Football 2017-18


Felt so good to be back in front of the tv past midnight watching the game I love so much. And what added to the thrill was that it was an absolute entertainer with 7 goals. A good mix of awful defending, classy finishes and set plays.

Looking forward to grind out the first premier league weekend on the couch. Lacazette was fantastic to watch in the first game. He is a class apart with clarity and purpose in distribution, defensive work apart from being deadly in the box. It’s only a matter of time should the Arsenal team grow up to his quality, then they are an unstoppable force going forward. Of course the backline was in absolute tatters. Xhaka was a total disappointment last night. He was personally responsible for atleast two goals – one for each team. But Leicester played with the freedom we saw from them in the title winning run. Vardy is bang on the money. Gray and ‘nacho on the bench is very formidable to come on. Cech had a howler of a game. He was very fortunate to survive the scares last night.

Overall this builds up to a fantastic footballing atmosphere. Arsenal fans riding through all the emotions that they go through in a season in a miniscule 97 minutes last night! Football – c’est la vie!

Watford 3 – 1 Manchester United


Two defeats in a row. After an exciting derby match that broke a 3 point gap between the city rivals, the Dutch Europa league game was as tepid and directionless we had seen United all season. So the bounce backability of Mourinho team was due.

After a scintillating thrashing of Bournemouth by Man City previous night, the pressure was on. But the performance was far from what was expected.

The team reverted back to a more solid premier league line up with pace on the wings with Martial and Rashford and solidity in the full backs through Shaw and Valencia. Smalling replaced Blind clearly to obviate the aerial and physical challenge of a double center forward system of Watford.

Despite their two defeats so far, Watford has had a solid start to the season, and it was evident with the confidence on the ball. As the media likes to highlight everytime that Manchester United is a huge outfit with the team average height more than most in the league, it was ironic that they were being hurried and harried on and off the ball.

Most of the players got frustrated with the physicality. And thanks to Michael Oliver opting for a pro home side stand throughout the match, there was not much protection for the players.

They never really got going and there was not sufficient impact of the bench.

De Gea while having a relatively quiet game apart from a misunderstanding in the first half with Smalling, was clearly beaten in both the open play goals by quality strikes by Capoue and Zuniga.

Shaw was hesitant to stride forward, Smalling grappling players all the while and having poorer distribution compared to Blind.

Bailly’s performance seems always below par compared to his outstanding start to the season. He was clearly unable to bully Deeney and Ighalo up front.

Young brought more solidity and versatility when he came on and is likely to stake a much higher claim to the starting XI than the rest. Mata probably needs to start as Rashford was fairly nullified starting for the first time this season.

Zlatan’s finishing has been below par today and many quality chances we expected him to take were missed. Rooney having been rested looked totally off radar with his long range passing and short on speed as usual.

cso0bnawcaayxqjTactically Mourinho never really got a grip even in the second half even though things did improve. But it means 3 defeats in a row, 6 points behind the top of the table and more worries than joy into the next week. #GGMU

Feyenoord 1 – 0 Manchester United


Snoozefest – an ode to LvG

Not like Thursday night football was ever gonna get exciting, but this was an opportunity for the non first team players to get a chance to shine, to have a look into the starting line up.

After watching 90 minutes of disjointed individual games, it was obvious nobody has done anything to impress the new boss.

The most paltry and awful performance came from the full backs. Smalling’s return to the central defense seemed calm and he merged in well with Bailly. Smalling of course did not offer the range of passing Blind does, but was top on all the one on ones with the forwards.

Marcus Rojo looked clueless, bit off the pace and reluctant to make any relevant forward strides. He was caught out of position many a times and the likes of Pogba and Herrera ended up covering up. He is not likely to find a first team place unless Shaw gets injured.

Darmian was calm with the ball, yet again hesitant to bomb forward. The contrast with Valencia was so evident with his lack of pace and desire. But he was the more solid one of both the full backs.

Schneiderlin did not have the aerial prowess and aggression of Fellaini but he sat back and did his job in front of the defence. Pogba and Herrera were one paced and struggling to find sufficient forward movement in and around them to string a positive spell of attack.

Mata, Rashford and Martial had their own bit of individual forward forays constantly being chopped up by niggly fouls by the Feynoord midfielders who had a good game. Their frustration summed up united’s performance which was akin to the LvG era.

Mourinho was also fairly sedate in the touchline with the most action he delivered being the triple substitution at the hour mark. Young, Memphis and Ibrahimovic created scant chances thanks to excellent last ditch defending by a team that has had a brilliant unbeaten start to their domestic season.

Watford beckons. #GGMU

 

Manchester United 1 – 0 Southampton


First home game. Mourinho is yet to know a loss. Pogba was back and starting. Henrikh still didn’t find a place in the starting XI. But there was this sense of anticipation. Proven manager, electrifying characters on the pitch. In came a team that managed to beat United twice in the last three trips here. They claimed they are in for a good game.

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And it indeed was a good game. It just happened that United were much more clinical. Direct forward play. With Zlatan in the box, wingers no longer play intricate small passes to build in the final third. The 4-4-1-1 switching to 4-4-2 during a rampant attack, back to a 4-5-1 when defending. The top three – Zlatan, Wayne and Anthony swapping positions in the front line; the bustling pace of Valencia and Shaw on the wings; the solidity of defence by Marouane in the center protecting a well marshalled partnership of Bailly and Blind.

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Pogba’s first touch resulted in a swift counter attack that almost lead to a goal in the first minute for the Saints. But as the game grew on, his nerves settled and he started enjoying, gliding across the pitch and beyond players. Strong, fending off position, brilliant ball control and a number of times the ref offered an advantage as he was fouled. He was solid in partnership with Marouane, but at the same time making leaping forays box to box.

 

Tough to keep the limelight away from Zlatan. A seemingly innocuous cross from Wayne, with no pressure on him as he crossed. Fonte was ready to clear it off, but in a split second, Zlatan towered over him, hindering Fonte’s leap. He generated pace, purely from his neck muscles as the ball flashed across the flailing hands of Fraiser F. #DaretoZlatan.

 

Welcome to the theatre of dreams. #GGMU. The fortress is back.

Community Shield 2016-17 Manchester United 2-1 Leicester City


I was looking forward to a football match after the Euros. Watching the ‘International Cup’ , ‘Champions Cup’ and all that nonsense was just a waste of time with players just getting game time and managers and players (new and old) learning the trade and exchanging ideas.

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Zlatan with Rooney behind looked good on paper. But it was the back 7 that was shining in the first 30 odd minutes. Rooney was awful on the ball, while Ibra was not getting enough balls to feet. Valencia was definitely the performer at full back with probing darts forward as well as solid defence. The darting Lingard run which seemed to take Leicester by surprise considering the monotony that was ongoing prior to it. The subtle change of pace, accompanied by composure from the young lad meant he etched his name into history books having scored in consecutive FA cup winning and community shield winning sides.

Shaw was happy to be bit more conservative moving forward. Martial hardly ever got into the game and the link up between those two haven’t been great. Shaw did get caught out twice and fortunately got away with it.

The lack of pace will be a big factor when the season begins. With the squad available to him, now that Pogba is confirmed, Henrikh will be a strong creative force. Mata being subbed in and then out is probably an indication to him of how little play time he is going to get under Jose. The presence of one left footer in the midfield is more than enough. The dynamism of Henrikh will be always preferred over Mata. Mata deserves full play time and needs to move to another club for his own career.

Zlatan was quiet for most of the game primarily due to lack of service. His defending of corners were awful to begin with, but he settled in well towards the latter half of the game.

And of course he did get the most important touch in the end, as he rose early to a well crafted Valencia cross to outmuscle Morgan in central defence.

Can’t wait for one more week to see the battle begin. Bring it on premier league

Youthful promise


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Was watching the English football team take on Australia at home turf over an international ‘friendly’ and as the commentators put it, hoping it would be a competitive one. This was supposedly the second string line up playing and rich on youthful exuberance with many players fielded based on a wonderful season in the domestic clubs.

 

However, there were some like Jack Wilshere, who god knows on what merit is even in the squad. Having been injured for the whole last year and hardly having a look in in the last couple of minutes of Arsenal’s season, it was clear he was neither match fit, nor sure of what exactly is his job in front of the back four. It was weird to see Drinkwater playing ahead of Jack and to be honest, mightily ineffective against an Australian midfield that was not heavily pressing.

 

Rashford was elegant, composed and had his glasses on to foresee passes and played good link up football up front with Sterling. Indeed the former with his first strike on goal, volleyed home the lead, which by the way things have been this season for him, didn’t surprise any.

 

Defence is where England will be beaten in this Euro. Their preliminary squad goes in with the bare minimum players. Smalling on the left and Stones on the right, is an odd central pairing. Stones even though is playing in his preferred position for club and now country, has had a poor season by the self created exploits of last season. He has been in and out of a poor Everton season. Smalling on the other hand, started very well in his domestic stint, partnering Blind and being the lead center back. But his form dipped towards the latter end of the season and he was found out badly in the FA cup final. For all the plaudits ‘Mike’ received this season, him one on one with his back to goal still needs some convincing.
Against an Australian side not powered to break with speed, they were casual and comfortable and yet the English side could not even keep good possession in the game. Sterling and company will not be getting free rides in Euro 2016. We gotta wait and watch what’s gonna unfold. Rooney’s strike was worth savoring, but England should they have been at their best would have put at least 5 past the Aussies last night. Happy for the #mufc boys.

Welcome Jose


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The change was imminent, demanding. The targets weren’t met. The football was sleep inducing. The manager defensive and unapologetic. We had to move on. For all the charisma in the press and off the field with his tongue in cheek English, van Gaal failed abysmally in two years.

 

The numerous injuries that were part of the regimen packed with embalming a uniquely boring defensive possession football with absolute nothing in counter attacking, a season which saw many fans like me around the world tune in to the most boring first 45’s ever this season. Burst of energy in the first ten minutes followed by tepid side and backwards passing.

 

Records were broken. None went in favor of united. Records of decades, teams who never even had a sniff in the Theatre walked away with first time glory. Midway through the season as Christmas approached, the form was so awful that tolerating van Gaal was turning out to be out of good will and club tradition more than anything.

 

As Jose walked in today officially realizing a much desired role of his, he brings in a charismatic persona that thrives on victory. Apart from his off field cameos, his endless desire to enjoy success will bring back life into a club of such tradition that seems to be spiralling into an abyss in the last three years. As he rightly quoted, let’s rather not remember the last three years. Let’s remember the Manchester United we know.
GGMU.