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Missed chances ends United’s 2014


Tottenham Hotspur 0 Manchester United 0

Manchester United brought down the curtain on their rather indifferent year at White Hart Lane against a Spurs team who also had a year to forget.

New management and squads for both teams, and both Louis van Gaal and Mauricio Pochettino bringing in new ideas and styles of play. The stage was set for an encounter that in the past had never failed to deliver entertaining football. The last time Spurs won this fixture was way back in May 2001.

Going into the match United had been impressively unbeaten in the last eight matches, seven of those being wins. Also, the goals for column was looking good, in the last eight matches they had managed to score 17 goals, and thanks mainly to goalkeeper David de Gea only conceded 5. The last time the Red Devils came to the capital they escaped with all the points against Arsenal.

The team news prior to the match revealed that Fellaini (rib), Di Maria (pelvis), Herrera (muscle) would not be involved, however, on a positive note Luke Shaw was included in the squad after being absent since that win over Arsenal.

The eleven to face Spurs were: De Gea, Jones, McNair, Evans, Valencia, Carrick, Rooney, Mata, Young, Van Persie & Falcao. Van Gaal showing faith in the same players that started against Newcastle on Boxing day. It was the first time that he had been able to choose the same XI all season.

Before the first half started there was a minutes silence for former Tottenham defender Ron Henry who passed away yesterday.

Once the match was underway Spurs had the first sight on goal in the 6th minute from Mason, but the reliable de Gea collected easily. From the resulting clearance Rooney almost played in Falcao, but there were too many defenders around him.

United carried on from where they had left off on Boxing Day by controlling the opening exchanges, Mata especially looking the biggest threat. However, the first quarter of an hour was littered with free kicks as both sides tried to get the upper hand.

Falcao missed a golden opportunity to put United in the lead, when he was put through on goal by Juan Mata, only to be put off by two defenders closing him down from behind. Straight away Spurs had their own clear chance but were thwarted by de Gea.

On 22 minutes United were awarded a free kick just outside the penalty area. Rooney left it for Mata, who curled it over the wall but it struck the post and both van Persie and Falcao failed to net the rebound.

A minute later mayhem in the spurs area as Jones headed towards goal, the keeper flapped at the ball and it crossed the line, only to be ruled that Falcao or Jones were offside. A harsh decision to say the least.

Mata again thread a great ball through to Falcao, but when one on one with the keeper Lloris, he shot weakly and the chance had gone. Then a brilliant ball from Carrick only needed to be converted by van Persie, but unfortunately he couldn’t bring the ball under control quickly enough before Lloris collected.

Just before half time Young tried his trademark cut inside and unleashed a shot calling on the keeper to produce a fine save. That was to be the last action of a half in which Mata had produced some lovely touches and was the main outlet for the team’s chances.

At the end of the first half it was unbelievable how United had not managed to score after all the chances they had created for themselves. The hope was those missed chances wouldn’t came back to haunt them.

The second half saw one change for United. Rafael in a straight swap for Valencia. United continued to attack, and forced a couple of early corners, which had no end result.

Another chance, another miss by van Persie, this time on 55 minutes. Good work from the industrious Mata, but the striker failed to direct his header on target.

Van Persie showed his frustration by pushing Vertonghen off the ball, and was extremely fortunate not to receive a yellow card. Had he done so he would have automatically missed the next match at Stoke City.

After the hour mark the match became rather stale with neither side creating any chance of note until Mata made his first error by blasting over when it seemed easier to score.

It was time for another change by van Gaal when Evans was replaced by Chris Smalling. Evans had a poor match and it’s obvious he is not comfortable on the left of the three central defenders. His distribution at times was awful.

Shortly after, Luke Shaw made his comeback by coming on for Paddy McNair, who had picked up a yellow card minutes before.

Spurs had a golden opportunity when Mason got goal side of Carrick, but shot over the bar from close range. At this time the home team were enjoying their best spell of the day which clearly rattled United as Falcao’s name was taken for a needless foul. Quickly followed by Rafael.

The match ended in a goalless draw with some tired legs on show at the end. A match that United should and could have won if only the chances had been taken when they presented themselves. The closest being Mata’s free kick, which struck the post, and his blast over inside the box.

Now unbeaten in nine matches at least they ended the year more positively than it was started.

There we have it the last game of 2014. Time to look ahead to 2015, and dare I say it, a successful year. To be honest, it won’t be too difficult to do better than the last 12 months.

New Year’s resolutions time. Mine are for Louis van Gaal to buy a central defender and a midfielder in the January transfer window. Who will come only he knows, but until the Summer I wouldn’t say no to Vlaar and Strootman.

Many people are saying Vlaar is not a good fit for United, but I would counter that by saying the defenders we have at the moment aren’t exactly setting the world alight with their performances.

Vlaar is experienced in the premier league and being Dutch, communication won’t be a problem. He knows van Gaal and the other players from the Holland squad. At his age, he should be available at a good price, and will add strength to a weak back four, or three for that matter.

My second resolution is for the team to embark on an FA Cup run all the way to Wembley. I hope van Gaal takes the competition seriously as it’s been too long since we last lifted the old trophy. This could realistically be our only chance of silverware this season.

Lastly, the target should be a top 3 finish, anything above that would be an absolute bonus. Don’t get me wrong winning the league in his first season would be amazing for van Gaal, but to keep our feet on the ground is wiser.

I hope you all have a great New Year, and that 2015 will turn out to be better for United than the outgoing 2014.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read.

Miles Dunton.

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Rooney pulls the strings for United.


Manchester United 3 Newcastle United 1

Welcome, and I would like to start by wishing all my readers a Merry Christmas.

After being given a day off on Christmas Day by Louis van Gaal to enjoy the festivities with their families, it was back to business at Old Trafford. United welcomed Newcastle United on a day that has been kind to the Red Devils over the years. In fact the last time United lost a fixture on St.Stephen’s Day was against Middlesbrough back in 2002. United have won a total of 53 points on the 26th December, 15 more than the nearest side.

The team news saw no place for Angel Di Maria, being left out completely, possibly being saved for the Spurs match on Sunday. Once again Fellaini and Herrera were absent. Darren Fletcher was demoted to the bench after his average performance at Villa Park in the last match. This is how United lined up: De Gea, Jones, McNair, Evans, Valencia, Carrick, Rooney, Mata, Young, Van Persie, Falcao. The second start in a row for Falcao to give his partnership with van Persie another try.

The atmosphere inside the stadium was jovial, as it normally is for matches during the festive period, with the home faithful in fine voice.

The first half started rather sluggishly as both teams looked to shake off their Christmas Day celebrations. Falcao seemed to be the liveliest player for United making a few intelligent runs, one in which saw him clatter into the advertising boards, but thankfully he picked himself up unhurt.

The three United defenders McNair, Jones and Evans started nervously at the back yet again, especially Evans. Almost gifting a belated present to Newcastle, which fortunately they didn’t accept. There was also a legitimate penalty claim by the Magpies after Yoan Gouffran and Juan Mata clashed in the penalty area, which was waved away by the referee.

Ashley Young was providing the best outlet down the left with some smart crosses, which were close to being converted by the strikers. Yet, as so often this season some of the breaks were halted by continuous back passing, which doesn’t do anything for the nerves given the quality of our defence.
De Gea was on hand, not for the first time this season, to pull off a smart save after 19 mins to palm the ball over the crossbar for a corner.

On 22 mins some magic from Rooney, as he collected the ball in his own half, laid a pass to Mata, then continued his run into the penalty area, where Falcao unselfishly hooked the ball from Mata’s cross into the captains path, who did the rest. A great move started and finished by an in form Rooney.

Rooney’s and United’s second came in the 36th minute, when the lively Falcao won the ball which released Mata, he gave a lovely pass inside to an unmarked Rooney, who had the simple task of finishing, which he gleefully did.

Half time and United led 2-0. Mata had been involved in both goals but it was Falcao who impressed with his energy and never give up attitude. He played a huge part in both goals even though he and van Persie were battling against a five man Newcastle defence, who were trying to play the offside trap at every opportunity.

Going forward the Magpies posed a threat with their pace against United’s trio of centre halves, especially the talented Perez, who United would have to keep an eye on. Generally, United had been comfortable and deserved their half time lead.

The second half had United attacking the Stretford End of a rain soaked Old Trafford.

The fans didn’t have to wait long for a third. Again Rooney was the inspiration on 52 minutes, with a delightfully judged chipped pass into the area, which was met by van Persie who headed across the goal into the net. Great skill and vision from Rooney who made it all look so simple.

With United enjoying a three goal lead and the players facing another match on Sunday, changes were inevitable. On the hour mark Fletcher entered the match in place of Carrick, who once again had a solid performance in the middle. Shortly after that Falcao was replaced by James Wilson. The home faithful showed their appreciation to the Colombian for his 100% effort towards the cause.

This in no way affected the rhythm of the team as United continued to enjoy the majority of possession. The only downside came when van Persie picked up a yellow card for a late and totally needless challenge, which he immediately acknowledged.

Again, Perez continued to be a pain for the United defence, calling on David de Gea to block a shot at his near post after the diminutive striker had confused a couple of defenders. Once he was substituted the main threat of the visitors had vanished with him.

It was great to see the return of full back Rafael, who came on for Valencia for the last quarter of the match to gain some valuable game time after a long time out.

With five minutes left to play Phil Jones gave away a penalty, which Cisse converted past a helpless de Gea. This meant that there would be no clean sheet for de Gea and United today. That was about the last action of the match as both teams didn’t create anything of any note in the closing minutes.

This was a game that was controlled and won by man of the match and captain, Wayne Rooney. With his brace and assist he ran the show from his midfield position. Always the playmaker, everything came through him. He is looking more and more at home in the position van Gaal has entrusted to him. He seems to enjoy the responsibility the deeper role involves as it allows him to have more of a say in the tempo of the game.

Something that was good to see was the team play of United today. A good example of this was Van Persie, who was the designated centre-forward, unselfishly peeled off into wide positions at times for Rooney to run into the space from deep. a tactic which paid off especially in the first 45 minutes.

The next match on Sunday is away to Spurs. It brings down the curtain on United’s year, a turbulent twelve months to say the least. But a year that is at least ending on a high, and gives us great hope for 2015.

It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, van Gaal buys in the January transfer window. Many names have been bandied around, and it will be fun to see which gossip turns out to be true. My wish list wish would be for a central defender and a midfielder. Vlaar and Strootman would do for a start, at least until the Summer.

Hope you all are having an enjoyable Christmas.

Thanks once again for reading.

Miles Dunton.

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David De Gea. “Why always me?”


Manchester United 3 Liverpool 0

This is still the biggest match of the season for both teams and especially the fans. Yes, local derbies against City, the matches against Arsenal and more recently Chelsea are big, but there is no doubt about the coming together of United and Liverpool, it is huge. Read the full story

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