Monday, October 6, 2008
The Reds called the tune from start to finish at Ewood Park and, although Blackburn protested long and loud about the award of Brown's first-half goal, there was no question that Sir Alex Ferguson's side were deserved winners.
Rovers goalkeeper Jason Brown claimed that he was fouled as Brown headed in a Wayne Rooney corner, but the rookie stopper was otherwise kept busy restricting United to a respectable scoreline.
After a slow, stop-start beginning to the season, there have been signs in recent weeks that the Reds have been creeping towards top form, and this latest display is the clearest indication yet that the champions have hit their stride.
Sir Alex opted for an attacking line-up as he sought to extend a three-game winning streak, with Dimitar Berbatov and Cristiano Ronaldo selected upfront alongside Rooney, who overcame an ankle injury sustained in Tuesday's win over Aalborg.
For all the Reds' attacking talent, however, it was Nemanja Vidic who almost opened the scoring, but the Serbian centre-back couldn't quite contort to convert Rooney's deflected left-wing corner.
Ewood Park has hardly been a happy hunting ground for United in recent seasons, and Matt Derbyshire served notice of Rovers' threat after 14 minutes when his low shot forced a fine save from Edwin van der Sar.
That was the hosts' most promising piece of play, though, as United called the early tune. Darren Fletcher slid a clear opening wide and Giggs forced a marvellous save from Brown, but the Reds took the lead from the resulting corner.
As players jostled for position to meet Rooney's inswinging cross, the Rovers goalkeeper found his route to the ball blocked by Vidic - who had eyes only for the ball - and Brown was on hand to sneak a header inside the near post.
Jason Brown was called upon to save well at Rooney's feet shortly before half-time as - bar a routine save by van der Sar from Roque Santa Cruz - the Reds' dominance of possession and play continued long into the second half.
Just after the hour mark came the killer second goal. Brown burst out of defence and found Ronaldo, who outmuscled Martin Olsen before pulling back for Rooney to stylishly finish into the top corner.
A third goal in as many appearances for Rooney, who has responded perfectly to being benched against Bolton Wanderers last weekend, and he almost hit number four shortly afterwards, but his neat lob clipped the roof of Brown's net.
Berbatov, Ronaldo and substitute Carlos Tevez, who struck the post with a superb 20-yard effort, all came close to adding gloss to the scoreline, but the Reds couldn't find a way past Brown again.
Blackburn could count themselves lucky to suffer only a two-goal defeat after being bewitched by a swaggering masterclass from United. Less relieved will be those who most covet the Reds' Premier League crown, who saw the clearest sign yet that the champions are approaching top form.
BLACKBURN ROVERS: Brown; Ooijer, Samba, Nelson, Warnock; Emerton, Tugay, Olsen, Pedersen; Santa Cruz, Derbyshire.
Subs not used: Bunn, Mokoena, Villanueva, Fowler, Treacy, Roberts, Andrews.
Bookings: Pedersen, Samba
MANCHESTER UNITED: Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra (O'Shea 71); Fletcher, Anderson, Giggs (Tevez 66); Rooney (Park 77), Ronaldo, Berbatov.
Subs not used: Amos, Nani, Rafael, Evans.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Liverpool deserved to win the game at Anfield because United failed to cope with their physical approach.
In a subdued post-match interview, the United boss accepted the Reds were second best and was unhappy with the way his side conceded both goals in the 2-1 defeat.
“My overall view of the match is that Liverpool were the far better team,” the manager told MUTV.
“They tackled us, got about us and harassed us, forcing us to make mistakes, and we didn’t cope with that well. That was the source of our defeat.”
Carlos Tevez gave United a dream start when he converted debutant Dimitar Berbatov’s cross in the third minute, and for 20 minutes United’s recent stranglehold over the Merseysiders looked set to continue.
But Edwin van der Sar gifted Rafael Benitez's side an equaliser when he failed to deal with Xabi Alonso's deflected shot and the ball rebounded off Wes Brown into the net.
And substitute Ryan Babel delivered the killer blow in the second half after Ryan Giggs failed to deal with a ball on the by-line and was dispossessed by Dirk Kuyt.
“We started excellently with a wonderful ball from Berbatov to Tevez to put us in front, and at that point I thought we were going to establish
ourselves," continued Sir Alex.
“But the two goals we lost were absolute shockers; the defending was very, very poor. People will think they are watching a Conference side when they see the highlights.
“Apart from Rio Ferdinand, we did not have one good performance on the pitch. We were out-thought.”
Nemanja Vidic was sent off late on for a second bookable offence after a physical aerial challenge on Alonso and will miss next weekend’s tough trip to Chelsea.
“I’ve seen it and he led with his elbow,” Sir Alex admitted. “But [Jamie] Carragher and [Martin] Skrtel used their elbows in every aerial challenge in the game and there were no fouls given against them.
“We had three players booked and one sent off and I don’t think that’s a reflection of United being a dirty team.”
The Reds' boss will be demanding an immediate response as United look to end Chelsea’s long unbeaten record at Stamford Bridge next weekend.
“It’s going to be difficult but they are all difficult games away from home,” he added. “And if we don’t address the physical part of the game then we’ll struggle there too.”
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Saturday 13 September 2008Blackburn 0-4 Arsenal
Fulham 2-1 Bolton
Manchester City 1-3 Chelsea
Newcastle 1-2 Hull
Portsmouth 2-1 Middlesbrough
West Brom 3-2 West Ham
Wigan 1-1 Sunderland
Robinho scored on his debut for Manchester City but Chelsea came from behind to claim a 3-1 win at Eastlands and stay top of the table.
The Brazilian curled City ahead with a 20-yard free-kick in the 14th minute, but Ricardo Carvalho lashed home Chelsea's equaliser three minutes later.
Frank Lampard capped a flowing move with a superb left-foot strike to put Chelsea ahead after 53 minutes and Nicolas Anelka slid in a third.
But captain John Terry was shown a straight red card for a foul on Jo with 13 minutes left and will miss United's visit to Stamford Bridge next Sunday.
Rio Ferdinand was at a loss to explain United’s below-par display in the 2-1 defeat at Liverpool, but insists the Reds can bounce back next week at Chelsea.
The centre-back was arguably United’s best player on an unhappy afternoon as Liverpool, aided by two defensive errors, came from behind to end their hoodoo against United.
“We never really got started,” Ferdinand told MUTV. “For the first 10 minutes, before and after we scored, we looked decent and passed the ball about well.
“But after that we didn’t get close to them and they managed to get two goals. They were fortunate on both occasions but I’m sure they’ll be happy enough with that.
“All over the park they were first to the ball and you don’t deserve to win if teams are doing that to you.”
Ferdinand is already looking forward to next week’s tussle with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, a game he feels comes at an ideal time for United after the Anfield defeat.
“It’s always nice to play in big games after disappointments – you find out about your team when you’ve lost a game," he added.
“We want to go to Chelsea and give a good account of ourselves, try to take the three points and ruin their unbeaten home record over the last two or three seasons.
"There couldn’t be a better game for us than the one coming up.”
A day that had started so well ended in disaster for United as Liverpool earned their first league win over the Reds since April 2004 thanks to substitute Ryan Babel's late strike.
Dimitar Berbatov, making his Reds debut, set up Carlos Tevez for the opener after just three minutes. A mix-up between Edwin van der Sar and Wes Brown, which saw the defender credited with an own goal, drew the home side level, before Babel fired the winner 13 minutes from time.
Things got worse for the visitors just before full-time when Nemanja Vidic was dismissed after picking up a second booking. He will now miss the trip to Chelsea next weekend.
The big question before kick-off was who would play up front for United? Would Berbatov start or would Sir Alex stick with Wayne Rooney or Tevez? As it turned out, Sir Alex opted to field all three. Rafael Benitez had no such luxury as he started the match without the services of his two most influential players, skipper Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, who were deemed only fit enough for the bench following groin and hamstring injuries respectively.
United’s three-pronged attack was at it right from the off. With just 40 seconds gone, Rooney collected possession and slipped a pass out to Wes Brown on the right. His cross was deftly flicked on by Tevez to Berbatov who struck a first time effort which hit Martin Skrtel’s left arm, although the Liverpool defender knew little about it. Nearly the perfect start for United’s new boy.
That moment duly arrived just over a minute later as Berbatov played a vital role in giving United the lead. Anderson sent the striker galloping away on the right. Holding off the attentions of Jamie Carragher, he pulled the ball back to the onrushing Tevez who planted a curling effort past a helpless Jose Reina. Berbatov’s team-mates ran to congratulate him for his part in the goal as Anfield fell silent.
The Liverpool faithful were on their feet three minutes later though when Dirk Kuyt took aim from just outside the area after United had failed to clear the ball. But the Dutchman’s volley flew just wide of Edwin van der Sar’s right-hand post.
Van der Sar himself nearly gifted the home side an equaliser on 12 minutes when he spilled a Liverpool corner. Kuyt was quick to pounce on the mistake, but United’s no.1 recovered brilliantly to block his fellow countryman's effort from three yards.
It had been a breathless start, particularly from United. But having looked full of invention in the final third, Sir Alex's men were ultimately the architects of their own downfall as Liverpool drew level on 26 minutes in the most bizarre of fashions. Xabi Alonso’s speculative effort deflected off Patrice Evra into the path of Wes Brown who looked to have it covered. His goalkeeper decided to take matters into his hands, however, and came rushing from his line, only to see his punch rebound back off Brown and into the empty net.
Such a setback could have taken the wind out of United’s sails, but the Reds were not to be deterred. And they almost regained their advantage just two minutes later. Tevez darted to the near post and was found brilliantly by Anderson's low centre. The Argentine beat Carragher to the ball, but his flicked effort flew over Reina’s crossbar.
Liverpool finished the half on top and began the second period in much the same fashion. After a shaky 45 minutes, Edwin van der Sar was alert to the danger posed by Yossi Benayoun’s through run 11 minutes after the restart, blocking well as the midfielder took aim from a tight angle.
Owen Hargreaves entered the fray on 66 minutes, but it was United’s other second half arrival, Ryan Giggs – a half-time sub for the injured Michael Carrick – who went closest to putting the Reds in front again. Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard – on for Benayoun – sold Alonso short 25 yards out. Giggs nipped in, before hitting a superb dipping volley which was well tipped over by a back-pedalling Jose Reina.
It was a rare sight of goal for United who were second best to a Liverpool side that grew in confidence as the game wore on. Having tasted defeat against the Reds in five of the last six games at Anfield, there was a real determination about Benitez’s side to turn the tide.
That looked to be on the cards when Babel became the first Liverpool player to find the net against United in the league since Benitez took over. Ryan Giggs failed to put the ball out for a corner when he had the chance, allowing Mascherano to slip the ball to Kuyt. His cross fell to substitute Babel who, despite hitting his shot into the ground, made it 2-1 in front of a euphoric Kop end.
United’s misery was compounded by the
late dismissal of Vidic, who picked up his second booking of the game for a full-bodied, arm-led challenge on Alonso. Kuyt went close to grabbing a third in injury time but was denied by van der Sar, while Rooney fired wide with seconds left as United desperately searched for an equaliser. It wasn't to be this time.
A defeat is hard to take at best of times, but losing to your fiercest rivals in the manner United did hurts more than any other.
LIVERPOOL: Reina; Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio; Benayoun (Gerrard 68), Alonso, Mascherano (Hyypia 87), Riera (Babel 71); Kuyt, Keane.
Subs not used: Cavalieri, Torres, Ngog, Dossena
UNITED: Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick (Giggs 46), Anderson (Nani 78), Scholes (Hargreaves 66); Berbatov, Rooney, Tevez.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, O’Shea, J. Evans, Fletcher
Booked: Tevez, Vidic, Nani. Sent off: Vidic
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Carlos Tevez has edged out Darren Fletcher to claim ManUtd.com’s Player of the Month award for August.
The Argentine striker may not have found the net last month, but he couldn’t fail to impress supporters with his tireless running and unselfishness in front of goal.
Tevez scooped top spot with 49 per cent of the votes. Fletcher, who scored in the Reds’ opening two league games, finished with 39 per cent, while defenders Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra shared the remaining votes.
Ex-Reds defender David May has blown away by Tevez's start to the season.
“He’s come back from the summer break more energetic than ever,” May told ManUtd.com.
“He’s like a breath of fresh air – his work-rate’s tremendous and he’s really stood out. You don’t associate hard work with too many centre-forwards but we’re blessed to have Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney, who will both work their socks off for you.”
As for Tevez’s failure to find the net so far this term, May isn’t bothered.
“People say he doesn’t get enough goals but he scored 19 last season and if he can get that many again I think Sir Alex will be delighted.
“He gives you so much on the pitch without putting the ball into the net. He’s unselfish and his interchange play, especially with Rooney, has the potential to rip defences apart.”
Player of the Month: August 1. Carlos Tevez (49%) 2. Darren Fletcher (39%) 3. Nemanja Vidic (7%) 4. Patrice Evra (5%)