• HABARI MPYA

    Thursday, January 31, 2013

    MAN UNITED MWENDO MTELEZO


    By the season’s end Manchester City will perhaps rue the night they failed to beat the Barclays Premier League’s bottom club in the final week of January. After last night’s events at Old Trafford, neighbours United once again lead the table by seven points.
    There is, however, enough  fallibility about this United team to suggest that this title race is  anything but over. Last night once again we saw the best — rather briefly — and the worst — for a good while longer — of Sir Alex Ferguson’s team. 
    For the second home league game running, they were hanging on grimly at the end, unable to defend with anything approaching calm or confidence.
    Match-winner: Wayne Rooney celebrates his second goal of the night with his team-mates
    Match-winner: Wayne Rooney celebrates his second goal of the night with his team-mates

    Match facts

    Man Utd: De Gea, Jones, Smalling (Ferdinand 63), Vidic, Evra, Welbeck, Carrick, Anderson (Rafael 68), Kagawa (Nani 73), Rooney, van Persie. 
    Subs not used: Lindegaard, Valencia, Cleverley, Buttner.
    Goals: Rooney 8, 27
    Booked: Vidic, Rafael
    Southampton: Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Fox (Shaw 78), Schneiderlin, Cork, Puncheon (Steven Davis 46), Rodriguez, Ramirez (Lallana 46), Lambert. 
    Subs not used: Kelvin Davis, Lee, Richardson,Chaplow.
    Goals: Rodriguez 3
    Booked: Schneiderlin
    Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)
    Attendance: 75,600
    As Southampton — yes, this was Southampton and not Real Madrid — pushed hard in the final moments, the home crowd began to beg for the final whistle. United goalkeeper David de Gea made a good save from a Rickie Lambert free-kick and Nemanja Vidic threw himself manfully in the way of a shot from the visiting captain.
    Ultimately, United dragged  themselves over the line but this was desperate stuff from a team who spent much of the second half defending and were, essentially, one unkind bounce of the ball away from a draw that could have sucked the wind from their sails.
    This morning Ferguson will look at the league table with some  satisfaction. City have lost the ground they gained when United drew at Tottenham two weekends ago and have lost Mario Balotelli, one of their heralded quartet of centre forwards, to AC Milan.
    Next up in the league for United are Fulham, Everton, QPR, West Ham, Reading and Sunderland. Not until they face City at Old  Trafford at the start of April do they have a game that should daunt them in any way. Nevertheless, they will have to be better than this.
    There were several stand-out moments that shaped this game. De Gea’s third-minute blunder that allowed Jay Rodriguez to give Southampton the lead will serve as an unfortunate addition to a personal catalogue of bloopers that  continues to grow, while the  manner that United responded to move ahead through two first-half goals from Wayne Rooney was impressive.
    Master blaster: Rooney picks his spot with a powerful shot for United's equaliser
    Master blaster: Rooney picks his spot with a powerful and precise shot for United's equaliser
    It is, however, the way that United allowed themselves to be forced on to the back foot by supposedly  inferior opposition that once again marked them out as a team that is some way short of being complete.
    It is not the first time this season this has happened, not the first time United have got away with it.Ferguson’s team selection bristled with attacking intent. Rooney, Robin van Persie, Shinji Kagawa and Danny Welbeck were all there.
    Before United could find their stride, though, they were behind.
    High five: Rooney is congratulated by Robin van Persie after scoring United's equaliser
    High five: Rooney is congratulated by Robin van Persie after levelling the scores just eight minutes in
    Michael Carrick’s back pass to De Gea was certainly a poor one. As such, the blame for what happened was partially his.
    However, the manner in which the Spanish goalkeeper waved a foot timidly at what was essentially a 50-50 challenge with Rodriguez was desperately unconvincing and a second later the Southampton player had rolled the loose ball home.
    De Gea has made some impressive saves for United this season. He is much improved. Nevertheless, those who continue to make excuses for him are simply blinding themselves to his mistakes. Once again there have been too many and, as the season reaches its final stretch, his presence continues to spread uncertainty through the United defence.
    Predator: Patrice Evra (centre) dives to head the ball across for Rooney (second left)...
    Predator: Patrice Evra (centre) dives to head the ball across for Rooney (second left)...
    ... Rooney finds space at the far post unmarked and with the open goal gaping...
    ... Rooney finds space at the far post unmarked and with the open goal gaping...
    ... and the United striker wheels away as the ball hits he back of the net
    ... and the United striker wheels away as the ball hits he back of the net
    For the rest of the first half, United were excellent. They played some precise, quick football and it was too much for Southampton. Ferguson’s post-match assertion that his side could have scored three or four goals was correct.
    Kagawa’s pass for Rooney’s first — his 100th at Old Trafford — in the eighth minute was inch-perfect and the United striker swept the ball across Artur Boruc into the far corner with his right foot.
    Old Trafford was suddenly a rather more relaxed place and United threatened to overwhelm the visitors. Mauricio Pochettino’s team tried to come forward when they could and they had their moments, but United were too good for them when they had the ball.
    Kagawa hit the post and Van  Persie had a shot deflected over before the home team took the lead in the 27th minute.
    Shock opener: Jay Rodriguez strikes early for Southampton to stun Old Trafford
    Shock opener: Jay Rodriguez strikes early for Southampton to stun Old Trafford
    Rodriguez celebrates
    Stunned: United goalkeeper David De Gea reflects on Southampton's early goal at Old Trafford
    Another gaffe: United goalkeeper David De Gea reflects on Southampton's early goal at Old Trafford
    Van Persie’s ability with a dead ball is overlooked by many but not by anybody at Old Trafford. His delivery to the far post from the right was dropped straight on to Patrice Evra’s head and when the Frenchman nodded it back across goal Rooney nudged the ball in from a yard with his right foot.
    At this stage, United looked set fair to stretch their legs and indeed their lead. Van Persie drove a shot over from an angle while a superb piece of skill from Welbeck drew a save from Boruc at his near post.
    In the second half, though, everything changed. Southampton made two substitutions, took the initiative and never relinquished it.
    A brief United flurry with 15  minutes to go did see Boruc save wonderfully from Van Persie, and the Dutchman had a header ruled out for offside when it probably should have stood.
    So near yet so far: Shinji Kagawa (centre) shoots past Saints keeper Artur Boruc but hits the post
    So near yet so far: Shinji Kagawa (top) hits the post while Saints keeper Artur Boruc denies Van Persie (below)
    Denied: Artur Boruc makes a save from Van Persie
    That apart, however, it was Southampton’s game as United persistently gave the ball away and invited pressure.
    Panicked a little, Ferguson threw on Rio Ferdinand and Rafael in a bid to introduce some order to his side. It hardly worked, though, as De Gea dropped a long shot from Lambert and then threw the ball straight to a Southampton player the next instant.
    United held on and increased their lead at the top. This, however, is not over.
    Clean pair of heels: Danny Welbeck skips away from Morgan Schneiderlin (right)
    Clean pair of heels: Danny Welbeck skips away from Morgan Schneiderlin (right)
    This is why he's a defender: United's Chris Smalling (right) fluffs his attempt at goal
    This is why he's a defender: United's Chris Smalling (right) fluffs his attempt at goal
    No hat-trick today: Rooney goes airborne after Boruc dives to save at the striker's feet
    No hat-trick today: Rooney goes airborne after Boruc dives to save at the striker's feet
    Welcome to the Premier League: Sir Alex Ferguson chats to new Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino
    Welcome to the Premier League: Sir Alex Ferguson chats to new Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino
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    Item Reviewed: MAN UNITED MWENDO MTELEZO Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Mahmoud Bin Zubeiry

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