Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Biggest Manchester Derby Ever - A preview


Here comes the Manchester derby, the biggest game of the Premier League season so far. And who'd have thought this fixture would ever be called such? As recently as a couple of seasons ago, this was just a routine fixture, a match with a foregone conclusion. Manchester City were a cannon fodder team whose sole purpose of existence seemed to be to guarantee 6 points to Manchester United season after season.

How quickly things change. The Blue neighbours went from meek to noisy, and are now causing an almighty ruckus. Manchester City head to Old Trafford top of the table and having scored an outrageous 27 goals in 8 games. This fixture is now a genuinely big game that could decide the destiny of the title. It's no longer just about bragging rights for City, it's no longer just another game for United.

In the Red Corner

As defending champions playing at home, Manchester United do have a certain advantage. They've been stingy about conceding league goals, thanks in no small part to David de Gea. And their array of attacking talent has unfailingly delivered the goals that were asked of them. 25 in 8 games is no mean feat.

Why then, are Manchester United heading into this game second in the table? All it took was a couple of draws against Stoke and Liverpool and Manchester City had leapfrogged them. A sign of the times, if anything.

However, their league form, especially at home, has been extraordinary. They've failed to win just 1 home league game since April last year. Nani and Young on either side of Rooney and his partner have ripped apart team after team before squad rotation brought a halt to the run of wins and skewed scorelines.

However, this bunch will be together on the pitch come Sunday, and Manchester City must prepare to face the sternest test of their defence yet.

Player to Watch: Wayne Rooney, the X-Factor player whose spectacular overhead kick sealed last season's corresponding fixture in United's favour

In the Blue Corner

Manchester City mean business. Like their neighbours, they've been swatting away opposition with reckless abandon. They boast (arguably) the league's best bunch of attacking midfielders in Aguero, Silva and Nasri. For me, David Silva has been the player of the season so far, his presence propelling City. He's at the heart of everything good for City, and has grabbed at least one assist every time he has started a league game.

Of late, Roberto Mancini has binned his cautious tactics from last season to give his attackers more freedom, and the results are there for all to see. They've hung teams to dry (and some of them are good teams like Villa and Spurs) and made a statement.

There is a certain arrogance about these brash new kids in the block, and the added competition is a bit refreshing. They have the deepest squad in the Premier League and seem prepared for anything. They can afford to sack Tevez, bench Dzeko and still name a first 11 that can win any league game on its day.

Yes, any league game. Even this one.

Player to watch: Sergio Aguero, the crafty Argentinian whose return from injury couldn't come at a better time for Roberto Mancini


It's about more than bragging rights. If the league is to be, as many predicted at the end of the transfer window, a shootout between the Manchester teams, this result could go a good way in deciding the title's destiny. A fixture between top and second, between the league's strongest attacks and the league's stingiest defences. If the game lives up to half the hype, we're in for a treat.

As for me, I say the home team must be favourites in such a game but given the teams' form so far, there is nothing to choose between them. However, there will be goals, no doubting that.

Manchester United 2-2 Manchester City

Monday, 19 September 2011

Lay off Nando

Dear reader, if you are rampant in liking the anti-Torres pages on Facebook, and revel in his failures, this post is not for you... is what I would've said, but scratch that. This post is made for you.  Just you. Not aimed at you in particular though, but at the people being paid to 'write' about football.

My goodness, it has become very fashionable to make fun of Fernando Torres, hasn't it? So much so we do it even after he's scored.

He was in his element throughout this game and the last. His work rate, touch, reading of passes from midfield and skill were top class. He was unlucky to be denied a goal against Leverkusen (still got two assists) and brilliantly finished Anelka's pass straight from second half kick-off at Old Trafford. He was Chelsea's most dangerous player in both games, at the heart of two very good performances, trying very hard to be both provider and finisher. And most importantly, doing utmost justice to his selection.

Yet, all the headlines about Torres have his name and 'personal hell' or 'disaster' or something similar in the same sentence after last night's game. Why? He ran United's defence ragged, especially in that second half. One could feel something was going to happen each time he got the ball, and that isn't a feeling people have had lately.

His touch of class for the goal was not a disaster. He wasn't undergoing personal hell after outrunning Jones to lay it on a plate for Ramires, or skinning both centre backs only to be denied by de Gea. He wasn't having a torrid time picking off Anderson's loose balls or tracking back and tackling.

In fact, I might actually go on to say he wasn't as bad as he's being made out to be. Very good, even!

No idiot will say he's been in anything resembling good form since he's signed. But it's absolutely outrageous, the things that are being said about Torres after his two best games in a Blue shirt (some may say, any shirt since 2009). No idiot will say Torres is undergoing personal hell after two games in which he's contributed a goal and two assists, which could've been so much more.

Is it because he missed an open net? Diego Forlan did it for Man United against Juventus. Didn't stop him becoming great. Pele did it too. Name is familiar isn't it? In fact, lots of notable players have done it. And not all of them scored in those games either.

Remember, this is coming after the same game where Wayne Rooney tried his best John Terry impression from the spot, only ending up looking worse than the 'original'. And scored the same number of goals as Fernando Torres in the match.

No denying that his miss could well go on to become Blooper of the Decade, but to say it defined his performance based on one poor kick of the ball is a travesty of journalism. I understand just how much people want him to fail (It does make for rather easy journalism, see. Appreciate Torres? God forbid! Better you than me!), but sometimes credit must go where it is due.

I end my post/rant here (if you feel it's a rant, don't bother telling me, I know myself that this isn't the most composed piece of work to come off my keyboard :P )