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Friday, 29 January 2016

Derby vs Manchester United

Pre-Match Analysis:

United travel away to Championship side Derby in tonights FA Cup fourth round fixture. After narrowly progressing from the third round, LVG's men will be hoping for a solid and convincing performance and a place in the next round of the FA Cup.

In recent weeks, much attention has been placed on LVG surrounding his future. There have been calls for him to get back and speculation that we already have a new manager in place. Fundamentally, the football is all that counts. Our season so far has been disappointing, some players have not stepped up and performed and the way that we have been losing games has been painful. Personally I have had enough about various irrelevant things that are going on right now and want the club to get back to solely focusing on the football. Yesterday, in Van Gaal's press conference, he showed his irritation over what the media had been printing about him offering to resign. He completely denied these allegations and claimed that he has the backing of the board and Ed Woodward and that he hopes to see out his contract - which means we could be stuck with him until the end of next season!

We need to win silverware and the FA cup presents us with a perfect opportunity. In tonight's game you would expect to see non-first team players get a chance but with all the pressure on LVG, he may decide to field a strong team. He really needs to start winning games consistently so do not be surprised if the lineup consists of regular first-team players. However, we are Manchester United and are known for giving youth a chance, so we might see Januzaj, Pereira, Lingard and Memphis make appearances.

In terms of our starting line-up today, we have been hit with another injury. Matteo Darmian is the latest casualty in the cursed full back position. Van Gaal has said that he won't feature today but the injury isn't severe. I predict that we will start Varela and Borthwick Jackson in full back today. In CB we should have Smalling and Blind, who need a clean sheet today. In midfield, Carrick won't be playing the full 90 minutes, but that doesn't mean he won't start. I predict that we will play a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Memphis, Pereira and Januzaj playing behind Anthony Martial.

Derby themselves are a very good team and they know that they can definitely get a result against us. They will be relishing this opportunity to try and beat us so it is crucial we play to our maximum.

Hopefully we have a really entertaining game filled with quality football, and most importantly, a place in the next round of the FA Cup. #GGMU

Line-Up Analysis:

In a week full of speculation on his future at United, and pressure from fans for a lack of excitement or results, Van Gaal needs to step up today. Unfortunately, his lineup today seems to have let him down.

Having had a shocking game last week, we thought for sure that Lingard would not start today and that Memphis would have got his opportunity. Unfortunately, Lingard is starting and Memphis is on the bench, and one has to wonder if Memphis will go the same way Di Maria did if he doesn't get sufficient game time or any creative influence. 

Another option could have been Januzaj, who has just been recalled from a loan and had an amazing match for the U21's in midweek. In fact, so did Pereira, yet he too is on the bench. It's good to see Schneiderlin playing today, although I think that Hererra should have started in place of Fellaini as a more attacking option. 

Smalling and Blind are there to stop any counter attacks that are coming our way and it has to be said that they need to be alert in this match as there is a definite attacking threat from their side. Varela is in RB after Darmian picked up a minor injury, so he will get a chance to show his skills even though he has already impressed. Overall, not a bad lineup, but I fear for a lack of pace and creativity in this side

First Half Analysis:

This hasn’t been our worst half, but not our best. With that being said - we’ve been playing relatively well and have at least created some chances. The main reason is Martial - he’s been tearing through their defence left right and centre (Well, just left and centre). He’s had a couple of chances which he’s failed to capitalise on however.

One man who didn’t need a second chance was Wazza, what a strike! Mata and Schneiderlin have been influential with Varela really impressing with his runs. 

Defensively we’ve been okay, however that lapse in concentration could cost us dearly. Smalling saved a second goal from them with some excellent defending representing some of the form he’s shown all year. 

Lingard has been nearly invisible in the match and I think that a change needs to be made with Memphis coming on. Fellaini has been a bit of a hit and a miss. He’s won back possession well, however sometimes he has failed to create or capitalise on chances. 

In the second half, I think that if we continue playing the way we are, we should get a good result. They’ve struggled to get control of the ball at all and only looked slightly dangerous in the last 5 minutes. Overall, we should win this match, but I don’t want to jinx anything so let’s see what happens.

Second Half Analysis:

Coming into the second half we really needed to start how we started in the first half; sharp, attacking and hungry for goals. We didn't start as sharp as Derby came out looking for their first win in 6 games. We could see that shift back into the sideways and backwards passing format that Louis Van Gaal so famously loves.

The star performers of the day in our opinion were Varela and Borthwick-Jackson. These full backs defended well particularly Varela who also made a couple of great runs inside and going down the wing. While Borthwick-Jackson supported Martial brilliantly although he lost the ball a few times.

Martial gave Christie a torrid time using his pace and skill to run zig zags around him and then to always unselfishly look for a pass. He did deserve his assist and honestly looked like he could have scored a couple. He was lacking the final touch or sometimes the clinical finish. He brought Fellaini, who had a decent first half, and Mata into the game and linked up with the latter and Rooney well to cause all sorts of problems.

Let's use this win to uplift the team's confidence and try and win some premier league matches.

Individual Player Performances:

Goalkeeper and Defence

David De Gea - 6
Not a bad day for our number 1. Couldn't do much about the goal and didn't have very much to do today. However, a few passes did go astray.

Varela - 7
A good match for the young Uruguayan who was solid defensively and looked a threat going forward. Despite a few heavy touches, he still put in a good shift and played very well.

Smalling - 7
Not a bad day for Smalling either. Looked solid defensively and made an amazing goal saving tackle which was vital. Looked confident coming out of defence and stepping up.

Blind - 8
A goal for a player who has arguably been one of our most creative players this season. Usually this creativity comes from the back line, but this time he made an amazing run into the box and slotted away to give us a 2-1 lead.

Borthwick-Jackson - 7
The youngster put in a good shift today and has shown Van Gaal that he intends on making it to the top level. There were a few sloppy passes but he still looked like a threat going forward and was good defensively. 


Fellaini - 7
Despite all the criticism laid on this man, he put in a good shift today. His most important contributions came at corner kicks. He was always there defending the corner and was more positive going forward and continuing attacks.

Schneiderlin - 6
Not a good day for Morgan who misplaced a lot of his passes and didn't make the impact which he was hoping. However, he wasn't too bad and managed to run from box to box well.

Martial - 9.5
This lad ran rings around the Derby right back! Martial's runs were terrific and looked threatening every time. His assist for Mata's goal sums up his performance today. Despite some poor decision making (which he will learn from over time), he produced magic today and showed some Manchester United quality. 

Lingard - 6
Against his club from last season, Lingard played reasonably well. He didn't have his best game but put in a good shift and was good coming back too. 

Mata - 8.5
A much better performance from the Spaniard who enjoyed a lot more freedom today which he use brilliantly. After making some good runs and passes, he deservedly got himself on the score-sheet. 

Forward and Substitutes:

Wayne Rooney - 9
Today we saw much more of the Wayne Rooney we are used to seeing. His curling finish in the first half was outstanding. He continued to contribute throughout the game with some great hold up play and some good runs. Lets hope he can keep up his form from 2016

Carrick - 6
Didn't have long to make an impact on the game but when coming on, he took control of the midfield.

Ander Herrera - N/A
Came on too late to make an impact

Overall Analysis:

Overall we played completely different to what we usually see at times when Manchester United play. When the game first started it seemed the team went guns ablazing. Our attacking players throwing the kitchen sink and they just kept on attacking. Jesse Lingard wasn't the best attacking players, he couldn't find a decent pass and he also couldn't get behind the crosses.

We need to carry this good form and this attacking play into the premier league where we need to at least secure the forth place. We are 5 points behind Tottenham and this form can get us to that champions league position. 

Our next match is at home to Stoke on Tuesday in the Premier League, There is not long to recover, so we will be expecting a few changes from today's game and our objective in that game in 3 points!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Manchester United vs Southampton

Pre-Match Analysis:

The Premier league this season has been one of the most diverse yet exciting campaigns in recent years. If you have not already, please watch our YouTube video on the analysis of the Barclays Premier League so far.

Writing the pre-match analysis for United’s games have started to become less and less painful after the Red Devils have finally managed to play some good football and get results. We beat our rivals Liverpool last weekend 1-0 after a fantastic goal from Wayne Rooney which had moved us up into 5th place just outside the Champions League places with 37 points. In the 23rd game of the season, we will be facing Southampton today who are a brilliant team when they are in form. If we can secure a win at Old Trafford today just as we beat them at St. Mary’s, then we will be making a strong case for a top-four finish.

The team and club spirit seem to be on the rise again after beating Liverpool. Pressure is also easing from LVG but we need to make sure that we are playing to the best of our abilities in every game. Last week was a perfect example of how you do not need to always play at your best to get a win- sometimes you have to dig deep and show more character (no reference to Brendan Rodgers or pun intended) if you want the 3 points. De Gea won Man of the match and he was simply phenomenal. We have the best clean sheet record in the league this season, 11 games where we have not conceded which has been massively down to the brilliance of De Gea. Special praise has to be given to Wayne Rooney who is beginning to score goals again for fun. You can clearly see that his passion is there when playing for Untied. The rest of the team, particularly the attacking players, need to challenge themselves to score more goals and get more involved rather than simply just relying on Rooney to score. The contrast in form between players within our team is alarming as you have De Gea and Rooney who are playing to their maximum but Memphis and Fellaini who are struggling to find their form.

In terms of injury news, in LVG’s press conference yesterday he revealed that Ashley Young will be side-lined for a long time due to a groin injury that requires surgery. Young has been an important player for us this season and has perhaps been underrated and underappreciated. His injury highlights our frailties at full back with a few defenders out injured including Shaw, Rojo, Valencia, Jones and Young.

For our team selection, we do not think that LVG will change too much. It will be interesting to see how he lines the team up. Either defensive to try and cope with Southampton’s attacking threats as we all know just how dangerous they can be or if he chooses to play attacking and go for the win from the start.

Southampton are in 10th place with 30 points. Considering their high standards, it has been quite a disappointing season for them. Consistency has cost them a higher place within the league. Their demolition of Arsenal in December showcased just how good they can be but they have not been able to produce a successive winning streak. In their last league game, they beat West Brom 3-0 so they will have some confidence coming into today’s game.

The Saints have an array of talent within their squad so their team line up should be full of quality players. In recent years we have struggled against this team, although as a score prediction, we see the Red Devils winning 2-1. #GGMU

Line-Up Analysis:

In goal we have our brick wall, David De Gea who was named man of the match last week against Livepool. Let's hope he can keep a clean sheet once again today.

In defence, we have lost Ashley Yong and Phil Jones due to injuries. This has led to Cameron Borthwick-Jackson being given the chance to show his potential in left full back today. On the right, we have Matteo Darmian. Our two centre backs, Smalling and Blind will be hoping to put in more of a solid performance today after a shaky performance last week. 

In midfield, we are still missing Carrick and Schweinsteiger due to injury. This could prove to be costly for us, but we're hoping that Schneiderlin and Fellaini will be able to do the job today. Fellaini has come under a lot fo criticism recently and will be out to show that he deserves a place in the starting 11. In CAM it looks like we'll have Ander Herrera who will be looking to find a good run of form after a run of poor performances. 

Our three attacking players will be looking to get in behind the Southampton defence. Anthony Martial will be playing on the wing once again and will be hoping to make more of an impact than he did on Sunday against Liverpool. Jesse Lingard will be on the other wing. Another absentee is Memphis who has been poor and LVG is being stubborn not to start him. Up front, we have our skipper, Wayne Rooney who will be looking to continue his goalscoring run in 2016!

Come on United, and lets hope we can get some goals! #GGMU

First Half Analysis:

This match holds high importance as if Manchester United triumph against Southampton then Manchester United will go fourth and be back in the champions league place. Knowing this you would expect Louis Van Gaal to pick tactics which are more attack minded, however even though there definitely is a change in the mindsets of the players and this was evident from less sideways passing, it wasn't completely different.

The Southampton players pressed Man Utd defence to a breaking point where even the casual football fans could see impending problems. Darmian I believe played really well when clearing the ball and making a couple of important interceptions here and there. This is a positive note as he had a couple of shaky performances, hopefully he can show this display in the second half. For some reason however I'm losing confidence with Smalling. He just doesn't seem to have that giant stature he once had at the beginning of the season which lead many critics and pundits to call him a 'revolutionary change'. Blind has definitely been the pick of the defenders, making sure Borthwick-Jackson is covered and making sure Mane and Tadic don't get a chance to score. He's even had a long range shot on target!

Our midfield display has been strong from a defensive point of view with Fellaini and Schneirderlin using their strength and putting in a not so graceful performance to say the least. Our attacking midfield; Herrera has been the stark opposite, he's been isolated playing alone with Lingard especially and Rooney sometimes being forced to play a little bit deeper. Something to note is Herrera surging out of position to press the Southampton defence. Alone. Not very effective.

Rooney and Martial have been struggling with service and they have been shackled by the Southampton centre back pair. Martial is not being allowed to make his normal devastating runs while Rooney keeps on losing possession.

No clear cut chances in this first half and was a poor, boring display by Manchester United

Second Half Analysis:

Going into the second half, Louis Van Gaal substituted Fellaini off for Mata and what a difference that made. We were dominated in the midfield due to sheer numbers and because we lost half of our midfield strength, Schneirderlin can't play every where. However, Mata did link up quite well with Martial and Rooney and brought them back into the game and unleashed those shackles which bounded them two. Herrera looked less isolated and made a couple of good passes going forward.

Fortunately Darmian continued his good defensive form onto the second half but unfortunately had to subbed off due to an injury. He made an absolutely vital heading clearance to deny Shane Long a 1 on 1 with De Gea, who was rarely troubled. Our LB and RB positions have been cursed as any player who is put to play there has been injured this season.

The goal was conceded because of Paddy McNair who actually looked dangerous and alert when he first came on. He failed to mark the debutant Charlie Austin and handed a free header to him on a silver platter right in the 88th minute of the game.

Januzaj put in a good five minutes and he tried as hard as he could down on the left hand side but he was shutdown due to great Southampton defending and very poor Man Utd attacking runs! Martial apart from a couple of link up play with Mata and Rooney looked like he was a spectator. He's definitely lost that explosive form he greeted the premier league with when he first was put on the scene. Rooney looked like his feet were repelling the ball, he couldn't hold the ball up for more than 2 seconds (honestly, time it for yourselves!).

To improve we need to introduce a couple more younger players like Andreas Periera, Varela and start Januzaj. Manchester United also need to buy a new CAM and a new striker.

Overall Analysis:

Another unconvincing display led us, this time, to lose 1-0 to Southampton. Last weekend's win over Liverpool was undeserved but at least we took three points. Today's performance was utterly shambolic and something major must change! 

Just as we thought things were getting better for our team, our boring, pathetic football came flooding back, along with the sh*t Wayne Rooney from 2015. His performance today was terrible, he was drifting way too wide, leaving nobody to offer support in the CF position. His confidence was still there as he wasn't afraid of having any shocks, but it would've been better if he were to hit any of them on target. 

Juan Mata was a very bright spark once he came on, showing his pure class. Ander Herrera played very well today too when he was in the CAM position, playing some good balls through to Lingard and Martial. One thing which must be pointed out is the terrible performance of Jesse Lingard. Don't get me wrong, he is a talent but his performance today was pathetic. He was sloppy in possession and didn't look like a threat going forward. 

Our next game is away to Derby on Friday in the FA Cup. That game is a must-win, but I hope that LVG is out by then as it would be a good game for Giggs to start with. One thing is for sure, after today's performance, LVG should be sacked! This football was not the football of a Manchester United squad. Sir Matt Busby would be ashamed if he witnessed this terrible football.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Liverpool vs Manchester United

Pre-Match Analysis:

A breath-taking weekend of Premier League football that has been bombarded with goals concludes with the epic showdown between the two most prestigious clubs in British footballing history: Manchester United and Liverpool. This is simply more than just a fixture. Our rivalry with Liverpool is one that has captivated the league throughout the years. Two of the largest towns in England have a monumental collection of footballing glory and these two clubs have competed on the biggest stage. The Red Devils of Manchester and the Reds of Liverpool have produced some truly magical moments over the years, every fixture is an exciting one filled with nothing other than beautiful football.

Without a doubt this season has been one of the most spectacular, shocking seasons in terms of results and positions of clubs. Liverpool are currently 9th but only 4 points off 5th placed West Ham whilst the Red Devils are 6th- 5 points of Tottenham in 4th place. Both teams featured in entertaining 3-3 draws during the week where Roberto Firmino of Liverpool was particularly impressive with two terrific goals. Wayne Rooney proved why he is captain and showed just what he is capable of after scoring two goals; a brilliant penalty and world-class curling strike from outside the box.

Tuesday’s game against Newcastle showcased the improvement of our team going forward and being able to score goals although we are still lacking a winning mentality that is needed in order to be successful in the league. Also, we showed that our defence is not quite up to scratch, conceding three goals.

Jurgen Klopp’s arrival to Anfield has certainly changed the dynamics for the club and really galvanised their players. They worked hard to secure a draw after a goal from Joe Allen although today’s game will be difficult for them considering that they have just played Arsenal. LVG on the other hand needs consecutive wins under him to really ease the pressure that is on him. One thing that we can all be sure of is that the game today will be intense, passionate and aggressive. Hopefully there will be stunning goals scored tomorrow but most importantly, United take 3 points back with them to Manchester. Anfield as we all know has witnessed some fabulous football, a fantastic stadium but one which we have won at on numerous occasions.

After drawing against Newcastle in a game which we really should have won, United will be desperate to take all 3 points. Rooney was involved in all of our goals and produced a delicious assist for Lingard who scored and played well. Our inability to dictate games in the latter stages and take our chances has meant that we are now 10 points behind league leaders Leicester City- a gap which is becoming increasingly harder to narrow.

In terms of team selection, our problems lie within the defence so I expect LVG to keep our attack the same as the previous game but make changes to our defence. Especially with the attacking threat that Liverpool pose, I would like to see our defence consist of: De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Jones and Young. In midfield we will be without Schweinsteiger and Carrick due to injuries but Herrera, Mata, Fellaini and Lingard in midfield with Martial and Rooney upfront.

Both teams are chasing a top-four finish so it will be interesting to see how the teams line up. Liverpool’s problems have ranged from their injury nightmares, particularly hamstrings, their defence and in particular goalkeeper Mignolet. If Klopp’s side are serious about playing Champions League football next season, then he will need to buy a quality goalkeeper since Mignolet just is not at that level. Liverpool drew to Arsenal but conceded poor goals it will be intriguing to see whether Liverpool are attacking (trying to expose our defence and get goals) or defensive (to try and nullify our attacking threats.

Enjoy the game tomorrow because it is one that you do not want to miss! Score predictions? A five-goal thriller split 3-2 to the Red Devils! #GGMU

Line-Up Analysis:

Match day! We have our rock in goal which is nice to see always, and we have Smalling in CB to help him out. Smalling made a couple of key mistakes against Newcastle so let’s see if he can hop back from that and help us keep a clean sheet today with the help of Blind. We have Darmian and Young as our full back’s today and seeing as they’ve both been in fine form recently, this is a good combination to go with. 

We know that Van Gaal means business today as Schneiderlin and Fellaini are in the holding midfielder’s roles in order to boss the midfield so that Liverpool won't run over us in the centre like they did to Arsenal. Schneiderlin has to make sure to keep Fellaini in check and in position so that he’s around to help deal with the counterattack. 

I’m thoroughly disappointed to see Lingard playing instead of Mata today. He’s always shown us that he can be the difference in the big matches and we need one of our best players today to help pierce their defence (Something Klopp would have definitely worked on after conceding three goals in midweek). All's not lost though as Lingard has shown the type of creativity that only young players seem to show and has made very fast and promising runs with or without the ball. 

I’m happy that Herrera’s starting as he’s one of the most passionate players in the team and will not hesitate to take the long shot if he thinks it’s there. He also plays some key passes at crucial times and happens to be in the right place at the right time. 

Rooney looks to continue his fabulous form and Martial is out to replicate what he did on his debut. One thing’s for sure, he will be making runs into their defense all day. Let’s hope for an entertaining match and a great result, and take three points back to Manchester!

First Half Analysis:

Well, we haven’t had a foot in this game. We’ve been constricted in every part of the pitch and they’ve picked us apart defensively a few times but have failed to capitalise. They are pressing so much that none of our players have had any space to work and hence have looked sloppy in possession.

Fellaini has looked like he is close to getting booked after a couple of altercations and Van Gaal should seriously consider taking him off since he hasn’t been key in set pieces or attacking either. 

It’s a wonder how Mata didn’t start. Herrera and Martial are finding it difficult to get into the game, and for me - Fellaini and Lingard need to come off for Mata and Memphis. We haven’t had a shot on target and that’s alarming. 

Rooney seems to be getting long balls thrown at him, but this is obviously not working as he has no backup. When we do get posession and a little bit of respite, we try and slow down the tempo, which is good in order to regain control - however they’re not tiring and we need to just hit them on they counter. 

In the second half, I think that we need to just weather the storm and then hit them with pace on the break which I think is our best chance of rattling the cage in this match. Let’s see what Van Gaal comes up with to combat this difficult Liverpool side.

Second Half Analysis:

The second half was more eventful for both teams however both teams for large portions of the half lacked the clinical finish. However Liverpool came out playing much more positively and with a clear focus on scoring goals early on. David De Gea had to come out and pull out some incredible saves to deny Emre Can twice.

We're back to playing boring possession football. This will be hidden by the fact that United have won. Our defence is looking a lot more nervous than a couple of months ago. We let 3 goals in against Newcastle and we could have let in a lot more goals if not for our world class goalkeeper. Smalling looked troubled by Firmino's pace and Lallana looked like he was never marked, he was everywhere dictating the pace of the game. Schneirderlin looked anonymous apart from making a couple of tackles here and there. He didn't help to dominate the aerial battle, Fellaini did. Darmian again looked a little bit nervous and he was definitely worked with all the running he had to do to keep track of Lallana (unsuccessfully).

The goal came from Ibe falling asleep from his defensive duties and not marking Mata who whipped in a great ball for Fellaini, who was unlucky not to score as his header rebounded off the cross bar right into the feet of Rooney who blasted the ball into the back of the net. Rooney's poor form which he displayed at the first half of the season is now fading away and is being replaced by much better fortune, to the delight of us United fans.

Overall Analysis:

Overall this was an undeserved victory, Liverpool had many more chances than us in the first and second half and were only unable to score because of De Gea.

The only stand out performance came from David De Gea as he repeatedly denied Emre Can who would've scored if anyone else was in goal. Thank God for that faulty fax machine in the summer! Where would we be without him, he's probably won us more points than our attacking players have won from scoring goals. I felt that leaving Ander Herrera on would have been more effective as he can pick a pass and play it, he also can run with the ball without being dispossessed unlike Memphis. I really worry for the guy. Fellaini put in a decent performance however he only offers us dominance in the air and he plays very riskily, receiving bookings far too often.

To improve I believe we should keep on playing Schneirderlin even though he didn't play amazing. He will only improve as he gets more game time especially after being out for a while. In addition I stress the fact that we need to find the defensive form we once had at the beginning of the season, as we are letting more goals in and this will help our goal difference which can help us later on.

Undeserved victory but we've got the 3 points which has helped us climb to fifth place. Can't argue with that.

Lets look at each player individually...

Goalkeeper and Defence:

David De Gea: Another good day at the office for De Gea, He won man of the match due to the crucial saves he made. Where would we be without him? 

Ashley Young: He had a decent game today and was substituted early on due to an injury.. Slightly over-complicated at times but he should be out on the wing, not in the right back position. Would've liked to have seen him make more crosses. 

Chris Smalling: Didn't look as confident today but didn't have a bad game. Managed to keep a clean sheet and that's all that matters.

Daley Blind: Didn't see much of him during the game. One thing that we can recall is his terrible corners. Defence was shambolic at times but somehow we managed to keep a clean sheet.

Matteo Darmian: Played well in both the left back and right back positions and did make some vital tackles. Would like to see him drive some crosses into the box more often.


Fellaini: Once again, didn't have a good game. Couldn't keep a calm head. However, it was his header that struck the crossbar that directly led to Wayne Rooney's goal so thank God for him. 

Schneiderlin: Wasn't as influential as he would have hoped today but done the job well and applied pressure to Liverpool. He didn't manage to dictate the midfield and won barely any of the battles in the air. 

Lingard: His movement was good today but was sometimes sloppy in possession and it would've been good to see him have a shot today. 

Martial: Once again played on the wing and put in a decent performance. However, Klopp clearly pointed out his threat before the game as whenever he got the ball, the Liverpool players pounced on him. 

Ander Herrera: Didn't play well at all today, but he is clearly a fan favourite as you could tell when he was subbed. He is expected to be the creative mastermind in midfield, but was passing sideways and backwards today, and that's not what we like to see.

Striker and Substitutes:

Wayne Rooney: He's continued with his terrific form from the last two games and snatched the winner. That's 4 goals in 3 games for our skipper. Today's goal has made him the top goalscorer in the Premier League for a single club. 

Juan Mata: When coming on, Juan Mata brought some creativity and energy onto the pitch which we had been missing. After Blind's string of poor corners, Mata went for the short corner and then whipped in a delightful cross which Fellaini headed towards goal, but hit the crossbar, but Rooney snatched the rebound, 

Memphis: Didn't get enough time to make an impact today. During the game there were times where nobody was prepared to be creative, take a man on or shoot. Hopefully LVG has realised that we need him, and will start him on Saturday against Southampton.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Ballon d'Or 2015

On the 11th of January football fans and the media awaited the announcement of the annual ceremony of the Ballon d'Or in which the player with the most votes is crowned World player of the year for a particular seasonal year. Last year we witnessed Cristiano Ronaldo deservedly lift his 3rd Ballon d'Or title of his career and he displayed much gratitude to his followers and global fans for their continued support. We gave commiserations to Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. They unfortunately fell short at the final hurdle in what was a hotly contested competition for the World Player of the Year crown. This year was a whole different story but one we have witnessed many times over the previous years, a Messi victory. Lionel Messi was crowned 2014/15 World Player of the Year and deservedly so according too many journalists and football fans globally. Many critics say this victory was much anticipated, based on recent statistics – either Ronaldo or Messi having won the Ballon d'Or over the past 8 years.

Why did Messi win?

So what exactly were the fundamental reasons why Messi picked up his 5th unprecedented Ballon d'Or title? Well the stats of the 2014/15 are very much self-explanatory. Messi, once again reached the heights that we have so often see him play during his fruitful and flourishing career. Some say that Messi was virtually unplayable against and the stats do support this argument. Messi in 2014/15 recorded 61 games, 52 goals and 26 assists. The stats do speak for themselves and although this may not have been Messi's greatest year or season in terms of goals or assists he certainly displayed his exhilarating ability to adapt for the good of the team and transition from the centre-forward position to right-wing in order to allow for the introduction of their threatening new acquisition, Luis Suarez. It also very important to consider the point that, aside all the stats and individual records, Messi won simply because of his willingness to play for the team and this was a master stroke by the Argentinian genius, as this meant that the Barcelona team gelled together and worked for each other in every single game they played. This resulted in their 5-trophy overhaul and the men from Spain made a statement to other teams around the world.

The Downfall of Ronaldo and Neymar

So how did Ronaldo and Neymar fall short? Well in the case for Ronaldo, it was year of woes. He was unable to exert the greater influence over the Madrid first team that we normally see him do. Real Madrid was a shambles and this directly hindered Ronaldo’s chances of winning the Ballon d'Or. Although he demolished Messi in terms of stats recorded over the past year with, 56 games, 61 goals, what he didn’t do was play for the team. What many critics like Guillem Balague have argued is that Ronaldo wants the team to play for him but the problem with Real Madrid is that it is a team full of many egos that are preventing the team from successfully gelling together and being a more effective team play force. So how is it that Neymar failed to win yet he did nearly the same job as Messi? Well personally I would have to say that it was inevitable that Neymar would be defeated. He is not quite the main man yet at the Camp Nou, Messi still is, therefore he will have to wait his time until Messi passes the mantle down to him. Some have even suggested that Neymar failed to win because his reputation precedes him. Messi has outshone him because the Argentinian is ever popular with the fans and that stronghold will be hard to break.

FIFA World XI (World Team of the Year)

The world team of the year looked ever strong with a clear Real Madrid/Barcelona stronghold in the team as they both had 4 players each present. The rest of the team was filled with representatives from Serie A - courtesy of Pogba, Ligue 1 – courtesy of Thiago Silva and the Bundesliga – courtesy of Manuel Neuer.

The quad-representatives of Barcelona were there for obvious reasons, they played an integral part to the overwhelming success of Barcelona in the past year. We witnessed Alves return to his best, Neymar turning up again and again and producing thrilling performances, Iniesta taking over the reins from Xavi and acting as the midfield engine of the Barcelona midfield, and well for Messi not to be present in this team would be a great injustice like Carlos Puyol stated. He had an electrifying season and you only need to look at his recorded stats.

The men from Madrid endured a shambolic and difficult season, they did not manage to win a single trophy over the year but the 4 representatives they have in this team still stood out and recorded consistent performances. Sergio Ramos remained the brick of the Madrid defence and Marcelo, in no small part, contributed largely to this as the Brazilian was really the standout fullback of the year. Modric was extremely effective in being the engine of the Madrid midfield and just as in the case for Messi, for Ronaldo not to be present in this team would again be a great injustice. The Portuguese superstar did record the world leading stats in the 2015 year.

Pogba had a fantastic season once again and his dazzling performances attracted interest from several ‘heavyweight’ clubs across Europe such as PSG, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and mostly Barcelona. Thiago Silva was heavily influential in orchestrating PSG to another Ligue 1 title and as ever Manuel Neuer, the man between the sticks for Bayern, simply displayed his goalkeeping talents. Particularly his world famous, cat-like reflexes – it’s truly amazing and a privilege to watch.

After another year of magnificent football, Lionel Messi has won the fifth Ballon d'Or of his exceptional career and has proved once again to be known as one of the best players to have hailed in the modern era of football. 

Author: Joseph Mukozho

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Newcastle United vs Manchester United

Pre-Match Analysis:

The Premier League is back tonight for the 21st game of the season. What a season it has been so far! As a club, we have had highs and lows but here we are, currently in 5th place with 33 points, challenging for a Champions League place whilst being 3 points off 4th placed Tottenham Hotspur. Our opponents, Newcastle United, are in a relegation battle in 18th place with 17 points. The appointment of their manager, the experienced Steve McClaren, should be enough for them to avoid defeat.

We must ask the question of ourselves: what are our aims for the season? Are we serious about challenging for the title this season? Do we want to play Champions League football next season? Do we have any realistic chance of claiming some silverware this season? As mentioned above, we have had an up and down season but I still believe that we can do something special this campaign. Firstly, we need to play with more passion and intent in the sense that the 3 points must be ours.

On the weekend we managed to unconvincingly beat Sheffield United 1-0 in the FA Cup. Wayne Rooney's goal from the spot was just enough to take us through to the fourth round. Yesterday, in the fourth round draw, we were drawn away to Derby County in the fourth round of the FA Cup. This game will be played the 29th and 31st of January.

The prolific legend that is Paul Scholes recently described our team as being “boring” and on the evaluation of our season as a whole you cannot blame him. To make matters worse, in LVG’s most recent press conference he stated that “Man United have bored me during this season”. As a passionate fan watching on, you can understand his frustration but at the same time there obviously is something not right at the club. Whether it needs to be new signings, a change in formation or even as drastic as a change in manager, United need to get themselves back to their old winning ways. We have failed to score a first half goal in our last ten games- with all of our attacking talent this just is not good enough.

Tonight is our opportunity to show our fans why we are still one of the biggest clubs in the world. If we are serious about having a successful campaign this season, a win tonight and a clean sheet is exactly what we need. There have been injuries that have disrupted our season but with a squad as big as ours we should be able to overcome these injuries. Bastian Schweinsteiger is suffering from a knee injury whilst Carrick and Young could feature tonight.

For our team selection, I do think that it needs to be quite attacking although we should be wary of Newcastle’s own threats. In goal, De Gea, who has once again been one of our standout players this season, Darmian, Smalling, Blind and Borthwick-Jackson to make up the rest of our defence; all of whom started against Sheffield United. In Midfield I would play Carrick, Schneiderlin, Memphis and Young for his pace and crosses with Rooney and Martial leading our frontline. Every game is starting to feel like a must win one but this team needs to get these 3 points in order to keep our Champions League hopes alive. 

Newcastle are in 18th position and are in danger of being relegated. Especially against the more formidable sides in the league, Newcastle tend to put on their ‘better performances’. They will prove to be a difficult side with talent throughout their squad but they are lacking the consistency. Newcastle have signed a midfielder from Bordeaux showing their intentions to improve their creative play. In the Premier League, they lost to Arsenal and they also lost to Watford in the FA Cup. They will be low on confidence but this is a game that both sides can win and will try their best to win. Sissoko, Tiote, Wijnaldum ,PĂ©rez and Mitrovic are just some of their gifted players so they will be prove to be a handful.

Hopefully we are in store for a great game tonight! Score prediction? 2-1 to the Red Devils! #GGMU

Line-Up Analysis:

There are three changes from the team that beat Sheffield United, with Ashley Young, Schneiderlin and Lingard coming into the squad for Borthwick-Jackson, Schweinsteiger and Mata. 

Our defence consists of De Gea in goal who will be earning his 200th cap for the club, and Young and Darmian as full-backs, who will be hoping to push forward at every opportunity. Our two centre backs, Blind and Smalling will be hoping to keep another clean sheet like they did against Sheffield United, but it will be hard against Newcastle's two attackers, Perez and Mitrovic. 

In midfield we have Fellaini - who will be hoping to make a big impact today and try and win his place back in the starting 11. Alongside him will be Morgan Schneiderlin who has been a key player this season in keeping our clean sheets. Also, Ander Herrera looks like he'll be playing wide. Herrera hasn't been great in recent games, giving away possession needlessly with sloppy passes and unnecessary fouls. Jesse Lingard will also be playing wide. One big decision made by LVG is leaving Memphis out of the starting line up after his terrific performance when coming on as a sub against Sheffield United. 

Up front we have our skipper Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial. These two players will be determined to bag a goal to lift the fans' and players' morale.

Lets hope for some good, not-boring, attacking football! #GGMU

First Half Analysis:

Wow! Am I dreaming or did we really play some attacking football and score not just one, but two goals?! At the end of a crazy first half, we go into the break holding a 2-1 lead. A penalty from Rooney and a sweet finish from Lingard put us 2-0 up. But poor defending from Smalling led to Newcastle clawing one back with Wijnaldum. 

To begin with, we were shambolic. Believe it or not, Fellaini committed 4 fouls in less that 25 minutes and earnt himself a yellow card. We were continuing with our boring passing football. In the 9th minute, a controversial handball by Mbemba led to a Manchester United penalty. Wayne Rooney buried the ball in the bottom right hand corner of the goal, sending the keeper the wrong way. That was Wayne Rooney's third goal in his last three games, and took his overall total to 240. .

From then on, we were knocking the ball around confidently and looking dangerous going forward (something that we've been missing for a long time). We got another big chance as Rooney latched onto Lingard's pass before shooting just wide of the far post. Moments later, David De Gea was called into action as Perez sets up Wijnaldum for a shot but De Gea uses his legs and saves well.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, we managed to counter attack with Ander Herrera who set up Wayne Rooney who unselfishly found Lingard who slotted the ball through Elliot's legs to give us a 2-0 lead. Five minutes later, Wijnaldum pounced on a headed clearance by Fellaini and beats De Gea from inside the area. 

After an eventful first half, we have high expectations for the second. Finally, we have quit our boring football and we're beginning to see the real Manchester United. Lets hope for a similar second half!

Second Half Analysis:

Well, that was an absolute thriller of a game. The full time result was 3-3 after some magnificent goals. In the end, it comes down to taking chances, something which we failed to do with Fellaini's header and Jesse Lingard. 

Ten minutes into the second half came our first huge opportunity to seal the deal after some creative play from Martial and Herrera led to a chance for Lingard, who shoots over the bar. He should've buried that and it proves to be costly. 

In the 66th minute, Chris Smalling is caught wrestling with Mitrovic in the box, which led to a Newcastle penalty which Mitrovic converted from 12 yards. One minute later, Wijnaldum scored a one on one with De Gea, but was flagged for offside.

Then in the 79th minute came the moment of pure class... After a terrific run, Memphis Depay's shot was blocked with the ball ending up in the feet of Wayne Rooney, who powered in an unstoppable effort. Then in the 84th minute of the game came our second amazing chance. Memphis (involved again) sent over a delightful cross to Fellaini who's header was aimed directly at the goalkeeper. He really should've scored. 

Ironically, Newcastle managed to snatch a goal right at the death. Paul Dummett equalised for the hosts with an amazing effort which was turned in by a deflection of Chris Smalling. That's how the game ended unfortunately, it was a thrilling game but we are left frustrated after Dummett's late equaliser.

 Overall Analysis:

In terms of stand out performances, we have to give huge credit to our main man, Wayne Rooney. We have been criticizing him a lot in recent months, and maybe even years but one thing that we can't deny is that he lit the pitch on fire tonight with two goals and one assist. This is the Wayne Rooney that we are so used to seeing under the Sir Alex era, lets hope that he can keep this up and go on to break the record and become the Premier League's highest ever goalscorer, only 19 left Wayne!

After that dramatic match, I'm sure that us Manchester United fans will be delighted with the football that we played. We are no longer dominating possession and passing the ball sideways and backwards (as much), we are learning to counter attack and attack in the way that Sir Alex used to love. Let's hope that this is the start of big things to come for our club and let's not dwell on this draw, lets build on this performance!

Our next game sees us travel to Liverpool on Sunday to face our rivals. This game is going to be essential as even when we are playing terribly, we always turn up against Liverpool! Considering their on-going list of injuries, we should be going for the win and we will look to continue the same football we played today. There is no doubt that we will fight with all our power until the end on Sunday. 

Lets not get carried away with this more attacking performance, we still only managed a draw against a team battling relegation and we should have really won, and to concede three goals in such a way wasn't good enough. However, this is certainly a step in the right direction. If we can continue to play this style of football, and if we are more solid at the back, we have a good chance of winning some silverware this season and getting Champions League football. 

To end this article, I would like to point out how good it was to see some passion in Louis Van Gaal's actions for the first time. He was clearly frustrated by Lingard's miss and he even made it to the touchline. We'll be hoping for more of this like he did for the Netherlands in the World Cup.