Kuszczak who, despite knowing little about it, parried clear.

As the snow began to fall, so too did manchester united’s performance level and concentration. Stray passes increased, while there was a real a lack of penetration in attack for the Reds with Rooney becoming more and more isolated up front.

But just as Birmingham had been hugely fortunate to take the lead, the Reds were afforded a stroke of good fortune just after the hour-mark when Scott Dann turned the ball into his own net.

Following some penalty-box pinball, the ball eventually dropped to Patrice Evra who lashed a low drive goalwards which Dann could only divert past Hart. As the Reds celebrated, the linesman on the right touchline kept his flag raised to signal offside against Wayne Rooney. But thankfully referee Mark Clattenburg overturned the decision after consulting with his assistant and replays showed Rooney was clearly onside as Evra struck his shot.

Having struggled to get going since the break, you hoped the equaliser would spur manchester united into action, but it was Birmingham who almost found the net again. Carr found Benitez in the box who turned brilliantly away from both Evans and Scholes,but his low shot was well saved by Kuszczak.

Mame Biram Diouf entered the fray for his manchester united debut, joining fellow substitute Ryan Giggs in trying to help the Reds turn one point into three. manchester united’s cause was made all the more difficult, however, six minutes from time when Fletcher was harshly given his marching orders after collecting his second yellow card for a tame trip on Jerome.

Birmingham almost nicked it with a powerful shot from Roger Johnson, but Kuszczak yet again blocked well.

Despite six minutes of added time, manchester united couldn’t find a winner. The result edged the Reds a point closer to Chelsea, but it still felt like a missed opportunity.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Manchester United 0-1 Leeds United

Third-tier Leeds United produced the shock of the third round by knocking record 11-times winners Manchester United out of the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Fallen giants Leeds, the League One leaders who are 43 places below English champions Manchester United, won thanks to Jermaine Beckford's 19th minute goal and then denied their hosts, second in the Premier League, an equaliser.
It was the first time Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had lost in the third round of the FA Cup, the stage at which teams from England's top two divisions enter the knockout tournament, since he arrived at Old Trafford 24 years ago.
Not since 1984, when beaten by third tier Bournemouth, had Manchester United lost at this stage of the competition.
Victory was also Leeds's first at Old Trafford since 1981.

Their goal came after Jonny Howson's superb 50-yard pass over the head of Wes Brown found striker Beckford and he outpaced the defender before sliding the ball left-footed into the far corner and beyond goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
United did threaten and, after Leeds keeper Casper Ankergren had advanced quickly to block Wayne Rooney's initial shot, Jason Crowe had to clear off the line from the England striker.
Ankergren then produced another good block to deny Danny Welbeck early in the second-half.
Just short of the hour mark, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson made a double substitution with veteran forward Ryan Giggs replacing Gabriel Obertan and striker Antonio Valencia coming on for Danny Welbeck.
But still Leeds denied the home side and, with 20 minutes left, Ferguson sent on Michael Owen, his final substitution, only to see the England striker scuff a shot from inside the box moments later.
Rooney then fired way over the crossbar and, with 12 minutes left, Beckford could have made it 2-0 only for his shot to whistle past the far post.
Leeds substitute Robert Snodgrass then hit the crossbar and, in the five minutes of stoppage time, Ankergren saved from Rooney.