Manchester United Roundup: let’s beat Milan first, Chelsea can wait

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Oh hell…

Saturday was a bad day for Manchester United everywhere. We drew 1-1 with Middlesbrough at Old Trafford. We lost Rio Ferdinand to a groin injury, the same injury that allowed Boro to score last night.

Roy Keane’s Sunderland lost 3-1 away as well, putting their title chances in danger. They’re still favourites for automatic promotion, but they’ll have to batten down the hatches and get through the last couple of games without any hickups (i.e. win them). Watford got relegated thanks to a mistake by Ben Foster, and Teddy Sheringham is bitching about being dropped from the West Ham squad – at 40-41 and after banging Danielle Lloyd for so long, I think he’s lost some perspective…

Let’s start with the Boro game, shall we?

Manchester United 1-1 Middlesbrough

I turned on the telly late, so about 5 seconds after I switched things on I saw Richardson tapping in the goal and I went batshit nuts (Hasan, whom I remember calling and abusing over the phone, will attest to that). Any defence marshaled by Woodgate is going to be tough to breach but Scholes and Rooney found the opening and Richardson duly finished it off.

After that though, United pranced about, tricks and cute passes instead of any real forward movement. Cristiano Ronaldo had one of his worst first halves I’ve seen this season, showboating with nothing to show for it at the end of the day.

If this is how we’re going to finish out our season, we have a problem.

However, things would have been a lot different in the second half had Rio Ferdinand not been injured. Rio has been massive at the back and his passes and dinky little runs up to the half-way line can start many moves. John O’Shea can’t pull them off with similar aplomb, plus he’s not as good as Rio so he had to sit back instead of trusting himself to track back and cover.

Rio would have stopped that cross, no problems. It was a routine stop, two steps to your right and head it out of the box. He does it at least a dozen times during each game, this was academic.

Should Ferguson have taken off Rio as soon as he got injured? I remember thinking that it was a serious gamble to keep a player who can’t walk on the pitch during the closing minutes of a half, especially since we only had a 1-goal advantage. Ferguson took a gamble and it didn’t work off.

The draw hurt a lot, and I think part of the reason it hurt more than the Portsmouth defeat was because now, if Newcastle can’t hold off Chelsea, Manchester United will have to win at Stamford Bridge. Previously it was a case of Manchester United fans writing off the Chelsea game as a defeat in their minds and still winning the title. Now that it’s a must-win (or at least draw) game, people are scared.

There’s no need to be scared. From now till 9th May we’re going to hear a LOT of banter from the Chelsea camp about how they will win and how they won last season 3-0.

Last season was different. No results are guaranteed. We’ve got to go out and win, but before that we have Milan in the Champions League and Everton and City in the Premiership.

Them first, Chelsea can wait.

Match Videos

Manchester United 1-0 Middlesbrough (Richardson)
Manchester United 1-1 Middlesbrough (Viduka)

Here’s a clip of Ole’s ‘goal’ – and the corresponding blast from the past, the George Best version.

Penalty claim

Talking Points

One of the major talking points was the ‘penalty’ not given at the end. Here’s the clip, decide for yourself whether it was a penalty or not.

There are a couple of things I noticed. One, O’Shea’s foot does touch the ball as he slides in – if you see it from the second angle the ball’s direction changes slightly. Two, Dong-Gook Lee turned his body into John O’Shea half-a-second before the tackle so his fall could be cushioned.

If O’Shea touched the ball, then it’s not a penalty, is it? Now I don’t claim to know more than the average footie fan but shouldn’t DGL, if he wants to score a goal, avoid the tackle (as he knows O’Shea is committed to it) and skip around and get the ball? There’s enough space ahead of him and the ball isn’t going that fast. But that’s tactics. What we do know is he turns into O’Shea and at the point of impact he isn’t moving towards the ball, he’s moving diagonally across O’Shea.

Hence the penalty claims.

The Ole incident? Fantastic, made me laugh and still does when I look at the replay. Unsporting behavior my ass, Shwarzer wasn’t concentrating 🙂

Rio’s injury – already discussed that above.

Injuries Update

Rio Ferdinand is expected to be out for at least 2 weeks. Fergie thinks we can get him ready for the Chelsea game, but United must start preparing for a battle at Stamford Bridge without Rio or Vidic. It’s difficult, but it’s not impossible.

Sir Alex:

“We’re now playing with just 12 fit players, really.Cathcart’s out for the season too. He was injured during training this week, so we don’t really have any other defenders to call on. We’re down to the bare bones.”

Here’s the full injury list:

Vidic (season), Silvestre (season), Cathcart (season), Rio (2-3 weeks), Park (1-2 weeks), Saha (1-2 weeks), Neville (1-2 weeks), Richardson (2 weeks).

That leaves us with 12 fit outfield players:

John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Gabriel Heinze, Patrice Evra (returns on Tuesday), Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Paul Schoes, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Alan Smith, Wayne Rooney and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Chris Eagles and Dong Fangzhou are there in support, but that’s what, 14? 3 subs and add Kuszczak as a keeper, and we can’t even make a 16-man squad (stuck on 15). Time to bring in someone from the youth team 🙂

News Headlines

Jamie Jackson at the Guardian looks at Alan Smith’s career and his road to recovery. It’s an excellent article, so go read it.

Steven Tongue writes about the Manchester United vs Milan game in the Independent. Since I don’t want to link out to badly written articles, I’m not going to. Instead, you can catch an excellent preview of the game here.

Now it’s your turn. Fire away…

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