Posts Tagged ‘Manchester United’

Time to get pumped for tomorrow.

Just like the old days. Zidane to Figo -> Boom.

Master Tactician Alex Ferguson comes out of the Mestalla with a 1-0 win.

I grew up in an era of attacking football. Being a Real Madrid and La Liga supporter, I had the privilege of seeing Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Raul, and Ronaldo playing together and picking teams apart with no mercy; while their relinquished defence saw the ball go into their net on a few occasions. They never seemed bothered when they let in goals. Their philosophy was one that read ‘We’ll just score more goals than you’.

That same era we witnessed the ‘Super Depor’ team which had Juan Carlos Valeron, Djalminha, Mauro Silva, and Diego Tristan. It was a team that beat Milan 4-0 and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League to play another entertaining La Liga team at the time, Valencia. That era was the most dominant that La Liga has ever been in Europe and one that was pleasing to the eye. It seemed like ‘Joga Bonito’ had stamped out ‘negative football’ for good.

Football goes through phases. The era of flair and gung-ho offence is dormant for the time being. In the past year, we’ve seen defensive football emerge from it’s slumber (it was actually always there, but not everyone used it, and it wasn’t always successful).

Last season we thought Barca was unstoppable. And then we realized that the only way to beat them was to pressure them high and keep the defensive shell compact. That’s exactly what happened the two times they were conquered last season. Rubin Kazan did it in the Camp Nou in the group stages of the Champions League (ironically, they held Barca to a 1-1 draw today in similar fashion), and then Jose Mourinho came to the Camp ‘Mou’ and played some of the most unattractive yet efficient games of football I have seen to knock Barca out of the Champions League.

One month later, Vicente Del Bosque and Spain started their quest for their 1st ever World Cup trophy. La Seleccion this year is virtually Barca 2.0. It’s literally FC Barcelona plus Casillas, Ramos, Alonso, and Capdevila. The amazing thing is that Del Bosque took this team and totally changed it from the style of play that Pep Guardiola has Barca playing. He dropped Torres, and inserted a second DM -Xabi Alonso- to accompany Sergio Busquets. A simple switch that completely changes the system. Spain went from being an attacking team, to one that builds and solidifies at the back while trying to snatch a goal somewhere and then killing the game off with their possession.

Needless to say, La Roja went on to win the World Cup with a team that focused more on defensive stability than attack. This was evident as they won their last 4 games of the tournament by 1-0.

Mourinho - Impressive at the back

Jose Mourinho has Real Madrid playing more defense than they’re used to, but it seems to be working. Last night Mourinho decided to play with three defensive midfielders – Lass, Alonso, Khedira – against 17th placed Ligue 1 side Auxerre. A formation that is unheard of in Real Madrid. Mourinho’s philosophy is one that emphasizes defensive organization. To his defence -no pun intended-, Real Madrid has been playing the best defence I have ever seen them play, and although they aren’t scoring as much, I’m sure the goals will come eventually. They have to. Especially when you have Higuain, Benzema, Cristiano, Ozil, Di Maria, Pedro Leon, and Canales in attack.

My only criticism of Mourinho thus far is his obsession with playing Karim Benzema at the right wing position. It’s a position that destines Benzema to failure. He’s most lethal when he’s closest to goal, and at that position he occupies valuable space that Di Maria and Ozil could be filling. I’m sure Eto’o understands Benzema’s frustration with his comment today after his hat-trick and Inter’s 4-0 win over Werder Bremen:

“I’m happy to win as a striker after winning as a defender last season,”

And finally, a surprising ending happened at the Mestalla today as Manchester United grabbed a 1-0 win over Valencia. After literally attacking Manu for 80 minutes and coming close to scoring on several occasions, they found themselves losing the match after Manchester finally broke out of their defensive shell late to score the only goal of the game. If there ever was a ‘perfect game’, Sir Alex came pretty close today. He had United lined up fantastic defensively and Valencia found it hard to penetrate the great partnership of Ferdinand and Vidic. The more Valencia pushed, the more Manchester absorbed, and just when it looked like Valencia might score, Ferguson came up with two genius substitutions bringing on youngsters Javier Fernandez and Federico Macheda. The later was the architect who set-up Fernandez for the winning goal. It was a lovely move that can be seen here.

So what is the answer? Is a defensive approach more efficacious than an attacking approach? There is no clear answer. What’s evident is that football goes through phases and different coaches are successful with different tactics. That’s the beautiful thing about football, every team plays differently and some of the most beautiful matches can come from two teams who have completely contrasting styles of play.

Defensive football = Attacking football.

If I were to pick one game that best represented Raul, Zidane, Figo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Real Madrid, and beautifull football all in one; it would have to be Real Madrid vs. Manchester United in the 02/03 season. Madrid absolutely dismantled Manu. It was the most beautiful football I’ve ever seen. God I miss those days:

RVN - Trasnferred to Hamburg

I have nothing but fond memories of Van Nistelrooy’s tenure in Madrid. I wasn’t his biggest fan when he was with Manu, but he proved me wrong big time. In an era where Raul was severely underperforming, Ronaldo (The original – the Lima) carried our team with his goals game-in and game-out. When RVN came over to replace Ronaldo when he left for AC, he filled those massive boots that Ronaldo left for him with confidence and class. I will never forget his time here and his fabulous goals. One of the best strikers I have ever seen in my generation, a true poacher and a classic #9 striker. A compilation of his goals, followed by his ‘goodbye ovation’ on the weekend, followed by full highlights of the Real Madrid – Malaga game:

16 goals for and 2 goals against in 4 games. Yet, it is not good enough. Real Madrid has always been a club with tremendous pressure on their backs. It’s a club where results are not good enough. Games have to be won with absolute style. Following Real Madrid’s 5-0 win over Xerez yesterday coach Pellegrini had this to say about the team’s performance:

“We didn’t play well as a team, especially in the first 20 minutes. Perhaps we were too confident after the first goal”

“I am happy because we won 5-0 but leaving aside the result we did not play well,” he told Marca.

“We must keep improving. Every game is different. We had a good end to the first half but maybe we were too confident after the first goal.

“We improved in the second half and got the goals but we should have been better in possession,” Pellegrini added.

Pellegrini gets to play against his former club on Wednesday when ‘Los Merengues’ travel to El Madrigal to play against Villareal. For the rest of this post I have collected some nice stuff for you from the weekend. Highlights of the Real Madrid game, highlights of Atletico Madrid getting their annual ass-whopping from Barca, and highlights from the crazy Manchester derby:

Barcelona 5-2 Atletico Madrid

And this is the incredible finish in the Manchester derby on the weekend. From the 89th minute on. Sorry about the poor quality, but it’s about as much as youtube has on right now. It’s a must watch:

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The Champions League has finally arrived. It was a long summer without meaningful football but that wait is over now. All 32 teams have finished playing their first match, and what an interesting matchday it was. Let’s get started.

Everyone knows Manchester Unitedare severely weakened since Ronaldo’s departure, but they did manage to hold off Besiktas in Turkey last night for a 0-1 win. Turkish fans are known to be some of the craziest in the world; and instead of highlights, I would rather post this clip of a high quality amateur video of the Besiktas fans during kick-off:

Ac Milan proved that they should always be a contender for the Champions League, no matter how much of a crisis they’re in. After all, they are the second best team of all team after Real Madrid. Milan put together an impressive display in Marseille and pulled off a 1-2. This is not AC’s best year by any means. First they lost Kaka, then got hammered by Inter in the derby 4-0. They also have a completely washed up Ronaldinho who doesn’t even start anymore, and an ageing team of Nesta, Gattusso, Pirlo, Inzaghi, Seedorf and co. It’s no secret that they will be fighting with Marseille for second place in this group, and they most definitely took a big leap towards that goal with their win last night. Inzaghi adding to his European tally with 2 goals while ex-Real Madrid defender Heinze got Marseille’s lone goal. Great atmosphere:

Real Madrid make it look easy. Well, they had a 5 minute scare against FC Zurich, but other than that, they just put it on cruise control and ate the Swiss team apart. The game was in Zurich, but it seemed like quite a few Madridista’s were in the stadium, and they overshadowed the Zurich fans for large parts of the game. 3-0 at half-time, and 5-2 the final score. Watch these highlights in full; because this Real Madrid team is unbelievably fun to watch. Oh, and look for the sexy black jerseys with no sponsors:

Atletico Madrid continue to struggle. Their trend as of late has been much of the same: lots of clear cut chances but no win to show for. Their lack of finishing has really been hurting them. A shocking 0-0 draw at home today to tiny Apoel. Check out all of the chances they had. It’s unbelievable:

Undoubtedly the most intriguing game of matchday 1 was Inter – Barcatonight. Zlatan returned to Milan while Eto’o went up against his old team mates in this clash of two giants of European football. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a snooze fest for the neutral eye as the game ended 0-0. Barca had the ball all day passing it around with plenty of possession, while Inter were forced to sit back. But at least they defended well, and Samuel and Lucio were phenomenal at the back.

Arsenal left it late tonight after a shocking start against Standard Liege:

The other scores from matchday1:

Group A
Juventus 1-1 Gir. Bordeaux
(Iaquinta 63′; Plasil 75′)
Maccabi Haifa 0-3 Bayern Munich
(Van Buyten 64′, Mueller 85′, 88′)

Group B
Besiktas 0-1 Manchester United
(Scholes 77′)
Wolfsburg 3-1 CSKA Moscow
(Grafite 36′, 41′ pen., 87′; Dzagoev 77′)

Group C
Ol. Marseille 1-2 AC Milan
(Heinze 49′; Inzaghi 28′, 75′)
FC Zürich 2-5 Real Madrid
(Margairaz 64′ pen., Aegerter 65′; C. Ronaldo 27′, 89′, Raúl 34′, Higuain 45′, Guti 90′)

Group D
Atlético Madrid 0-0 APOEL Nicosia
Chelsea 1-0 FC Porto

(Anelka 48′)

Group E
Liverpool 1-0 Debrecen
(Kuyt 45′)
Ol. Lyon 1-0 Fiorentina
(Pjanic 76′)

Group F
Dynamo Kiev 3-1 Rubin Kazan
(Yussuf 71′, Magrão 80′, Gusev 86′; Dominguez 26′)
Inter Milan 0-0 FC Barcelona

Group G
Sevilla 2-0 Unirea Urziceni
(Luís Fabiano 45′, Renato 70′)
Stuttgart 1-1 Glasgow Rangers
(Pogrebnyak 18′; Bougherra 77′)

Group H
Olympiacos 1-0 AZ Alkmaar
(Torosidis 79′)
Standard Liège 2-3 Arsenal
(Mangala 2′, Jovanovic 5′ pen.; Bendtner 45′, Vermaelen 77′, Eduardo 81′)

Kiyan: Where do we go next Florentino?

Florentino Perez: To the Southeast.

The much anticipated official announcement of Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite (Kaka) to Real Madrid from AC Milan is finally here. All the reports were correct. A world record fee of €68 million indicates that Florentino Perez has broken the World record transfer fee for a third time (Figo, Zidane, Kaka), and we may see a fourth before the end of the month (Cristiano Ronaldo).

I know several Milanistas who were in denial about the whole transfer; Claiming it was impossible and Kaka loves AC Milan too much. Something we’ve heard so many times before (e.g.: Figo, Beckham). It proves that either players love money, or simply live to see the day they will wear the royal white shirt of the greatest sports team on the planet. The latter is a more realistic scenario.

Welcome Kaka!

… Just how I would describe one of my favorite footballers ever.

Luis Figo has called it quits. Today; Sunday, May 31st, 2009, Figo played his last game for Inter Milan:

Truly a tear shedding moment. Luis Figo was a gem. He was the first in line of a series of great Portuguese wingers who came after him; but none able to dethrone king Figo as the best winger of his generation. He was easily the best winger I have ever seen. But to be fair to the great George Best, I will accept the views of others that he may not be head and shoulders the best ever.

No matter what the verdict, and where anyone will rank him among the greats, no one can deny his legendary status. Luis Figo was of a rare breed of footballers. When he had the ball at his feet, you knew that he was going to be 1-3 players at will, and the set someone up for a goal scoring chance. He was the best player in the World in 2001 when he won the FIFA player of the year award. The following year, he was teamed up with the one and only Zinedine Zidane (which formed on of the best 1-2 attacking punches ever seen) to win the Champions League.

This is a very unorganized entry, but I just want to pay my respects to this wizard of football. He graced us with his talent for 20 years on the professional level, and now he’s gone.

Adios y gracias Luis Figo!