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The Attack Of The Hobbits…

It’s hard to terrorise opponents when your attacking trio boasts of an ageing 34-year old whose time, according to his own fans, is up at the club, a Korean imitation of the Energizer Bunny sans the coolness and impact, and a hobbit brought over from Argentina.

Behind them sat 2 defensive midfielders and a player turning 20 this Sunday who had been anonymous in the first leg. Behind them stood a crocked center-back, a green 21-year old, an alien making his comeback from injury, a right-back no one rates as being good enough and a 37-yr old keeper whose best days are behind him.

Either Luciano Spalletti didn’t do his homework, or his scouts lied to him about some of these players.

Manchester United were, in one word, professional. They went at Roma in the first 20 minutes with controlled aggression, creating chances and bursting into the box. Doni and at other points Juan did quite well to keep them out, and eventually Roma got a foot back into the game and began pushing back.

It was around this time that Mancini drove into the box, teased Brown before making a move to go past him to whip in a cross. Brown read it, went in with a tackle, the ball slid away and Mancini took a swan dive that would have made his father proud. Video replays were inconclusive (to this observer’s view at least, even with the red tinted shades on) on whether Brown had caught the foot or the ball first, but Mancini had milked the incident and there was no doubt Brown caught him in the follow-through and the referee whistled for a penalty.

A penalty! After coming so close to scoring (thrice) in the opening 20 minutes, United were about to be cruelly punished. De Rossi stepped up and the commentator harped on about his credentials as a World Cup winner and a successful penalty taker in the 2006 WC final shootout. If you were watching on TV, you’d have given up any hope before the kick was taken, but those in the stadium were still angry at the ref for giving that penalty when De Rossi stepped up and whacked it straight over the bar.

I couldn’t see his face, but I imagine Van der Sar allowing himself a slight smile as De Rossi came close to tears. Old Trafford erupted in joy and some of the United players punched the air – justice had been done.

From then till the end of the first half United were on the back foot, Roma sending wave after wave of attacks and United, with a hobbling Rio Ferdinand centre of the pitch, repelling them each time. Come half-time, and some were expecting Rio Ferdinand to be taken off considering the way he was hobbling.

At one point (around the 40th minute mark) Vucinic went down to a Brown challenge and when the camera panned to Rio Ferdinand’s face you could see the pain etched on it – he was clearly unfit for this game and yet when Ferguson and United and come calling he had answered. Of course, it wasn’t just Ferdinand – Giggs and Park doubled back time and time again to defend, with both players bailing out their respective fullbacks several times.

2nd half started on an even keel, with both sides pushing and creating chances. United had Ronaldo warming up but by the 70th minute he wasn’t needed – another pin-point Hargreaves cross spun in from the right flank, landed on Tevez’s monster forehead and spun off inside the far post. Doni was stranded, United were home 1-0 up, 3-0 on aggregate and through to the semi-finals. Again. It had taken 70 minutes instead of 7, but the goal pretty much killed the game and Ferguson duly brought on O’Shea (Carrick) and Rooney (Giggs) to give his players a rest and also shore up central midfield.

The best was saved for last – Gary Neville made his return after sitting out injured for over an year, and replacing Anderson with a few minutes to go on the clock. His return was as professional and ‘business-as-usual’ as they come – he calmly took his place in central midfield, took the armband Ferdinand handed to him and pulled off a half-decent imitation of Paul Scholes (for a 30+ right-back who’s returning after an year, I’d say it was a half-decent imitation) in the last minutes of the game.

When the whistle came, the United players walked off proud – another mission well-done, another European milestone achieved (11 straight home wins in a row in Europe, a new record), 2 years of dominance in Europe showing their growing maturity at this level and in 2 weeks, Barcelona.

But first, there will be the small matter of playing the Arsenal on Sunday – and with Ronaldo and Rooney scheduled to start that game, there can only be fireworks to look forward to.

Player Ratings

EVDS: 6.5 – his usual composed self, didn’t flap at anything and handled the crosses and corners well.

Brown: 6 – The Mancini penalty will give his detractors more ammo but overall he did what he’s capable of doing – a good enough job under difficult conditions. Mancini isn’t as easy as dealing with your average Premier League left-winger, mind you.

Ferdinand: 7.5 – Seeing that he was unfit, it was an excellent display from the central defender.

Pique: 6.5 – Hard to find a fault in his game (judgment will improve with time). Needs to do better when United go up for corners.

Silvestre: 6 – A successful and uneventful (always good with Silvestre) return

Carrick: 6.5 – I thought he did OK, was tidy defensively and didn’t have the usual R-rated duo to aim his passes to.

Anderson: 6 – Better than in Rome.

Hargreaves: 8 – Would have been a 9 if he had scored from one of his many chances. Man of the match, easily.

Giggs: 6 – Some good crosses and tracked back well.

Park: 7 – He gets the extra 0.5 for effort – the man ran himself to the ground. Good squad player to have around, if only he could learn how to shoot.

Tevez: 6.5 – Got the goal but popped in and out of the game – was a bit isolated up top. Made his chance count, which is all you can ask of him.

O’Shea: 5 – Apparently Fergie thought his size would scare the Romans…Had little time to do more than just clean up ahead of Rio.

Rooney: 5.5 – 20 minutes on the pitch but United looked stronger with him on.

Neville: 5 – Welcome back Captain, although I hope you don’t keep Brown out of the team, at least not this season.

Manchester United will travel to Camp Nou on Wednesday, 23rd April 2008 before entertaining Barcelona at Old Trafford on Tuesday, 29th April 2008. Before the first leg there’s the small matter of dispatching Arsenal at home on Sunday and Blackburn away the next Saturday. Oh, and there’s that pesky trip to Stamford Bridge on the 26th. Fun times…



  1. gator

    9 April 2008 at 23:12

    Roma spent too much time practicing this and not enough shooting pk’s.

    italian practice session

  2. UnitedBlogger

    9 April 2008 at 23:14

    Owen Hargreaves was an 8.5, and Rio was an 8 today. Better on one leg than many central defenders of today on two.

    Barcelona – if we play our game, we should come through it fine.

  3. JB

    9 April 2008 at 23:19

    Love the first two paragraphs Ahmed 🙂 To be honest I thought your ratings were pretty harsh, most of the players deserve at least an extra point IMO. Hargreaves will rightfully take most of the plaudits but I would like to give Silvestre a shout out. One dodgy pass early on but after that he played well for the full 90, highly impressive after his lay-off.

  4. Red Ranter

    9 April 2008 at 23:25

    I echo JB’s sentiments Ahmed. Brilliant first two paragraphs — what was Spalletti thinking 🙂
    About, Hargreaves, Ahmed you may have just discovered your Beckham Mk II. Good with freekick and my! doesn’t he have some right foot! The crosses were outstanding, and dead accurate — almost looked like they were laser guided.

    And with your ratings, you really should increment them by one.

  5. Ahmed Bilal

    9 April 2008 at 23:35

    In my defence I went back and reduced the ratings by a point because I thought I was being too partial. Silly me 🙂

    RR – I thought of the Beckham comparison as well, and I hope Capello was watching 🙂

  6. JB

    9 April 2008 at 23:41

    And before I forget I would like to echo the words of a certain commentator a few years ago.

    “Full speed ahead Barcelona!” 🙂

  7. RedAddict

    9 April 2008 at 23:59

    Holy shit Hargreaves, what a performance. I’ll not get on his back for missing a couple of chances, he’s not a striker, it’s not his job, and some of the last ditch defending from Juan et al was pretty outstanding. Anyway, some of those crosses that Hargreaves was slinging in reminded of a certain number 7 before Ronaldo. I liked Hargreaves’ role tonight. Carrick played the deep midfielder whilst Hargreaves rampaged forward through the middle and down the right flank. He was truly excellent and he could be a vital player in our run-in.

    Thought the defence, who were relatively unfamiliar with eachother, did a very good job. Always nice to keep a clean sheet, and although there were a few scares, they did very well. Ferdinand was imperious, despite being only about 70% fit at my guess. Playing through pain like that is truly admirable, considering the modern game is full of prima donnas who will cry off at the first sign of any tweak. Ferdinand should be our captain, undisputed. He’s quickly becoming one of the great defenders of the modern game. One of the few defenders you’d genuinely pay money to go and watch.

    Park and Tevez ran themselves into the ground tonight. It didn’t always come off for them, but they were dangerous, and Tevez made the crucial intervention in the end. Carrick and Anderson did well in midfield. Anderson certainly caught the eye in the first half with some great running and link-up play. More of the same please.

  8. craig mc

    10 April 2008 at 00:00

    My ratings – Hargo 10/10, Hargo 10/10, Hargo 10/10, Hargo 10/10, Hargo 10/10 etc etc etc. Hahaha – just teasing folks!.

  9. craig mc

    10 April 2008 at 00:06

    Ahmed – yeah Silvestre did okay for someone who has been out so long, he had a good game. Pique too was okay, and with more playing time he could be a great replacement defender for us, to give Rio or Vidic a rest occasionally.

  10. johnsom33

    10 April 2008 at 02:24

    what is the word on Nani, is he gonna play against arsenal. I think they are still having nightmares from the llast time they had to face him. also how did he get hurt? last I saw was he scored and did his flips then the game was over. I thought he was “hurt” just to keep him out the portugal side.

  11. michael

    10 April 2008 at 02:24

    I want to say that I thought both Pique and Silvestre were great. Obviously Hargreaves was man of the match, but I think that for Silvestre to come back from injury and look so able was great and looks like it could really help our run-in, especially if Evra gets that ban. Pique looks to be a great prospect, I expect to see him get 10-15 league starts next year, or maybe loaned out til January.

    For Park there is only one word: hustle. That boy made Roma work incredibly hard, even if it didn’t always pay dividends he was giving us a lot of space to work in. Tevez wasn’t too great, although the goal was very well taken. He shoul have been staying upmore to get on the end of the final ball but instead Hargreaves and Park were there.

    No complaints really, and obviously fantastic to see Gary get a run-out even if he was out of position. Be intersting to see what line-up we take to the Nou Camp, and especially to see the formation. I think we’ll go with 4-6-0 again, but SAF might try and catch the Catalans out by going out for goals away from home. Without Puyol Barca will be weaker than usual at the back, and Yaya doesn’t seem to be a particularly talented holding midfielder; more an Essien type, very mobile.

    Moscow here we come (fingers crossed, touch wood)!

  12. Grognard

    10 April 2008 at 02:28

    Well it’s time I interjected with my views on the game having finally seen it on delay. United were really quite good for most of the match. They controlled the game and you always felt that if necessary they had that extra gear to put Roma away. Hobbits aside, Tevez showed that he is a decent header of the ball, when he can reach it that is. I’ve alway made that claim having seen him score numerous goals with his head before he came to OT. What I liked was that very nice offensive run into the box to get to Hargreaves Beckham-like cross. That is what I need to see from him more to be convinced. His runs are great but too often they don’t threaten inside the box. So that was very refreshing to see.

    Barcelona will probably be a decent opponent but without Ronaldinho, Puyol and perhaps Messi for the first leg and Ronaldinho for the second as well, I just don’t fear them. Respect them yes, fear them no. I don’t think they are presently as good as Roma. Roma would have been much more of a force had Totti played.

    So to finish off my views on the game just played, here are my player ratings. Before I give them I too must comment on Ahmed’s harsh ratings. Hargreaves an 8? Anderson and Giggs 6? Much to stingy in my not so humble opinion Ahmed. But that’s the whole point to debate. To compare and possibly disagree a bit.

    EVDS 7/10 – Made some nice saves although they weren’t overly challenging. He controlled the box well and never looked uncomfortable. He was well positioned for every half chance roma got in the game which is also very good goalkeeping.

    BROWN 7/10 – Last week I raked poor Wes over the coles but I thought he played quite well tonight. Mancini was never a threat on the left and the penalty against him was a disgrace so lets not hold that against him. Should have scored on an easy header early in the first half though.

    RIO 7/10 – Not vintage Rio but still good enough. Lets face it, he was struggling a bit with the foot and so if he seemed a little off, that was certainly understandable. He never got a move wrong and nobody threatened the goal inside his sacred territory.

    PIQUE 6.5/10 – Was comfortable and composed but the reason I don’t give him a 7 also is because he is still having a problem judging crosses or corners. He’s also being out jumped in the box which is a concern. He needs to work on his vertical leaping ability.

    SILVESTRE 7/10 – Outside of a few careless passes in the first half I thought he did his job well and made a saving block of a clear cut chance in the seconfd half which was sublime. Considering his layoff, he seemd pretty composed and in good condition out there.

    PARK 6.5/10 – For me Ahmed he loses that half point for his poor first touches which if had controlled, may have potted him three goals tonight. Otherwise the lad did run his socks off and since his return he seems like he is a faster runner than in the past. This is very good because he then does qualify to be Ronaldo’s backup.

    HARGREAVES 9/10 – Don’t get me started. Where to start? How about he would have received my first 10/10 this year had he scored on his early chance. Otherwise, I thought I was seeing David Beckham with pace and defensive ability. He was beyond world class tonight. He was out of this world. In fact Ray Wilkens said it best after Souness wondered how Anderson could be starting over him. Wilken said that he felt that Hargo’s future was probably at RWB because he has pace can run up and down the field and deliver exquisite crosses. What more can one ask for from the lad? Sheer perfection.

    CARRICK 7.5/10 – Worked very hard and dispossessed opponents many times as the holding midfielder. His passing although not overly adventurous was Scholes like in it’s safety and precision but having Rooney and Ronaldo as outlets would have helped. Solid game.

    GIGGS 7/10 – How many of you are going to find fault with him tonight? I’m sure there will be some. Although he wasn’t fantastic, he did make some solid passes and crosses and a few of his runs caused Roma’s defense to buckle and lose shape. He is still a solid choice in my books.

    ANDERSON 7/10 – I have never had a problem with the lad’s work rate or his desire. He dribbled the ball well and ran his socks off tonight. He seemed a little more composed on the ball and even had a low shot on goal which never really threatened but never ended up where Rossi’s penalty finished. He seemed fresher and more alert tonight. Still needs to work on tempo and penetrating the box.

    TEVEZ 7.5/10 – His goal was outstanding but it’s his work rate that made a big difference tonight. People will concentrate on Hargo’s cross and his finish but it’s his run in to the box to get on the end of the cross that did it for me. And he ran like that all night.
    A few better touches and missing an easy header from another Hargo cross kept him from higher marks.

    ROONEY 5/10 – For me he did nothing other than run hard. Just not enough time for him to really make his presence felt.

    O’SHEA 6/10 – Seemed very comfortable and composed. Had some smart decisions and cleared the ball well in limited time.

    NEVILLE 9/10 – Just for being out there. I was just so happy to see him out there. Never did much but his presence an uplifting entrance was definitely a 9/10, don’t you all think? Playing wise, he was a 5/10 because he just didn’t have much time or much to do.

    As for Fergie,he get a 7/10 for scaring the bejesus out of me with his team selection and his risk taking on such an important night. Kudos for finally placing Hargo in the lineup and also right of center where he could make runs and cross balls in.

  13. michael

    10 April 2008 at 02:49

    Grognard: Agree with your player rating except would put Pique on at least a 7 considering how difficult a game that is to come into especially at this part of the season and at his age, and Carrick certainly didn’t merit a 7.5, he’d be a 6 in my book. He did his job but was anonymous whether we were going forward or defending.

    About the Barca game though, how can you not fear them? Sure, Messi probably won’t be fit, and Puyol is out, but Ronaldinho’s absence is honestly likely to strengthen them. Eto’o hasn’t ever really recovered from that injury 2 years ago but he’s still lightning quick and as agile as a cat, with a real instinct for goal. If Henry gets rare chance up front with a partner he can be a real threat, as we all know. Iniesta is unbelievable for his age, so wiley and pragmatic on the ball, unselfish but attacking. A Spanish Scholes of the future.

    Defensively they’re not up to much, but they’ve got pace in their back 4 which could cancel out a lot of our threat if we don’t play cleverly. The second leg at OT will be really helpful, and we almost certainly won’t be able to do what we did in Rome at the Nou Camp, so I expect us to go there playing for goals not a clean sheet, and then to play a solid European game at Old Trafford. Like AC did to us last year.

  14. Grognard

    10 April 2008 at 03:00

    Michael; Barca’s form has not been good and how on Earth can you possibly think a Barcelona without Ronaldinho on the pitch is a better side? They are missing the horses that have made them previous to this season. Sure they are still a threat but not what they were. Last year’s team would have really scared me and they were knocked out by an EPL team. We are better than all other EPL teams and we are better than any La liga sides as well. Plus, we are not a team struggling with inner turmoil. Barcelona’s only chance is to win their game at home by two goals or more. And I cannot see that happening with our defense. I also cannot see us being shut out at the Nou Camp.

    And Carrick did the job that was handed to him. That of a holding midfielder. You shouldn’t be expecting him to go forward in that role. He covered a lot of space and made numerous tackles and steals that started us off on the counter. You just have to judge his performance in the proper context.

  15. michael

    10 April 2008 at 03:34

    Without Ronaldinho two years ago, sure, they’d be weakened. I’ve watched about 10 Barcelona games this season, and Ronaldinho played in most of them, and he’s been holding them back. They can’t accomodate him, Messi, Henry and Eto’o in the 4-3-3, and they’ve failed to capitalise on their abilites to cahnge games from the bench. Thye might not be doing that well this season, especially away from home, but they are still a team packed with players who can have a real impact on the game.

    I think you underestimate Barcelona. I find it a good analogy to think of them as similar to Liverpool, albeit for different reasons. They may not be performing in the league but over 2 legs they can still turn over any side in the world. I expect them to really challenge us, and I doubt we’ll win in Spain: 98,000 is a very big crowd. They are clearly not the team they once were, but their style of play is difficult to contain well when they do it right.

    About Carrick. If you think he did his job well, I won’t be able to dissuade you, and I’m not suggesting he was bad tonight. He was just anonymous a lot of the time. Park and Hargreaves were making most of the challenges in midfield, and all Carrick was doing was recieving the ball then letting it go again. That role can be performed very well, just attempting to dictate the play, but he failed to do so. He rarely imposed himself on the game at all, with no passes or tackles of note. He didn’t even qualify as link-up play as Hargreaves was doing that job. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a quality player, I just think that tonight was below-par considering some of his performances this season.

  16. Rick

    10 April 2008 at 04:50

    For fucks sake this is what i have been telling .. Please give time to allow players to prove themselves . Look at Hargo , as far as i am concerned HE RULED THE ATTACK ! Look at Park , he may not be ur Ronaldo but the way he played was frightening.

    Grognard mate looks like our expectations of Hargo finally payed off !

    There are 3 performances which are extremely worth mentioning .
    Silvestre – Superb Defensive Game . Took over the evra spot beautifully . For people who hate him please check the performances of Senderos Tarore etc . This is first match in a hell long time and that too against a A+ team in a Qfinal UCL !

    Pique – A couple of times weak in air . However important thing COOL AND COMPOSED ! His back passes to Vds showed his calm . For people who are ready to bash him , he has already scored 2 goals using headers in UCL !

    Anderson – Overshadowed by 2 Awesome performances ! Hargo and Park ! However i still say ‘U dont know what u will loose , when he does not play ‘ .. His defensive cover is excellent which made sure there were very less attacks from the right !

    Giggs played a good match too . I am sure he will improve on it in the coming weeks !

    Well Barca game will be very good . However i see suspensions killing the match than anything else . They have forgot to tackle ! Thats it !

    Puyol is suspended and the rest of the back 4 is on 2 yellow cards (Marquez , Milito , Toure )

    michael – Barca defense is poor ! Pace doesnot matter at all . Marquez cant tackle but he has good pace . Thuram can tackle but lacks pace . Puyol knows to body challenge well . Their positional awarness is one of the worst in Europe ! I still remember the match where they lost 3-2 .. The entire back 4 was concentrating in Right part of the pitch . Everyone forgot the left totally .

    It is time for Arsenal as of now ! I expect yet another professional performance !

  17. Shannon

    10 April 2008 at 04:57

    All good ricky boy… at ease!

    You get pissed at players when they aren’t performing to the expected level.

    Big ups to him… He finally shown what he is made of, and hopefully continues yeah.

  18. Shannon

    10 April 2008 at 05:02

    My favoured starting line-up has changed so much this season, for the first time since the 99 squad which is fantastic.

    for the barca game… unsure what formation will be played, will Nani play if fit to exploit Barca’s defence? Or will Fergie want Giggs’ experience? Will Tevez play or just Rooney upfront?

    Will Hargo play after the blinder last night?

    Will Fergie play Neville or Brown?

    Will be a very interesting match

  19. Shannon

    10 April 2008 at 05:04

    The one to really watch out for is Iniesta… his having a wonderful season. and can skid the ball into their very good forwards.

  20. wazza

    10 April 2008 at 05:11

    Great to see King Cantona back to Old trafford.

  21. Shannon

    10 April 2008 at 06:42

    Also; Seeing Rio’s performance last night i have no doubts he should be Captain next season.

  22. Rick

    10 April 2008 at 08:08

    Shannon .. U touched one of the most precise points .

    Fans first favorite formation was Scholes/Carrick .. Later it became Anderson/Hargo later Carrick/Anderson/Fletcher later Scholes/Carrick/Anderson then Scholes/Carrick …

    One thing is for sure we can expect new roles for Hargo based on his Sublime performance ! I think Fergie on purpose gave a free role to Hargo yesterday .
    I guess he and Park will from now on start many matches !

  23. james f

    10 April 2008 at 08:23

    I would give 10/10 to SAF because he single-handedly made a fool of all of us and at the same time boosted the self-confidence of several members of his young and amazing team.
    10/10 to Ahmed too for the first two paragraphs! The team indeed looked like this yesterday, but then you only had to check the names to realise the -totally different- truth.

  24. Grognard

    10 April 2008 at 08:38

    Rick; Park is on the wrong team at the wrong time. He’s talented enough to start on 95% of all the teams in Europe but not United. Ronaldo, Nani and Giggs will always be in front of him. Nevertheless, he has proven that he can be a very valuable spot starter and crack substitute and as long as he is happy with that, then that’s just great. United is very lucky to have such a quality team with great depth in every area except forward. Add a new striker as well as Manucho next season and we will be down right scary.

    James; Hindsight always gets a 10/10. He lucked out because had that penalty gone in, things may have been different. Fortunately everything worked out best so he can laugh at all of us. Think about it though, no matter how many times we question his tactics or his player choices, the man is amazing and knows more about the game and the players he has than we the supporters do. It’s fun to debate his moves but even if he occasionally gets it wrong, Sir Fergie is as close to perfection as it gets in the management game.

  25. Ahmed Bilal

    10 April 2008 at 08:52

    Interesting snippet from the Guardian this morning:

    Ferguson took a risk of a different kind in fielding Rio Ferdinand only three days after the centre-half limped away from Middlesbrough with his left foot in a surgical boot. Here Ferdinand required three stitches in a gash to his right foot, rather than the bruised left one, at half-time. “Rio should be fine for Arsenal. His foot was OK, it was only bruising – and he cut the other one,” said Ferguson.

    Good stuff from Rio, eh?

  26. james f

    10 April 2008 at 08:52

    Exactly, Grognard. And I still believe that even if they had scored the penalty, we would eventually have won the game yesterday. This team fills me with confidence every time I watch them play. The thing is that this year our goals have the element of inevitability. You just expect them to come, sooner or later. The only goal that made me jump up and down so far this year was (strangely, perhaps) the Derby away one.
    So, stand up if you love Fergie!

  27. Manker

    10 April 2008 at 09:06

    For me, Park makes things difficult for opponents…obviously they will not be scared of his shooting, passing etc but what a player he is when in the lead..he works his socks off and its amazing to see that no one as yet has had a go at Park..He is far too underrated IMO, stays on his feet and NEVER dives (unlike many, including a fave of mine ronnie)..wouldn’t start with Park but would definitely sub him on in the 70th min every game..he will completely destroy the other teams with his running..

  28. Beachryan

    10 April 2008 at 09:09

    Well, I was one of the biggest doubters before kick off, but have to hold my hands up, Fergie just about got it right. My biggest fear was that nothing would ‘stick’ to the man up front and the pressure would all be one way, but instead the combination of Park, Hargo and Anderson in the middle/right stopped attacks at the half way line, and then fed quick, precise counters. Couldn’t believe how well the team played…as a team.

    A great night, with the come back of Silvestre (who’d of ever thought I’d say that!) who not only looked good defensively but also showed he can still cross with the best of them. Pique looked alright at CB, though his completely missed header when it was still 0-0 should have been put in by Juan. When the ball is on the ground I have a lot of faith in him, but still worry slightly in the air. He’ll learn, I just hope we keep him.

    As for Giggs…well I’ve been one of his biggest critics lately, and I still think he’s lacking, but he did have a decent game. He was creative, and even though it didn’t always come off, you could see the ideas ticking away, still has the brain of a master. Should have scored though.

    If Hargo’s tendonitis or whatever is gone, and he’s rested he should definitely start on Sunday. Given his performance tonight, coupled with the last few times I’ve seen him, I do think our best team is:

    Which might just be the team sheet Sunday…if Vidic rumours are true…

  29. AGP

    10 April 2008 at 09:56

    Good performance from the team!!
    I think any debate over Utds CMs can’t really be resolved. They are all suited to each game> carrick,scholes,ando,hargo,fletch.. Hargreaves has always been talented, he like ALL of are CMs has his pros and cons but games like that will always suit him.- Carrick(hows he not in the england squad)is the CM that will be first choice and the others will rotate around him- Ando is the rookie but holy shit how good could he be- Fletch has the grit and aggresion and Scholes- well he’s the master and Scholar to the younger midfielders.

    Rio!! I think its set in stone he will wear the armband! In truth he’s worn it all season. I think outside of the pure GENIUS of Ronaldo, Rio would pick up the player awards this year(PFA-etc) Had he started his career at Utd i think he could have been as good as Passerella perhaps Beckanbauer. His mature performances over the last 3 years has be key to our structure.

    Along with the CM debate is the formation- My UTD head always wants 2 upfront, However this squad is so versatile nothing suprises me.
    I hope for the double i think i’m not alone in suggesting the luckiest team(injures) and form will lift the CL trophey. With the EPL 5 games(all difficult) I hope we hold are nerve i dont believe 1 Chelski player really merits lifting that cup.

    Barca need to spend these next two weeks in a health Spa or Rehab!! They need some sort of lift with there problems. If we get at=them in the camp nou, it’ll be all smiles come may!! (Utd-Scouse final)-everyone wants that right??

  30. Jay wire

    10 April 2008 at 11:32

    I always wait 2 recover before saying anything and i think i’ve done that.MOM 4 me even before the game began was hargo.However as part of a his advocates team which includes Craig mc and Grognard, I’ll take the liberty 2 say he doesn’t deserve the ratings he’s been getting eg 10/10.Its too limited.A few hours before the game i said hargo was going 2 be the difference between saf’s 2nd trophy and another fruitless season.

  31. Jay wire

    10 April 2008 at 11:47

    The 2 players i was rooting 4 all season have made me proud.Firstly,OH, playing a free role(where does Fergie get these ideas from) excelled.Then Andy “The Headless Chicken” controlled forward play with some insightful passes and won balls in a manner Edgar Davids would’ve been proud of.Lets put things in perspective.He was facing a strong midfield of perrotta and de rossi and kept them at bay.Special mention 2 Ryan”Time up”Giggs.He must have been duly informed about DONNIE BRASCO’s words of encouragement before the game by our very own Secret Blog Inspector.

  32. jos

    10 April 2008 at 11:54

    just have a feeling that since barca’s title hopes are virtually over, they might give it all to the UCL now! I wont be surprised if they ‘rest’ some key players in the next games to save them for the big showdown with us!
    probably still wont help them much 😉

  33. craig mc

    10 April 2008 at 12:00

    Hargo’s advocates team, – I so like the sound of that Jay Wire!!!!!. I became an advocate for Hargo, when I saw that he was really the best of the one or two most outstanding players for England in the world cup in Germany. And we all know, most of our players GAVE SHITE performances in Germany, causing the fans to sing, “your shit and you know you are”. Hargo’s name was being chanted in every match though!.

  34. jos

    10 April 2008 at 12:00

    by the way, the commentator mentioned one very interesting statistic!
    The trio of Rooney Tevez and Ronaldo have scored 72 goals this season for United!!! Isint that incredible! Is there any other deadlier strike force in whole of Europe?

  35. Tomas

    10 April 2008 at 12:05

    I was just about to comment on the misjudgment that Rio wasn’t fit for the game last night. He was fine, and the injury he got last night was for the other foot. It happened when di Rossi backheeled in the area… he hit the ball and then Rio’s foot, which cracked open a little bit. But I guess someone else already posted the comment from SAF on the matter 🙂

    About the game. A side of Roma’s quality will always have chances to score, and the only reason it ever became interesting was that we didn’t kill off the game early on. Had we scored on one of several chances, Roma’s penalty wouldn’t have mattered (and he’d probably have scored). The 3 up front and Hargo played some very very good football and proved that we have a massive squad this year. And as opposed to most teams out there, we have players coming back from injury in stead of getting injured. Within a week we’ll have everybody fit and ready (except Saha of course – Nani anyone?), which couldn’t be better at this time of the season, obviously.

    Park played extremely well in the first half. Was less productive in the second as he tired a little bit, but he still ran his socks off, which is what we need from him, when he plays.

    What pleases me most is the fact that we’ll have our 2 best attacking players well rested for sunday with Arsenal exhausted from tuesday. Yes I know they’ll have had enough rest physically, but mentally they’re hurt bad. And with Flamini most likely to be out, they’ll struggle to keep up in the center of the park. Add to that the 2 previous meetings between our 2 teams this season. We controlled the game at the Emirates and should have won, and we smashed them in the FA. I’d be afraid of yet another thrashing, if I was Arsenal.

    Biggest concern for the remainder of the season for me is Liverpool. They’ll rest players like crazy to win the CL again, and we simply can’t let them. Hopefully they’ll draw against Blackburn, so they’ll have to get points in the PL to secure the 4th spot. Everybody knows that a fully rested team even of Liverpool’s standards will be dangerous in CL. We can’t let them win the CL, because they’ll be intollerable claiming they’re the best and all that.

  36. Grognard

    10 April 2008 at 18:52

    “Hargo’s Advocate Team”. I love it. Craig, does that make me the captain because of having the loudest voice regarding Hargo’s brilliance, as well as having the knowledge through years of experience watching him? Team captain would be great for my ego…HA! HA! It does feel good to be vindicated somewhat though doesn’t it? The thing is that I know that wasn’t a one game thing and also, credit must be given to Fergie for not only playing him but revolutionizing his usage. Giving him free reign on the pitch was a master stroke and it totally flabbergasted Spalletti. I’m telling you he would be the best RWB on the planet if Fergie has the ambition and the smarts to make that move next year. Besides, he’s always available to move in to midfield when he’s needed provided we have a backup at RB like Neville or Brown or whoever.

  37. Taron

    10 April 2008 at 19:28

    The guys have done a good job so I am not gonna talk about it. The Barca staff…the fear point. Are we afraid of them Yeh a little, but they are afrad of us more. I don’t know wether we will win or not, but I think we have good chance. They should more scared of us, then we should of them. When we got Roma, my friend (Roma fan) called me and said that he his so happy and that it’s the revange time and told me that we should be afraid. I told him that of course I am afraid, but I am sure that they are scared of us more. After the 1st leg he saw hwat i was talking about.
    The point of the story is that, I can’t imagine a worse team to play against, then us.

  38. craig mc

    10 April 2008 at 19:29

    Grog lol!. When you are not playing the Devil’s advocate, then yes, with all your years of experience watching Hargo, I will gladly give you the Captaincy!. Thing is though, Jaywire created the ‘Hargo Advocate’s team’, so he will have the final decision on the Captaincy I guess. We have four members so far, from the posts I’ve read – Jaywire, Rick, You and me. Do you know of anyone else worthy of a team place. They must have trumpeted Hargo’s cause from the beginning though, and not just jumped on the bandwagon from last night LOL!. By the way Grog, did you notice that in every shoulder to shoulder charge with opposing players, Hargo won the mass of them?. He is so not charged off the ball easily, he certainly isn’t a lightweight easily pushed off the ball in those challenges, like a good few United players are.

    Regarding ‘little Hobbit’ Tev as you call him Grog!. How good is he at scoring those amazing headers from near post crosses into the box?. Think about L’Pool, Spurs and last nights game – Can you think of any others???????.

  39. Conor

    10 April 2008 at 20:42

    Craig mc, Liverpool? I think you mean against Chelsea? Here I want to be part of this team 🙁 I’ve supported him from the start too, just not as loudly as you 4! 🙁

  40. craig mc

    10 April 2008 at 21:15

    Conor – O yeah right, it was Chelsea lol. Tev did score in the away match in L’pool though, didn’t he?. The ‘Hargo advocates team’, is just formed from Hargo enthusiasts who are always ready to champion his cause, in good and bad – haha!. As you know Conor, when he chose to represent England rather than Germany as his national team, he was not given a great welcome initially. The media and fans got on his back. He showed his character though by not speaking out, but by getting stuck in, and proving his worth, as England’s best player in the world cup in Germany. He went through hell with Bayern too, by begging them to let him come to United. Bayern put him through the mill and punished him for that. But he wanted to play for us, and he persisted against all the odds. Now, he is having to fight at United, to get the fans to believe he is worth a place in the team, and worth his transfer fee. He showed his best form against Roma, he was utterly amazing in my opinion. So the advocates are just to trumpet his case on this blog, and convert those of little faith – haha!. Grog’s the delegated captain now though, so I don’t know what he has in mind. Knowing Grog though, it will be trumpeting Hargo until resistance against him is futile. What fun eh?, but welcome aboard.

  41. craig mc

    10 April 2008 at 21:22

    O and postscript Conor, I think when Grog gets going, there will be a few Hargo doubters and haters, who will be getting the red card!.

  42. JB

    10 April 2008 at 21:33

    Jesus, have you lot turned into cheerleaders since the Roma game 🙂

  43. craig mc

    10 April 2008 at 21:39

    JB – where have you been????? Some of us have been supporters of Hargo since day one!. Others, well they only just woke up to how good he is during the Roma game.

  44. Conor

    10 April 2008 at 21:43

    Yeah he did, just one that he deflected off his shin though, scrappy, but those goals win you titles 🙂 Yeah pretty much every England fan hated him, probably because they either seen him as a traitor or they just judged him on the team he played for, or stats which are unimportant to Hargreaves such as goals. I remember plenty of radio stations criticising Sven for favouring Hargreaves and that he clearly wasn’t up to it because he had such a measly goal tally. This is when the whole point of fans being fickle and hypocritical comes up, because he put up with intense criticism, completely unfair criticism, and then after a few games he was England’s hero. I still think he was overpriced, but the same goes for every player we buy, so it’s hard to judge value. However it’s obvious if we tried to buy him for say £12m before the World Cup Bayern may have agreed to sell him. hindsight is a wonderful thing eh? 🙂 He really was brilliant against Roma, and against Liverpool and Arsenal if I remember correctly? It looks like we have another big game player 🙂 Yes, sounds like Grognard 🙂 Red card 😆

  45. craig mc

    10 April 2008 at 21:50

    Haha – Touche Red Ranter!. Are there a lot of prestigious people on this blog then?.

  46. craig mc

    10 April 2008 at 21:54

    Red Devil, Gosh, if your reports turn out right, looks like we could be playing the Gooners reserve team.Walcott might spring a surprise if we don’t put our speediest on him. He seems to be coming good – or not, what do you think?. Anyone feel Wenger might be trying to pull a fast one here. Like we think its his reserves, and out come the big guns on the day?.

  47. Conor

    10 April 2008 at 21:56

    Craig; Red Ranter? 😕 he hasn’t posted a comment since comment #4. You’re on the wrong thread mate. 🙂 And no I think Walcott has the ability to do the out of this world, but he has very poor ball control and skill, has very little vision and passing ability(which is why I think he doesn’t fit Arsenal’s style at all, and therefore is why he doesn’t play often) and all he really has unbelievable raw pace. He will improve no doubt, but he’s playing for the wrong team, definitely, and he is only an average player right now. He probably won’t even play. Flamini has probably been their most consistent player this season so it’s great that he’s out. What do you mean Craig? Flamini and Sagna are the only ones missing I think, not going to believe the Adebayor reports as Arsene Wenger gave a report of the injuries earlier today.

  48. Grognard

    10 April 2008 at 22:11

    Craig; I’ve seen Tevez score a few goals in South American highlights as well as Argentina’s National side. Most of the goals are near post headers and actually, I have seen score three or four just like yesterday’s. Beautiful diving headers. He will always score them from the near post because he is height challenged and that’s where he gets more of a clean crack at the ball whether it be by head or foot.

    Sounds like we are in the beginning a beautiful Hargo’s Advocate Dream Team of uber supporters. And resistance is futile with a good squad of advocates and miserable old grognard holding in the midfield and deflecting criticism of the Mighty Hargo back in the non believers faces.

    Hargo has great balance and positional sense on players when he marks them. You’ll notice that he rarely lunges or reaches to get to players. This is why he has a tremendous record of very few yellow cards and no reds. Amazing for a holding midfielder.

    Also, regarding his choice to play either for Germany or for England, actually Craig his choice was between England (the birth place of his parents) or Canada (his own birth place). I don’t believe Germany was ever an option or consideration. And realistically speaking, I doubt very much if Canada was ever considered. After all, why would it? And to all non believers RED CARD and a boot in the nuts when the ref isn’t looking.

  49. Jay Jay

    11 April 2008 at 12:00

    eh… is it michael or it’s donibrasco? i know u lad, if u r changing the name just because guys on you case for aimless mouth opening, accept it mate! dont play hide and seek.

    back to the job. as for the back game, news is that Puyol is out for leg 1 in the Nou Caaamp. that would be great news provided we dont lose a player between now and 23rd April. He’s urguably been one of hteir best defenders along with Milito. That will call for calamituous Thuram, i guess a good day for the R’s awaits keeping in mind that Barca’s R is out of the tie.

    Further still Iniesta has a knee problem, though it’s not yet known how long he’ll be left on the sidelines, rumour has it, he might just miss the first leg too. Its looks this is the luck of a champion “United” and come 21st May, Tores and Gerrard will be injured and suspended respectively.

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