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Archive for October, 2002

Man Utd 1-1 Aston Villa

I had a fantastic weekend planned, but it didnt really go too well. Going up to Manchester on saturday morning was full of excitement, I felt we would give Villa a good hammering after their awful show against Southampton the week before. Over lunch near the ground we contemplated scores varying from 3-1 to 5-0, not even considering dropping points against Villa.

The match itself was nothing but an anti climax. Poor passes, a lack of movement off the ball, few chances in front of goal, a slow pace, and a quiet atmosphere. Gary Neville did his best to lead by example in the absence of Keano, but the effect was not the same. A curling shot against the crossbar from Beckham and a missed header from Diego were our best chances in the first half. Villa were not creating much either, but had a slight edge on the game and probably deserved their first half goal from Melberg.

I fully expected United to come out and fight in the second half. Yet they continued as before, with more sloppy passing and few attempts on goal. Diego’s goal sparked huge celebrations, and I found myself lifted into the air, but it was all a bit of an over reaction in hindsight.

Diego’s goal sparked the belief we would go on and win the game but in the remaining 15 minutes we had one attempt on goal, and the team did not live uo to expectation. On the bright side, news filtered through of Blackburn beating Arsenal, but this was cancelled out by Liverpool sneaking a win against Spurs and City¬† taking three points away in Birmingham.

The weekend’s football was a big disappointment, and one that United will have to bounce back from. Failure and mistakes ought to teach the team to never ever want to feel that pain again. They ought to wallow in their frustrations in order to develop a hunger to only achieve success, and they must fight to win over their critics. People in life make mistakes, the key is how you react to them. The players must realise mistakes have been made, but that it is in their hands to come back stronger from bad results.

The rest of my weekend certainly brought a few more bad suprises, but as Nick Hornby illustrates in Fever Pitch, whilst women may come and go football teams will always be there for you

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Fulham 1-1 Man Utd

My first ever United match many years ago was a 1-1 draw against QPR at Loftus Road. That day I was fascinated by the football, but yesterday, despite the same result, I was anything but in awe of the spectacle.

Going back to Loftus Road was sentimental and brought back memories of great encounters during the nineties, many of which were 3-2 or 3-1. I also could not help but remember Eric’s last gasp equaliser in 96 that as good as sent QPR down and won us the title.

The sentimentality wore off as soon as the game began, and unfortunately this was neither an encounter nor a result to match the memories of the past. United were slower and less confident than usual, rarely stringing together a good run of passes, and lacking in spirit. Fulham, who were no great footballing force either, had the better of the game and deserved their half time lead.

The second half was a better display, but Barthez,¬† G Nev and O’Shea being our star players showed how defensive we were being. With only Fortune and Forlan on the bench to add to our attacking play, a win was going to be a struggle.

In a ground where the atmosphere was far from impressive, United managed to sneak an equaliser. In an almost silent stadium Ole smashed home an absolutely magnificent half volley straight into the roof of the net. A few Reds ran on the pitch in jubilation, leading to a quick struggle with some stewards, but vitaly United were back in the game.

From that point on United dominated the play, but lacked a cutting edge. A stinging shot from Veron was inches from being a wonder goal, but the main point of contention was at the other end. With the Fulham player in on goal Blanc brushed into him and he went down- penalty. It was a hard one to call. Officially he used his shoulders which is allowed, but undeniable he got nowhere near the ball and bundled over the man, so the ref had little choice. Barthez is an experienced keeper, and used some antics which have dominated the press today. For 70 seconds he paced around delaying the penalty and psyched out the opposing player. Ethical or not, he saved the penalty and emerged a hero branded a cheat by the ABU’s. Personally I dont think it was the best show of gamesmanship, but he who dares wins. Fabien dared, and in this situation Fabien won.

The game ended 1-1, although there were big shouts for a United penalty following a hand ball in the area. It was a disppointing score and a poor game, made only a bit brighter by Arsenal losing.

These are the games I would rather not have to write about; poor atmosphere, poor match, poor result. Fortunately a good night out with my girlfriend erased the memories of a bad afternoon, and now I am just looking forward to the Olympiakos game.

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Man Utd 4-0 Olympiakos

I actually planned to miss this match due a new job, but at the last minute my willpower let me down and I was on the way to Old Trafford. And its a good thing I went too because I saw a solid win for the Reds and a virtual guarantee that United will top the group.

The Greek supporters were in the ground early, singing their hearts out and bouncing up and down whilst the players warmed up. They were to be silenced soon after kick off by the lackluster performance of their players.

As the match kicked off some United supporters were not overconfident. The team had looked jaded at Charlton before Ruud came on, and the Dutchman did not feature in the lineup for this match at all. There were suggestions that Butt and Scholes were carrying knocks, and that Veron was not fully recovered from the flu. However, this section of the crowd soon left their doubts behind.

United welcomed back the return of Gary Neville, making his first start of the season since his injury against Deportivo that kept him out of the World Cup. One of United’s most under-rated attributes is the ability of Gary Neville to overlap and support Becks, and it certainly showed last night. Gary’s runs enabled Beckham to find himself in more space and improve his crossing which has been below standard so far this season.

The first chance of the match actually came from G Nev, when he let rip at a 25 yard strike turned away for a corner by the dodgy Greek keeper. “Gary Neville is a red” sang the Stretford End and he applauded back. Soon after, Giggs’ recent ability to play as a poacher in the centre of the field enabled him to strike home the opener.

It was not soon after that the man of the match stole the show. Juan Veron has not had the easiest time at Old Trafford, and I can not claim that one performance against a weak away team will get the critics off his back. But his form last night was as good as anyone elses has been this season, and his arrogant chipped finish sent the crowd wild.

Veron continued to be the star of the show, my personal opinion being in Europe he is given more time on the ball than in the Premiership. Just before half time the Argentine was the centre of attention again, as a wild lunge at him on the half way line earned his Greek counterpart a red card. Perhaps a yellow would have been sufficient, but it was a bad challenge with studs showing that could have caused a bad injury.

United started the second half looking slightly weaker than the first. It was not the same fast, passing football, but instead a slower more controlled possession game. But when you are two nil up at home against a weak side who have ten men you can be forgiven for taking your foot off the gas a little!

In any case, the performance did not weaker to any great extent, because it was not long before Giggsy got his second. I am sure it was meant as a cross, and it did take a deflection, but a three goal lead was no less then we deserved.

Every single player had played their part, although some such as Rio had very little to do. The only player who had not seemed to have played any vital role was Ole. Yet before long Scholes played a well weighted through ball and Ole got his name on the scoresheet.

Overall it was an easy win against a side we should beat in Athens too. We only need a point from three games to assure ourselves of qualification, which shouldnt be too much trouble! Well played reds, on current form a crisis is anything but true.

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