After gorging myself last Saturday on soccer, I took the day off and got some stuff done around the house and on the blog and tried to watch an entire season of Community. Sunday, however, I headed up to the pub for Newcastle United v Manchester United and FC Barcelona v Real Madrid.
Newcastle United 0 Manchester United 3
What a start. The passion and drive were stunning; a complete turnaround from last week. Sir Alex went with a younger and more energetic midfield, playing in an unbalanced diamond, and put Newcastle under pressure from the off. You would have made a ton of money if you had taken Evans and Evra to score for Manchester United. But the Magpies responded by getting the ball wide, stretching the MUFC diamond and taking hold of the game. Plus the lack of possession, a higher line of confrontation and more pressure kept the Reds from extending their lead until late.
United’s first three minutes of the second half were what I expected. Keep the ball, go cagey and grind it out. And then everything almost went wrong. Cisse might have been a little hard done by as his effort was cleared off the line by De Gea. Still can’t say for sure that the entire ball was in, but the young Spaniard created the controversial moment. There were two defenders there to handle it, and there was no reason for him to get involved. NUFC continued to press, but to no avail, and then the proverbial bolt from the blue occurred as Cleverley with a shot-cum-cross put the game out of reach.
Despite the midfield changes, the goals came from set pieces and a moment of magic. That’s a little worrying as few actual chances were created from the run of play, so there is still work to be done. The key now for Fergie is to find a midfield balance that can control the entire field.
Couple of other notes. . .
- Saw the best and worst of Rafael. At the beginning of the match, he took a difficult goal kick out of the air, tight on the sideline, and combined down the line, which led to a stinging shot. Then just before halftime, he gives a shit pass to RvP and is caught out. Nothing came of it, but still. He is getting better but is still prone to the occasional error that will be punished against better opposition.
- Evans on the deck was worrisome, with the lack of depth and injuries mounting in defense. With Vidic out, the pairing of Evans and Rio will have to get the Reds through. If either of them go out, then Carrick may be called back into the backline, a move that could have damaging ripple effects throughout the team.
- De Gea was still shaky on crosses. Hard to see him cementing a spot if he can’t improve this aspect. For now, I think he should stay on the line and let his defenders handle set pieces and trust that his reactions will save the day.
Ed Harrison, writing for NUFC blog, saw his beloved Newcastle come up second best in Sunday’s match. I didn’t realize that the backline was makeshift, which, along with some poor marking, led to the opening goals. The Magpies fought back, but the slow start and the non-awarded goal put the game beyond reach. In a separate post, he identified the lack of depth and areas that need strengthening as Newcastle look to build on last season’s finish.
Nik and Doron reviewed the game for Streford End, examining how Fergie’s use of the diamond formation impacted the match. This, combined with an energetic approach, led to United taking control of the game and settling into some sort of 4-5-1 in the defensive phase to close it out. High marks were given to Evra and Cleverley, while there is still some doubt over de Gea in goal.
Scott the Red from the Republik of Mancunia enjoyed a fine performance from the Reds, starting in the back. Well not necessarily with De Gea but the back four. Totally agree with him that Welbeck needs to finish off the chances that he creates for himself with his endeavor and that others set up for him through their interplay. Rooney got Man of the Match. He was good and put in a decent shift but I don’t know that he was the best player. This might have been an instance where the team was so in tune with each other that no one player deserved it more than another.
Michael Cox of Zonal Marking broke the game down into three phases—United’s diamond establishing control; Newcastle’s reshuffle to a 4-5-1 to bring them back into the match; and Fergie’s alternation to a 4-5-1 in order to regain control. The game was won in the opening 15 minutes and once the hour mark came with no goals from Newcastle, United saw the game out, with Cleverley’s audacious effort as icing on the cake.
Articles and Pods
I have only watched one Juventus game thus far this season—2-2 draw away at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League. I wrestled with where to put my time as a fan in this summer, and Juve has suffered. I am keeping an eye on results and was glad that they crushed Roma in the previous round and came back against Siena to extend their impressive 46 game unbeaten streak in Serie A.
I follow several of the crew from Juventiknows on twitter so when they pushed a post on the tactical evolution of the Old Lady, I gave it a read. Ratul’s synopsis is concise and informative. Conte maintained flexibility throughout last season and his transformation from a 4-4-2 to 4-1-4-1 to 4-3-3 to 3-5-2 allowed a balance to be struck that brought the most out of the squad, which resulted in a Scudetto and near domestic double. Highly recommend the post, especially as it examines the equation of tactics, technique and personality.
Antonio Labbate wondered what happened to the mystique around the #10 jersey in Italy in one of his recent posts for Football Italia. #10 for me will always be associated with Alessandro del Piero and to a lesser extent Francesco Totti in Serie A. As I thought about it, I had a hard time identifying legendary #10’s for Manchester United and FC Barcelona. Off the top of my head I couldn’t name one over the last five to ten years. (After a little thinking, Sheringham and Rivaldo.)
Phil and Doron had Tom Clare on the latest Manchester United pod for Beyond the Pitch. Tom has written several books on United’s history and shared his thoughts on where the club has been and where it is going. With his wealth of history and insight, it was a fascinating listen.
Robert Andrew Powell was on Off the Ball last week (10/4) to talk about his new book This Love is not for Cowards, which recounted his time in Juarez, Mexico—the murder capital of the world. Fascinating account that described the safest place to be: a soccer stadium.
Finally, Anto and Nico had Ives Galarcep on Beyond the Pitch to look at the MLS stretch run, which sees San Jose enter the tournament as favorites but threatened by the Galaxy. Plus is this the season Seattle makes progress? And what to make of New York Red Bull? Good stuff from all involved as usual.