We’re inviting some of our Twitter friends to share some of their ‘Pre’ and ‘Post Match’ thoughts with us from now on. You can still enjoy my nonsensical, confusing punctuation buffets, below their personal views on the game…
Not to detract from the importance of the shocking treatment that England’s under-21 team had to endure in Serbia this week, but it’s comforting to be welcomed back to club football’s welcoming bosom. As much as I love international tournaments, qualifying can be bloody laborious, so I’m not exactly beside myself that we’re done with it until the new year. Even less so considering some fixtures on the horizon; Champions League v Braga, two consecutive visits to Stamford Bridge and then Arsenal at home. Ace.
I’ve never felt like jumping on the Stoke-hating bandwagon as I’m more than happy for a club to function and play within their means if it brings them some success. Stoke are never going to play silky football so why expect them to? They can’t outpass or outplay the likes of Arsenal, so why not just try and compete with them in their own way? Some teams seem to find it to be a similar challenge to Barcelona v Chelsea in the 2nd leg of last year’s Champions League semi-final; the latter defended brilliantly, the former weren’t good enough to beat them. Moan all you like about teams that play anti-football, but if you’re not good enough to get past their tactics, then you don’t deserve to win. I like watching Stoke because they’re a hard working side that rarely leaves anything in the dressing room. Don’t expect any different on Saturday.
Not that United have much problem with the Potters. We’ve got seven wins from eight league matches since their 2008 promotion and whilst they rarely roll over, this should be three points. It’s good to have seen all four frontmen bag goals whilst away with their national sides, in particular Hernandez who you suspect needed a bit of a lift with the limited amount of play time he’s been getting. Ashley Young’s return might just light another fire under Nani’s backside (if he needs another one) if the rumours swirling this week about a transfer to Italy are true. Thing is, I don’t think he really wants to leave but he’s still not quite gotten it yet. The penny has dropped on a few occasions, i.e. the second half of the 08/09 season but it’s always been temporary.
It’s an easy statement to make, but we’ve got players returning at a good time, with games in three different competitions in the next two weeks. I know; exciting, isn’t it?
‘United over England’ or better said ‘United over every other competition’
To say that international football is less important than domestic football for Manchester United supporters is a brutal understatement. If there’s something that Red Devils faithful fear more than Steven Gerrard kissing a camera after scoring a goal at The Theater of Dreams, this must be a weekend without a proper match of their venerated team.
‘United over England’ is something most Mancunians tend to proudly sustain, something which raises some eyebrows in some quarters abroad. The reason behind this assertion, according to them, is the lack of respect shown by The Football Association towards the most decorated club in the country in a number of occasions. To name a few, an 8-month ban to Rio Ferdinand for missing a drug test in September 2003 (testers played their part according to the 33-year-old centre back), a 4-match ban to Patrice Evra for (allegedly) confronting the Stamford Bridge groundsman in May 2008 and a 2-match ban to Wayne Rooney for swearing (apparently no other player had done it before) in front of a camera at Upton Park in April 2010.
These circumstances do not necessarily mean English United fans do not enjoy cheering on their national team, but there’s a widespread feeling that they would rather win the 20th Premier League championship than the 2nd World Cup in Brazil 2014. This is particularly remarkable in a moment in time when United boast as many as seven regular English senior international players -namely Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling- and three more members of the Under-21 English team -namely Ben Amos, Nick Powell and William Keane-, something speaking volumes about how important Manchester United is currently for The Three Lions.
This sentiment is not isolated within the 600-milion strong Manchester United contingent all around the globe. When internationals disrupt “what really matters” for them, Internet social networks, blogs and forums are filled with hundreds of comments pointing towards that direction. Albeit not everything is doom and gloom for The Red Devils fans. The odd game from the Reserves or any other Academy United team can help to make the pain a tad more bearable, regardless of if you are a Stretford End season ticket holder, or a fan from Kathmandu, Johannesburg, or Melbourne.
So what’s next for United? Michael Owen’s Stoke City is likely to pose a threat for Sir Alex Ferguson’s troops. Although they are yet to get anything from Old Trafford in four attempts since they got promoted, their physical strength, ability on set-pieces play, and resilience is always a handful. Nothing bad has happened in the shape of fresh injuries, long-term absentees Chris Smalling and Ashley are in line to return to the fold, which would be a timely boost just before facing Chelsea and Arsenal in successive weeks. But the big question is: Will Ferguson keep the diamond system? That could very much depend on the available players and the opposition; in addition, this system is likelier to be used in away games, as it would be pointless to make Old Trafford narrower when visiting teams play in a very defensive manner and United are trying to break the deadlock.
Considering Ferguson tends to ticker with their starting line-ups following international fixtures, my predicted line-up is as follows: Lindegaard; Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Büttner; Valencia, Scholes, Anderson, Giggs; Rooney, Van Persie.
Prediction: 3-0 to United.
Goals: Robin, Wazza and Antonio on the scoresheet.
I guess I must be one of those forgotten statistics – the one that slips through the cracks – cus I am a Manchester United supporter, however I don’t harbour dislike towards the F.A because of any perceived disrespectful anti-United bias. The reasons I don’t particularly like them are based in the fact they are grossly outmoded (I’ve written on this, elsewhere on the site). As for preferring the 20th Premier League title over a World Cup, that’s a tough one – with much more consideration needed. I’ll get back to you.
Gone are the days when the “littler teams” can potentially cause an upset as the “big teams” players have to recover from the jet-setting lifestyle of international week – all Premier League teams now have a significant contingent of international players, whose absence from the club during this time can impact on their preparations for the following weekend … but without meaning to sound arrogant *All together, “Just Better”, Wahey!* (a sentence that starts that way, can only be heading into arrogant waters), this game has got 2-0 home win written all over it.
Crouch (one of my favourites) has looked as good as always this season and will cause our defence a few problems and there’s no doubt that it’s not just a case of turning up to beat them. They are a well drilled side; a side that has already drawn at Anfield (if that means anything at the moment), almost snatched a draw at Stamford Bridge and drawn with City at home. This will be tough. I’m just quietly confident that the spark of forward momentum from the Newcastle result (and glimpsed in games prior to that) will still be evident, despite the break.
The return of Smalling and Young to the squad can only be a good thing and as far as I’m aware there are no new injury concerns Trying to guess Fergie’s line-up this week is liable to bring on a migraine again – so I’ll decline.
Goals: Anderson, Scholesy (why not?).