Posts Tagged ‘Manchester United’

UEFA Champions League PLAYOFFS Draw (2008-09): It’s Serie A vs. Premier League…

Friday, December 19th, 2008

UEFA Champions League

The draw for the 1st knockout round (Round of 16) of the UEFA Champions League took place at the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland, today at 12:00 CET (I liveblogged the event on Soccerlens). And boy oh boy, are there some good games comin’ up.

As far as Italian teams go, Inter, Juventus, and Roma didn’t exactly pick the easiest games of the lot. Quite the opposite in fact. And to make matters worse, lady luck bad luck gave them the scourge of Italian teams in the last decade, namely… Premier League clubs!


Cristiano Ronaldo & Nike Pro show us how to “Be Invincible”

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Who would have thought that Cristiano Ronaldo, this year’s shoo-in for the Ballon d’Or award, derived all its footballing power from… an undershirt. At least, that’s what the good folks at Nike Pro would have you believe. Case in point: when Manchester United’s Kit Man (Albert Morgan) dons C-Ron’s shirt, he becomes invincible. Like, hit-the-crossbar-four-times-in-a-row-type invicible (only here, the CGI work is all too evident).


Manchester United 1-2 Zenit: UEFA SUPER CUP Goes to Russia

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Zenit St. Petersburg is the first Russian team to lift the European Super Cup. At the Stade Louis II of Monaco, the winners of last year’s UEFA Cup beat the European Champions Manchester United by 2-1, and it was a result thoroughly deserved by Dick Advocaat’s team. Only at the very end did the Russians have to deal with a Red Devil come-back, but it was too little too late for Sir Alex Ferguson.

Nine years after their defeat by Lazio, the UEFA Super Cup experience is once again a bitter one for the Mancunian manager: at least for now, Sir Alex will not go down in history as the first manager to win this trophy three times.

(article taken from Gazzetta dello Sport)

AN EUROPEAN REALITY – Claudio Ranieri & Juventus certainly did not need Friday’s match to find out just how dangerous FC Zenit can be. Already last season the UEFA Cup route of Advocaat’s boys had been impressive, and one only needs to remember the timeline from the month of May: Bayern humiliated in the semifinals, Rangers outclassed in the final match. 4-0, 2-0, give me the trophy and thank you very much.

And don’t be deceived by their misleading position in the Russian championship table (after 19 rounds, Zenit is currently 6th, 11 points behind leaders Rubin Kazan): that’s due to a few mismanagement issues off the field (the Andrei Arshavin case ring a bell?) and to the fact the Russian league has at least a dozen of competitive teams. Euro 2008 serves as further evidence to a more and more obvious reality: Russian football is slowly but surely getting up there with the best.

BLEAK MAN UTD – Was it because they were missing Cristiano Ronaldo? Or because the Premier League only just started and form isn’t optimal? Or maybe because Advocaat wanted a fast and aggressive game? The fact of the matter is that Manchester United were something of a shambles in the first half. Wayne Rooney (just recovering from a virus) was slow, and wasted the only good chance constructed by Carlos Tevez (who in contrast seemed like a pixie on crack, running around everywhere trying to create something). Nani only caused confusion, while Fletcher, Anderson and Scholes struggled to keep up with the pace set by Denisov, Tymoschuk and Zyrianov in midfield.

Frankly, United had Ferdinand and Vidic to thank in the first half, becase the tearaways Danny, Dominguez and Pogrebnyak would have really fired up the party in the Mancunian box. The obvious strength of this Zenit side is their right flank, as Aleksandr Anyukov (remember his runs during Euro 2008?) constantly created overlaps, providing one cross after the other. Patrice Evra was lost at sea, while the returning Gary Neville was only slightly better on the other side.

PAVEL’S REVENGE – Just as United were looking forward to the 15-min. half-time break to sort themselves out, bang: corner kick from Dominguez, flicked on by Denisov at the near post for Pavel Pogrebnyak. Powerful header into the back of the net, and 1-0 Zenit. Also nice to see (unless you were an United fan of course) the goal had been scored by the very same player forced to miss, firstly the UEFA Cup final (after a silly yellow card in the already-won semifinal), and then Euro 2008 (this time through injury).

In the second period, it was time for Andrei Arshavin to make his appearance. Why did he not start, you ask? This seems to be the management-approved Advocaat technique to “punish” the player with bench-time (sometimes stands-time), given his desire to leave the club. Not that FC Zenit were doing badly without him: it was only a few minutes until the score doubled.

At the heart of the action, Arshavin started it up and Portuguese midfielder Danny (full name: Daniel Miguel Alves Gomes) took the stage. Just acquired from Dinamo Moskow for €30m (the most expensive transfer in Russian history), the new St. Petersburg recruit produce a lovely solo run and even better finish, making a fool out of Ferdinand in the process and helping to justify his transfer fee. 2-0 Zenit.

The match seemed over, but the heart of Champions League winners should never be underestimated. Tevez sounded the charge, and the introduction of Park and O’Shea changed the game, facilitating the first United goal just before the 75th: a cross from Rooney was re-directed by Tevez towards Nemanja Vidic, who found the right angle. 2-1.

There was time for a final Red Devil assault, who gave it everything they had. A bit too much in fact: Paul Scholes did manage to put the ball in the net, but did so in pure Maradonesque Hand-of-God style: second booking of the night and early shower. His teammates would join him soon after however, as the match came to an end and kick-started the Russian celebrations.


Manchester United F.C.
[Match Highlights]
 FC Zenit St. Petersburg
GOALSCORERS: 44’ Pogrebnyak (Z), 59’ Danny (Z), 73’ Vidic (M)
MAN UTD (4-3-3): Van der Sar – Neville (76’ Brown), R.Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra – Fletcher (60’ O’Shea), Scholes, Anderson (60’ Park) – Tevez, Rooney, Nani. (bench: Kuszczak, Possebon, Gibson, Campbell). Coach: Ferguson.
ZENIT (4-3-2-1): Malafeev – Anyukov, Krizanac (71’ Radimov), Puygrenier (63’ Shirokov), Sirl – Denisov, Tymoschuk, Zyryanov; Danny, Dominguez (46’ Arshavin) – Pogrebnyak. (bench: Contofalsky, Fayzulin, Tekke, Kim). Coach: Advocaat.


Manchester Utd 0-0 Juventus: Boring Nil-Nil Draw? Far From It…

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Pre-Season 2008-09 - Manchester United vs. Juventus

It’s pretty rare in soccer (or any other sport for that matter) for a scoreless draw to be a very entertaining match, but that is exactly what Wednesday’s Manchester United vs. Juventus ended up being. And I’m not saying this because I’m a Juve supporter (ok, maybe just a little) but genuinely, the prestige friendly between Red Devils (who were celebrating their 2008 EPL and Champions League titles) and the Bianconeri was a true marvel to watch, almost as if both sides had the UEFA Champions League logo sewed on their jerseys, and this was indeed a match that counted.

In the words of legend winger Ryan Giggs (often courted by the Bianconeri, back in the day), Man Utd has had “some superb battles with Juventus over the years. There’s some great history there. When we first played in the Champions League they were the top team, they were who we were aspiring to be like“. For the sake of all Juve fans, let us hope those times will be back soon. :)

Pre-season 2008-09 - Manchester Utd 0-0 Juventus

(From Gazzetta): MANCHESTER (England), 6 August 2008 – For Juventus fans, good news came from Manchester on Wednesday. Del Piero & Co. drew 0-0 in the prestige friendly match with Man United, who were celebrating their 2007-08 titles of European and EPL Champions. In a sold-out (69,872-people) Old Trafford stadium the Bianconeri played very well, especially in the first half, displaying unity, fighting verve, and personality. Main protagonists of the night were Mauro Camoranesi and Alessandro Del Piero (and their usual reportoire of tricks), but also Momo Sissoko and Giorgio Chiellini, respectively praised for their dynamism and versatility (Keyser Giorgio reverted to his “old” left-back position).

In a very short while (Wednesday this week) it will be D-Day: the Champions League Preliminary Round qualifier (against Artmedia Bratislava), a time where mistakes will not be tolerated. Judging from this week’s performance against United (a team which, on top of being reigning European champions, will start their EPL campaign very shortly and thus supposedly, are already well-prepared fitness-wise), Ranieri should not have too many doubts on his mind.

CLASSY JUVE – The first half of Wednesday’s match was intense. And physical. It did not seem like a friendly at all – also because the ground was a sell-out, and because even the England manager (ex-Juve coach Fabio Capello) was there. Also, it rained. The European Champions (without Cristiano Ronaldo –whose Summer transfer saga ended with him staying at Old Trafford- and Wayne Rooney, both injured), controlled the tempo through ball possession, fast plays, and vertical runs forward by the midfielders, essential to provide support for lone striker Carlos Tevez. Darren Fletcher got the early chance to score, but his close-range effort ended up in front of Buffon.

Juve were not frightened; rather they responded in kind. Sissoko, the loudly jeered former Liverpool player, made his presence felt not only for his covering skills, but also by providing structure, moving sharply and powerfully in the center of the Juve machine. Camoranesi and Del Piero showed flashes of class, with the Bianconeri captain coming close to scoring in minute 23 (his left-footed shot, following a textbook counterattack, was deflected short-range by O’Shea). ADP repeated himself a few minutes later, as he delivered a lovely through ball for Iaquinta who made a mess of it. Camoranesi narrowly missed the post on a headed corner-kick, as the half came to a close. Despite the 0-0 HT scoreline, this was a vibrant and exciting game, with the Bianconeri having perhaps done just a little more.

SOLID JUVE – In the second half the pace slowed down, and Ranieri brought on Amauri for Iaquinta. A free-kick over the bar from Del Piero and a header by Paul Scholes (inches wide from the cross of the new Red Devils star youngster, right-back Rafael Da Silva) immediately made the highlights reel, then later a Juventus counter-attack was finished with an angled shot by Sissoko (Van der Sar was vigilant). Del Piero came off in minute 67, receiving a standing ovation from the classy OT crowd and giving them a clap back. On came David Trezeguet, and Juve continued to play with some authority, closing down the flanks thanks to Grygera and Chiellini. In the absence of left-back Molinaro (out injured), Ranieri must be glad to know he can still count on Italy’s best Euro 2008 defender, especially with Olof Mellberg playing so well in the center.

In the final minutes, Manchester United were looking for a win and ended the game in attack. However, the match remained scoreless as Juve held on for a very well-deserved draw. No matter, the Old Trafford crowd enjoyed what they had seen and frankly, so did we.


Manchester United F.C.
[Match Highlights]
Juventus F.C.
MANCHESTER UTD (4-5-1): Van der Sar – Brown (46’ Rafael), Vidic (78′ Evans), R.Ferdinand, Evra – Giggs, Fletcher (46’ Gibson), Scholes, O’Shea (71′ Possebon), Martin (47’ Silvestre) – Tevez (69’ F.Campbell). Coach: Ferguson.
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Grygera, Legrottaglie, Mellberg, Chiellini – Camoranesi (59′ Marchionni), Poulsen (89’ Tiago), Sissoko (82’ Ekdal), Salihamidzic (74’ Rossi) – Iaquinta (46’ Amauri), Del Piero (67’ Trezeguet). Coach: Ranieri.


Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea: Penalty Kicks Crown the Red Devils Kings of Europe (UEFA Champions League FINAL)

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Bravo United. For the third time in their history, the Red Devils are Champions of Europe, thanks to a 7-6 penalty shoot-out victory over a very unfortunate Chelsea side. The cruel executioner of penalty kicks made another victim Wednesday night, a Blues team which over 120 minutes had perhaps played better than their opponents, firing more shots in spite of an inferior ball possession. But perhaps fate had a grand plan in mind, and decided this Manchester United team was destined to win a double this year: after the English Premier League, Sir Alex Ferguson will add yet another trophy to his resumé, the second UEFA Champions League of his managerial career.

When it came down to it, Edwin Van der Sar’s save on Nicolas Anelka proved to be the decisive event, after the match had ended 1-1 following extra time (goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard). It was supposed to be great game and it certainly did not disappoint (something not always true with games of this magnitude): there were goals, brilliant pieces of individual play, plenty of near misses, and just the right dose of competitive spirit. The game was a tightly balanced affair, with United playing their best football at the start and end of the game and Chelsea dominating everything in between, hitting a post and the bar.  It is also fair to mention that if the game had to be decided from the penalty spot, it was certainly not because of a defensive mindset on the part of the two sides. Rather, it was much more simply a result of episodes and chance that shaped the game, a refreshing novelty compared to Man Utd’s overly defensive tactics in the playoff round.

UEFA Champions League FINAL - Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea

(From Gazzetta): Effectively, the game only began as a contest 25 minutes after kick-off, as both teams made use of the initial exchanges to study each other’s play. Not that it was the first time these two sides were facing one another mind you, but there just were plenty of fouls and not much play in the initial minutes, making for a broken and unspectacular start to the match.

Then on 26 minutes, the breakthrough: United defender Wes Brown crossed from the right wing, Cristiano Ronaldo rose at the back post to head it in, forgotten by his marker Michael Essien. It was the Portuguese’s 42nd goal of the season, the 8th in the Champions League, making him top scorer of this season’s competition. 1-0 Man Utd.

The goal brought the game into life, which suddenly became an enthralling spectacle. Chelsea’s reply began in the 34th minute, when Didier Drogba crossed in the box and Rio Ferdinand (under pressure from Michael Ballack) almost scored an own goal, with Ewin Van der Sar narrowly tipping the ball out for a corner. United were immediately back at the other end, with Cristiano Ronaldo gliding down the wing and crossing in the box for Carlos Tevez, whose diving header was parried out by Cech. The ball could not be cleared however, and Michael Carrick brought the Czech keeper once again into action and forcing Cech to tip the shot over the bar.

At this stage of the game, the only fans that could be heard singing at the Luzhniki stadium were coloured in red, but this seemed to make no difference whatsoever to their team as Man Utd conspired to miss the easiest chance of the game. Wayne Rooney crossed from the right side, Carlos Tevez slid in from the middle of the box and somehow managed to miss an open goal. And what a costly miss this proved to be, as just before the end of the half a speculative long-range effort from Essien bounced first off Vidic, and then off Ferdinand to fall perfectly at the feet of Frank Lampard. The Blues man found himself in the right place at the right time, and suddenly brought the score level from 10 yards out. 1-1, and a lucky and certainly very timely goal for the Blues, as the referee blew for half time shortly after.

It was now the turn of the Chelsea fans to start singing their hearts out, their side lucky to find themselves in such a position after 45 minutes in which Manchester United, inspired by Ronaldo -who Essien in his makeshift full back position had failed to contain- were the better side.

Both sides began the second half without making any changes as the contest once again turned into a tactical and stuttering affair. Chelsea however were the ones showing the greater belief, heartened perhaps by the fact that they were still in the game despite some close shaves in the first half. Essien and Ballack both had good chances, and United now found themselves under increasing pressure from the Blues. Yet somehow, the Red Devils managed to keep Chelsea out and once again clawed themselves back into the game through Tevez (minute 75). It was Drogba however who blew the most glorious chance, the Ivorian waking from his apparent slumber to strike a stunning right-footed curler that beat Van der Sar but not the post. Chelsea were thus unable to capitalise on a great second half, and with the score tied at 1-1 the game went into extra time.

There were a couple of substitutions at the start of extra time, as Ryan Giggs came on for United to collect his 579th appearance in a red shirt (a new club record), and Solomon Kalou coming on for Chelsea. Chelsea were once again extremely unlucky as Frank Lampard struck a great left-footed shot only to see his effort hit the bar, with everyone in the stadium holding their breath. Chelsea (as expected the stronger of the two sides physically) did not however lose heart and continued to pile on the pressure. United however were not about to give up easily, and like all great sides showed great character and composure. This was almost rewarded when, following some inspirational left-wing play by Evra, Ryan Giggs almost scored from the edge of the box, his shot beating Cech but not John Terry’s head.

At the end of the first period of extra time Sir Alex turned to the fans pleading for all of their support for his players. The last few chances all belonged to United, and there was even a pile up in the box: with tempers flaring, Didier Drogba was the one to pay the highest price receiving his marching orders for a slap on Vidic. Then came the penalties and joy for United. Cristiano Ronaldo missed first putting Chelsea in the driving seat, but Blues captain John Terry blew the chance to clinch the game for his team, slipping and sending shot nº5 off the post. Thus Edwin Van der Sar became the hero of the night, as he saved Nicolas Anelka‘s effort and propelled Manchester to glory.


Manchester United F.C. MAN UTD-CHELSEA
[Match Highlights]
 Chelsea F.C.
GOALSCORERS: 26’ C.Ronaldo (M), 45’ Lampard (C)
MAN UTD (4-3-3): Van der Sar – Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra (122’ Anderson) – Hargreaves, Carrick, Scholes (87’ Giggs) – Tevez, Rooney (101’ Nani), C.Ronaldo. (bench: Kuszczak, Silvestre, O’Shea, Fletcher). Coach: Ferguson.
CHELSEA (4-3-3): Cech – Essien, R.Carvalho, Terry, A.Cole – Ballack, Makelele (122’ Belletti), Lampard – J.Cole (99’ Anelka), Drogba, Malouda (92’ Kalou). (bench: Cudicini, Alex, Mikel, Shevchenko). Coach: Grant.