Memorable Matches – FC Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United

After the international break becoming baron when discussing relevent football, let’s talk about matches from the past. Games that will never be forgotten in the minds of the fans who watched. Let’s start with a game that I even remember watching at a younger age. The second encounter in two years between Sir Alex’s United, and Pep’s treble winning Barcelona. Both sides previously played each other in the 2009 champions league final, also remembered as Ronaldo’s final game for the club. The game was quite close, but incredible games from both Xavi and Messi put Barcelona over the line. This game was the rematch, which would hopefully see Fergie finally land the victory over Pep. But we all know that is not what happened. So let’s get into it.

United’s great first 10 minutes

Let’s start with by far United’s best moment. Ferguson’s plan was to use both Park and Valencia to deal with the full backs and midfielders. Park would drop deep to stop Alves from making any as advancing runs. Valencia and Park are both incredibly good at tracking back and helping their full backs. It was a classic Ferguson move. He always liked to play players, like Park, in these big games to help nullify the opponent. United played a classic 4-4-2, with Giggs and Carrick in midfield. Their other approach to deal with their midfield disadvantage was to bring one of the wingers inside depending on which side Barcelona were playing. For example, if the ball was on the side of Pedro and Abidal, Valencia would put pressure on them, while Park would come into midfield to limit the effect of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. Both Rooney and Hernandez had very important roles. Rooney had to keep on Busquets. The defensive midfielder is so important in how Barcelona build up play. He is one is able to receive the ball and pick out a further advanced player, to help with possession. Rooney at times helped with this (we’ll get to why it didn’t work later) and Hernandez kept pressure on the back two of Pique and Mascherano. This worked so well for the first 10-15 minutes, but we will now get to why this didn’t exactly work.

A Xavi Masterclass

I constantly love to compliment midfielders. Whether it has been my constant defense of Paul Pogba, my praise for Luka Modric, my love for Vidal’s all round excellence, or the many memories I have of Paul Scholes. Xavi is better than all of the above. I fondly remember watching him, and his Barcelona teammates majestically move around the pitch and win 3 international trophies back to back. I do not think there will ever be a better player than Xavi in the middle of the park. His incredible ability at transitioning play, finding space and retaining possession will never be beaten. He was at his mesmerising best in this game. When Busquets was having a limited effect in the first half, Xavi would drop incredibly deep to receive the ball. He would usually then recycle the ball back to the centre halves, until there was space available to advance play. When Xavi dropped this deep, it left Rooney and Hernandez with a difficult decision, either stick with their role, and leave Xavi to retain possession, or try and deal with Xavi, but not full commit to the game plan. It left United chasing the game, because they failed to deal with the change that one player made. Xavi is the one who won the game for Barcelona. His dismantling of United’s plan is the reason why they cruised the game. He was recieving the ball all over the field, and he was just so good at helping Barcelona get the ball in dangerous areas. It was easily one of the best midfield performances you will ever see.

Messi at his best

If Xavi was the captain of the destruction of United’s approach, Messi was the first mate. Messi as a player as evolved dramatically since his long haired teenaged days at the Camp Nou. He began as a right winger, using his pace and dribbling ability to assist Eto’o and Ronaldinho in their dazzling displays in the final third. However Pep saw something else in him, being his ability at finding space. Messi under Pep was easily one of the hardest players to deal with when defending. If the centre backs chose to track him, it would leave space wide open in the back for one of Villa or Pedro to exploit. But if a midfielder chose to track him, it would leave the midfield disjointed. United had this similar problem. It seemed Carrick was the one with the responsibility to deal with Messi. Like the rest of the side, it was fine for the first 10 minutes. Messi didn’t have much of an involvement near the start of the game. But then the Argentine just dropped deeper and deeper, until Carrick couldn’t follow. That was the point where Messi was at his most deadliest. While many will call Messi an excellent dribbler and goal scorer. His best attribute will always be his ability to find space to receive the ball, which would bring the rest of the team into play. There is a reason why Pep told Messi to never receive the ball in the 18 yard box, because he knew exactly how good of a false nine Messi was. Throughout the game you would see Messi drop near enough in his own half, receive the ball, and just run at United. It worked so often and he was untouchable throughout the game. What helped massively was United’s inability to keep up with Barcelona. Their tireless running, aggression and high energy game was really taking its effect as the game went on, by the hour mark, United had zero legs to stand. Barcelona had that much control of the game, that United would never be able to get back into it. Messi and Barcelona were excellent in just waiting for this moment, and really made them suffer.

To conclude, this game was a huge turning point. It was the first time Sir Alex would look at a game and even admit that there was nothing he could do. While their first encounter in Rome was closer in pure ability of the players on the pitch, the rematch was not. United didn’t have the furocious front line of Tevez, Ronaldo and Rooney anymore. Fergie’s magic still brought the best of the aging and average talent throughout the squad, but there was a limit to this. Pep’s team and squad was of such a high standard that any line up Fergie put out on the day, would not have won the game. It was the first time I ever saw Sir Alex get completely outclassed on a tactical level.

It was a high point for his opponent however. This victory ensured that this team of players would go down as one of the best teams to ever play the game (and the best in my opinion). Every player in that team was at their peak, and worked so well together to produce a team that few were ever able to beat. It’s still the team that Pep is trying to equal in achievement and style. A game where the old was beaten by the new, in such a dominant display, and that is why this is a memorable match.

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Manchester United 3-0 Stoke City

After 10 games off, it was great to us return with a bang. After city’s defeat on Sunday, let’s try and make this gap less embarrassing.

Magical Pogba

By now you have probably realised I have a real love for Paul Pogba. And against Stoke he really put in a Pogba performance. He was constantly demanding the ball and just driving us forward and acting as our main creative hub. He had his usual Hollywood balls to the fullback (which I would prefer him to do less of) and doing quick passes to give others space to take advantage of. He added two more assists to his tally this season, making 12 goal contributions in 13 games. To compare De Bryune has the same amount in 10 more games. I find it ludacris that Pogba is not discussed in the same bracket as the likes of Modric, De Bryune and Kroos. He has the biggest skill set of a midfielder on the planet and can do everything. Pogba is on course to have his best season in club football. Not bad for a dab merchant.

Return of Valencia

It was great to see our Ecuadorian powerhouse return in his position. With him playing it gives us a much more balances back line. While Lindelof did okay at right back, he will never have the same consistent performances in that position as our captain. It also shows why Valencia is captain in the first place. He leads by example by putting the same energetic displays every week. While he is great going forward and defensively, his cross still can’t beat the first man, he still the best right back we could get.

Lingard in midfield?

A strange decision from Mourinho but did pay off. While it wasn’t a perfect performance, he did show why Mourinho played him there. He showed his usual lively performance with some great passing moves as usual. While I love his flexibility and his new found end product. This really isn’t his best position. I would play him in these games against weaker sides, to give us an extra edge, but in tougher games I’d prefer Fellaini or Herrera to play there, to give us someone more disciplined and stronger. Good performance from Messi Lingardino.

4-3-3 working again

Another game, another reason why 4-3-3 works. It just is the right position to play, and with the possible arrive of a certain arsenal winger, it might get even better. The issue still remains that right side, and if the Sanchez rumours are true, then we might be ready next season. Sanchez will give us a big game player who is at the top of his game, ready to win games and trophies with United. While it will be costly, bringing glory back to the red side of Manchester will be worth it.

A typical English appointment

Paul Lambert? Really? It is just such an underwhelming appointment in general. I’m just tired of teams just picking the safe option. I mean there has to be someone better right. Lambert has a 27% win rate in the league, which is dreadful. He’s been appointed for doing a great job keeping Aston Villa in the league, a job he lost the season after to Tim Sherwood. The board clearly do not know what they’re doing or do not feel ambitious in their appointment. They just want a pair of predictable hands with no difficulties.

Manchester United 1-0 Bournemouth Player Ratings

Much better from the reds today so let’s go through the player ratings

David De Gea – 8

Brilliant from our keeper today. Kept plenty of shots out and without him as usual the score would have been much different.

Antonio Valencia – 8

A typical Valencia performance. Defended brilliantly and was involved plenty going forward. Just a shame he still can’t cross a ball.

Chris Smalling – 6

He did okay, but he did make a few mistakes that could have been worse, had our other defenders not bail him out.

Phil Jones – 8

Made plenty of tackles and interceptions and rushed back to defend when needed. Was reliable as ever.

Luke Shaw – 8

He had a brilliant game. Got forward and made so many good runs and was very lively. Also did well defensively. Just needs to keep this up.

Nemanja Matic – 8

Defended brilliantly and was there when needed to keep Bournemouth from progressing too far too often. He was good on the ball as well.

Scott McTominay – 8

For only his second start he sure did play it like it was his 50th. Did everything right and nothing wrong. Very Darren Fletcher like performance from his very compatriot.

Juan Mata – 7

Was tidy on the ball and got involved plenty. Picked the perfect pockets of space to exploit. Definitely looks better on the right.

Jesse Lingard – 6

Wasn’t great from Jesse today but he did put his usual shift in and played some tidy passes

Tony Martial – 6

He had an okay game but he missed a sitter and I can’t forget that.

Romelu Lukaku – 7

Put himself about and was a nuisance for the defenders. Build up play was brilliant but no one was making runs to give him options.

Substitutions

Marcus Rashford – 7

Was very lively and had one great shot saved from the woodwork

Ander Herrera – 7

Put himself about and was the best he’s played in a long time

Ashley Young – 5

Wasn’t on long enough to rate.

Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City Player Ratings

Never done this before but let’s give it a go

David De Gea – 7

Couldn’t do much about the goals but was great when called upon. He made a good save for De Bryune and another against Sane. Best Keeper in the world for a reason

Antonio Valencia – 5

Didn’t deal with Sane at all and gave the ball away too much. He was good going forward as usual but overall a very below par performance from the captain

Chris Smalling – 4

Wasn’t at the races at all. Jesus and Sterling got through him and his partner constantly and just couldn’t deal with them at all. Just shouldn’t have started at all.

Marcus Rojo – 5

Put in some challenges but was reckless and was lucky to not get worse than a yellow. Another below par game from him

Ashley Young – 4

It was shambolic how much space Sterling was given. Everyone knows I am not the biggest fan of Young and this game continues to show it. Didn’t offer enough going forward and he should have been better as one of our experienced players.

Nemanja Matic – 5

It was very clear that Matic was injured. Didn’t get into the game enough and couldn’t deal with the threat of City’s midfielders.

Ander Herrera – 5

These two just don’t work together in the slightest. Herrera did try but didn’t have enough quality on the ball, something we required from the Spaniard for this game.

Marcus Rashford – 5

Didn’t get the ball enough but did lose the ball whenever he did. He took his goal well but he just wasn’t great today.

Jesse Lingard – 7

He was tidy in possession and gave us a bit of quality. By far the only player who gave something on creativity. Our best outfield player on the day.

Anthony Martial – 4

Based on two things. He didn’t get involved in the game enough and he if he did he didn’t do the one thing he needed to do, run at Walker. He got an early card and he needed to be tested.

Romelu Lukaku – 4

His worst performance for United. Should have scored an easy chance near the end and was at fault for the goals.

Substitutions

Victor Lindelof – 5

He was alright when he came on and at least tried to move the ball up the field. Should have started in a back three instead of on the bench.

Zlatan – 5

Wasn’t on for long and didn’t make much of an impact

Juan Mata – 5

Wasn’t on long enough either. Can’t be rated in anyway way

5 Talking Points from Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City

What a dreadful performance. This was the worst I’ve seen united since we drew against Celta Viga in the Europa League. It was awful and it might just have been the game where we gave City the league. So let’s go through the talking points

The Lukaku Criticism

The player clearly getting the most criticism from the fans. Most I think is justified. He should have scored that chance he had and should have done better on the set pieces. Those are why I think he was one of the worst players on the pitch, next to Young, Smalling and Martial. Many have said since he costed ¬£75m he should score with every chance. This is complete nonsense. When I think of the best strikers around I think of Cavani, Lewandowski and Icardi. These players normally score one in every four shots. Strikers need a lot of creativity to get chances. I’ve already mentioned how bad Zlatan was at scoring goals last season and it just shows how stupid some fans are. I still like Lukaku. I would have been fine with him, Morata or Belotti. They’re all great strikers and as long as they play great I’m fine. Yes he is in some bad form but in these big games he’s had zero creativity. Without Pogba we offer nothing in creativity. It’s an area in the squad we need to fix. Lukaku will score over 20 goals this season. It just depends if Pogba is fit and if our other players actually decide to chip in. I do think his criticism in this game was definitely justified, but some of the things said about were definitely an over exaggeration.

The Game Plan

Simple question, what was the plan? By the team sheet one would assume we were ready to play on the break, but we were constantly hitting long balls and transitioning slowly. Sometimes we’d hit the ball into the channels, and then play some short passes. It was as if we didn’t know what we were doing. The midfield is still the reason why we are so bad without Pogba. Herrera just isn’t good enough to pass the ball in long distances and Matic doesn’t usually do this job. Mourinho has tried this so many times and still doesn’t realise it doesn’t work. Just play Mata or McTominay in midfield. An extra man would help us move up the pitch quicker and help dominate. Mourinho didn’t set up correctly.

Poor on set pieces

The way I thought we could beat city turned out to be our downfall. We were all over the place and was quite surprising. In a Mourinho team I expect much better organisation when defending a set piece, but instead we had David Silva being allowed to run and Lukaku giving a dreadful clearance. It was just the worst way to lose.

Lingard performs again

Mentioning De Gea as our best player isnt a surprise, but Lingard isn’t far behind him. He made some tidy passes and set up Lukaku for a good chance. He has been great recently and can come out of this game with a bit of dignity. I love Jesse and hopefully continues to perform. He has such a pretty way of playing.

City weren’t great, but won

City haven’t been great at all recently, but they keep winning. I do think labelling this as title mentality is stupid. They’ve just been below par. They’ve definitely been better but they still were quick, clinical, and just horrible to defend. Pep has made this team hard to beat as well as beautiful to watch. I hate them for personal reasons but I still have to give credit where credit is due.

5 talking points from Manchester United vs Everton

Another game, another 4-0 victory. United are on fire right now so let’s look at all the talking points from Sunday’s game

Pogba was missed

This was the first premier league game of the season where our french maestro was unavailable, and it showed. United lacked any sort of creativity through the midfielders, Matic and Fellaini. I am not saying they performed poorly, in fact the opposite. Both Matic and Fellaini were brilliant. Matic controlled the game brilliantly and Fellaini was brilliant in his own way, winning 3 aerial duels and making 3 interceptions. I thought both of them contributed brilliantly in defence, but didn’t contribute enough going forward. Everton have a poor defence so their partnership can be excused in this case, but against a team like Burnley or West Brom, a more creative midfielder will be needed.

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THAT goal from Valencia

A goal that is worth mentioning. Valencia was never a goalscorer for United, in fact the last home goal he scored was before Mourinho was even in charge. But for a moment it was like a young rooney was playing again. The Ecuadorian hit the ball perfectly from the right side. This will easily be remembered as one of the goals of the season, with the goal giving us and advantage against a very defensive team that just began the game sitting back and showing no ambition to attack.

Lukaku’s reunion

This was the big Belgian’s first game against his former club, and he marked the occasion by scoring and celebrating, as he should. Lukaku had no reason not to celebrate. He is a young guy and was at the club for roughly 100 games. It might seem like a lot but that was his fourth club in his short. Lukaku seems like a player who doesn’t get attached to a club. It isn’t like the Van Persie or Frank Lampard situation, where they played for Arsenal and Chelsea respectively for most of their careers. Lukaku said he celebrated because the Everton fans were mocking him for missing a free kick, which makes his goal even sweeter.

Importance of our Armenian 

Mhiki is continuingly showing why he is the incarnation of Mourinho on a pitch, starts slow but needs time to show why he’s one of the best. To me Mhiki is one of the most underrated players in the league. People seem to forget he plays for the club because he didn’t feature that prominently last season. Mhiki so far has scored 1 and assisted 6, which is just ridiculous. I think he’s been our best player so far this season next to Matic. Many complain about him losing the ball and while it might be frustrating, it’s because he is running at players. I want the players to be ambitious, and if it could end up with a goal, it is worth the risk. Let’s hope he keeps up his incredible form and even scores more throughout this season.

Everton not performing

Many are already asking for Koeman to leave, and i can understand why. Looking at Everton’s signings now, you can see they signed too many midfielders and didn’t get enough pace in the team. They are seemingly relying on an ageing Rooney and a very average player in Sandro. They’re playing a 3-4-3 with poor wingbacks. Martina is just not very good and Baines is now starting to show is age. Compare them to Chelsea for instance. They player Alonso and Moses, two wingers with an incredible workrate. Everton should have players similar to them if they want to play this system. They had a poor showing against Chelsea, Spurs and United, and their next game against Bournemouth, will be a sign to Everton fans what their situation is.

Manchester United Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award candidates

United have had a very mixed bag of a season, with enough draws to make a starting eleven and players struggling in front of goal, it hasn’t went the way we all saw it going, but there have been some bright spots in the team that have produced on a consistent basis. But first let’s look at the honourable mentions

Honourable Mentions: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Eric Bailly, Michael Carrick and Henrik Mhikitaryan

1st Candidate: Antonio Valencia

Valencia has had a very disappointing united career before this season. Having two great season when he arrived, then being given the number 7 shirt and failing like everyone who has wore that shirt since Cristiano left. But we saw a different Valencia under Van Gaal, who was used as a defensive winger or an attacking full back. But he struggled in his positional sense which really made him a poor fullback, but ever since Mourinho arrived, he has been our most consistent player in defense all season. The 31 year old is matching Zlatan Ibrahimovic as some tasty fine wine, with him turning into a tank, and plowing right through that right side. In fact, he is our right side. With United not possessing a natural right winger, we have been playing the likes of Mata, Mhikitaryan and Rashford there, all players who like to cut inside. So Valencia has had the daunting task of covering all areas of that right side, and he has done brilliantly. When watching him play. We will see him whip in a cross (which has been his poorest side of his game this season) and then suddenly run right back to position to put in one defensive shift. Every game he has been a consistent 6-7/10. Which deserves some real praise overall.

2nd Candidate: Ander Herrera

Herrera is my favourite player in the squad. He has that aggression and bad side that every team needs. I always refer to him as our little bastard. Because nothing sums him up more. We’ve seen him consistently put in a tactical foul to stop the opposition advancing or stay on the floor a little longer. He’s that player United fans love but every other fan hates. In fact i would like to see him wear the captain’s armband. In a world where i had to witness Fellaini representing our team in the pitch, Our little bastard doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Not only has he been smart, he’s also been our best midfielder this season, with Pogba trying adapt and have a consistent role, and Carrick’s age catching up to him, Herrera has been that stand out player. He’s been our Kante, running all over the pitch to put pressure on the opposition. He has been a consistent stayer in the team ever since he fought for his place. In fact i love him and Mata on that right side. They know each other so well in Real life and it shows it on the pitch. Lets hope we can continue to see Herrera dominate the midfield with years to come. He’s currently 28, in the prime of his career, so next season we could see him improve and actually add some more quality.

3rd Candidate: Marcus Rojo

A very left field shout. Marcos Rojo has been excellent this season. Shining moments include putting Kane, Lukaku twice and Costa in his back pocket. He is one of our big games players. He shows so much passion for the team and would run through a wall so we could win, exactly the kind of player Mourinho likes. At left back he is awful, as in I’ve never seen a centre back worse than him. But at centre half, he is a different player entirely. Him and Bailly together are our best partnership. To players that have no limit and would run riot on any striker. In fact Eric Bailly would probably be chosen over him if Bailly had played more, but he hasn’t, so Rojo is my 3rd Candidate. I remember going to Old Trafford to watch the Spurs game and being worried about Rojo and Jones at the back, but I was definitely wrong. Never have a seen a player pocket Harry Kane like that all season. He didn’t even get a sniff. If Mourinho wants a player man marked through out the game, Marcus Rojo would be my guy.