Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Blackpool 2 Manchester United 3: Dimitar Berbatov to the rescue as Red Devils seal another comeback

Blackpool 2 Manchester United 3: Dimitar Berbatov to the rescue as Red Devils seal another comeback

As if the sight of rivals Sky Sports going into meltdown is not sweet enough for ESPN, here it was in glorious high definition: one of the most eagerly awaited dates of the Premier League season delivering spectacularly in front of their cameras last night.

Quite how it did not end with Ian Holloway’s wonderful Blackpool celebrating another famous scalp they will never know. Twice already this season they have beaten Liverpool and, for 45 minutes, it looked certain that Manchester United would be next.

Two goals up at half-time thanks to former Old Trafford defender Craig Cathcart and striker DJ Campbell, Blackpool deserved to be even further ahead after a quite wretched first-half display from the Barclays Premier League leaders.

It could have got even worse had referee Peter Walton not looked so leniently on Rafael’s clumsy challenge on Varney in the penalty box early in the second half.

Comeback kings: Dimitar Berbatov fires his second of the game to seal a famous victory

Comeback kings: Dimitar Berbatov fires his second of the game to seal a famous victory

But there is a reason why United are now unbeaten in 28 games. After punching themselves out in the first half, Blackpool spent the second on the ropes as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side got up off the floor in dramatic fashion.

Two goals in quick succession from Dimitar Berbatov and substitute Javier Hernandez silenced Bloomfield Road before Berbatov snatched an 88th-minute winner to put the visitors five points clear of Arsenal at the top of the table.

The comeback spared Fergie the ignominy of a repeat of United’s defeat by Burnley last season, when they were shocked by top-flight newcomers.

At times in the first half last night United were simply outclassed, in particular by Charlie Adam. The Scotland midfielder responded to a challenge from Holloway to dazzle Liverpool into raising their £4million offer for him with an inspired display.

Precision finish: After pouncing on Ryan Giggs' through ball, Javier Hernandez beat the onrushing Richard Kingson to level matters

Precision finish: After pouncing on Ryan Giggs' through ball, Javier Hernandez beat the onrushing Richard Kingson to level matters

Adam pulled all the strings before half-time and his corner kicks led to both Blackpool goals. No wonder Ferguson claimed afterwards that the Scot’s set-pieces alone are worth £10m.

‘We were deep in the mire,’ admitted Fergie. ‘We were all over the place. I wonder if the players were a bit over-confident before the game and got a rude awakening. But this club never gives in — history tells you that.’

Blackpool could do with the money from Adam. The first meeting between these two clubs in eluded Wayne Rooney by a couple of inches and invited a Blackpool player to reach for glory.

Cathcart was that man, storming in front of Darren Fletcher to head emphatically beyond Edwin van der Sar from close range for his first goal since leaving Old Trafford for £350,000 last summer.

In-form: Dimitar Berbatov (second right) connects with Darren Fletcher's centre to hit his fourth goal in two games

In-form: Dimitar Berbatov (second right) connects with Darren Fletcher's centre to hit his fourth goal in two games


BLACKPOOL(4-3-3): Kingson 5; Eardley 6, Evatt 6, Cathcart 7, Baptiste 7; Vaughan 7, Adam 8, Grandin 7;
Taylor-Fletcher 6 (Harewood 74min, 5), Campbell 7, Varney 7 (Phillips 68, 5). Subs not used: Rachubka, Southern, Ormerod, Sylvestre, Edwards. Booked: Adam.

MANCHESTER UNITED (4-3-3): Van der Sar 6; Rafael 5 (Anderson 81), Smalling 6, Vidic 5, Evra 5; Fletcher 5,
Scholes 5, Gibson 4 (Giggs 46, 7); Nani 5, Berbatov 7, Rooney 4 (Hernandez 66, 7). Subs not used: Lindegaard, Owen, Fabio, Evans. Booked: Scholes, Gibson.

Man of the match: Charlie Adam.

Referee: Peter Walton 6.

Quite why the United goalkeeper pursued the referee to protest was unclear but the home fans did not care. Bloomfield Road was bouncing and Blackpool were rocking.

Nemanja Vidic almost headed another Adam cross into his own goal and deflected David Vaughan’s shot over the bar, but it did not flatter Blackpool in the slightest when they snatched a second goal in the 43rd minute.

Again it came from Adam’s corner from the right after Van der Sar had tipped away David Vaughan’s low effort. This time Darron Gibson inadvertently flicked on for Campbell to head home at the far post.

Manager Holloway reflected on the Varney penalty appeal by saying: ‘If that’s not a penalty then dearie, dearie me. I think it’s a stonewall, but maybe I’m biased.

‘We were miles away from Chelsea when we played them, we were miles away from Arsenal, but against United we weren’t far off.’

Key change: Wayne Rooney's substitution brought Javier Hernandez into play

Key change: Wayne Rooney's substitution brought Javier Hernandez into play

United’s impotence was best summed up by a nonchalant volley from Berbatov which almost hit the corner flag.

It was no surprise to see Ryan Giggs replace Gibson at half-time, nor to see a different United come out for the second half in search of redemption after Ferguson had his say at the interval.

The visiting boss was still not happy with what he was seeing, however, and ended Rooney’s 300th appearance for the club soon after the hour mark by replacing him with Hernandez, much to the delight of the home fans.

No mistake: DJ Campbell is unmarked at the far post to nod Charlie Adam's deflected corner home

No mistake: DJ Campbell is unmarked at the far post to nod Charlie Adam's deflected corner home

The change was almost immediate and, after Kingson saved well from the Mexico striker and Nani, he was finally beaten on 72 minutes.

Nani played Fletcher in behind the Blackpool defence and his low cross was bundled home by Berbatov from close range.

Suddenly it was a different game and United were all square two minutes later, Hernandez racing on to Giggs’s through-ball and holding off Ian Evatt before slipping the ball past Kingson.

Thumping: Former Red Devil Craig Cathcart (third right) powers Charlie Adam's corner into United's net

Thumping: Former Red Devil Craig Cathcart (third right) powers Charlie Adam's corner into United's net

Berbatov completed a remarkable comeback two minutes from the end of normal time as he had acres of space to beat Kingson for his 20th goal of the season.

Amazing stuff. The only shame is that Blackpool have nothing to show for it this morning.

Blackpool v Manchester United: The 100 minute match

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1350477/Blackpool-2-Manchester-United-3-Dimitar-Berbatov-rescue-Red-Devils-clinch-famous-comeback.html#ixzz1C7LU7Azf

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fergie wants Rooney to match Berbatov

Fergie wants Rooney to match Berbatov

Sir Alex Ferguson has challenged Wayne Rooney and his fellow Manchester United forwards to follow Dimitar Berbatov's path to 20 goals this season.

Wayne Rooney rues a missed chance against Birmingham
GettyImagesWayne Rooney rues a missed chance against Birmingham

Berbatov's third hat-trick of the campaign in Saturday's 5-0 win over Birmingham took the Bulgarian onto 18 goals, all but one of which have been scored in the Premier League.

It has been an invaluable contribution to United's 22-game unbeaten start, which has taken them top of the table with games in hand. Yet, in order for them to stay there, Ferguson knows that either Berbatov must continue at his present rate or his team-mates must start helping out.

Rooney is stuck on three goals, two of which came from the penalty spot, the same number as Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic and Darren Fletcher, Javier Hernandez and Nani are the closest to Berbatov with nine and eight respectively.

"Dimitar is getting up towards that 20-goal mark, which is going to be important for us,'' Ferguson told Key103. "And hopefully we will get another one to that level too. Once you do that you know it is a substantial season.''

Rooney has struggled to hit the heights he achieved last season, when he scored 34 goals, but Ferguson is backing his out-of-sorts striker to hit the goal trail soon.

"We hope so, he [Rooney] deserves it. He is working his socks off and is playing some great football," said Ferguson, who went on to highlight Rooney's overall contribution in the triumph over Birmingham.

"The third goal was very, very exciting with the interchange between Berba and Rooney. It was right at half-time and it killed the match," Ferguson said. "Wayne showed fantastic control in the fourth goal to bring the ball from Edwin out of the clouds. The control of Rooney and setting up Ryan to square the ball for Berba - it was a fantastic goal."

But while Rooney continues to miss glorious opportunities, such as when he somehow headed wide from around two yards out against Blues, Berbatov continues to score and has now equalled Ruud van Nistelrooy's feat during the 2002-03 title winning campaign by netting three hat-tricks in a season.

The 29-year-old is also closing in on the five Alan Shearer scored in 1995-96, which remains a Premier League record, even if he is unlikely to match the seven Denis Law scored for United in all competitions during the 1963-64 campaign.

Not bad for a player plenty felt would be jettisoned by Ferguson last summer after failing to find top form in two seasons following his club record £30.75 million move from Tottenham.

"Dimitar is realising his ability,'' said Ferguson. "The other players sense it too. They are playing their part in playing with him. He has special qualities. I think we are using them.''

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rafael red card highlights his growing value to Manchester United

Rafael red card highlights his growing value to Manchester United

It is the clearest indication yet of Rafael da Silva’s rapid progress at Manchester United this season that the Brazilian defender’s dismissal against Tottenham on Sunday is being viewed as a major blow inside Old Trafford.

The 20-year-old already faces a one-match ban for his sending off for two yellow cards, but the improper conduct charge which followed on Monday, for his reaction to referee Mike Dean’s decision, could see that ban extended to two games, ruling him out of the Premier League clashes with Birmingham and Blackpool.

Last season, nobody would have batted an eyelid at the prospect of Rafael being sidelined due to suspension.

Now, however, his absence will unquestionably be felt by a United team in which Rafael is quickly becoming an integral figure.

Just nine months ago, Rafael received his first red card in a United shirt when he was sent off for tripping Franck Ribery during the Champions League quarter-final exit against Bayern Munich.

On that occasion, it proved a costly sending off for United, and one which prompted a scornful Sir Alex Ferguson to rail against Louis van Gaal’s ‘Typical Germans,’ as Bayern took advantage of the extra man to progress to the semi-finals.

At that stage of his young career, the then-19 year old Rafael was regarded as rash, impetuous and good at just one thing — diving into tackles.

His inexperience was encapsulated by his performance and dismissal against Bayern and many questioned whether the much-hyped teenager was really capable of living up to the talk.

Ferguson and United’s coaches kept faith with Rafael, though, and his elevation to the selecao, Brazil’s national squad, by new coach Mano Menezes for last August’s friendly against the USA, suggested that others were beginning to take notice of the identical twin from Petropolis.

Signed with his brother Fabio, a promising left-back, from Fluminense in Feb 2007, Rafael has now made 63 first-team appearances since making his debut against Newcastle in Aug 2008.

Nineteen of those appearances have come this season, with Ferguson identifying the youngster as the long-term successor to Gary Neville at right-back.

Rafael’s athleticism, adventure and blossoming partnership with Nani has been a feature of United’s campaign so far and why Ferguson has chosen to instil his faith in him.

Against Spurs at the weekend, Rafael overcame a nervy start to check the threat of Gareth Bale down Tottenham’s left. In the fixture between the two teams at Old Trafford in October, Rafael virtually nullified a player who has emerged as one of Europe’s most potent attacking forces this season.

Which is why is loss will be so keenly felt by United, even if it is only for the one game against Birmingham on Saturday.

Beyond Rafael, United’s options at right-back are threadbare.

Neville’s performances at Stoke and West Brom, when he could, and probably should, have been sent off in both games, only served to highlight the curtain falling rapidly on his illustrious career.

Wes Brown has been cast into the wilderness by Ferguson, unused since the Carling Cup defeat at West Ham in November, while John O’Shea, only just fit following a calf injury, has never been more than a stop-gap at right-back.

Rafael is United’s future in that position and he is already beginning to become indispensable.

10 most expensive players

Darren Bent’s Aston Villa move puts him in top bracket of combined transfer fees earned by Premier League players

If Darren Bent completes a £24 million move to Aston Villa, the Sunderland striker’s fourth move will take his combined transfers to a massive £62m – but even that staggering figure isn't enough to make him the Premier League's most expensive.

Nicolas Anelka
On the road again: Nicolas Anelka has been bought and sold for more than £80m Photo:

Bent began at Ipswich and joined Charlton for an initial £2.5m which rose by a further £2.58m with the sell on clause.

Then the man nicknamed ‘Dynamite’ rocketed to fame with a £16.5m move to Tottenham Hotspur before transporting his skills to Sunderland for an initial £10m, rising to a possible £16.5m with ‘add-on’ clauses.

But the England striker is not alone in commanding huge amounts in moving more than once. Cristiano Ronaldo has had only three clubs – but the Portuguese genius has commanded two fees worth a total of £92.24m.

Tottenham’s Robbie Keane, whose hopes of a move to Birmingham fell through this week, is still expected to leave the Lane. If the Irishman does move, he will extend his combined fees already standing at a massive £70.3m.

Former Chelsea striker Hernan Crespo, now 35 and seeing out his career at Parma, has moved six times for almost £70m.

A current Chelsea striker knows what it is like to take a signing on fee; Nicolas Anelka’s total fees in six moves have added up to a massive £86.5m.

Anelka spent a spell on loan at Liverpool before leaving Paris-St Germain to Manchester City.

Another ex-Liverpool player currently on loan is Craig Bellamy – and the Welshman’s six permanent moves total a remarkable £45m.

Not far behind is Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov. He has moved just twice but totted up a total of nearly £42m.

Most expensive Premier League players in combined fees

Cristiano Ronaldo
Sporting Lisbon to Man Utd: £12.24m, Man Utd to Real Madrid: £80m
Total: £92.24m

Nicolas Anelka
Paris-St Germain to Arsenal: £0.5m, Arsenal to Real Madrid: £23m, Real Madrid to Paris-St Germain: £20m, Paris-St Germain to Manchester City: £13m, Manchester City to Fenerbahce: £7m, Fenerbahce to Bolton: £8m, Bolton to Chelsea: £15m
Total: £86.5m

Robbie Keane
Wolves to Coventry: £6m, Coventry to Inter Milan: £13m, Inter Milan to Leeds: £12m, Leeds to Tottenham: £7m, Tottenham to Liverpool: £20.3m, Liverpool to Tottenham: 12m
Total: 70.3m

Hernan Crespo
Parma to Lazio: £35.4m, Lazio to Inter Milan: £16.57m, Inter Milan to Chelsea: £16.8m, Chelsea to Inter Milan: free, Inter Milan to Parma: free
Total: £68.77m

Craig Bellamy
Norwich to Coventry: £6.5m, Coventry to Newcastle: £6m, Newcastle to Blackburn: £5m, Blackburn to Liverpool: £6m, Liverpool to West Ham: £7.5m, West Ham to Manchester City: £14m
Total: £45m

Dimitar Berbatov
Bayer Leverkusen to Tottenham: £10.9m, Tottenham to Manchester United: £30.75m
Total: £41.65m

Peter Crouch
Tottenham to QPR: £60,000, QPR to Portsmouth: £1.5m, Portsmouth to Aston Villa: £5m, Villa to Southampton: £2m, Southampton to Liverpool: £7m, Liverpool to Portsmouth: £9m, Portsmouth to Tottenham: £9m
Total: £33.65m

Emmanuel Adebayor
Monaco to Arsenal: £7m, Arsenal to Manchester City: £25m
Total: £32m

Jermain Defoe
Charlton to West Ham: £1.15m, West Ham to Tottenham: £7m, Tottenham to Portsmouth: £7.5m, Portsmouth to Tottenham: £15m
Total: £30.65m

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Craig Gordon lined-up to replace Edwin Van der Sar as new Manchester United No 1

Craig Gordon lined-up to replace Edwin Van der Sar as new Manchester United No 1

Sunderland star Craig Gordon has emerged as the latest goalkeeper to be linked with Manchester United as Sir Alex Ferguson searches for a new No 1 for next season.

With veteran Dutch shot-stopper Edwin Van der Sar set to leave Old Trafford this summer and hang up his gloves, the Manchester United manager does not want to repeat the same mistakes he made when Peter Schmeichel left in 1999.

Ferguson admitted he never properly replaced the great Dane until the arrival of Van der Sar in 2005 and knows he must act quickly to bring in a competent replacement.

No 1 choice: Sunderland star Craig Gordon is being monitored by Manchester United

No 1 choice: Sunderland star Craig Gordon is being monitored by Manchester United

And £15million-rated Scotland international Gordon is believed to be high on Ferguson's shortlist of potential signings for next season and has been monitored on several occasions by United officials.

The 28-year-old has 18 months remaining on his existing contract and could potentially leave the Stadium of Light on a free transfer in May 2012, a factor which could force manager Steve Bruce to accept a big offer for the player this summer.

Bowing out: Van der Sar is set to hang up his gloves this summer

Bowing out: Van der Sar is set to hang up his gloves this summer

Gordon, who became the most expensive British goalkeeper when Sunderland signed him from Hearts in 2007, has been in outstanding form this term producing arguably the best save of the season so far against Bolton last month.

Van der Sar's understudy Tomasz Kuszczak revealed he intends to follow the 40-year-old out of Old Trafford at the end of the season, frustrated by a lack of first team opportunities.

Despite starting the last three games for the title contenders, Kuszczak insists he is good enough to succeed Van der Sar but will quit the club if he is overlooked.

That leaves Ferguson with recent Danish recruit Anders Lindegaard and youth keeper Ben Amos but both would represent a huge risk if asked to become the club's No 1.

Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is also understood to be high on Ferguson's wish-list but Bayern Munich are keen on signing the Schalke star.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Manchester United 1 - 0 Liverpool

A tale of two decisions

Scoring Summary

Manchester UnitedLiverpool
Ryan Giggs (2')

Kenny Dalglish failed to get the dream start he was looking for as Manchester United ensured his second stint as the new Liverpool boss began with an FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford.

Berbatov: It was a penalty

Dalglish arrived from Dubai last night after accepting the challenge of reviving the Merseysiders' fortunes, which have plummeted dramatically in recent times, culminating in Roy Hodgson's dismissal yesterday.

And he certainly brought more conviction to his players and Liverpool's supporters.It will take rather more to create a winning team though, and while Dalglish can take heart from the way his side battled back following Ryan Giggs' controversial second-minute penalty and the dismissal of captain Steven Gerrard for a nasty first-half challenge on Michael Carrick, the Scot knows there is so much work to do.Still, his name brings hope, even if time has moved on since February 22, 1991, when Dalglish resigned in the wake of an epic 4-4 draw with Everton.Indeed, just eight days after Dalglish's dramatic decision to quit the club he will forever be linked with, came another significant day in English football - Giggs' United debut.That Giggs boasts a record 11 Premier League winners' medals, 855 appearances and 157 goals for the Old Trafford outfit just emphasises the time that has elapsed since Dalglish bestrode an Anfield outfit that were still worthy of their status as a football giant.There was a symmetry therefore about Giggs confidently striding up to dispatch a second-minute penalty that punctured so much of the optimism within the Dalglish bubble.Not that the Scot would have been entirely convinced by Howard Webb's penalty award. Few who saw the replay were, although Daniel Agger's unwise decision to stick out a leg did offer Dimitar Berbatov something to fall over.Unfortunately for Dalglish, it was not the last time he had reason to curse Webb, who steered the game towards its eventual outcome with two crucial decisions around the half hour.The first was a non-decision when Rafael thudded into Raul Meireles with a tackle that won the ball, but was also two-footed.Had Webb taken action for that, Gerrard might have thought twice about his own ill-fated lunge.But the World Cup final referee kept his cards in his pocket and waved play on.The same did not apply when Gerrard launched himself into England team-mate Carrick, going over the top of the United man, which Webb deemed reckless enough to merit instant dismissal.Having taken all this into account, and the remainder of an otherwise positive opening 45 minutes for his team, Dalglish loitered for just long enough after the half-time whistle to suggest he might take issue with Webb. In the end, he opted not to bother.The Scot's interval team talk could at least have reflected on decent opportunities for Fernando Torres, denied the chance to exert his superiority over Nemanja Vidic by the United skipper's absence, Gerrard and Maxi Rodriguez.He must also have known that United would dominate possession in the way his own side had done before Gerrard's departure.And if Javier Hernandez had been able to glance Darren Fletcher's right-wing cross into the bottom corner a couple of minutes after the restart, Liverpool would have had nothing worth fighting for anyway.As it turned out, the Mexican was off target. And though Liverpool did spend long periods chasing possession, roused by their supporters, who were gaining their own voice through Dalglish, they refused to give up.Ryan Babel brought a low save out of Tomasz Kuszczak before Fabio Aurelio sent a free-kick curling towards the top corner, forcing the Pole to claw the ball away.It took United some time to re-establish dominance, although when they did, two blocked shots, for Berbatov and Rafael, rejected penalty appeals for Jonny Evans and Giggs, both far more plausible than the one Webb gave, plus an excellent save from Reina to deny Patrice Evra, were scant reward for a thrilling melee.The sight of Michael Owen being introduced for United 16 minutes from time just added another surreal dimension to an amazing day.There was no goal for Owen against his old club, as Anderson and Evra went closest to increasing United's advantage before the final whistle.
  • Berbatov: It was a penaltyDimitar Berbatov insisted referee Howard Webb was right to award Manchester United a decisive penalty in the first minute of their 1-0 win over 10-man Liverpool in their FA Cup third-round clash at Old Trafford.Berbatov told ITV1: "Of course it was a penalty. There was enough contact for me to lose my balance and people know I do not go to ground easily."I thought Liverpool put in a good performance and I thought their 'keeper Jose Reina was their best player and made some good saves, but we were the better side."The other major talking point of Kenny Dalglish's first game back in charge of the Reds was the sending-off of captain Steven Gerrard just after the half-hour mark.Goalscorer Giggs would not be drawn on the incident, saying: "I couldn't see it myself but the players' reactions tend to tell you a lot and the players round the ball were not too happy and once the decision is made you have to get on with it."That early goal helped us, as did the sending-off, but we had chances to finish off the game and you are a bit nervous when you don't take them."Defensively we looked good and we could have scored more today."Dalglish was less then happy with the two key decisions, but praised his side's commitment after playing an hour of the game a man down."The two decisions are important factors in the game, but if you went into detail about them it would take away from the commitment of the players," he said."It's difficult to come here, they are top of the league and when you are down to 10 men and lose a goal in the first minute you need to show commitment, and the players did that and they had great support here today as well."We also brought three young lads on to try and freshen it up as our guys had put in so much effort."When pressed on the penalty and red card incidents, he added: "I did not think the penalty was a penalty kick."The sending off....Is anyone who leaves the ground to get sent off now? The thing was that Howard Webb stepped away from the incident and then blew his whistle after one of our lads kicked the ball."