ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Manchester United
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Manchester United
Posted by Mark Payne on 03/12/2012

Football is not a science. There are very few hard and fast rules against which we can make certain judgements. The rules we do have - offside, penalties, handballs - are contested every week by people who disagree. Given this climate it seems amazing there are so many people who are willing to make predictions and give judgements on the game. This week though, most of them did agree. Advantage Manchester United.

Before we all get carried away, let’s try and remember there are ten games to go and we are up against the most expensive team in history. There will be further twists and turns in this title race. Nonetheless, being top of the league for the first time since October is a great achievement.

Reaching the summit has been achieved on the back of a tremendously tough run of fixtures. Personally, I am left scratching my head because it seems some time since United actually played well for a full ninety minutes.

The season began with the team producing generation-defining results. Since the horrific day against City we haven’t really lit the blue touch paper though. Despite this, Fergie has had them grinding out result after result for months now. It is more than remarkable.

Logically, we should drop fewer points than City during the run in. That is what the fixture list suggests. But when did logic last come into things with Manchester United?

In some respects, we are being shielded by the phenomenal form of Wayne Rooney, who has scored 15 in 14 games of late. The defence looks like a unit which is missing its leader.

Rooney’s goal run was not enough to save us against Athletic Bilbao. For a long, long time United were unbeaten at home in Europe. That was a record that lasted until 1993 and was a source of more than a little pride. To lose two home games in the space of a few weeks leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

Sound judgment tells us that things will be difficult for our side again this Thursday in Spain. This is though, the business end of the season. Let’s hope getting to the top of the table can be the springboard we need to put things right in Europe too.

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Posted by David Smith on 03/13/2012

After your last blog Mark, I tried sending my initial contribution, but it wouldn't go through due to a techinal problem with the server. In it, I proclaimed that United would win all of their league matches between West Brom and the derby and that we will have the league all but wrapped up before the Citeh match. I also tried saying that I saw one potential banana skin; next weekend at Wolves. After Citeh's clanger at Swansea, I feel more conident now about our own trip to Molineux. THE LADS ABSOLUTELY SMELL BLOOD. They've weathered injuries and a hell of a two month fixture list, yet sit top of the league. Arsenal and Chelsea's apparent resurgence means stiffer competition for Citeh in their upcoming fixtures, especially at the Emirates where Arsenal now have everything to play for. It's too easy to say there will be twist and turns between now and the end of the season. I say bollocks. These lads are coming into their own and are ready to make Manchester United history yet again.

Posted by dubs on 03/13/2012

Adaptable. United are one of a few teams in world football today who can chameleon their style of play effectively. Early season showed ticky-tac style build-ups. Injuries ravage our side? Gaffer clogs the barracks with holding midfield-type players to foot defensive woes. And at times, United will come out with three strikers in tow. SAF, is a master tactician who must dream of matchups while sleeping, then awaken in the wee hours of the morning on match days to finalize his starting XI.

Character. With the flaws this side has shown at times domestic and abroad, no player has shown little of this. Wazza is talismanic right now. Jonny Evans has been pivotal in the past weeks - earlier this season I wrote him off as detrimental to our side. Gaffer 1-0 me. I agree with Mr. Smith. City wounds are now opening up and United are ready to feed. We stumbled uncharacteristically at New Years; I fail to see that happening during the run-in. Win out, win it all. And the reds go marching on.

Posted by Jeff on 03/13/2012

Correct me if I'm wrong Mark, but didn't we lose 3-2 to Real Madrid in 2002ish at OT?

Posted by alan on 03/14/2012

Hands up for our keeper!! - oh all thee's of little faith - I think we have a shot stopper and a half now. Points have been won on his performances over the past few weeks. Lets give the lad all the praise he deserves. He might make mistakes in the weeks to come who the hell dosn't. But he has been fantastic this past month. So when the going might get tough remember the points he has won, with out him we would NOT be whare we are now. I might add that WR has also helped out a bit!!!

Go UNITED - three points clear at the top come May end.

Posted by rose on 03/14/2012

i think personally the EPL is very poor compared 2 other european leagues dis season,reason been how bad united are playing in europe & how well they are playing in the league, the low performance of the other 18 teams in the league,is wat affected united performance in the's a case of nursery school football every sat/sun...then playing against highly tactical & well organised sides every tue/wed/thur..that cost utd in europe...

Posted by Kelvin on 03/14/2012

Plenty can happen in 10 games. But I am so much happier now than before the weekend.

Maybe that game will be a non event after others have mentioned Chelsea and Arsenal are no pushovers on current form.

Posted by kevin on 03/14/2012

Well for me its clearl that SAF knows well how to win Premiership Trophies. His experience will land the trophy to Old Trafford. Just imagine City was the favourite to win the league and pundits were talking about phenomenal city etc. Last week before the west Brom match I said to myself what hell are they talking about , city has only 2 points ahead and by now man utd is on top. I think both team will loose points in their forthcoming matches but UTD will grab the trophy until 30 april.

Due to city achievement on the market transfer, uTD has not focused all tournaments just to win the league which is also targetted by Mancini. With the new generation emerging it would have been difficult. Thats why i said SAF is a mastermind. Hats off.... Next year he will for sure challenging on european CL.

Posted by Bob on 03/14/2012

@Jeff...we lost away 3-1 to madrid and won 4-3 at home, i remember beckam scoring after coming as a sub.Howver,i think we've have lost at home before,one that i remember is the 1-0 loss at OT to bayer lerverkusen at the quarter or semi of champions league (aint sure which is which)and lost the tie after drawing in germany.

Posted by Suraj on 03/14/2012

@Jeff, I think you fell asleep too early, mate. We won 4-3, but went out anyway

Posted by Daniel on 03/14/2012

Future looks hard, not as harder as City, but still hard because we still have not consistance (like you said) in a full 90 minutes game.
Little by little we are growing on as a team play, but still depending a lot of indivudual skills; we are a young team now, this is just the beginning, we will be stronger every time, still for us as FANS is time to support, not to demand.

Posted by timmy red devil on 03/14/2012

What an amazing week of football!and you so right mark with united there is always a twist in the tale,but I do feel if we can win our next two matches the pressure wud surely b on citeh and with the inexperience of their team in this situation we will definately go on 2 clinch nr 20.GO YOU REDS!!!!!!!

Posted by Az on 03/14/2012

@ Bob and Suraj - I believe Jeff is referring to the game in 2000 when Madrid beat us 3-2 after we'd drawn the 1st leg 0-0 in the Bernabeu. Keane had an own goal and Raul got 2 (I think his 2nd was the one where Redondo did the pirouette around Berg). But in regards to tomorrow's game against Bilbao we can certainly do it - United to win 3-1

Posted by kamat on 03/15/2012

We did lose 1-0 at OT against Besiktas in 2009-10 season..doesn't seem such a long time ago..maybe you are talking about losing in the Europa League/UEFA Cup?

Posted by Cory on 03/15/2012

If I'm reading it correctly, Mark is referring to the record at OT BEFORE 1993, and the striking part of losing at OT recently wasn't a single loss, but TWO in the space of a few weeks.

Way to go in overtaking the big spenders across town though. And that with the extensive injury list finally all but cleared up!

Posted by AARON MARK HENDRIX on 03/15/2012

It really is amazing.Amazing that City managed to slip up.Amazing that we are top having not being on top form.All we need now is to see the season out and we'll be champions.But I just have that feeling that we'll slip up somewhere,but also feel that Chelsea & Arsenal might do us(and themselves) a favour in the run in.On paper,we should beat all our opponents so lets hope we play true to the form book..
I personally feel that we'll be out of EUROPE by the time most of you read this(depending on how sson this is uploaded)San Mames is quite the fortress,and Bilbao arent slouches either at home.There is the chance we could nick it though,but key will be scoring goals.I dont believe we'll keep a clean sheet so a 3-1/4-2 win might be the trick.Still a very daunting one nonetheless but will be hoping my "prediction" is wrong and we move on the next round..
At times like this,experience counts,and we have guys who have been there before,and done it.Hopefully this will see us thru to no 20!

Posted by David Smith on 03/15/2012

As the season approaches its conclusion, Fergie has some real decisions to make on who goes and who stays this summer. Certain to be shown the door will be Tomasz Kuszczak and Berbatov, but who else will or should follow? In my humble opinion, I'd get rid of the following players: Evra. A defensive liability and far too much trouble than he's worth. Caught out of position far too often, he leads the club in fouls trying to recover. Nani. Can't cross a ball, put over a proper corner or shoot on target most of the time. He's done absolutely fuck all for months; cash in now while you can get something for him. Anderson. No right foot, chubby and always injured. Michael Owen. ALWAYS injured....I rest my case. Macheda. Scored that massive winner at home against Villa a few years back, but he's done very little since. He'll end up the way of Mame Diouf as he's showing hardly any improvement. Also, any lad who sends homophobic tweets clearly isn't ready to do the business for the Champions.

Posted by Somnath Mallick on 03/15/2012

Hi Mark,
Completely agree that logic and predictability has never been our strong points. Although MC have a tougher route to the finish line, the decider i think still would be the derby.

For me, even though we are at the top of the league, this MU team is not that good as the points table suggests. Injuries have crippled our performances. But even last year we were not good as well, just efficient. Dying to see MU play with style and pace that we started the season off with.

Looking forward to the summer signings. Need some players with skills rather just great passing ability.

It would be great if you can shed some light on our financial situation right now with the debts and funds available to spend.

Posted by Roberto on 03/15/2012

Just to confirm gents Man Utds first ever defeat at OT in a comepetitive European fixture has October 1996 when we lost to Fenerbache in the Champions League. Unfortunately, i was in the stands that day :-(

Posted by Alex Tsui on 03/15/2012

Man Utd’s position in EPL is misleading in regard to its real standing among European elites because this year’s EPL is so poor. Its main competition Man City is laughable putting in front to that formidable Chelsea team under Mourinho. The current Man Utd team is poor and needs at least 3 – 4 world class additions and the system needs to be tweaked to be more compact and enterprising.

Posted by David Smith on 03/16/2012

Please tell me you're joking, Roberto. Get your facts straight and learn United's glorious history while you're at it. Our first European defeat at Old Trafford, competitive or otherwise, wasn't in '96 against Fenerbache, you muppet. As far as tonight is concerned, I could care less about going out of the fucking Europa League. Less matches, distractions, travel and potential injuries for the players as their pursuit of number 20 intensifies. I don't understand or agree with Fergie's team selection tonight either. Why play De Gea, Ferdinand, Evans, Carrick, Giggs, Young and Rooney when there's a far more important away match at Wolves on Sunday? It's a bit strange being out of both Europe and the F.A. Cup in mid-March, but this will be a blessing in disguise. With the Euros this summer and United's ridiculous pre-season travel to look forward to, a lone diet of Premier League matches between now and May will serve the lads well for next season. United to nick it, just, on Sunday.

Posted by aussiered on 03/16/2012

So David Smith or shall we say Mr Stato. Who in your opinion was the first side to beat United in 56 odd years at OT.Obviously if your prepared to acclaim that Roberto is a muppet, and needs to learn the glorious history of united what will that make you if heaven forbid you are incorrect?!!.
You make me laugh with your conceited smugness, I go to watch united every week so i must be the only real fan.
Driving 250 miles to OT and the same back getting home just past 2am and getting up at 6am for work in a wet november for 15 years and then spending the next 9 years getting up at 2am to watch on foxtel may constitute a fan but does not give me the atitude to belittle people. So open your mind and shut the fuck up. you may learn something from your fellow fans. Believe in United

Posted by AARON MARK HENDRIX on 03/16/2012

David - I believe Fergie wanted to see if we could pull one out of the hat so to speak,but the subs in the 2nd half showed where the real priority lies.No doubt whatsoever.United being United will always be judged on what we've won on all fronts but honestly,the league will do just fine.We were never good enough in both European competitions,went out lamely in the league Cup,and were on the wrong end of a "travesty" in the FA Cup..
Evra despite wht you've said is still the best LB in the squad.Captain too.So dont see him going.Nani's world class when on form,which sadly,is not even "regularly" but still I dont see him going.Agree that Macheda,Owen,Anderson,Kuszczak and Berba should all go.But the big question is where to find replacements.we cant just let em go without bringing in quality replacements.I really feel we need to spend some good money on some quality players but the summer will tell the tale of the next season.For now,onward march to the 20th hopefully

Posted by David Smith on 03/16/2012

"Roberto," you are right and I was wrong. I apologise for pulling you up and calling you a muppet. Aussiered, looks like the student finally got one over on the teacher, eh. Nicely done. However, your post does reveal a certain frustration and resentment toward yours truly. Never let 'em see you sweat, mate. AARON, Fergie wants to win every match United play, but I'm sure he was utterly embarrassed to be in this competition. His true feelings about the Europa League were revealed the night we went out of the Champions' League. It wasn't until the suits had a quick word with him that he changed his public tune. I do agree with you that the League will do just fine this year. The number of injuries we've had, coupled with Citeh trying to buy in 3 years what genuine big clubs take decades to build, means this will be a remarkable managerial feat by Fergie and Co. A lack of European and cup football in mid-March though will ensure we're really active in the transfer market this summer.

Posted by DAN on 03/17/2012

united should take the hands as the come. they should view each match as a cup final. only then we can drive complacency away from us.

Posted by johanzul on 03/18/2012

1. As mentioned early this season, it is going to be tight in BPL wif Man City. So far, it is true. United leading a point a part from City wif ten (10) more games to go.

2. As mentioned last seasons and this season that United must get quality players as we are currently degrading, so far, it is true. See overall stats taken from last few seasons up till now.

3. As mentioned by SAF that we are getting closer to Barca. So far, it is not true. We are out of CL and EL. Closer eh?

We can give many popular reasons:-

4. "City had spent a lot bringing quality players". So? Why didn't we? The Glazers had given full power to SAF to spent.

5. "We got injuries". So? Why didn't go for Item 4 in the 1st place? Will you wait for a car accident before you got your car insured?

Anyway, action speaks louder than words and as far as action spoke derived from results, overall this season, United currently is not doing good but as a past, present and future United fan, I'll settle for BPL for now.

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