Here it is, the first bigun of the season as we host Chelsea at the Theatre of Dreams.
Here we are. A few years ago, people would have had this fixture penned down as a significant momentum shifter in the title race. Today though, it's just a clash of a great team versus Chelsea. Yep, it's safe to say that the threat of Chelsea doesn't loom as large over our heads in the wake of City's cash-fuelled resurrection (well, I guess it's not much of a resurrection if they were never alive in the first place).
Despite what I just said a paragraph ago, Chelsea are doing pretty well on paper. After their draw against Stoke on the first day of the season, they've managed to win their next 4 fixtures. The only reason they don't seem so dangerous is because us and City have been kerb stomping other teams while Chelsea have only been winning. Lolz.
On the Home Front
Vida, Cleverley, Welbeck, and Rafael are still out injured, but other than that the rest of the squad is fit and raring to go. Well, at least most of them are. After that lackluster performance against Benfica, I'd like to see Sir Alex inject some speed into the team. And by that I mean Anderson and Young.
Players to Look Out For
Guess I've given away who we should have our eyes on tonight in the last paragraph. My point still stands though, with the midfield looking like a dead animal against Benfica, we need pace and energy. What better way to conjure that than by putting in Ashley Young and a guy who looks like he can chase anything forever?
- de Gea will have a good game
- Rooney will grab a goal
- We'll see Rio out there tonight
- Will Berbatov crack soon?
So, David de Gea's played in a few games for us already this season. They say the jury's still out on him, but I'll have to give him the TSR Seal of Approval for now.
Like most of y'all, I was a bit unsure about Señor de Gea when the season kicked off. Why wouldn't you be? He's a skinny guy who let a few soft goals in. It's natural for a United fan to judge harshly, especially when a goalkeeper of van der Sar's magnitude retires. We expect the best, and it wasn't clear whether or not de Gea would be the best.
Now, after a baptism of fire (and elbows) in the Premier League, we're still not sure whether de Gea's the best. Either way, I'm happy with what I've seen so far and that's why I'm happy with him in goal. Let's break it down. The two biggest gripes with de Gea's game have been his physicality and his inability to deal with low shots from distance. Well, he's still a stick, but it seems like the goalkeeping staff have taught him how to properly handle high balls. It also seems like his confidence has hit a upward trend as he's looking more assured in goal as the season goes on.
In fact, now that he knows what challenges face him, there's no reason why he can't kick on and improve further. He's already got the talent. We've seen how he can pull off great reflex saves, play the ball with his feet, and distribute well. As long as he doesn't go off the rails (read: Massimo Taibi) he'll be great for us.
Man, that music makes him look even better.
So seeing as a full blown Aftermath takes a lot of time and thought (well not really, just more than I'm prepared to give in my exhausted mental state), I've decided to head down a different path and do post-match reactions to the game as a whole.
Final Score: Benfica 1-1 United
The opener was scored by Cardozo and I'll attribute it to bad defending by Jevans. A ball was played right into Cardozo and our number 6 wasn't in a good position to deal with him, nor was he able to recover from that. You can't blame Lindegaard for the shot either, it was well hit across the goal.
Giggs' equalizer was marvellous though. He charged through the Benfica midfield while Rooney, Valencia, Fletcher, Carrick, and Park played their positions well. Giggs made his way to the D after dribbling in from the right wing, you knew he was going to shoot. No one expected a rocket into the corner though.
The game started and within minutes you could tell that the pace we were playing at didn't match the Premier League wins we've had so far. It seemed as though we were struggling to break past Benfica's mass of humanity - otherwise known as their midfield. With Carrick, Fletcher, Valencia, Park, Lindegaard, Fábi, and Giggs making their first starts of the season, one can easily attribute the overall slack to them. But in truth, Benfica were worthy opponents. We definitely needed more guile and finesse to our game, no doubt qualities that guys like Anderson and Young could have brought to the table, but the fixtures are going to start to pile up, and we need a squad, not a lineup.
Valencia showed us all why he's at Manchester United with some good play down the wing. His strength, speed, and determination showed as the Tony V trademark sprint-to-the-byline-and-cross technique was on display throughout the game. Fletcher was a bit more quiet. He went on about his business, holding the midfield and making sure s*** didn't go down in the face of Benfica's strong centermen. Carrick however, I was less impressed with. He needed to show us why he deserves a place ahead of Cleverley and Anderson and he didn't. His passes were often astray and rugby style (that is, played to the side or backwards). Surely some confidence would do him some good. I wouldn't mind a guy who can play balls in from the deep and play the role of the "second assist".
Last words are for Lindegaard. I had a sneaky feeling that he'd play. He showed us why he's ahead of Kuszczak in the pecking order as well. He was solid when called upon and did everything asked of him. His distribution wasn't as great as De Gea's, but that's nothing to worry about for the moment. De Gea's still my number 1, but it's good to know that we have Schmeichel Jr. waiting in the wings, picking his nose, if we need him.
Woah, where have I been the past few weeks? Sorry guys, but with university taking a backseat for a while, United becomes the next priority. We all know how we've demolished our opponents thus far. Now it's time to start our conquest of Europe.
So our challenge for Barcelona's European crown starts tonight against Benfica, arguably the toughest opponents in our group. Not much background to tonight's story, as it'll be the first chapter.
After four games, Benfica are second in the Portuguese league. There's not much else I can rustle up other than that. Here's to a surprise at Estadio da Luz.
On the Home Front:
With Vida and Rio at home, it looks like the center defense pairing will remain the same. Other than that Kuszczak has been left in Manchester as well. Jevans and Evra, who have been reported to have picked up knocks against Bolton, are in Lisbon. Speaking of Kuszczak, it's been reported that he's far from happy at Manchester and wanted to leave in the summer (SHOCK! HORROR!).
Players to Look Out For:
I'm guessing Rooney will be out there trying to maintain his amazing form. But I think the more interesting players to follow will be those who haven't played as big a role early this season. Guys like Valencia, Fletcher, Park, Giggs, Carrick, Berbatov and possibly Fábio. I'd love to see these guys out there tonight.
- Starts for Berbatov, Giggs, and Fletcher.
- I'm starting to feel comfortable with de Gea in net.
- Does Anderson look a little bit like Lil' Wayne?
So I've been swamped by college assignments, and just as they're winding down, the international break kicks in and United news hits another low. I've made it known before in no uncertain terms how much I despise the international break. So instead of going on yet another diatribe, it's time to talk about my man crushes.
I've already explained my heterosexual love for Phil Jones. He looks like he's going to be one hell of a player for us, and I can't wait for his already rapid development to skyrocket furhter. What I didn't mention is, Phil Jones is not my first man crush. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I've had borderline crazy attachments to United players in the past.
Owen Hargreaves. Tenacious and driven, Mr. Hargreaves had a lot of us hoping that he'd be the closest midfield dynamo we've had since Roy Keane. Despite starting out as a defensive midfielder, Owen Hargreaves showed us what he could do in attack when given the chance and was edging out Anderson, Carrick, and Fletcher when he was at his peak in 2008. He wasn't my first man crush though. That title belongs to this guy:
Alan Smith. You couldn't ask for a better fighter. This man oozed spirit from ever last one of his pores. He played in attack, but dove into every challenge with venom and speared defences with his sheer physicality. How could you not love him?
The reason this post is entitled the bane of my man crushes, is because of the sad reality that has plagued my loves. With my eyes glued to the television while my hands clenched the nearest pillow, I watched as Alan Smith suffered a leg break that would eventually lead him out of the club. Similarly, I cursed at every news report that suggested that Owen Hargreaves' career was on the verge of ending. Is it clear to you yet? My two man crushes have had their United careers scuttled by injury.
I'm no longer a superstitious fan, but I can't help but wonder if the terrible fate that befell Messrs Hargreaves and Smith will rear its ugly head to face Phil Jones, such is my love for him. Only time will tell.no comments
Premier League action resumes for United as we host perennial rivals Arsenal at Old Trafford today. We've started the season with a bang and expectations are already high for us as we go into the third game of the season.
Arsenal's early struggles have been well documented by the media. Losing Nasri and Fabregas have coincided with a loss to Liverpool and a tie with Newcastle. Things aren't looking too good for them at the moment and it may just be the best time to exploit that weakness.
On the Home Front:
Still no Vida, Rafael, Gibson, and Tony V as they recover from their respective ailments. Rio is back in contention, but Sir Alex might just stick with Jones and Jevans at the back given their fantastic form. Also, Darren Fletcher is in the squad as his recovery from the mystery virus continues.
Players to Look Out For:
All eyes should be on new captain Robin van Persie as he'll be the one to carry this Arsenal team through the purple patch they're going through. As for us, I reckon Chicharito will be given a game today and it'll be interesting to see how our little livewire performs.
- Will Rio be given a spot? I doubt it.
- I have a feeling Sir Alex will go with the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" style and keep the same midfield and defence he did last time.
- If Chicharito plays, he'll score at least one goal.
- Danny Welbeck better start working on a better goal celebration.
Owen Hargreaves is a legend.
Turns out he was so committed to the red cause that he offered to play for United for free this season. David Gill and his gang managed to convince him that wasn't the best idea so they mutually agreed to part ways.
Although it never worked out, I still love him. So long Owen, my second man crush of the modern United era.
I remember a long time ago I declared a man crush on Jose Mourinho as we were all excited that this guy could end up being the next United manager. But like any middle school crush, one's attention doesn't stay too long on one girl and time will eventually lead you to the next one. In my case, I've dumped the classy, queen-bee bitch for the hot, busty new girl. That's right, so long Josie Mourinho and hello Phillipa Jones.
Taking a step back from the metaphorical world, yes I am starting to really like Phil Jones. I was excited about him after the Blackburn game last year and it only intensified after it was reported that we'd signed him. He's strong, confident, clever, and has reads the game fantastically. The guy is a physical beast, and it showed against Tottenham where only Gareth Bale beat him in a footrace, and even then Jones dives in like a monster and takes the ball away before performing a double action roll and getting up.
Like @SurrealFootball so exquisitely posted on Twitter a few hours ago: "I don't want to heap pressure on anyone, but I'd be very surprised if Phil Jones doesn't go on to be the greatest man who ever lived."
Even Football Manager shares my sentiments. I, as Eric Cantona - the manager of Leicester City, signed Phil Jones in the year 2014 in order to beef up my backine. Two years later, he's my vice captain and is the rock upon which my team is built. Time for an anecdote: At one point he told me that he wasn't getting along with Jordi Gómez and I said I'd get rid of Jordi for him. Me being an idiot, forgot to sell him and Jones humbly requested a transfer. I rejected it and he humbly kept his head down and got back to work. Professional personified.
I've gone and bought this season's United jersey with "Jones - 4" on the back now, with hopes that this guy ends up marshalling our defence (and hopefully keeping the same number) for years to come.
So going back to my girl metaphor. Yes, I'm with the hotter girl now. And she seems the real deal. But only time will tell if this relationship works out or I come crawling back, trying to convince her that it was "me... not you"
So because I'm lazy, I've come up with a new Aftermath format that'll suit both me and you. I don't have to write long winded articles, and you don't have to read my bull$#!t. Yay!
3-0 to United. Welbeck, Anderson and Rooney getting the goals for us today.
- CLEVERLEY! First real moment of excietment came from him as he stretched Friedel with a low shot from outside the box.
- De Gea gets the ball late just under 15 minutes in with van der Vaart coming in quick. He does a drag back and falls over.
- 20th minute guess what. A low shot is taken by Bale and it's saved by de Gea. Screw you critics.
- Evans with a ridiculously soft booking on 36'. High five ref!
- Good start to the second half, motivational speech maybe?
- "Here's Cleverley, and he's tried a clever ball."
- C-c-combo breaker! Shot by Anderson blocked by Friedel and Rooney follows up with another. Shame Friedel was up to it.
- CLEVERLEY TO WELBECK! A great, strong ball into the box by Cleverley is followed up by a confident header by Welbeck into the bottom corner of Friedel's net. 61'
- Free kick done well by Rooney, but again a great save from Friedel. 64'
- Jones pulls off a Rambo like dive to block Bale's shot. This included an action roll.
- What. a. goal. It starts with de Gea's sweet ball to Young who runs with it before feeding it to Rooney. Rooney taps it to Anderson who plays a great ball in to Welbeck who backheels it first time into space for Anderson to run on to and he sidefoots it home with about 15 minutes left.
- Season debuts for Giggs, Park, and Chicharito as they replace Young, Cleverley, and Welbeck on the 81st minute.
- Another goal with just under 5 minutes left in regulation as Giggs lofts it into the 6-yard box for Rooney who heads it home.
- We're so quick on the break. Like it's amazing how fast we are.
- Cleverley and Anderson work really well together. It's like big tank and little tank.
- As of 25 minutes, Welbeck didn't look too comfortable. But after his goal, formerly invisible Danny Welbeck tries a bicycle kick and starts doing a hell of a lot of running. #confidencebooster
- de Gea still looks a bit nervous, but hey a clean sheet should do wonders for his confidence.
- Van der Vaart's been a real dick with his shooting. He's just been trying to smash it at de Gea in hopes of a fumble. For shame Rafael... for shame.
- Good defense by the young back four. I liked watching Evans and Jones together in the middle.
- So now Giggs has at least assisted in every Premier League season. Nice.
- Also, I found a picture of Assou-Ekotto from his acting days on the show "My Name is Earl"
Man of the match:
Wayne Rooney. This guy kept on running around and making things happen even when Tottenham had a firm grip on the game. Kudos to him. He deserved the goal he got today.
The season's officially underway and United play their first game at Old Trafford this season. We're up against Tottenham today and it'll be a good test for de Gea and the makeshift back four. Also, you should cast your minds back to last season where Gomes pretty much gifted Nani a goal.
Spurs begin their season today as their game against Everton was postponed because of the London riots. They did play against Hearts midweek and won 5-0, so I wouldn't say they're rusty. We're still going to have a fight on our hands.
On the Home Front:
With Rio, Vida, and Rafael out, Sir Alex has said that he'll most likely play Beast, Jones, Jevans, and Evra at the back. Chicharito, Fletcher, and Valencia are getting games in the reserves and they should be back soon, but not in time for the game tonight. Other than that, full squad available.
Players to Look out For:
There'll be plenty to watch out for on the wings as Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon leave trails of fire when they run. Rafael van der Vaart will also be a force to be reckoned with as he'll provide a spark to their attacks.
Watch out for the performances of Phil Jones and Jonny Evans as they form a new defensive partnership in lieu of Rio and Vida.
- How will the young defense cope against the tough Spurs attack?
- Will Cleverley and Welbeck get another chance to play? I sure hope they do.
- Smalling says de Gea's been doing well in training. Let's see him in action
- Who gets the armband? Evra or Rooney?