Looking Forward

 

MANCHESTER UNITED (Away)

Premier League

Saturday 21st September 2002

Manchester United have had a rocky start to their season.  First they lose their skipper to an operation/injury/scandal over his book (delete as appropriate).  Then, they lose a whole host of games you wouldn't expect them to (including one to Ziggerzag of Hungary in the Champions League).

So what has gone wrong ?  Nothing really, just a few bits of bad luck and some players not hitting the high notes at the start of the season.  With the high standards they have set for themselves over the last ten years, they had to dip down from time to time, but this time, it has come at the beginning rather than in the middle of a long season.

All the big names are still there and Rio has been added for 30 million.  Yes, the defence still creaks from time to time, but then they have the Neville Brothers in it !!  Barthez is as un-scripted a goalkeeper you could meet and Blanc good on his day, but looking slow on others.  In midfield, the wheels were falling off the axis of Keane and Veron well before they alighted Roy's trolley.  Giggs and Beckham looked the stable ones.

And even Ole-Gunnar Scorealot found goals hard to come by, as did Ruud van Noseforgoals.  But one ray of light shone through, when Diegoal Forlan got off the mark.  At least we won't be the first team for him to score a United goal against.

Even though the talent might be misfiring, it should not be taken as a foregone conclusion that Man U will roll over and let Spurs win.  For the last few seasons, Tottenham have been willing victims as Man U have lifted the Premiership trophy at Old Trafford, without needing to get out of second gear.  That is the gear they are in at the moment.

While we might be a better side than previously, that does not mean that we will come away with anything. It might mean it is a closer game, but the only way to beat United is to pay like we did for 45 minutes at home last season, for the whole 90.  If that is possible, Spurs might break that poor record at the Theatre of Dreams.  Personally, I tend to think that the match in midweek will have sharpened them up a bit and put them on the road to recovery.  Our defence has not been as water-tight as it had been at the very start of the season, so there is the opportunity for United to score and while Robbie might want to take the Keane limelight, I doubt that it will prevent the home side flooding towards our goal.  That's why, we will be creditable in our performance, but it will end up ...

PREDICTION : -  Manchester United  1  Tottenham 0

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.

MEHSTG asked a Man U website "Red Rants" for their views on the coming match on Saturday.

How do you think your team are playing so far this season ?

For the most part, well within themselves. The best has most certainly still to come.

How do you think your club will do this season ?

In the league - probably second. I think Arsenal will win the title. In the European Cup, we'll get to at least the Quarter-Finals. If we make it to the final at Old Trafford, we'll have a great chance.

Who do you think is your best player at the moment ?

It's always Keane, when he's playing. Rio looks a great signing too and John O'Shea is superb and should be starting ahead of Laurent Blanc week in, week out.

Which player isn't playing well in recent games ?

Lots of them. Ryan Giggs has been largely a waste of space for two or three years now.

Any exciting new names in the squad that we should look out for ?

As mentioned above, John O'Shea. I'm sure you know about pretty much all the others ... :)

What is the line-up expected to be ?

I would expect it to be: Barthez; Silvestre, Blanc, Ferdinand, O'Shea/G Neville; Giggs, Butt, Veron, Beckham; Van Nistelrooy, Solskjaer.

What do you Man U fans think of Tottenham ?

An entertaining cup side, but they're never great shakes in the league. To their credit, they try and play attractive football.

Which Spurs player do you like ?

Teddy pleasantly surprised us all at United.  I always thought Rebrov looked alright, but he doesn't seem to have established himself.  Redknapp should suit Spurs quite well.

How do you think we will do this season ?

Oh, in the league, probably about 8th or 9th I'd imagine.

What do you reckon the score will be ?

3-1 to us.

Dave,
RedRants   www.redrants.co.uk

 

 

Manchester United  1  Tottenham  0   (Half-time score : 0- 0)
FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Saturday 21st September 2002
Venue : -  Old Trafford
Kick Off : -  15.00 p.m.
Weather : -  Dry, sunny
Crowd : -  67,611
Referee : -  R. Styles (Waterlooville)
Teams : -  Manchester United : - Barthez; P. Neville, Ferdinand, O'Shea, Silvestere; Butt, Veron (G. Neville 76), Beckham, Giggs (Pugh 85); van Nistelrooy, Solskjaer (Forlan 76)
Unused Subs. : -  Ricardo, Stewart

Tottenham : -  Keller; Thatcher, Doherty, Richards, Davies; Etherington, Bunjevcevic, Redknapp, Iversen (Ferdinand 76); Sheringham (Acimovic 85), Keane
Unused Subs. : - Hirschfeld, Henry, Ricketts

Colours : -  Manchester United -  Red shirts, White shorts, Black socks

Tottenham -  White shirts, Navy blue shorts, White socks with navy blue turnover.

Scorers : -  Manchester United -  van Nistelrooy (pen) 63

Tottenham - None

Cards : -  Manchester United -  van Nistelrooy (violent conduct) 28

Tottenham -   Richards (violent conduct) 28

 
Well, what do you expect when you go to Old Trafford ?  A big megastore, lots of loud music to hide the silence of the crowd and no penalties for you.  That's what.  And so it happened, but a penalty for Man U ... Oh ! Shock ! Horror !

Of course, van Nistelrooy dispatched it and that was that.  Except it wasn't, as patched up Spurs could have taken a point at the end, when the ball fell kindly for Etherington, but his cross was intercepted by Barthez, instead of reaching Keano or Milo.

Most of the action, it has to be said, was in the Spurs goalmouth, with Keller once again performing to a very high standard to keep the ball out with any part of his anatomy that came to hand ... knee, leg, bum ...  He really is playing well at the moment and I can't see Sully displacing him, when he gets over his broken thumb.

Beckham had his usual game.  Moaning at the ref for not giving a penalty for the first Doherty foul, even though they did get one after for Doc's challenge on Solskjaer. Maybe, Becks was so incensed because Doherty might have been sent off for the first one.  Now that's how to treat your fellow professionals.  Especially when the England captain escaped censure last week for an elbow on Bowyer and today managed to get away with an extremely late tackle on Matty.

With all these things, it is always the away team that come off worse.  Although, the ref might have sent both Richards and van Nistelrooy off for an "after the ball had gone" fight in the first half.  But then nobody might have scored !!

Man U did have the best of the possession and Tottenham's share was mainly deep and away form the home goal to have any effect on the overall outcome.  Bunjy's shot did make the keeper stretch, while Richards hit the ball as it came to him and unfortunately found Baldy Barthez in the way.  Little else made the United fans worry and little that they did made Tottenham look like a side without 13 players to choose from.

We nearly lost another one, when Teddy didn't appear too happy to be substituted and on leaving the pitch, made his way straight to the United bench !!  Without even handing in a transfer request.

With all the pressure on the Tottenham goal, it would normally mean that it would only be a question of time before the goal arrived, but even with a makeshift defence, although Simon Davies was excellent in his new position, it didn't look like United had the wherewithal to breach it.  Only Doherty's mistimed challenge, as Solskjaer nicked the ball away from his tackle, gave them the chance to win the match.

Yes, a defeat, but unlike previous seasons, there was not much between the two sides.  Whether it is us on the way up and them on the way down, or a combination of the two, it means that if we had a full first choice team out there, perhaps it might have been even closer.  We will never know ... until next time !!

MEHSTG TOP MAN : - KASEY KELLER

Purcell Cole

 

PLAYING GAMES

 

One van Nistelrooy penalty won it for United, but with a little luck they could have won about 6-0 or Spurs could have nicked it 1-0.  That is the thin line between success and failure these days.

Admittedly, Tottenham were lucky to get away with a penalty claim a minute before the one was given.  It might have resulted in Doherty's dismissal and a Tottenham collapse like last season, but then the poor referee didn't see Rio get a hand to a ball into the box and so, these things tend to even themselves out over the space of 12 minutes !!

Not that it was all one way.  Keane had an overhead kick comfortably saved by Barthez, who denied the same player when he raced forty yards form goal to tackle him. If Robbie could have got a toe to it, he would have been brought down and the French keeper would have got a red card.  It was also Barthez, who kept his side in it, as Richards hit a shot from three yards out, but it was straight at the goalie.  You couldn't blame the central defender, who was set up nicely by Iversen's cushioned header from Keane's cross.

Defensively, the same could not be said of Richards.  Although he did well enough, getting in tackles and winning the ball in the air, he still looks slow on the ground, slow to recover his position and also slow to realise his positioning.  At the moment, Anthony Gardner, for all his youthful mistakes, looks a better bet for the central defensive role.  Doherty showed today in the space of a minute, that he has a lot to learn too.  Two rash challenges, agreed trying to deny a goal scoring opportunity, cost Tottenham the game and could have cost us a player.

Thatcher did well and Davies stuck to his task well in the unfamiliar role of right back, coming out on top in the battle of the Welsh stars with Ryan Giggs.  The midfield worked hard, but failed to create much for Keane and Sheringham (which might have explained his thunder-faced exit form the match).  Quite often, Keane dropped far too deep to get hold of the ball, when we really want him leading the line.

United had loads of chances.  And Keller was equal to them all.  Flying saves from a Doherty deflection, two from Beckham and another from Solskjaer, added to point blank saves from Solskjaer and van Nistelrooy in the second half meant that the home side were getting jittery about not scoring.  It is not that hard to see why they have been stuttering so far this season.  However, as always, they do work so incredibly hard.  Even Beckham, who had a sub-standard game by his criteria, ran and ran, while too often, Tottenham players were content to amble back while United stormed forward.  Kasey will not be able to perform like this in every match and the side must tighten up to prevent other sides getting in on our goal.

With a couple of late substitutions, Hoddle showed that he was willing to try and get something from the game.  Ferdinand's blocked shot fell to Etherington, whose cross right  at the death, needed a bit more height to cut out Barthez and it would have been easy for Keane or Acimovic to grab an equaliser.

Not an unexpected result, despite the contrasting starts the two clubs have had, but did Hoddle "rest" those injured players, who might have been able to play, so that we had a stronger team for next week in a match we need to win, rather than have them turn out in one that was a no-win situation ?  Perhaps he sees the points against Boro and teams like them, as more precious than those of the top teams ?  I'm sure that is not true.  It is more likely that the players were not being made to play with injuries to attempt to cut down on the time they spend out of the side.

Whatever reason was behind it, the match against Middlesbrough becomes one we need to win.

Kirk Hammarton

 

 

Other scores this weekend :

Arsenal  2    Bolton Wanderers  1  
Aston Villa  3    Everton  2  (Sunday)
Blackburn Rovers  1   Leeds United  0  (Sunday)
Fulham  0    Chelsea  0     (Monday)
Liverpool  2    WBA  0  
Middlesbrough  1    Birmingham City  0  
Newcastle United  2    Sunderland  0  
SCBC  0    Charlton Athletic  0
West Ham United  0    Manchester City  0 

 

League Table
 
  P W D L F A Pts
1 Arsenal 7 5 2 0 17 7 17
2 Liverpool 7 4 3 0 13 7 15
3 Chelsea 7 3 4 0 13 8 13
4 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 7 4 1 2 11 9 13
5 Leeds United 7 4 0 3 10 5 12
6 Fulham 6 3 2 1 12 6 11
7 Middlesbrough 7 3 2 2 8 5 11
8 Manchester United 7 3 2 2 6 5 11
9 Blackburn Rovers 7 2 3 2 8 8 9
10 Aston Villa 7 3 0 4 6 8 9
11 WBA 7 3 0 4 6 11 9
12 Birmingham City 7 2 2 3 8 8 8
13 Everton 7 2 2 3 9 11 8
14 Manchester City 7 2 2 3 7 9 8
15 Newcastle United 6 2 1 3 8 8 7
16 Charlton Athletic 7 2 1 4 6 10 7
17 Bolton Wanderers 5 2 0 3 6 9 6
18 SCBC 7 1 3 3 3 7 6
19 Sunderland 7 1 2 4 2 10 5
20 West Ham United 6 0 2 4 4 12 2

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