Tag: Manchester United

Manchester United’s Angst & Sunderland’s Conflict

When the ball’s not rolling your way, the ball’s not rolling your way. Into extra-time having won in ninety minutes – had the away goals rule applied after ninety minutes, this would have been enough to see them squeeze through to the final – they were pinned back to almost certain defeat with a minute of extra-time left to play, but somehow they still they managed to find the briefest moments of time to force a penalty shoot-out. And then they lost the penalty shoot-out. Even though the other team missed three out of their five shots at goal. On a night when the villains outshone the heroes by a factor of appoximately three to one, Manchester United imploded in the most improbable, spectacular, self-inflicted manner possible. Had Brian Glanville used it as a plot line in a new children’s novel called “Goalkeepers Are Different II: The Personal Inner Torment Of David De Gea,” it would have been laughed out of court as “too far-fetched to be credible” by the press and public alike. Where they found a way to lose, they found a way to lose. But there was a peculiar beauty in defeat of this nature. It was epic, sweeping, almost grandiose. Not that this will come as much of a crumb of comfort to their supporters today. For Sunderland supporters, there may be an element of...

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Eusebio & The 1968 European Cup Final

There was a time when it was a sport rather than a merely a business. The scene was Wembley Stadium, on the twenty-ninth of May 1968. In Czechoslovakia, the Prague Spring was in full effect. Just a few weeks previously, Dr Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated in Memphis, whilst both Paris and London groaned under the weight of student protest against the establishment and the Vietnam war. A global summer of political tumult lay ahead. Professional football, meanwhile, trundled on, but serendipity had ensured that this year’s European Cup final would be played in London, at the venue which, less than two years earlier, had played host to the host nation winning the World Cup. And now, for the first time, an English club would be playing in the final of this competition. The benefit of hindsight might now allow us to believe that there was something written in the stars which determined that Manchester United would win the 1968 European Cup. This year was, after all, the tenth anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster, which had torn a gaping hole in one of the finest European club sides of the era and has since provided football historians with one of its great ‘what if’ questions – how close might the Busby Babes have coming to becoming the champions of Europe had death not intervened so cruelly...

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Where Does The Buck Stop At Old Trafford At The Moment?

Upon reflection, it wasn’t so much the fact of Manchester United’s two home defeats in the space of four days as the manner of them. At almost any pont in the last twenty-one years or so, Manchester United would have swatted the likes of Everton and Newcastle United aside in the manner of an elephant dealing with a troublesome mosquito but the last few days have been different. It’s difficult to remember more toothless back-to-back performances by a Manchester United team in recent years, and if supporters of the club might have been able to chalk last week’s loss against Everton down as being a bad day at the office which ended with being struck firmly on the jaw by the visitors, this afternoon’s Manchester United performance was even more difficult to find mitigating circumstances for. Yohan Cabaye’s goal for Newcastle United at Old Trafford today came with a third of the match left to play, but United offered practically nothing in response to this. There was no tension as the clock ran down, none of the sense of inevitability that would hang over a match when Manchester United were encamped around a penalty area, pushing and prodding for a late goal. The spell that hung over Old Trafford for so many years has, it has felt over the last few days, been broken. Away teams no longer arrive...

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The Season Is Young, But Time Is Not On David Moyes’ Side

We are only six matches into the Premier League season, but the remaining thirty-two matches must feel like a mountain to climb for the already beleagured Manchester United manager David Moyes as he surveys the wreckage of last Saturday’s home defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion. Over the course of the last week and a half or so, the wheels on his wagon have started to look extremely rickety indeed and the faint but distinctive smell of panic is already starting to settle over the more skittish element of the club’s support. How long might it be, we might reasonably wonder, before the “David Moyes is incompetent” trope becomes The Thing About David Moyes? Time, it is already starting to feel, may be beginning to run out. It is worth reminding ourselves of the reasons why Moyes was appointed into the managerial position at Old Trafford in the first place. His record at Everton was not perfect, but Alex Ferguson saw traits in him that clearly indicated to him that he was the right man to succeed him in this potentially thorny role. The problem with the managerial succession at Manchester United, however, is that expectations have been inflated to such an extent by more than twenty years of almost uninterrupted success that there is no room for a transitional period, as we are seeing now. Three...

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Manchester City Shine A Harsh Light On Manchester United’s Shortcomings

It’s early days, of course, not that this will provide much comfort to Manchester United supporters this evening. This afternoon at The Etihad Stadium, David Moyes’ team was blown away by his cross-city rivals, a performance which leaves the defending champions with just two wins from their first five matches of the season and in eighth place in the Premier League table and, in the world of instant gratification that modern football has become, there will doubtlessly be those who will start to wonder whether the end of Alex Ferguson’s era in charge of the club might just be the the end of something altogether more profound. As time passes, empires tend to fall, and some may already be wondering whether signs of this crumbling are already starting to become evident. “No” is the probable to answer to this question, but it won’t stop the tetchy, the angry and those with a hair-trigger finger from being the most likely to be heard over the next few days. But Manchester United’s shortcomings are only one part of the story of this afternoon’s match. Just as Manchester United lost a manager during the summer, so did Manchester City and, whilst there had been concerns previously that Manuel Pellegrini seemed to be struggling to get the most from his players, this afternoon his team’s performance was one which more than met the...

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