Posts Tagged ‘Sir Alex Ferguson’

VIDEO(s) of the DAY: Vintage “Man Utd vs. Juventus” PEPSI Commercials

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

While we’re on the subject, I’ll take last week’s Manchester United vs. Juventus friendly match as an opportunity to show these cool PEPSI commercials. No commentary needed, just… enjoy! :)

Hey, isn’t that the Coca-Cola tagline?..
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Inside the Man U Changing Room
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On a Foosball Table
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Becks vs. Juve Kid
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Poor Ref Can’t Get a Drink
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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.

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Manchester United F.C.
MAN UTD-JUVENTUS
0-0
[Match Highlights]
Juventus F.C.
GOALSCORERS: /
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.

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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.

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Manchester United F.C. MAN UTD-CHELSEA
1-1
[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.

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The Rebirth of Catenaccio, Or: Manchester United’s Tactics in Europe

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Noun
catenaccio m. (plura; catenacci)
1. a bolt (for a door)
2. a system of defensive play in football

Catenaccio is a tactical playing scheme in the game of football. It consists mostly in a 5-4-1 formation alignment characterized by its propensely defensive attitude.

Under the definition of catenaccio lie a series of modules and tactical schemes that define the main philosophy of the team’s defensive unit. The latter’s mission is essentially that of preventing the opposing team from scoring, an objective which is achieved by closing down (or precisely, “locking” or “bolting”) the area around the team’s own net.

The word ‘catenaccio’ has given origin to the term ‘catenacciaro’ in the Italian language (nowadays almost always employed with negative connotations), which is used to describe a manager or a team who, above all, are dedicated to all-out-defense tactics, to the destruction of the opponent’s plays and the renunciation to construct any type of attacking game, simply in order to prevent opposing strikers from getting a shot on goal.

Source: Italian Wikipedia (translated by Marco Pantanella)

The question all of you are now asking: how on Earth can the term ‘catenaccio‘ be applied to Manchester United? Sure, all they did against Barcelona on Wednesday was defend (hell, even Rooney and Tevez were playing center-backs at times) but the Red Devils are a team also capable of very attractive attacking-style football, a characteristic which they’ve demonstrated many times over in the Premier League this season. So… what gives?

Gazzetta dello Sport website logo

Stefano Cantalupi (the same author of the excellent “English Clubs Dominate Europe… Is Defence the Key to Their Success?” article) has the answer in today’s Gazzetta dello Sport:

MILAN, 24 April 2008 – Roma manager Luciano Spalletti had said it on April 1, as he commented on his team’s defeat in the UEFA Champions’ League Quarter-Finals first leg: “Manchester United beat us 2-0, but they’re even more Italian than we are…“. A clear reference to the mentality shown by Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, victorious at the Stadio Olimpico of Rome through paying close attention to defensive play before launching fast counter-attacks. Last night, the Red Devils repeated the same tactic at Barcelona’s Nou Camp: they shut up shop in front of Van der Sar for most of the game, and allowed the Dutch goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet. In fact, if Cristiano Ronaldo hadn’t missed from the spot, perhaps United would have taken home another away win.

BARRICADESWayne Rooney tracking back as far as the corner flag, Owen Hargreaves playing as right-back, Carlos Tevez battling it out in centre-midfield, Cristiano Ronaldo isolated up front. “Catenaccio” is an obsolete term which no-one uses much any more, but how else to define the tactics chosen by Sir Alex Ferguson (and his loyal deputy Carlos Queiroz) for their trip to Catalonia? With ten men always playing behind the ball, this team looked less like Manchester and more like Rafael Benitez’s first glory-bound Liverpool side, the team which reached the UEFA Champions League final in 2005 and defeated AC Milan in Istanbul (under circumstances all-too-familiar for Rossoneri fans).

ENTERTAINMENT IN THE PREMIERSHIP – However, before talking about Manchester Utd as “catenaccio merchants”, a few points should be made:

  1. Firstly, it is very likely the current Prem champions will play a very different game at Old Trafford next Tuesday, attacking with much more conviction and with the clear objective of scoring goals. This attitude should be greatly amplified, when one considers the added factor of home crowd support.
  2. With respect to traditional catenaccio tactics, Sir Alex Ferguson’s version has evolved: having won back the ball, the Red Devils always seek an immediate and concerted counter-attack, never completely abandoning the offensive. In contrast, catenaccio-style football’s main creed is that of preventing the opponent from scoring, even at the cost of one’s own offensive tactics.
  3. Finally, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Manchester Utd have frequently offered great entertainment this season and that Cristiano Ronaldo & colleagues are capable of playing very attractive football. The problem is that while the red-shirted superstars put on a show in the Premier League, they seem like a different side in Europe.

STATISTICS – Sir Alex got his fingers burnt last season: does the defeat to AC Milan in the Semi-Finals still weigh on his mind? Let’s look at some figures: in the 2006-07 Champions’ League, United had already conceded 10 goals by this point in the competition. This time around they have only conceded 5. Also, the United defence will finish better than last year in the Premier League as well, provided that in the last 3 games of the season they concede less than 8 goals. With players like Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in top condition, this shouldn’t be too hard, should it?

LENIENT PRESS - ‘Negative when playing away, braver at home’ seems to be the dominating characteristic of Man Utd this season. The European press hasn’t criticised the Red Devils’ attitude however. The English tabloids have concentrated only on Cristiano Ronaldo’s unexpected error from the penalty spot, while the Spanish press (including El Mundo Deportivo and Sport, the leading Catalan sports papers) have praised Barcelona and focused on United’s “ordenada defensa” (well-organised defence). Would they have used the same measured tones to describe a similar performance from say… an Italian side? Or would they have talked about “extreme defensiveness”?

Let’s be clear: the Serie A sides were basically failures in this edition of the UEFA Champions’ League, and the quality of the top ranks of English club football is, at the moment, clearly superior. But if even a big side like Manchester Utd resorts to closing down in defense from time to time, shouldn’t it be pointed out? Admitting it with honesty shouldn’t be a problem, perhaps even praise the humility of champions like Rooney, Tevez etc. who are willing to work so hard and sacrifice themselves in uncommon roles. There’s no shame in it, surely?