By Godsmackgodsmackerna. Monday, March 22, 2010 10:17:53 PM
Rio Ferdinand knows exactly what victory against Liverpool on Sunday meant to United fans.
The Reds defender, who was among United's best in the 2-1 win at Old Trafford, told MUTV: "We’ve given our fans the bragging rights as they go back to work this week. It's always nice to get a result against Liverpool, especially after the last few games against them."
The win wasn't exactly routine, though. Fernando Torres headed the visitors in front after just five minutes. And even after Wayne Rooney and Ji-sung Park had put Sir Alex's men 2-1 up, the Spanish striker fluffed a late chance to salvage a point from the match.
"We’ve been defending very well of late so to concede a goal after five minutes in such a big game was disappointing, " Rio admitted. "But after the first goal I thought we got to grips with Liverpool and stopped the supply to Torres.
"The way we came back, picked ourselves up and took the game to Liverpool, speaks volumes of the talent we have in our squad."
The Reds wasted little time in pegging back the early deficit. Just seven minutes after going behind, Wayne Rooney equalised when Pepe Reina's penalty save presented Rooney with a second bite at the cherry. Liverpool players were indignant at the award of the spot-kick, but Ferdinand says United had their own frustrations over the incident.
"Regardless of whether or not it was inside or outside the box, I think it should have been a red card," he said. "I think he [Javier Mascherano] got off lightly.
"Antonio Valencia was through on goal and I don’t think anybody was going to get back to stop him shooting. For me, that’s a red card."
The deciding goal arrived on the hour mark courtesy of Ji-sung Park. He showed real bravery to convert Darren Fletcher's cross with a textbook diving header.
"Ji has been phenomenal recently," Ferdinand said. "He’s a player who’s probably appreciated a bit more by his team-mates than some of the pundits and the media.
"Now, however, I think people are starting to see what a talented player he is. Maybe that's only because he’s scoring goals, but we’ve always appreciated him. He’s a top man and a top player."
By Godsmackgodsmackerna. Monday, March 22, 2010 10:10:52 PM
United moved back to the top of the table above Arsenal and one, significant step closer to a 19th championship and record fourth consecutive Premier League title with this well-deserved 2-1 win over fierce rivals Liverpool. It was hearts-in-mouths time after just five minutes when Fernando Torres put the visitors in front with a free header. But United recovered when Wayne Rooney scored the rebound from his saved penalty kick six minutes later. From then on Sir Alex Ferguson’s men dominated, and the winner arrived after an hour when Ji-sung Park’s diving header sent Old Trafford into delirious celebration.
Liverpool have won the last three of these fixtures, United suffering the ignominy of a 4-1 defeat on home turf here last season. Settling that score itself may have formed a significant part of Sir Alex’s pre-match team-talk. But there was a wider focus for United than one-upmanship over a local rival. Three points would raise the prospects of a fourth straight title and the undisputed crown of being English football's most successful team.
That fuelled the atmosphere on a bright and sunny spring day in Manchester, and whether fans were dressed in the traditional red and white or protest green and gold, everyone was united behind the team.
Sir Alex opted to stick with the formation and line-up that yielded success against Milan in Europe – a 4-5-1 formation with Rooney leading the line, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher anchoring the midfield, Park charged with hassling and harrying Steven Gerrard and co., and Antonio Valencia and Nani operating out wide.Further back, it would be interesting to see how Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in particular coped with the threat of Torres, who grabbed two goals in each of Liverpool’s It started badly as the Liverpool striker was clearly in confident mood, putting the visitors in front in the fifth minute. The Spaniard won possession in midfield and started a move that went through Gerrard and out to Dirk Kuyt. The Dutchman crossed and Torres was unmarked and allowed to head the ball beyond Edwin van der Sar. A nightmare start, but United just hadn't settled as Liverpool enjoyed the early pressure.
Rooney, who started the game without having scored in 10 games against Liverpool, inevitably looked to lead the charge. He bustled his way past Javier Mascherano before striking just wide of Pepe Reina’s right post. And United's no.10 didn’t have to wait long to end his goal drought. After 11 minutes Valencia surged into the box and was fouled by Mascherano, who was subsequently booked. Liverpool complained that the offence had taken place outside the area, but referee Howard Webb pointed to the spot. The delaying tactics that followed, including Torres trying to scuff the penalty spot, were as pathetic as they were unsportsmanlike. By the time Rooney actually took his penalty, Reina guessed the right way and saved well, but Wayne followed up the rebound and gleefully celebrated with a fist-pumping jump in front of the away fans. Tension was high inside Old Trafford and a feisty few minutes followed, including a touchline tussle between Sir Alex and Rafael Benitez.
The mood eventually calmed and United came into the contest. The Reds’ coaching staff were keen to get the ball out to Valencia as much as possible, and on 23 minutes the Ecuadorian showed why, beating Emiliano Insua, not for the first time, and crossing for Park to head narrowly wide. As the half wore on United began to get some joy down the left too, Nani’s excellent cross was narrowly missed by Rooney on 27 minutes, then seconds later the Portuguese forced a finger-tip save from Reina.
The first half ended far more tamely than it had begun, but in injury time United had a chance to add a second when Jamie Carragher was rightly booked for a lunge on Fletcher. However, Rooney’s free-kick from 25 yards was comfortably saved by Reina.
The second half started with plenty of posturing but little end product. Park had the only real chance in the opening ten minutes of the second period when he followed a jinking run with a tame left-foot shot. The game was crying out for an experienced head - someone like Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs (both beckoned by the Stretford End), the Welshman returning after his arm break against Aston Villa last month. Benitez rolled the dice on 73 minutes, replacing Kuyt with Alberto Aquilani, then shortly after Ryan Babel for Maxi Rodriguez. United looked in control with Ferdinand dominating in defence, Fletcher barely stopping for breath and Rooney threatening up front.
Giggs finally made an appearance, on for the injured Nani, with ten minutes remaining. His task was to help United see out the win. He was joined by Scholes with four minutes left and Park deservedly earned a standing ovation for his considerable efforts.
As is often the case with United, there was still time for a scare. But Torres fluffed his lines 12 yards out and substitute Yossi Benayoun headed the loose ball straight into van der Sar’s grasp. Five minutes of added time did little to help frayed nerves, but such an important victory was too close and too important not to see out. United did so, the final whistle met with a deafening roar.
By Godsmackgodsmackerna. Thursday, March 11, 2010 10:23:07 PM
It was oh-so-easy for United on Wednesday as goals on either side of the break from Wayne Rooney and second-half strikes from Ji-sung Park and Darren Fletcher helped the Reds cruise into the Champions League quarter-finals. AC Milan, so often United’s bogey team in Europe, rarely tested Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, despite coming to Old Trafford intent on scoring goals. Instead, it was Wayne Rooney who found the net twice to put the tie beyond Milan’s reach and spoil David Beckham’s homecoming. Park and Fletcher merely iced the cake. Few could had predicted how easy it proved to dump the Italian giants out of Europe’s premier club competition. The Rossoneri arrived in Manchester determined to overturn a 3-2 first-leg deficit and employed an attacking 4-3-3 formation, with Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Marco Borriello and Ronaldinho up top.
But United, buoyed by a vocal home support, flew out of the traps. Within the first 10 minutes Rooney let fly twice from distance (once narrowly missing the left-hand post), Gary Neville fired a left-footed long-ranger over the bar and Nani forced goalkeeper Christian Abbiati into a smart save down by his near post.
There were scares for the Reds early on, too: Ronaldinho headed inches wide after Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick was flicked on by Nani, while Huntelaar’s control let him down badly when he drifted beyond Patrice Evra to latch onto a long ball from Thiago Silva. After such a lively opening it was hardly surprising to see the ball in the back of the net on 13 minutes. Even less of a surprise was that
the game’s opening goal arrived courtesy of Wayne Rooney’s head. The Reds striker (Milan’s chief tormentor in the first leg, remember) netted his third header of the tie when he nipped in front of Daniele Bonero to power home Gary Neville’s pinpoint cross.
With United 1-0 up on the night and 4-2 ahead on aggregate, Milan now needed three goals to progress. And yet the Rossoneri didn’t ask any further questions of the Reds’ defence for the remainder of the first half. Sir Alex’s men were cruising. Just as he did in Milan, Ji-sung Park shackled playmaker Pirlo, while Neville successfully curbed Ronaldinho’s creativity down the Italians’ left side. With those two contained and Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes winning the battle in the centre of the park, the visitors were devoid of attacking potency.
Milan manager Leonardo, recognising the need for change, sacrificed defender Bonero for midfielder Clarence Seedorf at half-time. But within a minute of the restart Rooney exploited the extra space at the back and tucked the ball under Abbiati to send the Reds 2-0 up and put the tie beyond Milan’s reach. Nani, too, must be given credit for his role in United’s second. Only fleetingly in the game during the first period, the Portuguese winger showcased his quality by curling a brilliant ball into Rooney’s path.
Huntelaar then wasted a glorious chance to pull one back when he headed over from four yards after good work down the right by Ignazio Abate. The miss was rendered even costlier on 59 minutes when Ji-sung Park, found superbly by Scholes inside the area, rifled the ball into the far corner to further extend the Reds’ lead. Then came the moment David Beckham was introduced against his former employers. He was so often the man with the magic touch during his 11 seasons at the club. But the task that faced him here – to orchestrate the most remarkable comeback in Champions League history – was even beyond his abilities.
Beckham did receive a standing ovation from the Old Trafford faithful, however, and again on 75 minutes when he stung Edwin van der Sar’s palms with a blistering volley from 25 yards. That was as close as Milan came to grabbing a consolation, although in truth it would have done little to ease the embarrassment Leonardo’s men will feel after being outclassed for 180 minutes. Indeed, there was worse to come for the Italians, with Darren Fletcher arriving unmarked at the back post on 88 minutes to head in Rafael's centre and hammer home United's superiority.
By Godsmackgodsmackerna. Saturday, March 6, 2010 10:36:34 PM
Paul Scholes reached a century of Premier League goals and fired United to the top of the table as the Reds battled to a 1-0 victory over Wolves at Molineux. Shorn of the services of the injured Wayne Rooney, Sir Alex’s men struggled to hit top gear against a Wolves side fighting for their top flight status. But United have a fourth consecutive title to play for and the Reds knew a victory was a must and Scholes ensured United left with exactly what they came for when he slotted home with 18 minutes remaining on the clock.
United paid the price for Rooney’s midweek exertions for England as the striker was forced to sit out the visit to Molineux and rest his injured knee. The Reds were, however, boosted by the return from suspension of Nani and from injury of Rio Ferdinand who partnered Nemanja Vidic at the heart of the defence for the first time since October. Dimitar Berbatov took up the lone-striking role with Nani and Antonio Valencia on hand to offer support down the wings. Wolves, meanwhile, who were fined £25,000 for fielding a weakened side at Old Trafford in December, kept an unchanged side for the fourth straight match.
The game got off to a scrappy start with Wolves focused on keeping things tight and United taking time to adjust to life without their main front man. Seven minutes after Valencia had fired a powerful drive just wide of the near post, the Reds had a decent shout for a spot-kick on 15 minutes, but referee Peter Walton saw nothing wrong with Karl Henry holding back Darron Gibson as he attempted to make the most of Nani’s blocked free-kick which had dropped into his path.In the end, the Irish midfielder prodded the ball wide under pressure from Henry.
Gibson had another sight of goal soon after being picked out by Berbatov’s right-wing cross following a good break forward. But the midfielder's volleyed effort was into the ground which took the sting out of the shot and allowed Marcus Hahnemann to claim easily.
Rooney’s energy and endeavour were conspicuous by their absence as United struggled to find their rhythm throughout the opening period. There were, however, spurts of good play and Sir Alex’s men did find themselves in decent positions at times, but the final ball was always lacking. Not long after Michael Carrick had fired a weak shot at Hahnemann from the edge of the area after being well found by Patrice Evra, Valencia’s low driven cross was just too far ahead of Nani, while Gibson was unable to do anything with it at the far post.
Having worked hard to make things difficult for United, Wolves went close to taking the lead twice in quick succession thanks to some impressive wing play from Matt Jarvis. On 32 minutes he found former Red David Jones just inside the box. He took aim at van der Sar, but Carrick’s brilliant last-ditch tackle took the power out of his shot ensuring an easy claim for the Dutchman. Four minutes later the veteran goalkeeper breathed a sigh of relief when the unmarked Stephen Ward rose to meet Jarvis’ left-wing cross, but he headed straight at van der Sar from six yards out as the goal lay gaping.After a somewhat lacklustre first period, the Reds, who introduced Gary Neville for the injured Wes Brown at the break, set about the task in hand with renewed vigour and quality after the restart. Just two minutes in, Berbatov turned and played an inch-perfect pass into Valencia who returned the favour as the Bulgarian arrived in the area, but his shot was well blocked. Five minutes later United attacked from the other wing with Gibson cleverly finding Evra as he burst into the box, but Kevin Foley got back to deflect the ball out for a corner.
Proceedings began to hot up midway through the second half with Peter Walton dishing out three yellow cards – one for United and two for Wolves – in the space of five minutes. During the same period, Mame Biram Diuof entered the fray in place of Gibson as Sir Alex looked to add some much-needed energy to United’s attack.It wasn’t long before United were reaping the benefits of having an extra outlet in attack, but rather than the new kid on the block it was United’s wily old master, Paul Scholes, who made the vital breakthrough on 72 minutes. Valencia slipped a pass into Nani who had temporarily switched from the left wing to the right and his low cross was only half-cleared by Jody Craddock allowing Scholes to pick up possession inside the area. He took one touch to create the angle before firing a low drive past Hahnemann into the far corner for his 100th league goal in a red shirt. It was Scholes at his very best – bursting into the box and keeping his cool to find the finish.Diouf had the chance to put the game beyond the home side six minutes later, but he misjudged Neville’s lovely curling cross despite being unmarked and within six yards of goal and headed over. He had another opportunity to make his mark on 83 minutes when Valencia’s cross landed at his feet, but having expected the defender in front of him to clear the danger Diouf was unable to make the most of the chance. As the game entered four minutes of injury-time, Wolves piled forward and were hugely unlucky not to snatch a point. Only Sam Vokes will know how he failed to hit the target after Ronald Zubar’s shot bobbled into his path right in front of goal and under no pressure. United fans everywhere breathed a huge sigh relief as he blazed over.
The Reds held on for what could turn out to be a vital victory and edged two points ahead of both Arsenal and Chelsea into top spot. Here's hoping that's where we'll be on 9 May.
By Godsmackgodsmackerna. Monday, March 1, 2010 2:21:24 PM
United claimed the first silverware of the new decade thanks to goals in each half from cup final specialist Michael Owen and the super substitute who replaced him – Wayne Rooney.the Reds, who therefore retained a cup for the first time in the club’s history. The prospects of this had looked grim after just five minutes when Nemanja Vidic pulled down Gabriel Agbonlahor – but avoided a red card – and James Milner put Aston Villa 1-0 up from the penalty spot.
But Owen’s latest goal in a domestic showpiece – he netted for a certain former club in the 2001 FA Cup and 2003 League Cup finals – ensured there was parity for a large portion of the match until Rooney triumphantly headed home 16 minutes from time.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s surprise omission of Rooney from his starting XI was one of six differences to the side which kicked off against Man City in the scintillating semi win. Edwin van der Sar, Paul Scholes, the banned Nani and the injured Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs were also out; in came Tomasz Kuszczak, Nemanja Vidic, Antonio Valencia, Ji-sung Park and the front pair of Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen. One of the mainstays, and United skipper for the day, Patrice Evra had to defend acrobatically inside the first minute to repel a free-kick from Ashley Young on Villa’s left flank. The resulting corner was also dealt with but Martin O’Neill’s men had posted an early warning, one which the Reds failed to heed.
Moments later, Gabriel Agbonlahor broke beyond the backline and when Nemanja Vidic hauled him down, there were no arguments as referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot.
The only debate would have been over Vidic’s right to stay on the field – he did, and had to look on in agony as James Milner punished his misdemeanour with a well-struck penalty low to Kuszczak’s left. Villa 1 United 0, after just five minutes.
The Serbian wasn’t even booked but opposite number James Collins did see yellow when he sent Owen sprawling at the other end, unfortunately outside the box.
Carrick wasted the opportunity from the free-kick but his namesake Owen soon meted out his own justice when he swept home the equaliser. Berbatov mugged dawdling Richard Dunne and when the former Manchester City defender caught up with the Bulgarian, he only succeeded in freeing the ball up for Owen to beat Brad Friedel.
Still inside a busy first 20 minutes, Kuszczak denied Milner’s left-foot shot with a fine save and Stewart Downing followed Collins into the book for a foul on Evra. Carrick, however, inexplicably escaped a caution when he brought down Heskey.
Kuszczak made his second save when Heskey turned well inside the box following a setpiece but it was a comfortable collection for the Pole playing his first game since early January. Ironic cheers from the Villa fans greeted United’s first booking, for Evra’s trip on Ashley Young, but they were not so fond of the first substitution – Rooney on for hamstring victim Owen, a few minutes before the break.
Villa were still adjusting to the change when Park almost put the Reds 2-1 up. The Korean’s well-struck shot came back off the post and was cleared by Cuellar, this after Valencia skipped past the grounded Stephen Warnock and pulled the ball back.
That closing attack and the introduction of Rooney augured well for the second half. Indeed, Wayne was the first player to try his luck after the break but sliced wide from outside the area after a promising push through the middle by Carrick.
The midfielder did much better and drew a brilliant parry from Friedel at the end of a flowing United move involving Park and the back-heeling Berbatov. On the counter-attack, Agbonlahor ran at Vidic but whipped his shot well past the far post. Such was the pattern of the second period; the Reds seeing more of the ball and patiently probing, and Villa waiting to utilise the electric pace of Young and Agbonlahor against Evra on a card and Neville on as a substitute for Rafael.
Vidic became the second United defender to be booked when he clattered Agbonlahor from behind – censure that was long overdue in the view of Villa fans and neutrals.
The same trio that undid West Ham in midweek combined again to upset anotherteam of a claret and blue persuasion in the 74th minute. Berbatov sublimely flicked a ball on to Valencia and when the Ecuadorian dug out a cross under pressure on the right, Rooney rose to send a header arcing past Friedel’s hand into the top right-hand corner and trigger scenes of ecstasy among the United fans and coaching staff alike.
The goal was as brave as it was brilliant with Collins looming large in Rooney’s face; there was no such opposition when Valencia found Wayne again moments later but Friedel’s right-hand post prevented the free header causing further damage to Villa. So the game remained far from over, and that point was underlined when Kuszczak had to push the ball over his bar when a right-wing cross was directed goalwards. But United remained the more likely to score and when Valencia surged forward in injury time, he deserved more than to strike the side netting.
A third goal wasn’t required though, and for once in normal time at the new Wembley, United were victorious. Cue joyous celebrations as Evra collected the 26th major trophy of Sir Alex’s amazing 23-year reign.