Tag Archive: Manchester United F.C.

By Tony Alvarez

By midnight tonight the Premier League season will be over, we will know where everyone has finished and more importantly who has grabbed the final important places that are still up for grabs.
It has been the first time in many a year that the final day of the season has seen so much still to play for.

The title is still there to be won with the Manchester clubs, City and United fighting to be crowned Champions.
3rd and 4th are still yet to be decided, really they shouldn’t be important placing but with the money the Champions League brings in they are extremely important, third is also more important that it has ever been before as the side who finish 4th will miss out on Champions League Football should Chelsea triumph over Munich in Munich on May 19th.

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By Laurie Fitzgerald

Tonight, the biggest game of the Premier League season – and one of the biggest Manchester derbies of all time – takes place at the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester City take on Manchester United knowing that victory will put them above their fierce rivals with just two games remaining.

For United, a win will all but secure their 20th league title and end the hopes of Roberto Mancini‘s side in a title race that has had plenty of twists and turns.

It looked well and truly over a few weeks ago when City’s defeat at Arsenal left them eight points adrift of Sir Alex Ferguson‘s men with just six games remaining.

But a shock defeat for United a few days later at Wigan left the door ajar, and City haven’t looked back since.     Continue reading

By Tony Alvarez
As you know both Laurie and I chose a team at the start of the Carlintg Cup and followed them throughout the competition if they lose we follow the team that beat them.
With only 4 sides left myself and Laurie both found ourselves with the same side Crystal Palace as you can see Laurie has already published a preview of that game and I’m sure you don’t want to read the same thing twice so I will look ahead to arguably the bigger clash of the two semi finals Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City vs Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool.

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Hylton, Can the club find goals form elsewhere?

By Tony Alvarez
Following an excellent cup run which saw the Hampshire side beat opposition from higher leagues such as West Ham United, Carlisle and Rochdale. Aldershots season has really stalled and the club are currently stuck in a run which has seen them win just twice in the league since the start of November.
The cup run which of course was brought to an end at their EBB stadium by Premier League champions Manchester United, seems to of done the club no good and many fans will now be nervously looking over their shoulder at the relegation zone.

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By Laurie Fitzgerald

2011 has seen some brilliant football by some of the biggest names in the game as the Premier League has continued to excite fans all across the world.

But which player has stood out above all others as the outstanding performer in the most popular league on the planet in the last 12 months?

We pick five players that have consistently delivered for their clubs in the last year, and state why they have been the pinnacle of England’s top-flight:

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By Laurie Fitzgerald

Wayne Rooney has began to rediscover his form in front of goal after a barren spell was ended with three goals in two games for Manchester United.

A brace against Wolves was followed by an early header that got United on their way to a win at QPR that kept them firmly in the title race going into the festive period.

But it was that strike at Loftus Road that gave a reminder to what could be the crucial component to Rooney’s sudden upturn in goalscoring fortunes.

The England forward’s early strike in West London came courtesy of a cross from a winger who has worked his way back into the team after being out of favour so far this season.

For the early months of the campaign, Antonio Valencia was often playing second fiddle to both Nani and summer recruit Ashley Young on the flanks.

Young started the season with real purpose, determined to prove he was worth the £16 million Sir Alex Ferguson paid for him in pre-season.

Meanwhile, Portuguese star Nani was continuing to grow in form and confidence as the season started to settle, meaning Valencia was firmly consigned to mainly occupying a role in the Carling Cup.

But while Rooney was in prolific form to begin with, the goals quickly dried up and nine Premier League games had passed without the 26 year-old getting onto the scoresheet.

However, with goals becoming a difficulty for the Red Devils in general, Valencia was brought into the side to add a different option on the wing, and it has been paying off.

Valencia has set up two of Rooney’s recent goals, and his ability to pinpoint the former Everton youngster with his crosses have given United a new dimension going forward.

With the former Wigan man in the side, Rooney looks a far bigger threat to opposition defences, and mirrors the kind of form he showed in the 2009/10 season when he won PFA Player of the Year.

Rooney managed to score 26 goals in the league that year, but Valencia played a big part in that goal tally, often finding his team-mate in the right place at the right time.

Valencia is often understated by the footballing public in the role he plays within this United squad with the likes of Young and Nani the more standout names.

However, his understanding with Rooney has not only galvanised Rooney’s campaign but also United, and while the much-hailed striker will continue to get the plaudits if he keeps finding the net, it may well be down to the coincidental return of an unsung hero into the starting line-up.  

So what do you think? Is Valencia the key to Rooney finding the net in the United line-up? Or has the Ecuadorian’s return to the team coincided with Rooney rediscovering his touch? Leave a comment and let us know your views.

By Laurie Fitzgerald

Today’s draw in Nyon for the last 16 of this year’s UEFA Champions League will look a little bit bare of English names.

It will include the fewest number of Premier League entrants since this stage of the tournament became a straight knockout following the shock exits of Manchester United and Manchester City.

This means that it will be the London duo of Arsenal and Chelsea that will be flying the flag for England in Europe’s elite competition going into the new year.

The great news for both sides is that they won their groups, meaning they will avoid the continent’s biggest names until at least the quarter-finals.

Teams such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich will be initially avoided, which will delight both Arsene Wenger and Andre Villas-Boas.

However, this doesn’t ensure that either side will get a kind draw as there are still some dangerous teams in the firing line that could halt their progress.

Italian giants AC Milan and Manchester City’s conquerers Napoli are possible oponents, as are potentially difficult trips to Russia to face the likes of Zenit St. Petersburg or CSKA Moscow.

Experienced campaigners Lyon are never a team to be taken lightly, especially after defying the odds and turning round a 7-goal deficit in their final group game to edge out Ajax on goal difference.

However, there are some attractive possibilities; whilst they knocked out United last week, there’s no doubt that Basel look the best possible draw available to the capital outfits.

Also, the two sides that progressed with Arsenal and Chelsea into the knockout stages in Marseille and Bayer Leverkusen respectively could be ideal line-ups and are more than beatable.

Either way, it is going to be a difficult route to the final with many of the big sides set to avoid each other and therefore likely to get through to the last eight.

But a kind draw for both the Gunners and the Blues will increase hopes of reaching the showpiece event at the Allianz Arena come May.

As for the Europa League draw, the Manchester duo join Stoke City in the last 32, with the English trio avoiding one another until at least the last 16.

There are some big names joining United and City through the Champions League trapdoor, with Ajax, Porto and Valenica amongst the names having to change their European priorities.

Plus with other clues such as Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Schalke, Twente and PSV Eindhoven also in the running, it will be unlikely that England’s representatives will find an easy path.

But Stoke have gathered in momentum throughout the campaign, while United and City are capable of winning the tournament – depending on how seriously they decide to take it.

So what do you think? Who do you want your side to get in today’s draw? Leave a comment and let us know your views.

By Laurie Fitzgerald

The next 48 hours could see as many as three English sides exit the Champions League at the group stage for the first time since the Premier League was allowed four participants.

Group stages of Europe’s elite competition are often viewed as dull affairs with the usual suspects progressing with relative ease.

Not this time around; while the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have qualified at a canter, the trio of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are fighting for their European lives.

All of them are assured of European football after tonight, but they will want to ensure it is in the less attractive and profitable Europa League.  

Tonight, Chelsea take on Valencia in Group E knowing that anything less than a win or a goalless draw will see them drop into the last 32 of UEFA’s sister competition.

While their home form during the campaign has garnered two wins, it’s the Blues’ paltry record on the road of two draws and a defeat that has left Andre Villas-Boas’ team on the brink.

Their defeat away at Bayer Leverkusen a fortnight ago means that they now have to overcome one of the top teams in Spain.

Although Valencia have been weakened in recent seasons following the sales of David Villa and David Silva, they still pose a serious threat to Chelsea’s progress.

Things aren’t faring much better for Silva’s new side on the European front; while Manchester City have been unbeatable domestically, their first season in the Champions League has proved far more difficult.

In a tough Group A containing Bayern, Villarreal and Napoli, Roberto Mancini‘s men have come unstuck on a few occassions, most notably in their away trips to Naples and Munich.

Those losses have left them third in the table, and even a win at home to the already-qualified Bayern tomorrow evening won’t guarantee their place in the knockout stages.

City will need a favour from a Villarreal side that have lost all five games to deny Napoli taking the runners-up spot, which will be guaranteed with a win at the El Madrigal.

However, they aren’t the only ones from Manchester sweating on qualification; United are in the best position of the three, sitting second in Group C.

But defeat away to FC Basel will see the Swiss outfit cause an almighty shock and take the place of the English champions in the last 16 along with Benfica.

A draw would be enough for Sir Alex Ferguson‘s men, but even that won’t secure top spot, a possibility not available to City and slim for Chelsea.

So even if they all scrape through, there is a good chance they will face Barca or Real in the next round and leave their revived Champions League hopes in the balance once again.

But they are permutations that are far away; right now, three of England’s biggest clubs have to make sure their European adventures this season don’t continue on Thursday nights.

So what do you think? Will the English sides make it through to the last 16? Or will any, if not all three sides drop into the Europa League? Leave a comment and let us know your views.

By Laurie Fitzgerald

Tonight sees Crystal Palace rewarded for their excellent run in this season’s Carling Cup with a trip to the Theatre of Dreams to take on the champions of England Manchester United.

While many will predict the result to be a foregone conclusion, Dougie Freedman‘s men have had a habit over the past 12 months of defying the odds.

Having seemed destined for relegation to League One at the turn of the year, Freedman replaced fellow Scot George Burley at the helm of Selhurst Park and sparked a revival.

They secured their Championship status and even though they once again started this campaign as one of the favourites for the drop, the Eagles had an outstanding start, reaching as high as third place in the table.

However, the last few weeks have seen a slump in form, mainly due to the fact that the goals have dried up; Palace haven’t scored a goal in 485 minutes of league football, going all the way back to their 1-0 win at Ipswich in October – five Championship games ago.

While they have gone through a recent blip, they are still in 10th position and just a point shy of the play-off places, meaning there is still plenty to play for as the season progresses.

If there cup form is to go by then they shouldn’t be short of confidence going to Old Trafford. They have knocked out Crawley Town, Wigan, Middlesbrough and Southampton to get within touching distance of the semi-finals.

But this is their first trip on the road in this year’s competition, and they could not have picked a tougher game than against Sir Alex Ferguson‘s side.

United are set to put out a weakened team against their lower-league opponents, but don’t expect a lack of respect to be shown in what is a genuine chance for silverware for Fergie’s squad.

Both Leeds and Aldershot were dispatched with clinical professionalism, and expect the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Antonio Valencia and Ryan Giggs to potentially feature.

Michael Owen has also looked sharp throughout this year’s competition, but his thigh injury looks set to rule him out for another month.

So a boost for Freedman, but he will need more than one or two injuries to work in his favour. His young Palace side have been a breath of fresh air in the domestic game this season – but United’s quality and experience at home means it might be a step too far for the Eagles – Prediction: 2-0 United.

So what do you think? Will Palace make it to the semi-finals with one of the upsets of this year’s tournament? Or will United go one step closer to winning their fifth League Cup? Leave a comment and let us know your views.

By Laurie Fitzgerald

Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated an incredible 25 years in charge at Manchester United with a 1-0 win over Sunderland – his 837th win as manager of the club.

The 69 year-old was given a fitting tribute by the United hierarchy for his efforts in the last quarter of a century, with the north stand at Old Trafford renamed the Sir Alex Ferguson stand.

It’s easy to understand just why he is so renowned when you look at the trophies his teams have won during his time in charge; a staggering 37 of them, including 12 Premier League titles, five FA Cup’s, four League Cups and two Champions League triumphs.

Fergie’s success is all the more remarkable when you consider it was widely believed that he was going to be sacked way back in 1990 before they travelled to Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup third round encounter.

Many felt that defeat would have marked then end of the Scot’s reign, but a Mark Robins goal gave them a 1-0 win, they went on to win the Cup and the rest, as they say, is history.

What a history it has turned out to be – and now the biggest question that remains when looking back on Ferguson’s achievements is whether or not he will go down as the greatest manager of all time.

When measuring greatness within football management, one of the biggest factors seems to be where a club’s stature was when they took over to what it became under their guidance.

Bill Shankly took over Liverpool when they were bottom of the old Second Division, and built the club from top to bottom to create one of the biggest clubs in England, and a club now rightly regarded as one of the biggest in world football.

Sir Matt Busby had to do what no other manager has had to do and come back from the unimaginable tragedy of the Munich air disaster, and rebuild the heart of a club as well as a squad to guide them to become champions of Europe just ten years later.

Nigel Clough also took a club from the lower reaches and turn them into the best team in Europe, winning back to back European Cups with Nottingham Forest.

There are also managers that are made great in the trophies they have won to help create the history of a club that fans look back on with such pride.

The likes of Bill Nicholson, Herbert Chapman and of course Bill Paisley won many trophies with their respective clubs that makes them rightly hailed by supporters as great football managers.

Each era creates legendary bosses that either redefined or modernised British football for the better, and have all helped make the game that we love what it is today.

However, looking back on these greats of the game, many of them created one or two great sides that achieved the success that makes them so fondly remembered.

With Ferguson, he has created five or six sides that have won trophy after trophy and has never been afraid to change a team in order to create a new generation of consistent honours.

In 1995, Fergie sold the likes of Mark Hughes and Paul Ince and replaced them with ‘kids’ such as Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Nicky Butt.

These kids went on to win several titles, and it was a team that achieved European Cup success in 1999, the first time that they had been kings of the continent for over 30 years.

Ferguson took over the club with United struggling in the old first division, and the club is now regarded as one of, if not the biggest clubs on the planet.

He has also been able to move with the times; even in the era of modern day football where managers seem to be in charge of a club for about five minutes, Fergie quickly grasped an understanding of the modern-day player and has carried his success well into the 21st century.

For me and I’m sure for many other football fans, Ferguson will go down as the greatest manager that we’ll see in our lifetime. His continued success over such a long period of time is something that will probably never be repeated.

So what do you think? Will Fergie go down in history as the greatest manager of all time? Leave a comment and let us know your views.

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