Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Sir Alex Ferguson paid a glowing tribute to Michael Owen after the striker combined with fellow veteran Ryan Giggs to ease Manchester United's reserve team into the last 16 of the Carling Cup with a 3-0 win at Leeds.
United made 11 changes from the team that beat Chelsea on Sunday but still ran out easy winners as two goals from Owen, 31, and one from Giggs, 37, brought their goal tally this season to 28 in eight matches.
Owen has now scored an incredible 11 goals from his last 12 starts. That the run dates back to October 2009 just shows how difficult he has found it to break through at United, a task that is only made harder following the return of Danny Welbeck from a hamstring injury.
Opener: Michael Owen slots the ball home to put Manchester United in front
Opener: Michael Owen slots the ball home to put Manchester United in front
'Michael Owen's finishing was fantastic,' said Ferguson. 'His goal ratio is unbelievable. We are very pleased with him.
'Unfortunately for us he has had one or two injuries. But with me having Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez he is not getting the games he deserves and that is unfortunate.'
Owen said: 'I am still only 31 and I have a good few years left in me yet.
'You don't get many chances to play at United so when you do, you need to perform otherwise you won't be seeing a football pitch again for a couple of months.
'The pressure is on when you get into this side because you don't get many chances.'
Hot shot: Owen fires his second into the top corner to double United's lead
Hot shot: Owen fires his second into the top corner to double United's lead
Ferguson found a novel way of using Berbatov at the end of the game.
The Bulgarian ended up filling it at centre-back alongside Michael Carrick after 19-year-old debutant Ezekiel Fryers limped off near the end, to leave the visitors to coast home with 10-men.
Ferguson also confirmed that whilst Hernandez will return to training after emerging from the tackle by Ashley Cole on Sunday with only minor bruising, the Mexican will not be considered for the weekend trip to Stoke, when United should be fielding a more recognisable line-up.
'It was great for the young players to understand the club and for us to see their temperament,' said Ferguson, who introduced Paul Pogba and Larnell Cole, in addition to Welbeck, once victory was assured.
Fine vintage: Owen celebrates with United's veteran winger Ryan Giggs
Fine vintage: Owen celebrates with United's veteran winger Ryan Giggs
'The young lads did really well. It was a great experience for them.
'Young Fryers coped very well. The atmosphere at Elland Road is hostile and was not fazed by it.'
After defeating United in the FA Cup at Old Trafford in January 2010, when they were still a League One team, at the very least manager Simon Grayson hoped his team could turn in a competitive performance.
Unfortunately, the hosts were never in it once they had failed to capitalise on some early pressure.
Liking what he sees: United manager Sir Alex Ferguson watches from the bench at Elland Road
Liking what he sees: United manager Sir Alex Ferguson watches from the bench at Elland Road
'You have to give credit to Manchester United,' he said. 'They caused us a lot of problems.
'We gave the ball away too cheaply. Too many individuals over indulged themselves rather than keeping it simple.
'When you do that against top players, they will punish you and we didn't do ourselves justice.'
Grayson, whose team travel to Brighton on Friday evening, may come to rue his decision to field a virtually full strength side, although he accepts some lessons may have been learned.
'Manchester United have the strongest squad they have had for years,' he said. 'The whole group played with immense confidence.
'The team they put out tonight could have beaten a host of Premier League sides. It shows the gulf that is between us.
'I made a decision not to make too many changes because I wanted to give Manchester United a game. We didn't do that.'

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Manchester United 8 Arsenal 2

Grim day for Arsenal but Arsène Wenger says he will not be leaving

• Worst defeat since 1896 puts further strain on manager
• Arsenal disarray in contrast to Manchester United's glee

Arsene Wenger
Arsène Wenger said there were 'special circumstances' behind the 8-2 defeat. Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images
First and second in the Premier League, yet to drop a point, and the architects of a day of ritual humiliation for north London by an aggregate scoreline of 13-3. There is added vigour to the Manchester swagger.
City produced the day's first statement of intent with an emphatic 5-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur where Edin Dzeko, so often maligned last season, scored four times for the richest club on the planet. United responded to their local rivals' declaration as they often do, putting them in the shade and Arsène Wenger under further scrutiny with an remarkable 8-2 rout ofArsenal. It was Arsenal's heaviest defeat since 1896, when Loughborough Town inflicted a record 8-0 loss, United's biggest victory since an 8-1 win at Nottingham Forest in 1999 and their greatest at Old Trafford since routing Ipswich Town 9-0 in 1995. It was a result that raised the question to Wenger of whether he would consider his position at the club after 15 years.
"No, because I feel it was under very special circumstances," the Arsenal manager replied, pointing out that eight senior players were absent through injury or suspension and that three games into a new season, one that has brought Champions League football to the Emirates Stadium, is an indecent time for such a debate.
"It is a terribly painful defeat but I don't compare whether it is the most painful of all.It is painful and that's it. We have played three league games and two Champions League games and it is at the end of a season when you can make a balanced decision. Of course this hurts, it was humiliating, but you could see we had not recovered physically from Wednesday night [when Arsenal beat Udinese], we had eight players out, they had class and they punished us."
Arsenal finished without a full complement of players for the third league game in succession, the raw right-back Carl Jenkinson dismissed for a second bookable offence in the 77th minute, and Sir Alex Ferguson was almost patronising in his sympathy. The United manager said: "We scored some fantastic goals. We could have scored more but you don't want to score more against a weakened team like that."
Wayne Rooney scored the sixth hat‑trick of his United career to take his total for the club to 152 goals, beyond Paul Scholes and Ruud van Nistelrooy. "A lot of my milestones have come against Arsenal," said the England striker. "My first ever goal for Everton was against them, so was my first Premier League goal for Manchester United and now the 150th has come against them. It is still very early in the season but it was an incredible performance from us."
Wenger claimed "it was not an 8-2 game" and insisted he is not entirely culpable for Arsenal's struggles in the transfer market. "We have the money if we can find players who can strengthen our team but I am not the only one working on that at Arsenal. We have 20 people working on that, but today we had too many players missing. We didn't have the squad to cope. We have not found the solutions. It is difficult to find excuses after a game like that but we are behind the other clubs in terms of wages."
The Arsenal manager confirmed he is close to signing the Monaco forward Park Chu-Young and denied reports he is interested in the Evertonmidfielder Mikel Arteta. As for increased criticism of his handling of the club, Wenger said: "I am in a public job and I have to accept that. The players we have sold are players I brought to the club. You know me well and should give me more time before saying, 'Have I have got it right?' We were poor defensively and we collapsed more physically than mentally."
Samir Nasri made an impressive debut in City's win and believes the two Manchester clubs have set an early standard. "I had a good game but the most important thing is we won 5-1 and sent out a signal to other clubs," he said. "This is just the start of the season, it's important to keep our confidence, but I'm convinced we have a great team here and can win things," he said.

Bolton 0 Manchester United 5

Bolton 0-5 Manchester United

Manchester United completed the best start to a Premier League season by smashing five goals past a helpless Bolton at the Reebok Stadium.
Wayne Rooney scored his second successive hat-trick to take his personal tally to eight in four games, part of an overall team tally of 18, 13 of which have come in the last two matches.
Indeed, aside from Manchester City, Rooney has now scored more league goals on his own this season than any of the clubs attempting to keep pace with this unbelievable start, in which one city appears to have annexed the entire championship between them.
Javier Hernandez marked his first start of the season with two goals, although on a night when everyone in red played their part, it was a dazzling run from teenager Phil Jones to create Rooney's second which sparkled the most.
Indeed, the only downside for Sir Alex Ferguson ahead of another Champions League quest getting under way against Benfica on Wednesday was the suspected broken foot midfielder Tom Cleverley sustained in an early collision with Kevin Davies, and an injury to Jonny Evans.
Although he endorsed David de Gea yesterday, it was claimed Ferguson was having extreme doubts over whether to drop the 20-year-old into the maelstrom of the Reebok Stadium, even now Owen Coyle has smoothed off quite a lot of that infamous abrasive edge.
As it turned out, the United boss need not have worried.
It was first-half stoppage time before Bolton produced a cross that tested De Gea's mettle, by which time the visitors were three up, with the only doubt over victory concerning how many they would get.
Four minutes was all it took for United to rediscover the scoring form that devastated Arsenal a fortnight ago.
Nani danced down the right wing and when he flashed over a low cross, Hernandez left Gary Cahill standing with some exemplary movement before nicking the ball home at the near post.
Davies tried to lead by example but a crunching tackle on Cleverley, which led to the young midfielder's early exit and quite possibly a lengthy absence from the game, and an equally forceful challenge on Patrice Evra, which earned the veteran striker his 100th Premier League caution, brought Ferguson to his feet in fury.
The next time Ferguson was venting his frustration was at Hernandez, for showboating, by which time Rooney had taken centre stage.
Twelve months ago, the United forward was in the middle of his own personal hell. Now it is as though all that trouble never happened.
He took a leaf out of Hernandez's book when he netted a carbon copy of his strike partner's early effort.
Jones deserved much of the credit for the quick thinking that allowed him to retake possession after finding Nani with a throw, then fizz over a cross that Rooney tucked home.
It was evidence of Jones' intelligence. Minutes later, the teenager was showing off his skills.
Moved into a right-back role Chris Smalling performed so well in last month that it brought him two England caps, Jones began a gallop on halfway that took him weaving into the Bolton area.
Had he found a finish as well, the former Blackburn man would have been celebrating possibly the best goal he would score in his entire career, as well as the first.
Instead, Jussi Jaaskelainen played spoilsport, keeping the ball out with his foot but diverting it straight to Rooney, who stroked into the far corner.
Hernandez had another ruled out for offside before the half-time whistle blew but he wasn't to be denied for long.
After Jaaskelainen had produced an excellent save to deny Anderson, United again laid siege to the Bolton goal and when Michael Carrick's shot was deflected into Hernandez's path, the Mexican wasted no time in belting home.
It was hard not to feel sorry for Bolton, who at times were contributing well. However, they were trying to stop a team of perpetual motion, currently at the top of its game.
And Rooney is now as good as he was bad.
Another Nani cut-back, another unstoppable shot to the corner and the United man had bagged hat-tricks in consecutive games, following Les Ferdinand, Ian Wright and Didier Drogba in achieving that particular feat during the Premier League era.
Rooney almost set Hernandez up for his hat-trick goal and then the Mexican came within inches of providing Anderson with a tap-in.
It was all rather irrelevant given the final scoreline, with both Manchester clubs still to drop a point in what has already turned into a fascinating duel.


Evra: Rooney wants to be world's best

Manchester United defender Patrice Evra believes Wayne Rooney's desire to be the best player in the world is the reason behind his blinding form.
And the England international's displays are a far cry to the woeful form he showed exactly a year ago, which culminated in a shocking exit demand.
Rooney stunned all involved at Old Trafford midway through last season when he handed in a transfer request, citing United's lack of ambition as the reason behind his wish to quit.
However, Rooney then made a stunning U-turn by signing a contract extension, before hitting form near the tail-end of the season as United claimed the Barclays Premier League title.
While not all of the Old Trafford faithful have yet to forgive Rooney for his outburst last season, he has gone some way in winning them back with eight goals in the opening four league matches of this campaign.
And Evra believes Rooney's desire to prove himself to the public is the reason behind his scintillating form, after his three goals against Bolton on Saturday saw him become only the fourth player in Premier League history to net a hat-trick in consecutive games.
"You can see his hunger," Evra told The Sun. "Last season, he had some problems but now he is back.
"He is a great professional and a top player. He wants to be the best player in the world.
"He just has to keep doing what he is doing."
Rooney's first-choice strike partner Javier Hernandez, who also bagged two goals on his return to the starting lineup against Bolton, admits he is in awe of what the United number ten is capable of doing on the pitch.
"Wayne Rooney is unbelievable.
"He can do anything on the pitch."
United's 5-0 thumping of Bolton ensured they remained top of the table ahead of arch-rivals Manchester City on goal difference, and both sides are currently the only two teams in England with a 100% record in the league.
And Evra admits the first Manchester derby on October 23 is already looming as a potentially decisive encounter.
"When I see people, the first question they ask me is what date is the derby."
City themselves recorded an impressive 3-0 win over Wigan on Saturday, with Argentinean hitman Sergio Aguero bagging a hat-trick as well for the Citizens.

Manchester United show the value of regeneration in outclassing Bolton

Manchester United show the value of regeneration in outclassing Bolton

Bolton Wanderers 0 
Manchester United 5
  • Hernández 5, 
  • Rooney 20, 
  • Rooney 25,
  • Hernández 58, 
  • Rooney 68

Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney walks off with the match ball after scoring a hat-trick for the second match in succession for Manchester United. Photograph: Paul Currie/Action Images
Conventional wisdom has it that Manchester United habitually start the season sluggishly and do not hit their straps until after Christmas, in which case heaven help the rest of the Premier League. The reigning champions' 100% record has thus far been illuminated by 18 goals in their first four matches.
They look the business all right, but a word of caution is probably appropriate amid all the acclaim – the word in question being Chelsea, who are due at Old Trafford on Sunday. On current form United must be expected to win again, but Sir Alex Ferguson will need no reminding that this time last year it was Carlo Ancelotti's team who were irresistible, taking maximum points from their first five matches and scoring 21 while conceding just one.
We all know what happened next: they lost their way and Ancelotti lost his job. United are unlikely to disintegrate, of course, but Ferguson is right when he suggests judgment of his freshened squad should be delayed, at least until the end of a week which takes them to Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday before Chelsea come calling.
Outclassed by Barcelona in the European Cup final last season, United are striving to imitate the Catalans' composure, control, and clever short-passing game. It is interesting to note that the 11 chosen to start at the Reebok on Saturday included just three of the players who were on duty on 11 September last year. Edwin van der Sar, Gary Neville, John O'Shea and Paul Scholes have all gone, Dimitar Berbatov might as well have done and Ryan Giggs, 38 in November, is no longer assured of a place.
Invigorated by the arrival of David de Gea, Phil Jones and Ashley Young, and the return of Javier Hernández, United were much too good for homespun Bolton, sympathy for whom should be moderated by their recidivist approach.
Kevin Davies, always a foul in waiting, said beforehand that they would test the mettle of their celebrated opponents by putting them through a rigorous physical examination and the striker, who has long given the description double meaning, was as good/bad as his word, putting Tom Cleverley out of the game after eight minutes with a foot-breaker of a challenge, which left Cleverley and Ferguson incensed, but not surprised.
Davies's pre-match threats had focused on De Gea, United's new goalkeeper, whose frailty elsewhere led Bolton to believe there could be profit in unsettling him through robust proximity. If that was the plan, De Gea came through the test with flying colours, an assured performance embellished by a notable early save from Ivan Klasnic which had the red legions chanting the young Spaniard's name. United took the lead in the fifth minute, when Nani's right-wing cross was touched in at the near post by Hernández, and the outcome was never in doubt after a similar goal from Wayne Rooney, at the far post this time, made it 2-0 after 20.
Jones, promoted in place of Chris Smalling at right-back, was the provider for the second, and went on to add to his burgeoning reputation with a mighty contribution, catching the eye again when he went past two defenders to set up Rooney for 3-0. In other circumstances, the 19-year-old recruit from Blackburn Rovers would have been the man of the match, but with a scoreline like this the honours belong to the two strikers.
Given good service (unlike the unpromising fare he has to feed on with England), Rooney is back to his very best and richly deserved his second hat-trick in successive Premier League games. Hernández, having sharpened fitness and form with Mexico, was no less impressive and would have had three of his own but for Nigel Reo-Coker's goalline clearance. A big target man to battle for the crosses? Bolton may need Davies for that, but the quality of United's passing has rendered the old British behemoth redundant. Barça have shown us the way forward

Improving Anderson is crucial to Manchester United's dominance

Improving Anderson is crucial to Manchester United's dominance

The dynamic Brazilian Anderson is growing in influence in United's engine room, dictating the rhythm of the game
Anderson, Manchester United
Anderson, with his waspish left foot and change of pace, is making up for the absence of Paul Scholes in United's midfield. Photograph: Jon Super/AP
Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernández will receive the plaudits, and deservedly so, but there was another in Manchester United's ranks at the Reebok Stadium who caught the eye. The visitors' effervescent, left-footed Brazilian Anderson was the instigator of so many of United's brilliant moves on Saturday, setting the team's tone. As he continues to improve, he will soften the blow of Paul Scholes's retirement.
Anderson's increased confidence was instrumental to United's domination, the midfielder collecting the ball deep from his goalkeeper, David de Gea, when his centre-backs split and beginning the passing movements forward. Neither Nigel Reo-Coker nor Mark Davies wanted to leave their safe areas and tighten so high up the field, allowing Anderson to dictate the rhythm. In this defensive phase, Phil Jones and Patrice Evra pushed forward, which forced Chris Eagles and Martin Petrov deeper and offered the visitors more space in which to begin their build-up play.
Manchester United worked the ball from back to front via Anderson, leaving Bolton overwhelmed.Manchester United worked the ball from back to front via their dynamic Brazilian Anderson, leaving Bolton overwhelmed. Photograph: Graphic
Michael Carrick, who replaced Tom Cleverley, predictably played his deep-lying, safe game, rarely close enough for a pop at goal, but always ready to cope with rare counter‑attacking danger. Anderson has more vitality and energy. He received and searched for a front colleague to play a progressive forward pass, then followed that delivery forward to receive again and progress up the pitch. With his waspish left foot and change of pace, the Brazilian's form is making up for Scholes's absence and the less game time being enjoyed by Ryan Giggs.
Anderson's emergence shows the value of patience by both the manager and the player. The midfielder commands and demands the ball. He almost seems in love with it. His shooting and goals record will improve as his support play takes him closer to goal, as will his tracking of opponents and tackling as he plays more regularly. But he is already charged with responsibility: he takes the right‑wing corners, and his accuracy is better now than it was. He is an infectiously enthusiastic presence, forever calling for the ball.
Bolton had no answer. They had seemed determined to upset any early rhythm mustered by United with a series of poorly timed challenges, but this did not deter the visitors, whose early delivery from wide positions and brilliant box movement gave them three-goal daylight within the first 25 minutes. They swamped Bolton's four-man mid-line and zipped the ball to the touchlines, where Evra and Jones, my Guardian prediction for "buy of the season", gleefully joined in. This was another merciless display. Opponents must scratch their heads as they consider how best to stop them. Getting tighter to Anderson may be one answer.