Tuesday, 26 September 2017

CSKA Moscow vs Manchester United preview

      Manchester United take on CSKA Moscow on a cold evening in Moscow. This is the second round of the group stages of the Champions League and our first away game in Europe. The match, as mentioned before, is in Moscow with fond memories attached to it we will look to extend our great start to the season and place one foot in the knockout stages.
      We pick up from our comfortable 3-0 win over Basel with goals coming for Lukaku, Fellaini and Rashford. CSKA will be a far tougher game owing to the conditions in Russia. The controversy was set as soon as the draws for the group stages were announced. Manchester United will be in Moscow on the same day as the Liverpool team who also happen to play a Moscow based team. There is going to be a burgeoning in the security and a set of rules have been drawn out for the players and fans alike.
      Moscow are second in our group only to us, by virtue of goal difference after they beat Benfica. A win tomorrow will give us a three point lead in the group, regardless of what happens in the game between Basel and Benfica. This will ease the pressure when we travel to Portugal in the midst of a busy October schedule. Right now, we are in the flow and after the game against Moscow, we play lowly Crystal Palace who are yet to score a goal in the Premier League this season.

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      The starting 11 is going to be tough to predict after what we have seen so far. But hey! Give or take one player, I have predicted rather efficiently. So let's get straight to it.

Goalkeeper: Without a doubt, this position goes to David De Gea. Last time I was a little skeptical if Jose would have gone with Romero but clearly he has set the Argentine for the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup maybe.So my goalkeeper for tomorrow is Big Dave.
Defenders: I'm going to change every player who played against Southampton because our defence in the league is very impressive and it is important to keep them fresh. I shall go for Darmian and Blind on the right and left flank respectively. Both are decent fringe players and will get the job done when called upon. I am going for the centre back pairing that started against Basel - Smalling, Lindelof. Lindelof looked shaky but that is how he is going to improve.
Midfielders: Here is the tricky bit. We know for certain that Carrick, Pogba and Fellaini haven't traveled with the squad. So in the midfield pivot I'm going for Matic and Herrera. I really wanted to rest Matic for this game but we don't have any other reliable option in midfield. I would like to see Mkhiaryan playing right in front of the pivot and deliver some defence splitting balls into the final third.
Forwards: Up front, I think Jose will go for Mata and Martial on either side of Lukaku. Martial can make his devastating runs on the left flank while Mata can deliver some killer aerial balls for Lukaku who is known for out-muscling defenders.

So my team is: De Gea; Darmain, Smalling, Lindelof, Blind; Matic, Herrera; Mata, Mkhitaryan, Martial; Lukaku

      About Moscow, they haven't had a great run and are without a win in two games. They are fourth in the Russian League and have only 20points from 11 games. This should not be a tough game for us, though the last time we visited them, we could not get a win. However, this time we have a great chance and I will be thoroughly disappointed if we don't get a win. Though we may not fire 4-5 goals past them, it should be an edgy 2-0 win for us. Come on you Reds!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Southampton vs Manchester United post match

      Manchester United have beaten Southampton Football Club at the St. Mary stadium in a rather tight match at the south coast of England. It was a tough and hard fought win to go second on the table behind City who won their game 5-0 against Crystal Palace. Chelsea are also maintaining pressure on the Manchester clubs with a tremendous 4-0 away to Stoke City.

      The game started with on a mediocre note but we had the better chances throughout the first half. We took the lead in the twentieth minute when Lukaku converted his own rebound off Forster. It was a brilliant cross whipped in by Ashley Young who is looking like a good fit at left back. We did threaten after the goal but it wasn't enough to double our advantage. Southampton had a couple of shots on goal but nothing to bother David De Gea.

      In the second half, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly had to put in an extra shift to keep Southampton's incessant attacks at bay. It looked exactly reminiscent to what happened against Everton and Swansea but this time, we sat back for the entire game. When the token Martial for Rashford substitution was expected, Jose subbed in Smalling much to the surprise of the fans and Pellegrino alike. That was the movement that set the tone for rest of the game. It was a typical Mourinho move to defend the slim lead and the boys at the back did it splendidly. It did give a few nervy moments which included Fellaini clearing the ball off the line.

      Today, let us talk about the team as a whole. Because unlike the previous games where all the plaudits were shared by the frontline and Matic, this time all the players worked hard for the result. Today it looked like a proper team effort as opposed to Lukaku, Martial and Rashford banging in goal up front.
      De Gea turned up every time he was called upon and and made three vital saves. He kept a clean sheet which showed that he did his job to the tee. Well, nothing lesser was expected of one of the best goalkeepers in the world. It is an absolute shame that he didn't make the FIFA three man shortlist. Bailly and Jones were nothing short of splendid and put in world class performances throughout the game. They were called upon multiple times during the death. Our fullbacks were a let down as compared to the rest of the team. It does feel a bit unfair because Young played the cross for the winning goal but they did allow Tadic and Redmond to cut in a lot.

      About our midfield, it feels redundant praising Matic and Fellaini every week but what a game those two played. They never let our defence be isolated and were involved in winning the ball back every time Southampton pushed up front. As mentioned before, Fellaini also cleared a ball off the line in the second half. Our attacking midfielders for today were Mata, Mkhitaryan and Rashford. They, along with Lukaku did their job well by getting a goal but today was more about the defence than the attack. So that would make my man of the match Phil Jones for his brilliant resilience.

      When the final whistle was blown before my heavy sighs of relief, a few doubts did come to mind. Even when Southampton were hogging possession, we did break a couple of times and with the adjustment of a few details, we could have scored. But why did Jose show Southampton respect and sit back. In my opinion, there was no need to bring on Smalling. We could have brought Martial on and finished the game off.

      Yes I do know that we can not play mint football every week and get 4-0 results. The league is long and sometimes we do need to churn out a result. But this time it looked like Jose was taking this risk on purpose and that was unsettling. What if Romeu's shot across goal had gone in? It was probably to test the mentality of the players as we have a tough October coming up. Either way, it was sad to see us sitting back while City were scoring 5 past Palace. Anyway, that is all for this time. Our next game in the league is against Palace while City host Chelsea. So that is a consolation right there. Onto Palace!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Southampton vs Manchester United Match Preview

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Manchester United face Southampton this Saturday at 3pm as they hope to retain the top spot in the Premier League. Last weekend's 4-0 win against Everton and Man City's 6-0 win away to Watford means that both Manchester teams share the top spot with an identical record. If the Premier League were to end like this, there would need to be one more Manchester Derby to determine who lifts the 2017/18 Premier League trophy. For this game, a win still wouldn't be enough to secure the top spot for United, but we would need to win by a bigger margin than Man City against Crystal Palace. There is no doubt we have the harder fixture, but hopefully we can stay at the top as we have done since the first game of the season!

On Wednesday night, Manchester Untied were victorious against Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup. A 4-1 victory was enough to send us through to the Round of 16 (4th round) where we will face Swansea City away from home on the 24th of October at 7:45 pm. Wednesday's fixture means that we have had only 2 days to prepare for this game, whilst the hosts will be fresh after having a week to recover. Southampton were knocked out of the Cup in the Second round when they lost 2-0 to Wolves at home. However, in terms of morale, they look to have had a boost after their victory over Palace but they have still been a little goal shy at home for quite a while. 

In terms of team news, as expected, Paul Pogba looks like he will still be out for some time trying to recover from a hamstring injury. Luke Shaw will be hoping to make an appearance against his former club after his brief appearance against Burton as a substitute. Also, De Gea, Valencia, Bailly and Matic are likely to start after being rested for Wednesday's game. What could be a big blow for United is that Virgil van Dijk looks set to make his first start for the Saints in 8 months after a serious foot injury and the big transfer saga this summer. 

One statistic which is very interesting is that Romelu Lukaku has scored more Premier League goals this season (5) than Southampton (4), despite taking 47 fewer shots. Saints boss, Mauricio Pellegrino has described Manchester United as "the biggest in the world" and is insisting on taking this opportunity and enjoying the game. Southampton have lost 24 times in the Premier League against Manchester United; four more defeats than they have suffered against any other team. 

Lets hope that we can continue our exceptional form this season with a win at Southampton, and most importantly, retain the top spot in the league because after all, we are the biggest club in the world!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Manchester United vs Burton Albion Match Analysis

It is the big four once again! Manchester United have managed to score 4 goals for the fourth time this season. Unfortunately, this time we were unable to keep a clean sheet and thus conceded our first goal at Old Trafford.

Marcus Rashford got Manchester United off to the perfect start by scoring in the 5th minute of the game. A great little touch by Lingard was pounced upon by the striker who tucked away the first goal of the night with a sublime finish. 

Looking sharp having taken up the centre forward position, Marcus Rashford was there again on the 17th minute to double the lead. This time from a 20 yard screamer which deflected off the inside of the post before going in.

Our third goal was scored by another academy product, Jesse Lingard. Following some great work by Martial, Lingard's deflected shot found the back of the net. 

At half time, Juan Mata was replaced by Luke Shaw and Manchester United changed their formation to a 3-4-3. The left back who is desperate to prove his worth to Jose Mourinho finally got his chance after recently returning from injury. His return was almost marked with a goal when he had the ball in the back of the net, but the offside flag was (wrongly) raised. 

Our next chance came to the Frenchman who was on fire throughout the whole game. After demonstrating some outstanding footwork, Martial's shot was very well saved by Ripley. However, Martial's persistence proved too much for Burton to handle as he had the ball in the back of the next moments later. Some good link up play between Martial and Rashford allowed Martial to finally get his name on the score-sheet.

One change which seemed to be very popular amongst the Old Trafford crowd was Joel Pereira coming on for Sergio Romero. Jose Mourinho has always praised the Portuguese goalkeeper and shown faith in him and today was his chance to make another appearance in front of the fans. Just after the crowd finished singing his name, Pereira made a huge error in the box, leading to a scramble in the box which ended in Dyer netting a late consolation goal for Burton. This was not the sort of impact Pereira was hoping to make.

The two stand-out performers today were Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. There is no doubt that these two youngsters are the future of Manchester United and will lead the club to great successes. This season, it has been the case where whichever one of these two players started, the other would come on as a substitute and bag himself a goal. As unusual as this sounds, this was the case. However, today they both played together and managed to grab three goals between them and the combination play between them looked sharp and effective. One thing is for certain, Jose has a very tough job in deciding who starts every game as Rashford, Martial, Mkhitaryan, Lingard, Mata and Lukaku have all been exceptional, not the mention the potential return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic soon.

Overall, it is a good result for us. Despite the unconvincing last 10 seconds of the game, Manchester United performed well and it was a chance for many players who have sat out the last few games to showcase their talent. It was great to see Manchester United striving to keep scoring despite already holding the lead. This is something we have missed in the last few seasons, but the attacking flair of the old Manchester United looks to be coming back into fashion. 

Our next game is on Saturday where we will face Southampton away at St Mary's Stadium. This will be a tough game but we have showed that we are capable of terrorising any team and can certainly come away with the all-important three points. Let's hope we can keep our great start to the season going! Come on UNITED!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Manchester United vs Burton Albion preview

      So the defence of our English League Cup begins tomorrow as we welcome Burton Albion to Old Trafford. After two convincing home wins against Basel and Everton, scoring 7 goals in the two games, this game can be seen as a welcome relief for the players. This will be one of the easiest games we play this season and owing to the fact that it is a home game, it should be a breeze.
      How far can we go in the Carabao Cup, as they refer to it now(why do they keep changing the name?!). We are the champions and no matter how much rivals demean us, they know that at the end of the day, it's the trophies that count. Finishing anywhere but first for the top 6 teams is pointless and to go down in history, you need to be lifting the trophies.
      As the reigning champions, it is our moral obligation that we defend the English League Cup and why not. However, this should be far from our top priority. We have spent all this money on all these stars to challenge for trophies like the Premier League and the Champions League. But after the rather unwarranted criticism we received for not defending the FA Cup in 2000, the club will look to put in a decent effort. However, I feel that the value of a trophy or a competition is directly proportional to the amount of effort put in by the top clubs. Last season all four semi finalists were Premier League clubs and one of them was Liverpool. Manchester United Football Club is the most successful club in England and sides from the lower tier would absolutely pounce on the opportunity of playing a top team.

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      Well, we can't be too confident considering we lost 4-0 to MK Dons not long ago. But hey! That was a different team and Mourinho would never accept a loss like that. This game can be seen as an opportunity for the squad players to rise up and make a point as to why they should be starting the Premier League games as well. Our squad for this season has some fantastic depth and these are the games where we can properly exploit that. So here is my predicted 11 for the game tomorrow:

Goalkeeper: I am more than certain that Romero will start in goal. David De Gea has played all the games this season and it would be unwise to bother him for a fixture of such little asking. Romero is a rock at the back as well and deserves a start tomorrow.
Defenders: I am going for a completely revamped defence from the backline that beat Everton. Right back position should be given to Darmian. The guy has quietly put his head down and played left back for the team and now is his time. Centre backs are the same as the ones that started against Basel. Lindelof and Smalling take their place in the heart of the defence again. Lindelof was shaky against Basel and hopefully this should give him more confidence. Left back is a tough decision as it could go to any one of Blind, Shaw or Mitchell. I personally hope that Shaw starts as he has more talent than Blind and is higher than Mitchell in the pecking order.
Midfielders: This game has to be played on the front foot and hence I am going for a three man midfield of Carrick, McTominay and Herrera. Carrick is the quintessential part of this midfield and McTominay, his understudy. Herrera is the proper warrior who isn't scared of venturing higher and helping out with those key passes. It is a shame that Andreas Pereira is on loan as this would have been the perfect game to start him. He is however playing well for Valencia and grabbed an assist last weekend.
Forwards: I would love to see Wilson and Gomes feature but they played a game on Monday and knowing Mourinho, he is most likely going to start Lingard, Rashford and Martial. Martial and Rashford have been rotated the most so far this season and there should be no issue of fatigue.
      So there's my predicted 11. I am giving Matic, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan and Lukaku some well deserved rest. I would love to see Mitchell, Tuanzebe and Gomes come on as substitutes at some point.

Romero; Darmian, Lindelof, Smalling, Shaw; Carrick, McTominay, Herrera; Lingard, Rashford, Martial.

      So that's about it. I'd love to speak about Burton but I don't know much about them. All I do know is that we have faced them twice, winning on one occasion and drawing on the other. So that's it for this time. We should win this without much effort and so I am going for a comfortable 5-0 win. Come on you Reds!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Manchester United vs Everton post match

Wow! Now that game turned itself on its head! Manchester United beat Everton 4-0 at Old Trafford on a day that United's top scorer and Everton's top scorer swapped sides in a must win match for both teams. Everton lost their last three games and that too, in a humiliating manner whereas Manchester United have won all but one game this season.

United drew first blood when Valencia scored an absolute screamer after connecting to Nemanja Matic's cross. It was a volley taken first time on the edge of the box that was blasted on to the far post. After the goal, United took their foot off the gas for a while and Lukaku missed a great chance after half an hour.

If not for David De Gea, we would have conceded multiple times during the game. He saved close range shots from Rooney and Sigurdsson to stake his claim as the world's best goalkeeper. The second half just proved to be more frustrating for us as Mata hit the post from a free kick, Mkhitaryan and Rashford over-dribbled and Lukaku just looked nonchalant for 90 mins. The game turned when Fellaini capitalised on a defensive error and played it to Lukaku who assisted Mkhitaryan's goal. After this, Everton collapsed while Lukaku scored the third and Martial came off the bench to score from the penalty spot.

Yes, the scoreline was 4-0 but let it in no way suggest that it was an easy win for us. The warning bells were strongly prevalent until we got the second goal. However, this is what sets us aside from other teams. Without our best player, we still managed to score 4 and go back on top of the table. All the players put in a shift but in particular, I feel Nemanja Matic deserves praise. Before the match when Ian Wright was asked about Pogba's injury, he said that he'd rather have Pogba injured than Matic. Today I see why he said that and he is, without a doubt, my man of the match.

Manchester United were sharp on the attack and athough the same degree of creativity wasn't there, it was enough to dismantle Everton. However, the defence remained sturdy because of Matic's presence. He was in the thick of things and was involved in winning the ball back every time it entered our half. Along with Fellaini, our midfield was as smooth as it could get. This boils down to squad depth and Mourinho is to thank! He has made the midfield pivot a very important part of our game and the talent we have in that area is immense.

I just wanted to state a concern about Lukaku. There is just this aspect of his game that is rather frustrating. He doesn't take much of an effort to win the ball a little deeper and make a dash towards the goal. Instead, he is heavily reliant on his playmakers, Mata, Mkhitaryan and Pogba to create chances for him. He has been compared to what Van Persie was for us. So far in the season, that has been far from the truth. Van Persie scored the important goals for us, the ones without which we wouldn't have won the game. So far, Lukaku has only contributed in the 4 goal wins. I was counting on him in the Stoke game but he went and missed a sitter. Don't get me wrong, I still back the guy to achieve greatness at United but he needs to up his game and score the important goals. Quality matters first, not quantity.

So that leaves us joint first with City on the table and we still haven't faltered after the international break! We have a tough run of games in October, facing Liverpool(away), Benfica(away), Huddersfield(away), Spurs(home) and Benfica(home). September is the best time to gain some momentum in the Premier League as well as the Champions League. The next game is against Burton on Wednesday night. This is a brilliant time to give the fringe players a chance. Maybe throw in the likes of Shaw, Tuanzebe, Romero, Lindelof and McTominay in there and let them fight for their place in the starting 11.

So that's it for this time! Let me know what you think and here's hoping for another United win in the next game! Onto Burton...

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Manchester United vs Basel post match analysis

After a comparatively shaky away performance at Stoke City, it was time for the Red Devils to embrace Champions League action. After two years of absence from the biggest stage of European football, UCL night at Old Trafford was indeed a different kind of homecoming and it was pretty much everything United fans could have hoped for. The two Belgian internationals, Marouane Fellaini and Romelo Lukaku scored to ensure a victory followed by a Marcus Rashford goal to end the game on a high note for the Red Devils.

However, the game was not as easy as it looks on the scoreline. Basel looked threatening at times but was stopped from causing severe damage by You Know Who (David De Gea) and the team's captain for the night (Paul Pogba) faced an early injury. Mkhitaryan missing a couple of good chances had the fans doubt if the homecoming was going to be grand after all.

Marouane Fellaini, coming on as a substitute for Paul Pogba, headed the first goal in for Manchester United from a rather brilliant cross from Ashley Young. The Belgian is certainly showing the world why the Gaffer puts so much trust in him. The goal clocked at 35' saw United ending the first half on a high.

Romelu Lukaku headed the ball in for Manchester United at 53' from a brilliant cross on the left wing by Daley Blind by managing to create space for himself in between two defenders who were clearly marking him for damage control. As games go by, Lukaku is most certainly showing hat he is not the mere one dimensional forward people think he is. He is making delightful runs, linking up well with Mkhitaryan and creating space for himself.

Last but not the least, Marcus Rashford has scored yet again on another debut and killed the game off. The 19 year old stroked the ball into the back of net whilst the Basel defenders could only watch on in despair. The best of the golden boy is hopefully yet to come.

It was good to see Ashley Young perform on an European night since the team has fullback concerns as of now. Lindelof was decent as well in defending terms. For Matic and Lukaku, it was just another day in the office. Mkhitaryan and Martial looked good but the pair have a few things to resolve on their own.

Paul Pogba's injury could affect the team on the long run and he is certainly missing out the Everton game. The Frenchman has been instrumental this season and has caused all sorts of havoc for the opposition. Let's hope he joins the training soon enough and put an end to our worries. Paul Pogba is not an easy replacement for any team in the world.

It was a bittersweet homecoming but let's celebrate the win and the sweetness of it all for the time being because the lads will be facing Wayne Rooney in the next game.  

Monday, 11 September 2017

Manchester United vs FC Basel preview

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      After a long wait, the Champions League music will finally be echoing in Old Trafford! Let's be honest, UCL nights without the most successful team in England is always incomplete. Manchester United take on FC Basel in a group A fixture tomorrow night. After the disappointing loss draw away to Stoke City, it'll be some respite to get a win in Europe.
      We're drawn in a relatively easier group with Benfica, CSKA and of course, Basel. However, let this not cloud the fact that the last time we were in a group with Basel and Benfica, we were sent packing to the Europa league. Also, the last time we played CSKA, we scrapped a draw and a win. All the teams in the Champions League are there for a reason and no team in the most elite club competition should be considered a pushover.
      Mourinho though, is an expert at winning trophies and especially in knockout tournaments. He won the Champions League with Porto and Inter and won us two knockout competitions last season - the League Cup and the Europa League. After the disappointing losses away to Feyenoord and Fenerbache, we really upped our game and took the Europa league head on. Yes, we seemed to get  the easier tie every time but we were brilliantly poised and well organized throughout. The way we shut Ajax out completely and took our chances, showed the signs of an efficient team. That night, Jose dared us to dream. And tomorrow, that dream begins.


      Let's head to the predicted lineups now! This lineup is my preferred 11 combined with what I think Jose will pick.
      Goalkeeper: I feel Romero will start in goal because Jose trusted the Argentinean with all Europa League games last season. A part of me feels that if he does well enough to get us here, he should start these games as well. And why not? Romero is a very talented keeper and the world's best second choice. Another part of me thinks that it will be very foolish to leave, arguably the world's best goalkeeper, on the bench for a Champions League game. Thus, I think that Jose will go for De Gea and let Romero play the FA Cup and League Cup games.
      Defenders: At right back, it's no doubt that captain Valencia will be starting. The man has started all games for us including the two games for Ecuador, in South America. He then flew back a day before, traveled to Stoke with the squad and played 90 mins there as well. Though he didn't play too well, he still gave it his all. At centre back, without a debate, it will be Smalling and Lindelof, owing to Bailly and Jones' suspension. Jose explicitly mentioned that these two would get a start against Basel so there's that. At left back, I really hope Shaw gets his chance, but it'll probably be Blind again, explaining why Darmian started on Saturday.
      Midfielders: For Jose's first Champions League game with United, he will want to makea an impression, which is why he will play a 4-2-3-1 with Matic and Pogba playing the roles of holding midfielders. Matic will play the deep lying central midfielder, releasing Pogba into all kinds of space. With Mata playing in the number 10 position right in front of the holding midfielders and Pogba complementing him, we should have enough fire power down the middle, in case the crosses don't work out.
      Forwards: While our lone striker is undoubtedly Lukaku, our inverted wingers can be more intelligently discussed. While, we've seen the left wing being shared in equal between Martial and Rashford, Mkhitaryan has cemented his place on the right flank. We need pace and creativity in Europa which makes Martial the better option at left wing. Rashford's selfish runs were annoying to watch against Stoke whereas, Martial kept looking for Lukaku. So for me, Martial has to be starting the games in the big competition to reassure him of Jose's trust.

So my lineup is : De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Mata, Martial; Lukaku.

      Now let's take a look at Basel's form. Basel are without a win in their last three games and lost their lastest game, 2-1 at home. They are currently third in the Swiss League with 11 points out of a possible 21. Though these stats may barely seem intimidating, the way I see it, Basel are pumped and will be up for the game. Beating a top team like Manchester United at Old Trafford will really get their fans going. But then again, their country's best player is Granit Xhaka, so we may be in for a stroll in the park also.

      So that's it for the preview! I am really looking forward to this game as we finally have a competent team to take to Europe. None of Louis Van Gaal's squad with the Nick Powell substitution or the "playing for draws away from home" rule this time. We're in it and we're in for the big prize! Let's do this! As for the score, I'm going 3-1 United. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Stoke City vs Manchester United post match

      Manchester United played out a 2-2 draw at the Bet365 stadium to tentatively remain on top of the Premier League table. This draw complied with the way things have been at Manchester United for a while now. Those "things" boil down to simple facts. The fact that we haven't won away at Stoke since Fergie's last season. The fact that the last time we won three consecutive games, we were shut down by Stoke City. That fact that Mark Hughes has the best reord against Jose Mourinho among all the Premier League managers.
      I'm not trying to make excuses. The draw was justified and neither team deserved to win it outright. Manchester United were weaker than Stoke today and they were slicing our defence with those forward runs. We on the other hand, had trouble breaking down their 3 at the back set up.
      Manchester United changed a few things from the previous game. Darmian came in to replace Blind at left back, Mata was left on the bench for Herrera and the customary Rashford, Martial switch. I have always been explicit in mentioning that Manchester United need a solid, competent left back if we are to go far this season. Darmian got turned inside out by Diouf and Shaqiri. He hasn't been a Man United quality player since day 1 and I will be thoroughly surprised to see him make the team again.

      Why I say that no team deserved to win it more than the other is because of the end to end nature of the game. Butland and De Gea pulled off some amazing saves to keep the scoreline down. Both teams were great, aerially and got a goal each from a header. Both teams led the game at some point and the other responded in a beautiful manner.
      Unlike Swansea, who crowded the midfield, Stoke crowded the defence and played the offside trap much to our annoyance. Their fullbacks played a solid role both in an attacking and defensive sense. Which is funny because Stoke have major problems at fullback. While going forward, they looked for gaps between Bailly, Jones and Darmian and hit us. If not, they'd play it to Shaqiri, who'd run rings around our defence and then whip a cross in. Jones, our best defender this season was made to look like an idiot for the second goal. Darmian is a feeble defender and offers us nothing in the attacking half. I hope we restore Blind at that position or maybe give Shaw a run in.
      In midfield, Matic and Herrera were dispossessed cheaply a couple of times but otherwise, they had a decent game. They were not at fault for either goal because the first one completely bamboozled Bailly, Jones and Darmian and the second one came from a corner. A special shout out to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, the Stoke new signing who had an exceptional game. He scored both goals and was a constant threat throughout the game.
      If I had to name one outfield player who did play well, it had to be between Pogba and Lukaku. Pogba, for  the simple reason that he didn't stop for 90 mins. He was setting up, creating chances, intercepting and shooting tirelessly. He also stepped up when we went down and was unlucky that the goal was credited to Rashford. Lukaku, because he didn't stop trying. He was heavily marked throughout, so he changed his position accordingly and often took the ball on the wings or in the hole. For a finisher to leave his position in search of the ball is very unheard of. For a fan to see a player put the effort, is very reassuring. He deservedly got a goal for his efforts. Elsewhere, Rashford kept holding the ball for way too long, trying those little Hollywood runs and ultimately losing the ball.
      Well that's that. Yes, the result is poor but Stoke away is always a difficult. It is right up there with Liverpool away and West Brom away. I'm very glad we got done with this fixture earlier on in the season, while there is still plenty to play for. Anyway, we need to learn from this game because given our attacking prowess, teams are bound to sit back against us. Deal with it. The only consolation is that we're on top of the table, provided Hudderfield don't win on Monday night. That aside, time for the Champions League now! We might finally get to see Lindelof play! Here's hoping we kick off European nights with a win. Onto Basel...
       

Friday, 8 September 2017

Stoke City vs Manchester United Match Preview

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The Red Devils take a trip to the Bet365 Stadium hoping to carry on their sensational form from before the international break. We kicked off this season with three wins out of three and managed to rack up 10 goals in the process. That's not all, Manchester United also managed to maintain three clean sheets and were dominant in every game. Although we are only three games into the season, our performances have led to everyone having high expectations for us this season. Many pundits have backed us for winning the league and my only hope is that we do not foil under the pressure. However, we have finally brought the 'fear factor' back to Manchester United. For the past few seasons, teams haven't feared us, but now we are back playing the way we used to - attacking football and inevitably breaking down defences. 

Last season, in both encounters, the Potters held us to a 1-1 draw. However, we have quickly put to bed the problems we had in failing to turn control of games into goals and wins last season. Mark Hughes' side currently sit 11th in the league table after beating Arsenal, drawing to West Brom and losing to Everton. One big injury which Stoke have is Ryan Shawcross who the boss confirmed is unlikely to play with a back problem. Hughes is confident that his team can beat United but he knows that it won't be easy. Jose Mourinho has admitted that Stoke are "aggressive, defend with a lot of people and a re dangerous on the counter attack". Hopefully United's attacking pressure will be too much for Stoke to withstand and once again, after the first goal, there will be more to follow. 

Saturday is set to feature some exciting games of football with many big teams coming up against each other. Manchester City will play Liverpool at 12:30 and then at 3pm Leicester are set to face Chelsea and Everton will play Spurs. With Manchester City and Liverpool both on 7 points, both teams will be looking to get ahead of one another and close in on us. The best result for us would be a draw between them as that would open up a gap of four points from them and provide us with some breathing space. Furthermore, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal will all be desperate to get wins and make up for unnecessarily dropping points against weaker oppositions. Also, Everton (who we thought had had an exceptional summer transfer window) have got off to a poor start this season. They will be looking to hit some form before they start their Europa League group stage campaign. 

United could have Ashley Young and Luke Shaw available for selection after their appearances for the U23s prior to the international break. Only Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are unavailable, both hoping to make a comeback around the Christmas period. We have been very lucky with injuries so far this season and over the international break. If we are hoping to win the Premier League and do well in the cups, we need to keep all our players available. A big loss for us is the departure of Andreas Pereira on loan to Valencia. Mourinho has made it clear that he didn't want Pereira to leave and therefore inserted a clause where we have the option to recall him on January the first. 

Overall, Mourinho's men are in inspiring form and will be hoping to continue it with a win against Stoke City. With the Champions League fixtures coming up (Basel at home on Tuesday), we need to keep building momentum. Stoke are clearly not an easy team to break down, but we know for a fact that we have the players and quality needed to walk away with a win!

Monday, 4 September 2017

Premier League Clubs Summer Transfers

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IN

  • Nathan Ake from Chelsea for £19.3m
  • Asmir Begovic from Chelsea 
  • Jermain Defoe from Sunderland for free
  • Connor Mahoney from Blackburn Rovers for free

OUT

  • Harry Cornick to Luton Town for free
  • Marc Wilson to Sunderland for free


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IN

  • Sead Kolasinac for free
  • Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon for £52.7m


OUT

  • Kieran Gibbs to West Brom for £7m
  • Glen Kamara to Dundee for free
  • Donyell Malen to PSV 
  • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Liverpool £40m
  • Gabriel Paulista to Valencia
  • Wojciech Szczesny to Juventus for £10.4m

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IN


  • Soufyan Ahannach from Almere City FC
  • Pascal Gross from FC Ingolstadt 04
  • Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge
  • Joshua Kerr from Celtic
  • Davy Propper from PSV
  • Matthew Ryan from Valencia 
  • Markus Suttner from FC Ingolstadt 04


OUT


  • Elvis Manu to Genclerbirligi for free
  • Masato Morishige to FC Tokyo
  • Chris O'Grady to Chesterfield for free
  • Sebastien Pocognoli to Standard Liege for free
  • David Stockdale to Birmingham City for free

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IN


  • Phil Bardsley from Stoke City
  • Jack Cork from Swansea City for £10m
  • Adam Legzdins from Birmingham City 
  • Charlie Taylor from Leeds United
  • Jon Walter from Stoke City for £3m
  • Nakhi Wells from Huddersfield Town 
  • Chris Wood from Leeds United


OUT


  • George Boyd to Sheffield Wednesday for free
  • Andre Gray to Watford
  • Michael Keane to Everton for £30m
  • Paul Robinson has retired

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IN


  • Ethan Ampadu from Exeter City
  • Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco for £39.7m
  • Danny Drinkwater from Leicester City for £35m
  • Kylian Hazard from Zulte-Waregem
  • Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid for £70m
  • Antonio Rudiger from Roma for £34m
  • Davide Zappacosta from Torino


OUT


  • Nathan Ake to Bournemouth for £19.3m
  • Christian Atsu to Newcastle United
  • Asmir Begovic to Bournemouth 
  • Nathaniel Chalobah to Watford
  • Juan Cuadrado to Juventus for £17m
  • Alex Kiwomya to Donacaster Rovers for free
  • Nemanja Matic to Manchester United for £50m
  • Domonic Solanke to Liverpool
  • Bertrand Traore to Lyon
  • Kurt Zouma to Stoke City on loan
  • Ruben Loftus-Cheek to Crystal Palace on loan
  • John Tery to Aston Villa for free

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IN


  • Jairo Riedwald from Ajax
  • Mamadou Sakho from Liverpool for £26m
  • Timothy Fosu Mensah from Manchester United on loan


OUT


  • Hiram Boateng to Exeter City for free
  • Steve Mandanda to Marseille 

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IN


  • Lewis Gibson from Newcastle United 
  • Michael Keane from Burnley for £30m
  • Davy Klassen from Ajax for £26.3m
  • Cuco Martina for free
  • Henry Onyekuru from Eupen for £7m
  • Jordan Pickford from Sunderland for £30m
  • Sandro Ramirez from Malaga 
  • Wayne Rooney form Manchester United
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson from Swansea City for £45m
  • Nikola Vlasic from Hajduk Split 


OUT


  • Gareth Barry to West Brom
  • Tom Cleverley to Watford
  • Gerard Deulofeu to Barcelona 
  • Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United for £75m
  • Conor McAleny to Fleetwood Town for free
  • Aiden McGeady to Sunderland
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IN


  • Laurent Depoitre from FC Porto
  • Florent Hadergjonaj from FC Ingolstadt 04 on loan
  • Robert Green from Leeds United for free
  • Tom Ince from Derby County 
  • Mathias Jorgensen from FC Copenhagen 
  • Scott Malone from Fulham for £3.3m
  • Aaron Mooy from Manchester City for £8m
  • Steve Mounie from Montpellier
  • Collin Quaner from VFR Aalen 
  • Adbelhamid Sabiri from FC Nurnberg
  • Daniel Williams from Reading for free


OUT


  • Harry Bunn to Bury
  • Luke Coddington to Northampton Town for free
  • Kyle Dempsey to Fleetwood Town for free
  • Nahki Wells to Burnley

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IN


  • Vicente Iborra from Sevilla for £12.5m
  • Kelechi Iheanacho from Manchester City for £25m
  • Eldin Jakupovic from Hull City
  • Harry Maguire from Hull City for £17m
  • George Thomas from Coventry City


OUT


  • Danny Drinkwater to Chelsea for £35m
  • Tom Lawrence to Derby County
  • Ron-Robert Zieler to Stuttgart

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IN


  • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal for £40m
  • Andrew Robertson from Hull City for £10m 
  • Mohamed Salah from Roma for £34m
  • Dominic Solanke from Chelsea for free


OUT


  • Ryan Fulton to Hamilton Academical for free
  • Lucas Leiva to Lazio for £5m
  • Mamadou Sakho to Crystal Palace for £26m
  • Kevin Stewart to Hull City
  • Andre Wisdom to Derby County

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IN


  • Danilo from Real Madrid for £26.9m
  • Benjamin Mendy from Monaco for £49.2m
  • Ederson from Benfica for £34.7m
  • Bernardo Silva from Monaco for £43m
  • Kyle Walker from Tottenham Hotspur for £45m


OUT


  • Wilfred Bony to Swansea City for £12m
  • Fernando to Galatasaray
  • Kelichi Iheanacho to Leicester City for £25m
  • Aleksandar Kolarov to Roma for £4.5m
  • Aaron Mooy to Huddersfield Town for £8m
  • Samir Nasri to Antalyaspor 
  • Nolito to Sevilla 
  • Oliver Ntcham to Celtic
  • Jadon Sancho to Borussia Dortmund 
  • Pablo Zabaleta to West Ham for free

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IN


  • Victor Lindelof from Benfica for £31m
  • Romelu Lukaku from Everton for £75m
  • Nemanja Matic from Chelsea for £50m


OUT


  • Josh Harrop to Preston North End
  • Adnan Januzaj to Real Sociedad for £9.8m
  • Wayne Rooney to Everton
  • Guillermo Varela to Penarol
  • Timothy Fosu Mensah to Crystal Palace on loan
  • Andreas Pereira to Valencia on loan

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IN


  • Christian Atsu from Chelsea
  • Joselu from Stoke City for £5m
  • Florian Lejeune from Eibar for £8.7m
  • Javi Manquillo from Atletico Madrid 
  • Jacob Murphy from Norwich City


OUT


  • Lewis Gibon to Everton 
  • Yoan Gouffran to Goztepe
  • Grant Hanley to Norwich City
  • Siem de Jong to Ajax
  • Kevin Mbabu to BSC Young Boys Bern
  • Daryl Murphy to Nottingham Forest 
  • Emmanuel Riviere to Mertz 
  • Lubomir Satka to DAC Dunajska Streda for free
  • Florian Thauvin to Marseille 
  • Haris Vuckic to FC Twente for free

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IN


  • Jan Badnarek from Lech Poznan 
  • Wesley Hoedt from Lazio 
  • Mario Lemina from Juventus for £15.4m


OUT


  • Paulo Gazzaniga to Tottenham 
  • Jasan McCarthy to Barnsley
  • Jay Rodriguez to West Brom for £12m

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IN


  • Maxim Choupo-Moting from Schalke for free
  • Darren Fletcher from West Brom for free
  • Bruno Martins Indi from FC Porto for £7m
  • Tre Pemberton from Blackburn Rovers
  • Kevin Wimmer from Tottenham for £18m
  • Kurt Zouma from Chelsea on loan
  • Jese Rodriguez from PSG on loan


OUT


  • Marko Arnautovic to West Ham for £23m
  • Phil Bardsley to Burnley 
  • Joselu to Newcastle United for £5m
  • Jon Walters to Burnley for £3m
  • Glenn Whelan to Aston Villa
  • Phillip Wollscheid to Metz for free

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IN


  • Wilfred Bony from Manchester City for £12m
  • Samuel Clucas from Hull City 
  • Cian Harries from Coventry City
  • Roque Mesa from Las Palmas for £11m
  • Renato Sanches from Bayern Munich on loan
  • Tammy Abraham from Chelsea on loan


OUT


  • Modou Barrow to Reading for £1.5m 
  • Mark Birighitti to NAC Breda
  • Jack Cork to Burnley for £10m
  • Bafetimbi Gomis to Galatasaray
  • Stephen Kingsley to Hull City
  • Fernando Llorente to Tottenham Hotspur for £12m 
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton for £45m 

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IN


  • Fernando Llorente from Swansea for £12m
  • Serge Aurier from PSG for £23m 
  • Davinson Sanchez from Ajax for £38.4m
  • Paulo Gazzaniga from Southampton


OUT


  • Federico Fazio to Roma
  • Clinton N'Jie to Marseille 
  • Kyle Walker to Manchester City for £45m
  • Kevin Wimmer to Stoke City for £18m

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IN


  • Andre Grey from Burnley for £18m
  • Tom Cleverley from Everton
  • Will Hughes from Derby
  • Kiko Femenia from Alaves
  • Daniel Bachmann from Stoke City
  • Nathan Chalobah from Chelsea
  • Richarlison from Fluminense for £13m 
  • Orestis Karnezis from Udinese on loan


OUT


  • Valon Behrami to Udinese 
  • Steven Berghuis to Feyenoord
  • Juan Carlos Paredes to Emelec for free
  • Mario Suarez to Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng

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IN


  • Gareth Barry from Everton 
  • Oliver Burke from RB Leipzig for £15m 
  • Kieran Gibbs from Arsenal for £7m
  • Jay Rodriguez from Southampton for £12m
  • Grzegorz Krchowiak from PSG on loan


OUT


  • Darren Fletcher to Stoke City for free
  • Callum McManaman to Sunderland

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IN


  • Pablo Zabaleta from Manchester City for free
  • Joe Hard from Manchester City on loan
  • Marko Arnautovic from Stoke City for £25m
  • Javier Hernandez from Bayern Leverkusen for £16m
  • Sead Haksabanovic from Halmstads


OUT


  • Darren Randolph to Middlesbrough for £5m 
  • George Dobson to Sparta Rotterdam 
  • Sofiane Feghouli to Galatasaray for £4m
  • Ashley Fletcher to Middlesbrough for £6.5m
  • Stephen Hendrie to Southend United for free
  • Havard Nordtveit to Hoffenheim 
  • Enner Valencia to Tigres