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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Inter Milan Vs. Manchester United Result Report

Inter Milan [0-0] Manchester United


Inter Milan Vs. Manchester United Result Report

This Champions League last 16 tie is intriguingly poised at 0-0 at the halfway stage, but the Reds will hope that an inability to secure an away goal – one that looked odds on in dominant first half – won’t come back to bite Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.

At least, United’s task in the second leg at Old Trafford on Wednesday 11 March is simple: win. Any other results – apart from 0-0, which would take the game into extra time – would see Jose Mourinho’s men triumph. But if the first half performance was anything to go by, the Reds’ chances look good. The balance of the opening 45 minutes was so ludicrously tipped in United’s favour that a goal, or a few, seemed inevitable. But Internazionale returned a different team in the second half, no longer beleaguered by the Reds’ commanding football.

The game was of top billing, a mouth-watering battle between two of the most prominent forces in Europe – United seven points in front in the Premier League, Internazionale boasting a nine-point lead in Serie A – and, of course, the resumption of an intriguing rivalry between Sir Alex and Jose Mourinho.

Sir Alex had injury concerns before the match with only six defenders travelling to Milan, two of them carrying injuries. But Jonny Evans and John O’Shea both made the starting line-up. And they weren’t the only surprises; Sir Alex left Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez on the bench, favouring an archetypal European away formation, set up for a smash and grab with Dimitar Berbatov leading the line, and a five-man midfield of Cristiano Ronaldo, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Ji-sung Park.

United haven’t lost a Champions League game since the 3-0 semi-final loss to AC Milan in this stadium two years ago. The wounds of that defeat cut deep and United set out with the intention of putting that right. Ronaldo immediately grasped the nettle, he had an early sighter from a free-kick after three minutes, then tested Julio Cesar with a powerful header from Giggs’ corner, while another free-kick two minutes later had the Inter goalkeeper scrambling across his goal.

United’s demeanour was calm and confident, the passing incisive and purposeful, a more mature team than when this stadium last welcomed the Reds. United’s penetrative play created yet another chance on the 20-minute mark as Giggs’ reverse pass found Berbatov’s run into the box, but the Bulgarian could pick out Park in the six-yard box. It was all United though, and Berbatov went close again with a powerful downward header from 15 yards from Evra’s cross, but the ball drifted wide of Julio Cesar’s right post.

The Reds were dominant, dictating pace of play, while Inter were playing a containment role looking to strike on the break. United’s next opportunity fell to Giggs, played in beautifully by Carrick, but the Welshman took the ball to wide and Julio Cesar narrowed the angle enough to force a shot straight at the keeper.

Ronaldo went close with a third free-kick on 27 minutes, while a headed attempt went past the post with Inter hearts in mouths. Sir Alex’s worry as half time approached was that he wouldn’t want his side to regret a glut of missed chances, because this tie could have been virtually over inside the first 25 minutes. The only surprise at the half-time break was how the score remained 0-0.

Mourinho recognised the need to change his team and their approach, swapping Nelson Rivas with Ivan Cordoba, and no doubt having delivered a rallying half-time team-talk because Inter came out fighting in the second half. They immediately attacked and within a minute Adriano’s scuffed shot went narrowly over. Inter had far more purpose about their play and regained the belief of a previously disgruntled home crowd. But United were still a threat. Ronaldo’s went on a brilliant run on 65 minutes and squared the ball across the face of goal, but neither Park nor Berbatov could reach it for the decisive touch.

Giggs was denied with fifteen minutes remaining when he darted across the edge of the box and fired a shot goalwards, but Cordoba was well placed to make the crucial block.

Inter went close again when Esteban Cambiasso failed to turn the ball in from close range from a corner before United scrambled the ball clear. Wayne Rooney was introduced for last seven minutes in place of the energetic Park. The Englishman was his usual all-action self, but his short, sharp burst of energy delivered only a booking – albeit a harsh one for a perfectly legitimate challenge on Cambiasso – rather than the goal United craved, and arguably deserved.

It was fitting that the game ended with another Ronaldo free-kick, which twisted and swerved on its route to goal, but was ultimately stopped by Julio Cesar. The deadlock remains unbroken, but home advantage will hopefully play its part in a fortnight.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Manchester United Vs. Blackburn Match Report

United went eight points clear at the top of the league after victory over Blackburn Rovers on Saturday evening.

As is customary of late, Sir Alex’s men won by the slenderest of margins, although for the first time since November the Reds conceded a league goal.

United were made to work hard for the points but goals from Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo proved enough to seal an 11th consecutive win in all competitions.

The Reds made five changes from the side that produced such scintillating football against Fulham in midweek. Jonny Evans came in for Nemanja Vidic to get some more minutes under his belt before United’s trip to the San Siro on Tuesday (the Serbian is suspended for that match), while Rafael replaced John O’Shea at right-back. Wayne Rooney was handed his first start in six weeks, while Nani replaced Ji-sung Park on the left wing.

But perhaps the biggest shock came in goal, where Edwin van der Sar was rested in the league for the first time since the end of October. The Dutchman, who has sent goalkeeping records tumbling in recent weeks, was replaced by Tomasz Kuszczak.

The Polish stopper had precious little to do early on. Instead, it was Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson who had most cause for concern in the opening minutes.

Paul Scholes, fresh from one of his best performances in a United shirt three days earlier, shot narrowly wide in the third minute after finding space in midfield to run at Rovers’ defence. Sixty seconds later, Cristiano Ronaldo’s cross curled just beyond the far post.

Scholes blasted wide once more on 12 minutes when a half-cleared corner fell to the midfielder on the edge of the box. Moments earlier, Rooney would have succeeded in playing Michael Carrick in on goal had a Blackburn defender not intervened with a last-ditch sliding tackle.

More last-ditch defending saved the visitors on 17 minutes, Ryan Nelson hooking clear Ronaldo’s dangerous cross just as Carrick looked certain to head in from close range.

Much of United’s best work was coming down the right flank so it was no surprise that the Reds engineered the game’s opener from that area of the pitch. Nani, who’d drifted across from the left, curled a teasing cross in behind the Blackburn defence. Nelsen stretched to clear but failed to make decisive contact and the ball dropped to Rooney, who pounced from five yards to net his 14th goal of the season and his fourth in as many league appearances.

Recently, that would have been enough to secure victory. But nine minutes later Blackburn became the first team to breach United’s defence in the league since 8 November.

Indeed, 1334 minutes had elapsed – that’s more than 22 hours of football and 14 consecutive clean sheets – before Roque Santa Cruz evaded Rio Ferdinand’s tackle, rounded Tomasz Kuszczak and calmly rolled the ball into the net to level scores at 1-1.

And that’s how it stayed as the teams went into the break, although United will feel aggrieved to have had Jonny Evans’ header ruled out on the stroke of half-time. Referee Howard Webb ruled the Northern Irishman had used his arms to claim an unfair advantage at the corner, although replays suggested the decision was harsh.

Neither manager made changes at half-time and the second period began at a furious pace. Within two minutes, both sides had fashioned chances, with Blackburn going closest to finding the net. Only assured defending from Patrice Evra and then Jonny Evans kept the score at 1-1.

Blackburn’s confidence grew and 13 minutes into the second period the visitors hit the post. Ryan Nelsen stole in behind the defence to fire past Kuszczak but the ball cannoned back off the woodwork. The Pole then produced a fine save to keep out El-Hadji Diouf’s fierce follow-up.

United responded to the scare in the best possible fashion, Ronaldo rifling in a free-kick from wide on the left to restore the Reds’ lead. It was a stunning strike, fizzing over the wall and into the far corner beyond Robinson’s despairing dive. It was the sort of goal the Ballon d’Or winner produced so many times last season, and one that today proved just as important as it was spectacular.

Sir Alex immediately made a double substitution – Vidic for Evans, Tevez for Nani – that pushed Wayne Rooney out to the left. There, he encountered the fiery Diouf, a battle that provided thoroughly engrossing viewing for the rest of the evening.

United remained in control as the minutes ticked down. Not even Sam Allardyce’s decision to throw on Benni McCarthy for the last 10 minutes could affect a change in Rovers’ fortunes. Indeed, the game opened up even further for the Reds and Berbatov should have perhaps added a third with 87 minutes on the clock.

The Stretford End chorused, “We shall not be moved” during injury time. Certainly, with United now eight points clear at the top of the league, the task for United’s title rivals is looking increasingly more difficult.

Manchester United Vs. Blackburn Rovers Highlights Video Clip

Manchester United [2 - 1] Blackburn Rovers
23' [1 - 0] W. Rooney
32' [1 - 1] R.S. Cruz
60' [2 - 1] C. Ronaldo

1-0 W.Rooney 23'

1-1 R.Santa Cruz 32'

2-1 C.Ronaldo 60'

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Manchester United Vs. Fulham Match Report

Goals from Paul Scholes, Dimitar Berbatov and the returning Wayne Rooney brought United a tenth straight win in all competitions, and with it a handsome lead in the Barclays Premier League.

So now at last the table truly reflects the champions’ advantage – with the same number of games played, the Reds are superior to nearest rivals Liverpool by five points and nine goals.

United’s superiority in this contest was rarely in doubt, even with Sir Alex Ferguson making seven changes to the side that booked a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals and a possible rematch with Fulham on 7 March.

Edwin van der Sar returned in pursuit of his 14th consecutive league clean sheet and there were also recalls at the back for John O’Shea and Nemanja Vidic. Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes rejoined the midfield while Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tevez were reunited as the front two.

Cristiano Ronaldo therefore started wide where he produced two crowd-pleasing flicks in the opening moments for right-wing partner O’Shea, one leading to a shot across Mark Schwarzer’s bows from the Irishman.

The stunning first strike came from the opposite flank, however, when Michael Carrick’s left-wing corner was volleyed in vintage fashion by Paul Scholes. Schwarzer dived to his right and got his hands to the howitzer but could only watch in horror as the ball spun away to his left to give Scholes his richly deserved goal.

Fulham created one half-decent threat to van der Sar’s record in the first 20 minutes when right-back John Pantsil floated in a cross and Bobby Zamora headed just wide.

Between the first and second goals, Ronaldo stepped over the ball and then stung the goalkeeper’s palms with a powerful shot; Tevez’s ‘goal’ was rightly disallowed for offside and Berbatov had a close-range effort cleared off the line by Aaron Hughes and a header tipped over the bar by Schwarzer.

The Bulgarian wouldn’t be kept at bay for long, however; when O’Shea stretched to knock Scholes’ clever pass across goal, United’s number nine nipped between the indecisive duo of Schwarzer and Hughes to tap the ball over the line. Berbatov almost doubled his tally moments later when he poked fractionally wide from Tevez’s pass.

Scholes also came close to a second when he drilled a daisy-cutter to Schwarzer’s right and although the Australian could only parry it, he gathered the ball before Park could pounce. Schwarzer was beaten again in the final act of the half but Berbatov was deemed to be offside before despatching his downward header.

The same combatants crossed swords again 12 minutes into the second half when Berbatov’s shot was pawed over the bar by Schwarzer after neat play on the edge of the box by Scholes and Park.

Berbatov made way for Rooney’s return on the hour mark and the substitute needed only two minutes – and just one touch - to make it 3-0 to United. Evra’s cross from the left landed perfectly for Park and although the Korean’s shot was going wide, Rooney ghosted in behind a defender to steer it home first-time.

Fulham had little to play for now except the distinction of ending United’s remarkable run of clean sheets. But although Zamora went close for a second time in the match when he toe-poked a shot past the post, van der Sar was largely a spectator – and a very satisfied one at that, just like the joyful majority in the 75,437 crowd.

Schwarzer's watch was always the busier, right until injury time when another United substitute Darron Gibson - so impressive in the FA Cup win at Derby - sent the final shot fizzing inches wide.

Manchester United Vs. Fulham Highlghts Video Clip

Manchester United [3 - 0] Fulham
12' [1 - 0] P. Scholes
30' [2 - 0] D. Berbatov
63' [3 - 0] W. Rooney

1-0 P.Scholes 12'

2-0 D.Berbatov 30'

3-0 W.Rooney 63'

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Derby Vs. Manchester United Match Report

United cruised into the FA Cup quarter-finals after a professional demolition of Derby at Pride Park.

Nani’s thunderous sixth of the season and a fine volley from Darron Gibson put the Reds in control at the break, before Cristiano Ronaldo’s bullet header made it three.

Derby, the only side who can claim to have beaten the world champions, got back into the game through Miles Addison’s header but never seriously threatened to complete an unlikely comeback and Reds substitute Danny Welbeck netted an exquisite fourth.

The Reds’ performance was all the more impressive given that it was achieved with a much-changed line-up. Sir Alex Ferguson made no fewer than seven changes to the side that beat West Ham, with Patrice Evra back from a seven-game absence and Jonny Evans also returning from injury alongside Rio Ferdinand in defence.

Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs were named as the two forwards with Ben Foster in goal, while Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov were rested from the squad entirely.

Gibson took up his preferred central midfield role and in the first minute he flashed a left-footed shot just over Stephen Bywater's goal.

That set the tone for a dominant display, in contrast to what the Reds had produced in the Carling Cup defeat on the same ground 39 days previously.

A flowing move involving Ronaldo and Giggs led to Darren Fletcher forcing Bywater into a smart stop, and a minute later the Rams keeper was called into action again to tip over a Ji-sung Park volley from an acute angle.

Derby hurried and harassed United in midfield but struggled to create any openings of their own until Rob Hulse volleyed a snap-shot just over Foster’s bar in the 21st minute.

United were in command and were rewarded just before the half-hour as Nani fired home an almost identical goal to the one he scored in the 4-2 win over the Rams last month. The ball was played from left to right through Gibson, Fletcher and Giggs to Nani, who cut infield and let fly with a trademark dipping shot that flew past Bywater.

It seemed for all the world as though Ronaldo had doubled the lead eight minutes before the break when he ran onto a delicious Giggs flick-on to slot home – only for referee Alan Wiley to rule it out for offside a full 20 seconds later after consultation with his linesman.

But it mattered little as United were two goals to the good just before half-time. Ronaldo’s 30-yard free-kick hit the wall, spooned up and Gibson smartly steered his volley from the edge of the box into the bottom right-hand corner.

Three minutes into the second half Ronaldo had his goal, thumping home a header from eight yards from Giggs’ corner from the right.

United were threatening to run riot and almost immediately Bywater made a good double save from Ronaldo and Fletcher after the Reds had carved the Derby defence open again.

That was the cue for Ferguson to bring on John O’Shea and Welbeck for Park and Evra. But the home side gave themselves a lifeline when an unmarked Addison neatly headed Kris Commons’ right-wing cross past Foster.

Unsurprisingly, the goal galvanised the Rams and Gary Teale’s pacy run almost created an opening for Commons.

With 20 minutes left another thrilling link-up between Giggs and Ronaldo led to the latter blazing over from 20 yards. That was the Portuguese’s last meaningful contribution as he was replaced by Rodrigo Possebon.

Teale’s arrowing shot forced Foster into a fantastic save low to his right – and four minutes later Welbeck finally killed off Derby’s hopes.

Fletcher played a neat one-two with Giggs before finding Welbeck on the left of the box, and the youngster curled the ball delightfully past Bywater.

It was the striker’s third goal for United and it capped a thoroughly satisfactory evening for Ferguson’s men, who completed a ninth successive win to march into the last eight.

Derby County Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

Derby County [1 - 4] Manchester United
29' [0 - 1] Nani
44' [0 - 2] D. Gibson
48' [0 - 3] C. Ronaldo
56' [1 - 3] M. Addison
81' [1 - 4] D. Welbeck


Sunday, February 8, 2009

West Ham United Vs. Manchester United Match Report

The Reds reclaimed top spot in the Premier League with an efficient display against West Ham. And though the match may not have been a classic, Ryan Giggs’ match-winning goal certainly was.

The Welsh winger had been yet to find the net in the league this season, but the 35-year-old has been refined to save all his experience and talent for a time when it matters most.

This was United’s fifth 1-0 away win this season, which you have to say is championship form, operating with a metronome beat that rings ominously for the Reds’ title rivals.

United, still missing Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra, and also without skipper Gary Neville, started the match with two games in hand on closest rivals Liverpool, who somewhat fortunately went a point ahead at the top of the league on Saturday when Fernando Torres snatched a last-gasp 3-2 win against Portsmouth.

Regaining top spot was clearly the priority, but it was never going to be an easy ride. Being the league’s form team, with an increasingly more potent attack and a record-breaking defence, the chances of achieving it appeared positive. But West Ham are themselves third in the form table with four wins and two draws from their last six league games.

United's players looked as bright as their white away shirts early on, freely passing through a 4-4-2 formation that regularly saw Cristiano Ronaldo on the left and Ryan Giggs on the right push high up the pitch. However, this is a fixture that never lacks bite, and West Ham were bristling with determination and fight, busily trying to dismantle United’s play. And they did a decent job of it.

The Reds’ record run of clean sheets, stretching back to 8 November, twice looked like coming to an abrupt end in the first half. After 11 minutes, Lucas Neill had West Ham’s first shot as the Reds failed to clear a corner. But the Australian’s low drive from 18 yards was well held by van der Sar. Seconds later the Dutchman had to have his wits about him when Carlton Cole, who had scored six in his last eight outings prior to this match, raced beyond Rio Ferdinand and tried to clip a shot in at the far post.

At the other end, Dimitar Berbatov thought he’d given United the lead when he poked a shot past West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green. But the linesman’s flag was rightly raised for offside. Green then had to be alert on the half-hour mark to deny an improvised Ronaldo attempt on goal. Giggs’ corner found Scholes unmarked on the edge of the area and his shot was going wide until Ronaldo’s delicate touch changed its course and Green had to turn the ball over the bar.

The half ended without any goals, and while United may have been slightly frustrated at one end of the pitch, at the other it heralded a British record for van der Sar for minutes without conceding a goal. But within three minutes of the restart, United’s keeper had to earn his stripes with a smart save from Neill’s curling, left-footed shot.

The Reds looked menacing in possession but seemed to be lacking penetration in the final third, and it is at these stages in games when the know-it-alls like Giggs and Paul Scholes step to the fore. United's two most experienced outfield West Ham 0 United 1

players finally found a breakthrough after an hour, Scholes’ perfectly executed pinpoint pass finding Giggs out wide on the left. Cutting inside, the Welshman evaded Cole’s wild lunge, shimmied past another Hammers defender into the box and curled a low, right-footed shot past Green. Vintage stuff from two vintage Reds.

It is Giggs’ first Premier league goal this season and maintains his record of having scored in every season since the Premier League’s inception in 1992.

West Ham still caused United problems. Cole’s shot from distance was narrowly wide, and he was denied at the front post by Ferdinand after Noble broke the offside trap to sneak in behind John O’Shea. But Giggs’ brilliance seemed to sap much of the energy from the West Ham players’ legs, and took the edge off their midfield's previously rabid determination.

Ronaldo could, and should, ave had a second-half penalty after being fouled by Neill just inside the box, but referee Phil Dowd must not have seen the incident properly as he incorrectly refused to point to the spot.

The match ended without any late drama, and while that was largely indicative of the match as a whole, unremarkable 1-0 wins are a cornerstone of championship successes. The run of clean sheets continues, as does United's unrelenting march forward in the title race.

West Ham United Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

West Ham United [0 - 1] Manchester United
62' [0 - 1] R. Giggs

1st Half

2nd Half

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tuesday, February 3, 2009