Monday, 28 March 2016

England vs Netherlands

Pre-Match Analysis:

2014 brought some great joy to the Netherlands fans across the world, having finished 3rd in the World Cup hosted by Brazil. However, it seems their luck has come to an end. Netherlands manager, Danny Blind, has failed to secure a spot for his country in the Euro’s meaning the game won’t be as crucial for Netherlands as it is for England. Whatever happens, it is almost a certainty that the game will be packed with action.

England’s recent game against World Cup winners Germany was full of emotions as Roy Hodgson’s side won 3-2 after being 2-0 down after Mario Gomez scored in the 57th minute. Tottenham youngster, Eric Dier scored in the final stages of extra time to give England the win and a boost of confidence going into the game against Netherlands.

England goalkeeper, Jack Butland is likely to miss the Euro’s due to a fractured ankle he suffered in Saturday’s game against Germany. This unfortunate incident puts England in an even tougher position having lost, yet another solid goalkeeper. Despite this, England still have a very strong attack, with players like Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane, who both scored against Germany. The attack offers pace, skill and is full of goal scorers, so will this injury have a massive impact on the whole teams’ performance? With England and Manchester United captain, Wayne Rooney injured, can his side once again prove that they are a force to be reckoned with? England manager, Roy Hodgson has said that Rooney is still a major part of his 2016 Euro’s despite beating Germany without him. Dele Alli played a great game against Germany however Hodgson still believes that he must improve.

Netherlands manager, Danny Blind will need make some very careful considerations when selecting his side. England played very well beating World Cup winners Germany in Berlin, who will now have a major confidence boost. His side is very capable, but will need to play at their very best to beat the England side whilst they are in great form.

The Netherlands have a very strong side, with attacking players such as Memphis Depay and Huntelaar. It is argued that Memphis has been playing very poorly however, he is fully capable of stepping up and becoming his sides’ key attacker. The Dutch side also have a strong midfield with Wesley Sneijder and Wijnaldum. These midfielders are well rounded and capable of creating an attack from nothing. If these two start, the English players will need to be very careful when they get the ball. The defence is arguably the weakest part in the Netherlands team however with Ron Vlaar and Daley Blind, they are still capable of stopping great attackers. Tottenham goalkeeper Michel Vorm has been added to the squad alongside Marko Van Ginkel, ahead of the clash with England. These two strong additions could prove worthwhile for Danny Blinds side.

Line-Up Analysis:

As many of us had expected Roy Hodgson has rung the changes for the game today, with only Smalling, Lallana and Rose retaining their places in the starting 11, Rose will be picking up just his second cap, after gaining many plaudits following his stellar display in Berlin.

Forster will be starting in goal, following Jack Butland’s injury which appears to have ended his hopes of making an appearance at Euro 2016, the injury could not have come at a worse time for Butland who in the opinions of many has been the best goalkeeper in the Premier League after finally becoming Stoke City’s first choice. Partnering Smalling in the heart of defence will be the young John Stones, with many arguing that this should be our first choice partnership heading into the European Championships .As previously mentioned Rose has retained his place at left back, whist Walker will be coming in at right back, the Tottenham pairing are certain to be a great threat going forward, however it would take a truly sublime effort from Walker to seriously put a question mark on Nathaniel Clyne’s place in the starting 11 going into France.

After bringing his international career, post the European Championships into some doubt, with comments in the past week, in which he explained that should he not be part of Hodgson’s future plans he may call time on his England career, James Milner will have the honour of leading the three lions onto the pitch against the Dutch, in what may prove to be his Wembley swansong. Joining him in a midfield four will of course be Liverpool team mate Adam Lallana, as well as the incredibly promising Ross Barkley, who many hope will play a key part for England in the years to come. The final member of the midfield quadruple will Danny Drinkwater who will be making his England debut, on the back of Leicester’s meteoric rise to the top of the tree in the Premier League. Although there are no out and out speedsters in the midfield Barley and Lallana will bring some pace with them, whilst the true strength of the four lies in their technical ability which they hope will help them carve their way through the Dutch Defence.

Leading the line for England today will be Daniel Sturridge, who has really struggled getting any game time over the past year and a half, having had terrible luck with injuries, Sturridge will know he must stay fit until the Euro’s if he is to be a key part in the plans of Roy Hodgson, given the wealth of options the England boss has in his armoury. Starting along side the Liverpool man will be Leicester’s tally man and Premier League player of the season contender Jamie Vardy. With his amazing but unexpected performances this season appearing to have sealed his place on the plane to France this summer. The striking pair will pose a great threat in behind the defence today, but will not have quite the same danger in the air as someone like Harry Kane.
 

First Half Analysis:

A simple start to important game and it seems England have casually cruised through the first half of their second game in this current international weekend. There has been a clear improvement since previous games barring the Germany game just a few days ago. The implementation of Leicester midfielder, Danny Drinkwater has produced dividends that were most definately missed. The team has shown good structure and have held the Holland XI in the centre of the field. 

The creative attacking players created chance after chance but seemed unable to capitalise on said attacks. Luckily the Netherlands attacking force were seldom able to get a shot on goal and this was due to the fluid and solid England back line. As the game began to drag on the tides turned on Netherlands as finally one of England plays worked out and through the inventiveness and initiative of Adam Lallana put in Walker who played in, the one and only, the best premier league player this season, Jamie Vardy who scores for fun and score he did. Tucking the ball neatly into the roof of the net to send England into the second half with a one nil lead and high hopes.


Second Half Analysis:

After the goal from Vardy in the dying minutes of the first half and the triumphant win in Berlin, there was great cause for optimism coming into second half, however in typical English fashion, our Three Lions had built our hopes to once again let us down.

England made an encouraging start to the half as they countered a Dutch attack, only for Sturridge to have his shoot saved from keeper Jeroen Zoot, just moments later Lallana missed the target after being set up from Ross Barkley. Then, still in the early stages of the second half Holland were controversially awarded a penalty, as Danny Rose was penalised after a Dutch cross hit his hand, the penalty was given despite it being quite clear that Rose had been trying to move his arm away from the ball. Despite the appeals from the English players, the penalty was given and Vincent Janssen coolly dispatched the penalty , sending keeper Forster the wrong way. It continued to be a quite affair until the second half, as both sides played the game in the typical fashion many international friendly’s are, the goal itself came in the 77th minute in controversial circumstances, as the England players felt Jagielka had been fouled just moments before the ball went into the back of the net, with the commentators stating that had the incident occurred outside the box a foul would have been given, but play went on allowing Luciano Narsingh to smash the ball home and with it bring England fans back to reality and perhaps squash the expectations of the public, there were to be late efforts from England with Harry Kane’s long shot going just wide, but they proved to be in vain. The match petered out as the Dutch held on, in what was a sombre affair, the game itself certainly not a memorable one. England lost, as many of us have become accustomed to, but this may prove to be somewhat of a gift for Roy Hodgson’s men as the result may relieve some of the expectations of the fans and therefore in turn relieve some pressure as well.


Individual Player Analysis:

Forster

6.5/10. Dictated his defence well with his vocal attitude, although he was powerless to stop the two goals, one from the penalty spot and one from a poor cover of the back post.

Walker

6/10. Played a good game, but at times his tackling and his passing was inconsistent. The second goal was partly his responsibility for being too far drawn out of the situation.

Rose

7/10. In hindsight of the loss, Rose played well as a left back whilst converting to a winger to provide very difficult crosses, one that led to Vardy’s goal.

Drinkwater

6.5/10. Decent debut for a starting defender. Defended the 6 yard box with ease, although his mistakes in the hand ball leading for the penalty was far too easy. Overall however, a decent debut nonetheless.

Smalling

7/10. His dominating physical presence was a trouble for players including Memphis and Wijnaldum, although he was partly to blame for the lack of vocal discipline as the commentary team mentioned for the second goal.

Stones

6.5/10. Underperformed on his debut. Ultimately began the loss of the lead with his slip, only reminiscent of Steven Gerrard, yet only on a friendly stage. At times his passing lacked consistency, although in general he appeared to be very focused and persevering in the game.

Milner

5.5/10. Although Euro 2016 may be his last international debut, nothing particularly about his performance convinced many that he should be given his last hurrah. Although he captained the team, there was very little output for his selection and very little to justify his own performance, apart from the vision for the first goal consisting of a pass to draw out the middle of the Dutch midfield.

Barkley

6/10. Similar to Milner, Barkley lacked the ability to bring anything forward into Wembley. His opportunistic creations were consistent, although his weak understanding of the game suggested nothing more than a very tired and disgruntled representation for his starting position today.

Sturridge

7/10. A very good attacking display from Sturridge by setting off Vardy on counter - attacks and a good awareness of switching play in order to stretch the defence. His only real problem was getting past of the defence with his speed, although this is in hindsight with his previous injury struggles.

Vardy

8/10. Although on the losing side, Vardy was undoubtedly today’s best English performer. His runs behind the defence to penetrate the back 4 and his awareness and positional skills for the first goal showed nothing more than the quality that should be sufficient for a place in the Euro 2016 squad.

Lallana

7.5/10. The second best England player today, Lallana showed a good attacking intent, which was represented none more than in the first goal where instead of taking the shot, he managed to recognise Kyle Walker’s run to lead to the cut - back for Vardy.

Overall Analysis:

Today’s game proved a key point in the young England’s team development towards Euro 2016 - consistency is necessary even after a landmark has been achieved against such a team, including the currently reigning World Champions.

The goal by Vardy displayed a fine attacking philosophy that Roy Hodgson, current England man-ager, has tried to put a stamp upon with this team which is reminiscent of the Fulham era where he led them to the Europa League final in Hamburg all those many years ago.

The short passing ultimately led to the easiest of openings for many opportunities, and showed a glimpse of the future and the potential that this England team could easily grab if they put their mind to the game.

However, the defensive frailties still lie in the England squad. A successful yet correct handball ap-peal means that more work needs to be done to prevent England’s magnificent attacking philoso-phy to be undone so easily by one simple decision.

The second goal, however, could be argued as a foul although Drinkwater could have cleared the ball to avoid the delay - the push a reminder of Podolski’s goal against Bayern Munich at the Alli-anz arena in the 2013/14 Champions League Campaign. Drinkwater’s failure to avert the danger in an era of football where decisions are becoming increasing harder to give had led to the ultimatum of the tie swinging in the Oranges’ favour.

Not to take anything away from the quality of the Dutch’s second goal, but the cover on the back post was weak, which could be none the further exaggerated when no player was within 5 yards of the goalscorer.

England have a bright future. To achieve it, they need to maintain a high standard, not slip into the trap that one game ultimately seals their destiny in Paris.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Germany vs England

Pre-Match Analysis:

England and Germany, two of the greatest footballing nations go head to head in a friendly which should be very exciting for all viewers around the world. As the 2016 Euro’s creep closer, this major International fixture should be a good indicator on both sides current form and should give both sides an idea of any weaknesses within their squad.

England will have a lot to prove in the away fixture against Germany. With players such as Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart missing the game, the English side will need to turn to their youth to perform at the top level. The game will be a crucial moment for England to help select players for the Euro’s and should be a great chance for the players to prove their worth.

With their first choice Keeper picking up an injury, England have a selection of three keepers including uncapped, 29 year old goalkeeper Tom Heaton. The other options are Jack Butland and Fraser Forster who are both very good keepers. The England defence comes with a lot of youth including players such as Nathaniel Clyne and John Stones who are both very capable defenders and are likely to be played in the away game. The Midfield and attack are probably England’s strongest positions with players such as Vardy, Kane and Barkley. Despite the absence of many experienced players, we have seen on countless occasions that the English individuals are capable of putting on great performances. With a lot of key players being injured, the England side must play at the top level and must all be on their top form when facing the German side. With pace, skill and growing talent all across the pitch, the England side should still be able to put on a good performance.

2014 World cup winners Germany, will be missing Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger after injuring a knee ligament. The 31 year old will also be missing the fixture against Italy so can Germany manage without such a key player in their team?

Despite the injury, they still have a large selection of players to choose from including some of the world’s best goalkeepers such as Manuel Neuer and Bernd Leno. Neuer is considered by many to be the best keeper in current football so the English attack will undeniably have a tough time getting the ball past him. The German side also have outstanding defensive players including Dortmund centre-back Mats Hummels, who in recent years has sparked the attention of several top clubs including Manchester United. With midfielders such as Marco Reus, Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil, Germany have one of the greatest midfields in International football. With skills in all aspects, the English side will have some real struggles breaking play at the centre of the pitch so will need to put in a considerable amount of effort throughout the game. Bayern Munich star Thomas Muller is likely to be leading the German attack and is a proven goal scorer. With such depth and strength in their squad, we can all expect a good performance from Joachim Loew’s side.

Line-Up Analysis:

England’s line up looks very promising to what will be a very entertaining exhibition between two of the greatest footballing nations arguably in the previous 30 years. In stark contrast to Germany, all of the players selected by Roy Hodgson apply their trade in their domestic Premier League with notable selection Kane being the frontrunner for the highest goal scorer of the Premier League this season.

Butland starts in goal, after first – choice Hart’s injury that he endured during the Manchester derby has prevented him from being selected today. This is one of the first experiences for Butland to play against a world – class team, and potentially the foundations for a future career in the national squad.

Logically, Hodgson has chosen a back 4, consisting of Rose (LB), Cahill (CB), Smalling (CB) and Clyne (RB). Both Rose and Clyne could operate as wing – backs to strengthen the attack and allow the team to play with greater fluidity yet also accommodate spaces where the German midfield would be more likely to drop into rather than secure. Smalling’s physical and Cahill’s vocal presence is quite an asset in the absence of Terry and Gary Neville’s dictatorial history in those areas that kept England afloat on the international stage.

Henderson’s ‘consistent’ performances, as quoted by Jurgen Klopp in recent press conferences qualified a place for him in today’s line up. Hodgson will see today’s fixture as an experiment to tinker with the midfield, including the addition of Eric Dier in light of his consistency with the Spurs’ title charge. The only challenge will be whether Henderson can convert his League play on the international stage, as this would be more than vital on a stage such like Euro 2016.

The front three appears the most promising of the entire line – up. Lallana’s recent performances for Liverpool and his very good ball retention attributes will be key to counter attacks and possession play, the former being the current style of play and the latter being the more emphasised by the manager. Alli’s inclusion reflects the improvements of the Spurs youth system, as Tottenham manager Pochettino named him ‘one of the best young talents’ in the Spurs ranks. Welbeck’s return from injury has been reflected with goal – scoring performances, most notably with the deciding winner in the 2 – 1 win against Leicester several weeks previously. Hodgson has chosen a young trio in attack with the ability of pace and retention to be key to his possession yet intrusive philosophy of attack.

The lone striker up front has been selected as Harry Kane. It was a surprise amidst much speculation that Jamie Vardy – one of the most prolific goalscorers for Leicester at the age of 29 not to be handed a chance to score, although Kane’s consistency in Spurs’ title charge, and his physical presence appeared to outweigh the advantages for Vardy to be the starting striker.

It seems a surprise that Leicester players were not included in the starting line - up, including Drinkwater and Vardy. It may be that Hodgson may bring them forward as substitutes later in the process of the game, or that they will be given the opportunity to showcase their talent in the next game, against the Netherlands.

First Half Analysis:

England started positively in the first-half against Germany with Adam Lallana looking to threaten the German backline with his skill early on.

Despite England's good start, Germany had the first chance of the game but Sami Khedira's shot deflected over. Shortly after Gary Cahill went very close with a fine header, and it looked as if England could be headed for a brilliant perfomance.

Jack Butland made a great save before Dele Alli had an ambitious shot from 20 yards go over the bar. On 27 minutes Mario Gomez looked to have put Germany infront but late after the 'goal' had gone in the linesman ruled it out for offside but the German striker looked onside judging by replays.

England had been playing well with pace and were trying to grow into the game once more before Butland injured himself while clearing the ball and almost immediately after Germany were in and Reus' shot went in at the near post, but could've possibly been avoided if Jack Butland wasn't injured.

England now have to come from behind in the second-half and will need to put a huge shift in to get anything from this game with the world champions.

Second Half Analysis:

England's Kane and Alli kicked off the second half, the game starting pretty much as it left off. Germany also made one alteration .

Germany pressured England with a dangerous free kick in from Reus just inside the England half. Fraser Forster was able to deal with it though. England’s first chance of the half came as  Dele Alli broke forward and had a shot from 25 yards out, Neuer  was able to make a good save as he parries to his right and wide. Welbeck would have slotted it home if Neuer did not deal with it. Well, with Welbeck, anything is possible.

So far the German defence has been strong and shown organisation. The difference between two teams so far is intensity. German players look like they keep this tempo for ages whereas England players look like they will start to go after 70 mins.Another chance for the players in red as Welbeck worked really hard to keep ball in and then played the ball into Henderson whose shot is deflected. Alli is working hard for the team but catches Kroos after 56 mins. He did well to put the German under lots of pressure.

German score: 2-0!  57 minutes have gone and a brilliant finish from Mario Gomez. A delightful ball in from Khedira, over top of Cahill where Clyne cannot come across in time to cover. Fantastic leap from Gomez, who plays for Besiktas. Forster was absolutely helpless but it was a wonderful jumping header. It was a poor defending from England but once again Germany were clinical.

The German players are in control- they have too much time and space as Ozil fluffs a shot after 58 mins. Alli continues to run rings around German defence as he has been the best English player so far.

2-1!  A great finish from Kane after 61 mins. A corner from Henderson who then finds Harry Kane does a mini Cryuff skill and scores a fantastic goal inside the box! Brilliant! We are back in it. Watch out Rooney, Kane's coming to get ya! England seem to have gained some confidence from that goal. After 65 minutes the game was still fairly so it is important to see what substitutes Roy makes now.

England create another chance with brilliant play from England which nearly resulted in a goal. Combination between Alli, Kane and Welbeck. They opened up the German defence just lacked the finish needed (68 mins) lallana. Neuer saves with his feet

First changes for England, Vardy is on for Welbeck and Barkley is on for Lallana. Alli goes onto the left after 70 mins. Barkley now number 10 behind Kane. Can England get a goal? 2-2! England got themselves back in the game! Barkley picks up ball, out to the wing and then a cross with Vardy flicking the ball into the net. Fantastic ball from Clyne what a finish!!!! First goal for England that is one to remember! Roy definitely has some difficult decisions to make. Germany make a change as Poldoski came on for Muller now after 75 minutes.

England are back in it. Clyne was partially at fault for Germany's second fault but certainly made up for a wonderful cross for Vardy to finish exquisitely. 127 cap for Poldoski, great striker. So many stars in this German team: Neuer, Ozil, Schurrle, Kroos, Gomez, Gotze, Can, Khedira, Boateng to name a few.

England have deserved their goals and are now playing with freedom. It’s not every day you see Germany thwart a 2 goal lead. Another change for Germany as Mario Gotze comes on for Mario Gomez after 79 mins. Vardy and Kane look like they must lead our attack. Selection issues for Roy Hodgson

Alli misses a sitter after 84 minutes. He should be firing that it. Vardy sets him up but it was truly unlucky. He has been magnificent all game but should have put England into the lead. 3 mins of extra time and a corner from Henderson with a bullet header from Eric Dier. Absolutely brilliant! England have been superb a joy to watch in the second half. It has been so encouraging to see England beat the best.

England won the game 3-2 but it’s important to remember that it was only a friendly.

Individual Player Performances:

Goalkeeper and Defence:

Butland - 6
Unlucky to be injured, although produced a fine display during the time he was on the pitch.

Clyne - 8
The acceleration and the conversion from defence to attack proved too much for the likes of Hector and Can to handle. Also supplied various crosses that troubled Neuer.

Smalling - 7
Like Cahill, controlled the game, yet also took part in counter attacks. Provided Hodgson also with an attacking option down the centre of the pitch given if Cahill stays behind.

Cahill - 7
Quietly controlled the defence, alongside Smalling to silence the Germany front 4. Crucial in keeping the defence compact and cool – headed.

Rose - 8
The acceleration and the conversion from defence to attack proved too much for the likes of Hector and Can to handle. Also supplied various crosses that troubled Neuer.

Midfield:

Henderson - 8.5
Henderson was showing his abilities in leading a team as a reflection of his work at Liverpool. Also possesses a good skill at crossing the ball

Dier - 7.5
Not particularly involved in the game but done well to get the game winning goal 

Alli - 8.5
Alli today was the highlight of the show. Excellent ball retention and a very cool head. Maybe should've scored though and won the game earlier on.

Attack:

Lallana - 6.5
Not particularly involved in the game. Showed brief flashes of potential.

Kane - 9
Consistently taunted the defence. Made creative runs and him and Welbeck can be a force of reason for England in the summer.

Welbeck - 9
Along with Kane, consistently taunted the German defence and his pace made it even harder. 

Substitutes:

Forster - 7
Not involved much during the game. Could have done better in conceding his first goal at the Olympiastadion but a reasonable performance for an unexpecting substitute.

Vardy - 9
Classy finish, which was a reflection of his own performance this season in the domestic league. Well worth selection ahead of Rooney.

Barkley - 6
Not involved particularly in the game, although his runs behind the defence opened space for the other England attackers to penetrate and make chances from.

Overall Analysis:

England carried there superb qualifying form into the game against Germany. It was a young England team full of energy and crucially quality. It looked like it was going to be another one of those nights for England when Toni Kroos fired in a fierce strike from 25 yards to make it 1-0 to Germany with Jack Butland having to go off injured. It was a sorrowing moment for the young keeper who was visibly upset. From that moment England lost their composure and lost their positivity in their play. Mario Gomez made it 2-0 to the Germans latching onto a ball into the box and taking advantage of some static English defending.

England were so unlucky to find themselves 2-0 down they were the better team so it was a well deserved goal when Harry Kane pulled one back for England. The momentum swung in England's favour with Germany all over the place at the back. The positive England play was rewarded when that man Jamie Vardy made it 2-2. Surly there couldn't be any more drama? Well there was in the 89th minute Eric Dier thumps in a powerful header past the bewildered Manuel Neuer boom! 3-2 England not to bad was it?

This was an England performance that can give England fans real hope going forward. This young team has something special about it. At the heart of it are 3 players from Spurs Dele Ali, Harry Kane and Eric Dier the whole England team seems to mirror the same energy those 3 players are part of every week at Tottenham. This England team has a real spirt. There has to be a real spirit to be able to come from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at the home of the world champions. The real tests will come at the Euro's where this team will need to perform at a tournament unlike previous England teams but this is a result England fans can savour.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Red Devils looking to make the Three Lions Squad

There are a number of Manchester United players that will be considered for selection in Euro 2016, ranging from more experienced veterans such as Rooney and Carrick to youngsters such as Lingard and Rashford who have an outside chance of making the squad.

Here is our guide to the individual squad members and their chances of making it into Hodgson's squad:

Wayne Rooney:

Rooney is England's all-time leading goalscorer and captain so is guaranteed a place in the squad for France unless injuries can prevent him from playing. Rooney has underperformed on occasions at major tournaments for England, so fans will be hoping to see more of the Rooney that lit up Euro 2004 and he will relish to opportunity to prove himself in this tournament.

Michael Carrick:

Carrick is a veteran midfielder who has nearly 300 appearances for Manchester United but has struggled to play regularly for England with only 34 caps since his 2001 debut. He is 34 years of age now but still has a lot to offer with his excellent passing ability and range, combined with his valuable experience and composure.

Chris Smalling:

Smalling has turned his Manchester United career around in the past year. His time at Old Trafford looked to be over after his sending off in the Manchester derby but since then he has grown into arguably England's best centre-back and surely will be a regular starter at the Euros after earning praise from people like United and England legend Rio Ferdinand this season.

Phil Jones:

Jones has struggled with injuries this season so has not made many appearances, and his form hasn't been up to his maximum capability but he is still likely to be called up to the squad considering his versatility due to being able to play in his favoured centre-back position but also right-back or defensive midfield if necessary.

Luke Shaw:

Shaw was in the form of his career before he suffered his serious injury against PSV. He now faces a race against time to be fit for the euros, but looks on course to be ready. If he is ready for the Euros he will be a welcome boost and will surely be first-choice in the left-back spot.

Marcus Rashford:

Rashford has recently burst onto the scene as he scored twice on his debut against Midtjylland and then did it again by scoring two brilliant goals against Arsenal. He has impressed again recently scoring the winner in his first Manchester derby but will face a tough task to be selected for the euros as he will compete with established names such as Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane and also Jamie Vardy after his amazing campaign he has had with Leicester.

Jesse Lingard:

Lingard is the final England hopeful but the odds will be against him as he has not yet made his England debut. Although he has sometimes been criticised, he offers pace and is a threat in the final third and would be a good asset to have in the England squad, even simply as a squad player.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Manchester City vs Manchester United

Pre-Match Analysis:

Our first ever article was on the Manchester derby, back in October. Now today’s Manchester Derby will be our 40th article! We would like to thank everyone who has been a part of making the blog a success, past and present writers and also guest writers. If you would like to write for us, email us at theuniteddevilsmufc@outlook.com . You can also follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page- just type in ‘The United Devils’.

The Manchester rivalry is on a global scale that few rivalries can compare to. In the past few years, with the dominance and success of the sky blue of Manchester, United against Man City has always proved to be a spectacular fixture. Both Manchester teams have underperformed in the league this season- with Man City chasing the Premier League title but they are currently in 4th place with 51 points are 29 games- 12 points off leaders Leicester City. On the other hand, United’s season will be deemed satisfactory if we can achieve a top-four finish but we are in 6th place after 29 games with 47 points. The team’s face each other at the Etihad stadium and a win today is crucial for both team’s respective campaigns- anything less than 3 points for the two Manchester clubs will simply not be good enough.

To start with, United bowed out of the Europa League this week after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on Thursday night but lost overall 3-1 on aggregate. The game highlighted distinct weaknesses within our team and certainly put the pressure back onto Louis Van Gaal and his army. To make matters worse, the media have been relentless with their speculation of whether LVG will last another season or if either Ryan Giggs or Jose Mourinho will replace LVG at the end of the season. Phil McNulty described United as ‘lacking direction under LVG’ and this has to be taken into consideration. Under LVG, there has been no clear style of play and so far the LVG era has failed to stamp any authority on this underachieving and underperforming United. The Europa League was our best and most realistic chance of playing Champions League football next season. Now that we are out, all attention must be focused on finishing as high as possible in the league.

Our season has not been all doom and gloom. The incredible injury list that has plagued and disrupted our team cannot be blamed on LVG. Moreover, under him, we have seen the emergence of our youth such as Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard to name a few. We are in sixth place in a season which has been thoroughly competitive but that is no excuse for not being higher in the table.

In our last Premier League game we lost to West Brom 1-0. We had numerous chances to get back into the game but failed to convert any of our chances into goals. Against Man City, we need to be ruthless and start the game brightly by attacking and pressing them high. On a better note, we have been getting players back from injury such as Fellaini, Valencia and Schweinsteiger. Our captain, Wayne Rooney, has also given us some positive news that he’ll be fit to play in several weeks’ time.

The first fixture against Man City finished 0-0 back in October. It was a cagey affair but both teams will be more determined to win all 3 points as the stakes are higher in the ‘crunch time part of the season’. LVG will look to field his strongest side possible which is likely to consist of: Defence- De Gea, Varela, Smalling, Blind and Rojo. In Midfield- Carrick, Mata, Lingard and Depay. Upfront- Martial and Rashford. As a formation, a 4-1-3-1-1 could be used with Martial most likely playing behind Rashford. Our team has an abundance of pace and will cause City some threats.

Man City cannot be overlooked as their squad is full of talent. Their midfield consists of Yaya Toure, Silva, Fernando, Fernandinho, Navas and Sterling. In attack they can play either Aguero, Bony or Iheanacho- all of whom can score plenty of goals. Their starting team will be hard to break down but there is enough quality within the United side to do so. Pellegrini has been under some pressure since Man City has slipped up in recent weeks. On the other hand, City will be without two of their best players, captain Vincent Kompany and attacking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne. Without Kompany, City are far less solid defensively so the united attack will need to exploit their weaknesses. Score predictions? Make sure you tweet us your score predictions for the game today. We think that it will be a 2-2 draw but hopefully United can get a victory and a much needed 3 points! #GGMU

Line-Up Analysis:

In goal we have our main man, David De Gea - lets hope he can get a clean sheet today. In front, Darmian replaces Varela who was appalling in the Liverpool match. Also, Smalling will be hoping to regain his form today as it was this fixture last season which was the turning point in his career after he was sent off. 

In midfield we have Carrick and Schneiderlin. I'm quite worried about Carrick due to his lack of pace and his slow poor passing in the last game. It's good to see Schneiderlin back in the starting 11 - finally Fellaini is out. Juan Mata is playing in his favourite position, CAM. Lets hope he can produce some magic today. 

Our attack is looking a bit shaky with Lingard, Martial and Rashford. Is it time for Rashford to be dropped? Hopefully he will prove me wrong. Once again, Memphis is left on the bench. What does he need to do to get a start?!

First Half Analysis:

The first 45 minutes of the Manchester derby was a tense and close fought affair. In the early stages of the game, Man City were on top as they pressed hard and made the United defence work. In particular, Sterling and Aguero were on the ball creating chances.

Aguero and Yaya Toure tested De Gea several times which led to our wonderful keeper making some excellent saves. Smalling showed his defensive and leadership abilities at the back, keeping the defence tight and organised but was booked after 10 minutes for a foul on Aguero.

United score a brilliant goal after 16 minutes from our-man-of-the-moment, 18 year-old Marcus Rashford. Mata played a delightful through ball into Rashford, who then turned Demichelis who simply had an awful 45 minutes and put the ball past Joe Hart at the far corner. The United corner in the Etihad stadium erupted with joy and LVG’s decision to start Rashford looked to had paid dividends. LVG had received some criticism before the game from Liverpool pundit Jamie Carragher for starting Rashford yet again, but the boy from our academy proved that age is nothing but a number.

Man City continued to press hard and respond to the United goal which left the stadium silent but were dealt with another blow after 26 minutes when winger Raheem Sterling was forced off the pitch due to an injury. He was replaced with defensively-minded midfielder Fernando.

United were determined to see out the half on top and were unfortunate not to receive a penalty after Rashford went past Demichelis in the box who then clipped Rashford’s thigh. The Man City defender appeared to be angry with the youngster for appearing to dive but it was clear that Demichelis made contact with Rashford but more importantly made no contact with the ball.

The first half finished with United leading at the break, 1-0, courtesy of a Marcus Rashford goal- his fifth in all competitions.

Second Half Analysis:

The second half got off to a better start than most of our second halves have in previous games although it didn’t start as well as the first half. We kept possession well and were able to put pressure on the Man City backline effectively. The City boss panicked and threw another attacking force by the name of Wilfred Bony furthermore weakening the already shaky City defence after the losses of Kompany and Demichelis.

The attacking duo of Martial and Rashford managed to cause many issues for the weakened defence and although the statistics would shows that Manchester City had the most shots with 22 it was clear that they were not able to capitalise on their efforts on goal. It seemed as if the Manchester City firepower was lacking the spark that they have shown in previous matches to kill off rivals and this was spotted by Manchester United who exploited this flaw and ultimately led to City’s demise.


Individual Player Performances:

Goalkeeper and Defence:

David De Gea - 6
Wouldn't have lost his place in the starting eleven after his mistake against Liverpool, didn't have to do too much today and enjoyed a quite game.

Darmian - 6.5
A good find because of his versatility to play either left back to right back shown today when Rojo was subbed off. Unfortunately limped off towards the end hopefully it isn't anything serious.

Smalling - 7
Chosen as the man of the match and rightly so. Kept Aguero quiet today and made sure he didn't have any space. Picked up a booking early on and played sensibly.

Blind - 6
He was solid defensively and made limited mistakes. Hopefully he can carry this sort of form until the end of the season.

Rojo - 7
Was very good defensively and played well when he linked up with Martial well and also provided some great crosses into the box.

Midfield:

Carrick - 5
Looked shaky and not like his former self. Looked as if he could give the ball away at any moment from a little bit of pressure from the city players.

Schneiderlin - 7
He's is to us what Cazorla is to Arsenal. He is the clog that makes everything tick. Made some important tackles and important balls going forward.

Mata - 5.5
Obviously doesn't excel when he plays on the right and that was shown today. However initially good run from him and then a pass to Marcus Rashford created the only goal of the match.

Attack:

Martial - 7
Another great game from him. One of the few players that actually run at defenders. Very skilful and effective.

Lingard - 6.5
Only player in my opinion to play with passion. He's been given Mata's original role and freedom and he is utilising it well.
Rashford - 7.5
He's learning from martial and attacking at the defenders. Very unlucky to not have a penalty go his way. He embarrassed Demichiles with his speed and agility and a great finish to put the ball passed Hart.

Overall Analysis:

The pressure was on following the Europa League exit on Thursday as the final chance to get Champions League football for next season was this game. Defeat would have opened up a 7 point gap between United and City would have seemingly ended the Old Trafford clubs top 4 chances.

It was a strange game at the Ethiad with a strange atmosphere. It didn't feel like a derby game with the City fans silent for most of the game. The atmosphere played into United's hands with Louis van Gaal deploying a counter attacking system utilising the pace of Lingard, Rashford and Martial. In the opening exchanges it was United who had the better chances with the pace in the forward positions causing City all kinds of problems. United capitalised on their positive play with Marcus Rashford sprinting past Martin Demechelis at ease leaving the City defender flat on the floor and coolly slotting past Joe Hart.

For the remainder of the game United really had to dig in and it superbly with an outstanding defensive performance especially from Chris Smalling and Daley Blind who kept Sergio Aguero quiet for most of the game. Morgan Schneiderlin proved to be an excellent shield in front of the back 4 once again proving he should be a guaranteed starter in the United team. It was a game in which United were always going to have to sacrifice the possession to win this game. Louis van Gaal has a habit of winning the big games and regardless of their opinions on the Dutchman United fans will be delighted that it continued.

It was a must win game for United to remain in the race for the top 4. This is the kind of result that can spur a team into a late charge. This result gives United momentum to make a charge to finish above City in the top 4 and with City crumbling and not offering up anything special since the news about Pep Guardiola. Could it be that the mighty Pep Guardiola finds himself in the Europa League next season thanks to a late United charge to the top 4.


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Manchester United vs Liverpool

Pre-Match Analysis:

It's that time of the week again, United are in action in the Europa league for what is a make or break game for United’s season. United MUST win. Anything other than that puts United’s season to bed for another year as another season to forget about. United have been woeful in recent games, and they must improve massively to claim a spot in the Champions League for next season.

United vs Liverpool is the biggest game in world football, and no matter how far these clubs have slipped recently, it's still a huge game. There is such a fierce rivalry between these two clubs, that it doesn't matter what competition it is, both teams crave a win. This game is a big night for both clubs, the Europa League seems to be a genuine chance at silverware for The team from merseyside, whereas United’s hopes of Champions League football seem poised on what happens in this match.

Simply put, United need to go through. It may not be easy, but they have to put everything on the line for this win. If United concede, I think it's game over. If Liverpool manage to get themselves a goal, that leaves United needing 4 goals, something that seems almost impossible with the football we play. The Reds really need to ensure that they don't concede, as that will more than likely spell the end to Europa League glory, and Champions League football. United have already shown this season that we are capable of putting goals past Liverpool, as we proved during the first game against them early in the season. However even then we took our foot off the pedal and conceded a goal that probably could have been prevented with tighter marking.

For Liverpool, they will be very confident of coming away with a win. So for them the biggest issue may well be guarding against complacency. Liverpool come into this on a decent run of form, including a late win against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, and of course the win against ourselves last week.

So what do United need to do? Firstly, we need a defined style of play. We looked all over the place, and had no real sense of direction. We had Fellaini on the pitch, hinting at a more direct style, yet we had him picking up the ball from the defence and trying to drive from deep. A recipe for disaster. So that's what I'd say the priority is, go into the game with a defined style. If we are going to go direct and lump it to Fellaini, stick to that. If we are going to play possession football and break them down, stick to that. Just please don't have an awful mixture where we are having players trying to play a style which purely doesn't suit them.

Prediction time, and I'm afraid it's a dull one again. I don't see United coming out of this fixture with our Europe League hopes still in tact. I think Liverpool are in the drivers seat, and we've all seen how this team is under pressure, it's painful to watch. I'm going with a 2-1 Liverpool win on the night, 4-1 on aggregate. I know that's not what you will be wanting to hear, but it's a harsh reality. We don't seem good enough at the moment.

However, as always I'm hoping for us to pull one out of the bag and come out with a 6-0 win! In the words of Paul Scholes, “SMASH ‘EM!”

Come on United!!!

Line-Up Analysis:

United play Liverpool tonight in an enticing counter. United lost 2-0 in the first leg and this has put them at a great disadvantage. However if they can grab the 1st goal tonight they may stand a chance. In goal remains De Gea who was saved Utd countless times in the previous leg. In defence we have Varela, Smalling, Rojo and Blind. It's a stable defence, not the best but it may just do the job, nonetheless I do have serious doubts. In midfield Utd have Carrick, Mata, Lingard, Martial and Fellaini. Again I'm not sure whether the right formation has been picked to suit this midfield. Personally I would of switched Lingard and Mata around just to get more pace on the wing. Martial is expected to play well today and he will be the focal point of Utd's attack. Rashford fills the striker position and I don't think he should be starting really if was to be harsh with my judgement.



First Half Analysis:

Manchester United took on Liverpool in the Europa League round of 16. They needed to overturn to a 2-0 deficit to go through. United started the game well playing fast football and also creating a few chances. Our best two chances came in the opening 25 minutes with Lingard having a free header in the six yard box but Simon Mignolet made a great save.

The other good chance we had was when Juan Mata volleyed from a corner but he volleyed wide from about ten yards out. Liverpool were struggling to hold possession, United were dominating the game but could not find the opening goal. Then Liverpool created a great chance for Coutinho but David De Gea made an excellent save.

Anthony Martial then won a penalty with fifteen minutes to go in the first half, Martial stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. United lead 1-0, a key goal in the first half. United carried on their dominance after the goal kept the possession well and looked like they were going to score a second goal. However a minute before half time Coutinho took on Varela and chipped De Gea which made it 1-1 at half time.
 

Second Half Analysis:

Manchester United had been offered some hope in the first-half with Anthony Martial's well-converted penalty, but it was short-lived after Philippe Coutinho's equaliser left United needing to score another three without conceding in order to progress.

United subbed on Antonio Valencia after a poor first-half display in which he was shaken off far too easily for Coutinho's goals, with Valencia making his return after many months out.

Both teams had their fair share of chances in the second-half but neither were clinical with Fellaini wasting a headed opportunity and also picked up a yellow card after an altercation with Dejan Lovren.

Perhaps the highlight of the second-half was a brilliant move in which Jesse Lingard and Anothony Martial combined brilliantly with their pace and skill to create an opportunity but the final shot wasn't enough to trouble Mignolet.

David de Gea once again had an outstanding game as he denied Liverpool players time and time again, and the aggregate scoreline would have been embarrassing if it hadn't been for the Spaniard.

Overall the second-half was a disappointment and united fans are left feeling disheartened about the chances of winning a trophy this season, and making the Champions League next season.


Individual Player Performances:

Goalkeeper and Defence:

David De Gea - 8
Once again the star man making a string of great saves. Could be argued that he should've stopped Coutinho's goal but he still played well.

Varela - 4.5
Very poor, had to be covered by Smalling at various times and also went down too easily.

Smalling - 6
Solid and did his job. Seemed to work really hard today.

Blind - 6
Good defending and good passing range once again.

Rojo - 7
Played superbly down the left had side and was solid defensively 

Midfield:

Carrick - 5
Neat and tidy most of the time, but made some big mistakes and didn't make that many forward passes.

Fellaini - 5
Didn't deserve to be on the pitch today and had another poor performance. But I'm sure that LVG will still somehow find a way to compliment him.

Mata - 5.5
Not bad but not great. Expect a lot more from him in these big games.

Attack:

Lingard - 6
Played well today but didn't take any shots when he was in great positions.

Rashford - 6.5
Great bursts but not consistent. Needs to be dropped and replaced as he shouldn't be first choice. Last couple of performance justify why.

Martial - 8
Best player on the pitch by a country mile and one of the only players that deserved to wear the shirt. 

Overall Analysis:

Manchester United have drawn 1-1 with Liverpool at Old Trafford in the Europa League with Liverpool going through 3-1 on aggregate. Overall in the two legs Liverpool deserved to go through, however the performance from United tonight was better and did have chances to score more goals but we couldn’t put the chances away.

We started the game fast and looked like we could win this game and go through to the next round it looked very possible when Anthony Martial scored a penalty in the first half, but the tie was put to bed when Coutinho scored one minute before half time, chipping David De Gea. This required for us to score three goals in the second half.

We started the second half well but we weren’t creating chances like we were in the first half. Our substitutions did not make any sense either not bringing on our most attacking threat on from the bench (Memphis). Towards the end of the game David De Gea made some more excellent saves, like he has done all season. The game ended 1-1 which was probably a fair result over the 90 minutes. United are now out of the Europa League and now must concentrate on the Premier League and FA Cup.