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Munich ’58: The Flowers of Manchester.


 

On this day 57 years ago, a group of young men and officials of the most famous football club in England were waiting at Munich-Riem airport for their Elizabethan aircraft to be deemed ready to brave the snow and freezing temperatures to carry them on their journey back to Manchester. Read the full story

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Man United replay joy.


Manchester United 3 Cambridge United 0

After the anti-climax of the transfer deadline day it was back down to business with the visit of Cambridge United in the 4th round FA Cup replay.

Following United’s disappointing performance in the first match it was time they stamped their authority on a tie that they should have settled first time around.

For the visitors it was a no lose situation as they expected a financial windfall from their well earned replay. The Cambridge players were certainly enjoying their final as they took ‘selfies’ from inside Old Trafford before the match.

Louis van Gaal showed his intent by choosing a strong line up made up of De Gea, McNair, Smalling, Evans, Rojo, Blind, Fellaini, Mata, Rooney, Di Maria and Van Persie. Interestingly van Gaal seemed to have chosen his tallest players, excluding Mata, to counter the height advantage in the opposition.

Fellaini would be used up front alongside van Persie but once again there was no starting place for Ander Herrera who was joined on the bench by Valdes, Jones, Falcao, Young, Valencia and Wilson. Herrera’s omission once again sparked debates between fans as to why he had been overlooked again.

The kick off was delayed for 20 minutes due to heavy traffic but when it did start it was almost a dream beginning for the lowest ranked team left in the competition. Elliott hit the outside of the post after only 1 minute following an uncharacteristic mistake in midfield by Blind who stumbled while attempting a back pass.

Elliott was winning all the early balls knocked up to him as Cambridge started full of confidence and were clearly enjoying their big night out.

It took United ten minutes to get into their stride and to start to make in roads into the visitors defence mainly via Di Maria from the inside left position and youngster Paddy McNair filling in as wing back on the right. Fellaini, playing in a forward position, utilised his height to great effect when balls were played up front.

United got the breakthrough their play deserved after 25 minutes following good work by McNair who brought the ball out of defence then fed a fine pass to Di Maria out on the left. Di Maria in turn lofted the ball to the far post where Fellaini rose to head the ball back into the penalty area for Mata to pounce and flick the ball home. 1-0 ahead after an excellent move with Fellaini using his height to great effect.

Mata almost grabbed his and United’s second but miss hit his shot which then rebounded out to McNair who fancied his chances from outside the box. He connected well with the ball but his shot was well blocked for a corner.

On the half hour mark defender Marcos Rojo claimed his first goal as a United player by heading in a wonderful chip into the box by Robin van Persie after he had collected the ball from Fellaini’s attempted shot. The way van Persie dinked the ball onto Rojo’s head with the outside of his left boot was sublime.

By this time Fellaini was causing all sorts of problems for the Cambridge defence with his presence inside their box. At 2-0 the tie was virtually over and it became a damage limitation exercise for the away side. However, to their credit they kept going and Donaldson had a shot across goal when he should have done better.

Chris Smalling provided a rare moment of class with a superb through ball for Di Maria but as quick as the Argentinian was the keeper managed to get to the ball before him on the edge of the box. On another break forward Di Maria played a great weighted cross field ball aimed for Rooney who met it on the volley but fired well off target.

Half time and so far so good from United. It was refreshing to see the team using the wide areas when on the attack, something that has been lacking in recent games. Di Maria is so much more effective out on the left, as he proved in the first 45 minutes in this match. Paddy McNair was also putting in a mature performance as the right sided wing back.

At the start of the second half Rojo’s debut goal had clearly gone to his head as he ventured forward down the left and attempted two crosses which both ended up way too high and behind the goal. At least he was trying. McNair was making a better go at crossing than Rojo with one nice cross to van Persie who headed wide.

The Dutch striker had a chance again after a lovely ball over the top this time from Mata, but was disappointed with his weak header. After 53 minutes Rooney had a shot well saved by keeper Dunn, as the ball spilled out van Persie just couldn’t tidy up the leftovers.

The fans enjoyed seeing the tricks and flicks on show by van Persie and Di Maria, the latter trying hard to score direct from every corner he took. You got the feeling as though it was not going to be van Persie’s night and so did van Gaal who replaced him with James Wilson on 66 minutes. The striker headed straight down the tunnel, maybe he had a prior arrangement that he was desperate to get to.

Two minutes later Di Maria had a powerful effort pushed over the bar by the keeper for a corner. If it wasn’t for Dunn in the visitors goal the score would have been a lot higher. That was the last action for Di Maria as in the 70th minute he was replaced by Ander Herrera. The midfielder got his chance to impress the manager, who for some reason doesn’t seem that enamoured by the Spaniard.

United’s third and final goal came in the 73 minute through James Wilson with a fine left footed strike from just outside the box. A well taken goal from a player who is growing in confidence with every game. It was a shame RvP wasn’t there to see it.

Another youngster who was having the match of his career playing down the right was Paddy McNair. He continually delivered some fine balls into the danger area especially to Rooney who unfortunately couldn’t take full advantage.

The last change of the night for United was the substitution of Rojo for Ashley Young who came on to make his 100th appearance for the Red Devils after being out injured.There was still time in the match for Smalling to make a customary mistake and give the ball away in a dangerous area, which thankfully led to nothing.

The visiting Cambridge supporters kept on singing until the end and nearly got their reward as the visitors had the last effort at the death.

The match ended with a 3-0 win for the home side who in the end were too organised and purposeful and fully deserved their win with quality performances from most of the players against opposition that would not lie down. They will now face Preston in the 5th round at Deepdale.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish Darren Fletcher all the best for his future after leaving United to join WBA after almost twenty years on United’s books. A true gentleman of the game and one of the most generous personalities in football. On the same day Anderson returned to his native Brazil and Fergie’s last signing Zaha rejoined Crystal Palace. The only player in was on loan defender Andy Kellett from Bolton.

Before United face West Ham over the weekend it will be a time for reflection on Friday the 6th as it will be the 57th anniversary of the Munich air disaster in which our club, country and football lost the majority of a team that was on the brink of European glory, a team made up of young men who were doing something that they fully enjoyed, playing football. There can be no bigger incentive for the present team to qualify for a competition that half a century ago the pioneers gave their lives for.

The Flowers of Manchester. Never forgotten.

 

Roger Byrne, Mark Jones, Eddie Colman, Tommy Taylor, Liam Whelan, David Pegg, Geoff Bent and Duncan Edwards.

Thanks for reading my thoughts.

Miles Dunton | FacebookTwitter

 

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Man United outgun the Foxes.


Manchester United 3 Leicester City 1

The last time these two sides met it produced a match filled with goals, eight in total, an early entry for goal of the season, defensive mistakes, baffling referee decisions, two penalties, a red card and a win for Leicester City. What would today’s match have install for everyone?

That match was back in September. It was, as van Gaal described it, his darkest moment as manager of Manchester United. Now Leicester are propping up the Premier League and the 5-3 defeat of United seems an age away for the blues, but for United the embarrassment is still fresh in the memory, therefore today was a perfect opportunity to put the record straight.

The last match at Old Trafford was the deflating defeat to Southampton followed by two away games, first came the scrappy win away at QPR then the depressing scoreless draw in the 4th round of the FA Cup at Cambridge. A positive response was needed by the team to lift the fans and themselves.

The main team news prior to the match was of a muscle injury to Michael Carrick, which is likely to sideline him for around four weeks. The United starting XI van Gaal put out comprised of: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Shaw, Blind, Januzaj, Rooney, Di Maria, van Persie and Falcao.

No place for Fellaini, Herrera and Mata who would all start on the bench presumably with one eye on the FA Cup replay coming up in mid week.

The players wore black armbands as a sign of respect for the Munich victims who will be remembered this coming Friday the 6th of February.

As the match got underway Robin van Persie started as brightly as the weather as he tried to latch onto a couple of through balls over the top. In the opening minutes it became obvious that Leicester were more than happy to sit back and let United have the majority of the ball and defend in numbers to limit the amount of chances the home side would have. It was a tactic that seemed to be working.

In the first twenty minutes only a tame effort from Di Maria from outside the box was all United had to show for their possession. Then van Persie had a chance following good work by Luke Shaw who crossed from the left but the Dutchman uncharacteristically totally miscued his shot.

Then in the 27th minute van Persie’s persistence paid off when Blind hit a ball over the top of the defence which the striker did well to hit home first time to put United 1-0 up. A true case of ‘Double Dutch’. The goal seemed to give the home side new found confidence which spurred them on to score again after five minutes.

Robin van Persie turned provider as he laid a delightful pass into Angel Di Maria who let loose a shot which Mark Schwarzer in goal could only parry into the path of an on rushing Falcao who got in-between two defenders to toe poke the ball home from close range. 2-0 ahead and cruising.

Once again Di Maria and Falcao linked up well as they searched for a third goal but unfortunately Di Maria’s final ball to the Colombian was behind him and the move broke down.

A minute before half-time and United won a corner on the left which was taken by Rooney, yes that’s right Rooney not Jones, as the ball came over Blind flicked it on with his head and the unfortunate Wes Morgan managed to put it in his own net.

The end of the first 45 minutes and United were in total control leading 3-0.

As the second half progressed United passed the ball around with ease as Leicester seemed to have given up any hope of getting back into the game. Adnan Januzaj was beginning to shine on the left as in one particular moment he went past ex-red Simpson as if he simply wasn’t there.

Rojo was playing with a growing assurance and Daley Blind hardly put a foot wrong. Blind’s anticipation of the play was outstanding and he was definitely having his best game in a red shirt.

David de Gea had had nothing to do until yet another mistake in a match from Phil Jones who after a poor back pass allowed Leicester striker Ulloa a run on goal. Thankfully the Spanish keeper was alert enough to get a hand to the ball just before the striker could do any damage.

Louis van Gaal showed his intentions on 70 minutes when he replaced van Persie for defender Paddy McNair, a clear sign that he wanted to sit on the 3-0 lead. Then Valencia made room for Mata and Wilson came on for the remaining ten minutes at the expense of goalscorer Falcao.

Then as United were coasting Leicester scored a consolation goal in the 80th minute when Wasilewski headed in at the far post from a Drinkwater cross. I’m certain van Gaal will be less than pleased with the lack of marking to allow the visitors their only goal from their only attempt on target.

United offered little in the way of chances with the only clear opportunity falling to the record signing Di Maria who did all the hard work to put himself in a great scoring position then inexplicable ballooned the ball way high.

It ended in a 3-1 run of the mill win for United and a valuable three points which moves them up into third place in the league.

Many positives can be taken from the match. For example the displays of Blind, Rojo, Di Maria and Falcao, and the two strikers scored a goal apiece. Having said that, I was a little disappointed that we didn’t go for the kill in the second half to cement our total dominance of a poor visiting team.

The match was won in the first 45 minutes, but I would have liked United to have stepped up a gear and not let Leicester have any glimmer of hope. At times the reds were a little too complacent and against stronger sides we will be made to pay.

On a side note with Carrick out for the next month I wonder why van Gaal went with Januzaj and not Herrera in the midfield diamond formation. A role which I believe the Spaniard is better suited to more so than the Belgian youngster, who once again let the game go on around him without stamping any authority on the play.

The transfer window has been relatively quiet with more activity on the exit door than the entry. Long serving Scot Darren Fletcher looks set to complete a move to West Ham after giving his best years to United, Brazillian Anderson is likely to put an end to his misery with a move home to Internacional and Ben Amos has joined Bolton on a month loan. As regards players in, at the time of writing, only defender Sadiq El Fitouri has been signed from Salford City.

Even though Louis van Gaal stated in his press conference that no new players will be signed in this transfer window the rumours surrounding an offer for German international Mats Hummels still persist as do the reports still linking David de Gea with Real Madrid, the sooner we tie the keeper down to a new contract the better.

Next up is the FA Cup replay with the visit to Old Trafford of Cambridge United who fully deserve their moment in the spotlight, but that’s all it should be, a moment. I fully expect United to knock them out convincingly and set out a marker that the side want to win the oldest cup competition. With the teams that are still involved, or more to the point not involved, the cup is United’s best chance of silverware. Here’s hoping the team and the manager feel the same.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Miles Dunton | FacebookTwitter

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