Category Archives: Manchester United

Carrick Criticism Unwarranted

Following the news of Michael Carrick signing a three-year contract extension for Manchester United, a substantial amount of criticism has been directed towards the former West Ham and Tottenham midfielder. But why? ‘He doesn’t score enough goals’ or ‘he only passes sideways and backwards’ are some of the complaints I’ve heard, mainly from Manchester United supporters.

Purchased for 16 million pounds from Tottenham in July 2006, I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say he has justified his price tag. I’m also willing to somewhat boldly claim that Carrick has been a key figure in helping United win three consecutive Premier League titles, a Champions League and World Club Championship title, as well as a League Cup trophy. He also has a pivotal role to play if United are to finish the season with another trophy or two in their cabinet. Carrick may never end being considered a world-class midfielder, but he certainly deserves credit for being a reliable figure in United’s midfield. If you don’t believe me and prefer to think of Carrick as an unnecessary member of the United squad and a midfielder incapable of having an influence on games, let the statistics tell you otherwise.

Carrick has completed 830 out of 959 attempted passes this season for a pass success rate of 86.5%. He also has the highest amount of interceptions for a midfielder in the Premier League with an average of 4.38 interceptions per game. These two statistics alone indicate that he can pass and he can win back possession, two key traits of any center midfielder. His ability to win back possession is even more remarkable when you consider that the player at Manchester United with the second highest interception rate is Anderson with 1.9 interceptions per game.

United’s style of play depends so much on retaining possession and being able to pass the ball. Carrick may lack speed in his game and he may not be a goal scoring threat, but he gets the job done in his assigned position. After all, he’s not an attacking midfielder but plays more as a defensive midfielder. You never saw Claude Makalele banging in the goals, did you? What you did see in Makalele was a tendency to pass the ball sideways and backwards more than forward, similarly to Carrick. And for a player whose role is to retain possession and protect the back four, nothing is wrong with having to pass the ball back. I can already picture Sir Alex jumping out of his seat if Carrick was to constantly attempt the type of long ball we are accustomed to seeing from Paul Scholes.

The truth is, Carrick does his job and he does it effectively. In his 15 league starts this season, United have only conceded 10 goals. In the other 13 matches he didn’t start, United have conceded 15 goals. Ferguson sees Carrick as an ideal cover for the back four and it shows in the position Carrick has played this season. He’s the perfect man for the job, too, especially when considering he has had a tackle success rate of 70% this season.

Ferguson is well aware of the quality Carrick brings to his squad and it shows in his decision to keep him at the club until at least 2014. We all know that Carrick lacks the flair and aptitude of Xavi and Iniesta, but it has been somewhat strange to hear the criticism surrounding the deal. After all, wasn’t Carrick partly responsible for keeping those two players at bay in United’s Champions League semi-final victory in 2008? Also, how often has Ferguson been in the wrong when it comes to extending a player’s contract? Sure, he’s had a few miscues, but don’t expect Carrick to be one.

Written by: Jeff Harbert



Filed under English Premier League, Manchester United

Chelsea Comeback Halts Manchester United

Another Chelsea and Manchester United match at Stamford Bridge, another big occasion between these two sides marred in controversy. Wayne Rooney fired United ahead midway through the first half, but a first Chelsea goal by David Luiz and a Frank Lampard penalty, courtesy of a questionable decision by referee Martin Atkinson, gave the home side a 2-1 win to propel Chelsea into fourth place ahead of Tottenham and leave United four points clear of Arsenal with an extra game played.

United will feel hard done by the result after an impressive first half display which saw Rooney score in his third successive league game. The Reds dominated much of the half’s proceedings and could have been 2-0 up had John Terry not gone unpunished for what appeared to be a hand ball in his own penalty box off a rasping shot by Nani.

United failed to build on their lead, however, and Chelsea started the second half determined to level proceedings. They did just that on 53 minutes when Luiz volleyed home at the far post. Buoyed by the equaliser, the home side continued to threaten and with 13 minutes remaining Stamford Bridge was in ecstasy. Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot after Chelsea substitute Yuri Zhirkov went down under a seemingly soft Chris Smalling challenge, leaving Lampard to step up and smash Chelsea into the lead from 12 yards out. United provided little response and from then on only one team looked like being a winner.

To make matters worse for United, Nemanja Vidic was sent off for a second yellow card in the dying minutes and will now miss United’s next big match against Liverpool on Sunday. His suspension, and particularly the loss, will come as a big blow for Sir Alex Ferguson – who was adamant Luiz should have also been sent to the showers for an off the ball foul on Rooney with the score still locked at 1-1.

Controversy aside, it was a thrilling match that involved plenty of end-to-end football. All too often big matches fail to live up to the hype but the latest crunch meeting between these two sides was a pulsating match and a spectacle that even the neutrals could appreciate. Despite the controversy, United only have themselves to blame for not building on their solid first half performance and instead allowing the reigning champions back into the game. Sir Alex Ferguson’s team still sit on top of the table and you can be assured that the fiery scot will be the last one to press the panic button. United played well for large portions of the match but will need to translate that over 90 minutes it they hope to keep Arsenal at bay. Chelsea, meanwhile, will be confident of building on this result and earning a top-four finish after leapfrogging Spurs in the standings.

Man of the Match: David Luiz

Big time stats:

  • Chelsea extended their unbeaten record against United at Stamford Bridge to nine games (6 wins, 3 draws).
  • Seven of Chelsea’s league goals this season have been scored by defenders (3rd highest in EPL)
  • Wayne Rooney became the first United player – barring Nani – to score from outside the box in 23 league games.
  • The loss snaps a 33 game streak in which Manchester United have won every time Rooney has scored.
  • Ryan Giggs equaled Bobby Chalrton’s record of 606 league appearances for Manchester United when he came on as a substitute in the second half. Ironically, Giggs surpassed Charlton’s record of overall appearances for Manchester United in the 2008 Champions League Final against Chelsea.
  • Sir Alex Ferguson fielded an unchanged side in consecutive games
  • Martin Atkinson has awarded the most penalties in the Premier League this season (11) and given out the most red cards (10)

Written by: Jeff Harbert

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Chelsea vs. Man United: Five Things to Watch for









Fernando Torres vs. Nemanja Vidic

Following his £50 million transfer from Liverpool, Fernando Torres has yet to find greener pastures at Stamford Bridge. The Spaniard has misfired so far for the reigning champions but still finds himself ahead of Didier Drogba in Carlo Ancelotti’s pecking order. Due to his successful history against Nemanja Vidic – and his manager’s determination to justify his price tag – it will come as no surprise if the Ivorian finds himself on the bench once again on Tuesday. Torres will hope he can conjure up some of the same magic that has caused the United captain to be sent off twice when pitted against each other. Vidic has been outstanding at the heart of United’s defense this season, however, and will look to ensure Torres’ disappointing start to life in London continues.

Ashley Cole

Undoubtedly one of the best left-backs in the world, Ashley Cole has struggled to keep himself out of the headlines for the wrong reasons. His latest incident saw him injure an intern by shooting him with an air rifle. Cole has escaped punishment for the training ground incident but all eyes will be focused on how he performs in his first game since the incident took place.

Wayne Rooney

Also grabbing the headlines this week for the wrong reasons – and for large portions of this season – was Wayne Rooney. Despite scoring in United’s 4-0 win at Wigan on Saturday, most of the media fixated its attention on the forward’s intentional elbow on James McCarthy in the opening minutes of the match. Rooney has escaped punishment from the FA and will therefore be available for selection against the reigning champions, but his lack of goals this season may spell a start for Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez following his brace against Wigan. If selected, however, Rooney will need to stay out of trouble and exact the same type of influence for his side as he had against City a few weeks ago.

Chelsea’s Defense

Despite sitting in fifth place in the league, Chelsea boast the best defensive record in the top flight with a total of 22 conceded. United, meanwhile, are the league’s top scorers with 61 goals thus far. Chelsea have invariably conceded more goals in the last five minutes of each half at any other time in matches and face a side notorious for snatching late goals. Chelsea have won just two of its last five home games but will take heart from United’s poor away form this season (4 wins from 13). Chelsea’s defense, which have found themselves unlocked much too casually at home this season at times, will have to be at their best to contain the threat of Berbatov and Nani – coincidently the league’s leading goal scorer and assist earner.

Martin Atkinson

Both of last season’s fixtures between these two clubs were marred in controversy as United particularly felt hard-done by a John Terry goal at Stamford Bridge that was allowed to stand despite numerous infringements on the play. Martin Atkinson takes charge on Tuesday after originally being set to referee the game in December and will be looking to ensure this match steers clear of controversy. Interestingly, Atkinson has awarded the most penalties (10) and red cards (nine) out of any Premier League officials this season.


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Top 10 Greatest Manchester United Quotes

1.   “It never rains in Manchester, but it pours” — Kevin Keegan

This quote isn’t directly related to Manchester United, but any knowledgeable United supporter knows the heavens like to open up above Manchester. Now although City and United receive equal amounts of rain, United seem to have received the majority of the blessings. Right, Keegan?  

 2.   “In all modesty, my summing up of 1955-6 and 1956-7 must be that no club in the country could live with Manchester United.” — Matt Busby

Coming from the mouth of a true United legend and one who knew the Busby Babes better than anyone, it makes the Munich Disaster even more devastating.

 3.   “I didn’t do myself justice after joining Manchester City but, having said that, I shared a house with George Best for two years so it had its compensations!” — Mick Horswill

The English midfielder hints that sharing a house with a United legend was as good as playing for Manchester City…

 4.  “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.” — Eric Cantona

Only Eric Cantona could possibly come up with a quote like this one. It is certainly one of the most memorable quotes from one of the most memorable Premier League players to this day.

 5.   “I never comment on referees and I’m not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat.” — Ron Atkinson

 The former Manchester United manager sure knew how to be subtle when getting his points across.

 6.  “Cole should be scoring from those distances, but I’m not going to single him out.” — Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex must have learned from his predecessor about how to be subtle in order to get his points across.

 7.   “As long as we are successful on the pitch, then I will be here—unless Manchester United put in a call. But I don’t think Sir Alex Ferguson is planning to step down just yet!” — Paul Ince

 More than a decade later and I guess the current Notts County manager was right!

 8.  “Fergie said I was a Manchester United player in the wrong shirt—I said he was an Arsenal manager in the wrong blazer.” — Tony Adams

 This one is just downright amusing.

 9.   “Paul Jewell’s sides are always hard to break down, although Manchester United have a habit of breaking his sides down pretty easily.” — Charlie Nicholas

Great insight from the Sky Sports pundit…  

  10.  “When Manchester United are at their best I am close to orgasm.” — Gianluca Vialli

The former Italian striker and manager was one of only six Italian footballers to ever win the three main European club competitions (European Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup, and UEFA Cup). Judging by this quote, I suppose that’s just further proof why football is called the ‘beautiful game’.

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