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Man Utd look unstoppable

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Phil McNulty | 07:17 UK time, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Manchester United gave Chelsea and Liverpool an inch - then took a crucial, hard mile towards retaining the Premier League title.

For 11 minutes all the conditions that traditionally constitute a surprise were in place as Newcastle's own fight for survival threatened to stir the mix at the top end of the table.

The unwelcoming Tyneside night. The surface made treacherous by a hailstorm. The desperate opposition clinging to the gift of an early Peter Lovenkrands goal courtesy of an awful error by Manchester United's record-breaking goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

It was not just Newcastle United who could sense the shock - the anticipation would have been just as keenly felt by Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink and Liverpool counterpart Rafael Benitez as they wait desperately for a crack to appear in Manchester United's armour.

But as Manchester United pulled away from St James' Park and out of a freezing Newcastle, they left broken dreams behind them.

Newcastle's hopes of easing their relegation fears at Manchester United's expense, buoyed by Lovenkrands' goal and a first half performance that transported the home crowd out of trepidation and into optimism, were dashed by Wayne Rooney's equaliser and Dimitar Berbatov's winner.

And Hiddink and Benitez, who may have detected the smallest shaft of light after wins on Tuesday, saw it swiftly snuffed out by another Manchester United victory.

Wayne Rooney

The talk in the corridors of St James' Park afterwards was of "focus", courtesy of Rooney, plus a fine effort in diplomacy from Newcastle coach Chris Hughton, deputising for manager Joe Kinnear as he recovers from heart surgery.

Hughton claimed Manchester United would be "pushed all the way", although he did eventually admit it would be tough for anyone to catch the leaders.

But the reality was that this was another crucial step forward by Manchester United - another three points collected, another psychological blow to the chasing pack. All achieved without even having their best night at the office.

Indeed, for 30 minutes Newcastle striker Obafemi Martins ran Manchester United's defence ragged. And if he had just managed to convert a near post finish with Newcastle leading 1-0, Hiddink and Benitez would have had real cause for hope and the Toon Army would not be looking over their shoulders quite so anxiously.

Normal service was shortly resumed, however, as Manchester United survived injury-hit Newcastle's best shots and returned their own to run out winners.

The soundbites may continue, but it would take a collapse of increasingly unthinkable proportions to stop the crown heading to Old Trafford once more. Manchester United could conceivably lose three more league games this season and still win the title.

Can you seriously see that happening? No - neither can I.

And there was a cameo after Berbatov scored Manchester United's winner that revealed much about why they are heading - barring an unlikely sequence of defeats - for another Premier League title.

Van der Sar, hardly shame-faced but certainly embarrassed by his error, raced to the halfway line to congratulate Rooney for his part in the build-up to the goal - a long pass played from an unlikely position of auxiliary central defender.

The goalkeeper's grateful thanks to the team-mate who had bailed him out was obvious for all to see.

It summed up the Manchester United psyche. It says there is usually someone around to produce the goods. If Van der Sar errs, then Rooney will deliver at the other end, or Berbatov, or Cristiano Ronaldo.

Old Trafford may have its own version of the Galacticos, but it is under-pinned by a serious sense of team fostered by Ferguson.

Manchester United's last two league wins, against Blackburn and here against Newcastle, have been scratchy affairs - the key fact is that they both ended up with job done.

It has been a crucial difference between Manchester United and their rivals. They have been undone by too many draws.

And it was achieved in the face of a serious challenge from Newcastle, who must take heart from so many aspects of this display as they face a hazardous stretch of fixtures, starting with Hull away on 14 March before home games with Arsenal and Chelsea and a trip to Stoke City.

Early optimism punctured, further wind was taken out of their sails as news of Hull's last-minute winner at Fulham filtered through to St James' Park - throw in wins for Spurs and Stoke, plus a point for Blackburn and it was hardly a great night on the Toon.

Newcastle will need fighting spirit, but preferably not the sort offered by Steven Taylor in his unseemly spat with Ronaldo on the stroke of half-time.

Taylor swung his arm at Ronaldo, flattening the Manchester United winger, and he still had enough energy left over to clatter into Michael Carrick.

Everyone has raised an eyebrow, occasionally even two, at Ronaldo's threatrics, but this does not give defenders carte blanche to launch themselves in his general direction and expect to escape punishment.

It is almost seen as good sport in some quarters, but Taylor was lucky not to have been sent off, although Rio Ferdinand's lengthy intervention was just as needless and word was the spat continued down the tunnel at half-time.

Newcastle's cause would be helped more by the swift return of Michael Owen, who revealed in his programme notes he expects to be fit to face Hull. He is the sort of predator who might have just pinched that crucial second goal Newcastle's brief supremacy demanded.

And, when fit, he will be playing alongside a genuine threat in Martins. The Nigerian may be wayward on occasions, but no-one can question his effort and his pace gave Newcastle a potent point of attack.

Newcastle are in trouble - it cannot be dressed up any other way - but if they have Owen for the remaining weeks of a troubled campaign and play with the same spirit and endeavour as they did here, then I would back them to survive.

Manchester United's next league assignment is the meeting with Liverpool at Old Trafford on 14 March, when they know a win will kill any remaining hopes of the title heading to Anfield stone dead.

They will need to perform better than they did at Newcastle, but Manchester United's ability to grind out this type of result from a below-par performance is always the hallmark of champions.

And after having spirits lifted briefly, it may just have been even more of a blow to Chelsea and Liverpool to see Manchester United come from behind and survive to claim another three points.

Little wonder Manchester United's players and staff cut a group of contented figures as they boarded the coach at the end of an uncomfortable, but ultimately satisfying, night.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Only the most stubborn of United fans will say this run won't come to an end. Its fairly obvious to me that these past few games have been won by a neck. There will be a surprise, perhaps against Fulham in the FA cup or against Inter next week. Trouble is, you media types will come across all shocked like didn't expect it!

  • Comment number 2.

    The league title is settled, it is not a question of United dropping points, they will, in fact I think they will drop 2pts at home to Liverpool and 2pts away at Fulham, but it does not matter as there is no way either Liverpool or Chelsea will win all their remaining games. They now have the best and biggest squad in the Premiership by some distance. I think they will win it next year as well as the gap between them and the others seems to big to make up over one season.

  • Comment number 3.

    Unlucky you 2 - I win !

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    "Grinding out results is the Hallmark of Champions". Not exactly treading on New ground here are you Phil. It's the kind of line Hanson comes out with time and time again.

    Also, Im pretty sure most Chelsea and Liverpool fans were expecting a utd win last night, so I doubt they will be as distraught as you make out.

    Utd are obvious favourites, but there is still room for excitement when they play Liverpool, but really, it's only the extremely optimistic people that think Utd won't win the League.

  • Comment number 6.

    A Phil MsNulty blog that doesnt contain a cheap shot at Rafa Benitez. How refreshing

  • Comment number 7.

    I cant remember a season where a team so comfortable ahead in the league had to scrap through so many games. Their are only a handful of matches which United have won early on this season. Nevertheless stringing together a run of 11 wins despite numerous injury's along the way is an outstanding record.

    The match last night should have been over by half time, United had a very good shout for a penalty turned down. Was it deliberate had ball in the strictst sense? No, but the defenders arm was outstretched and 9 times out of 10 it would of been given (it was more a penalty then the one given to chelsea against United last season). After that of curse Newcastle should have been reduced to 10 men and then its a completley different game.

    Ferguson will no doubt be a bit annoyed that United didn't take more of an adantage of the pretty fragile looking Newcastle defence as it would have allowed him to give the likes of Ronaldo a rest. It seems likley now that Ronald will be on the bench for the weekends cup quarter final to rest him for the games against Inter and Liverpool next week. The Fulham match will be a tricky one and United cannot afford a replay, however I can't see that Ferguson has much of a choice.

    The other area for concern for Ferguson was right back, obviously it's not O'shea's favoured position however he does seem a liability their. That may seem a bit harsh considering given he got an assist last night however he gets turned far to eaisly on the edge of United's box and it will be an area that all teams target.

    That said I'm not sure what alternative United have, Evan's has very little exerience playing in that position, he did however do a decent enough job against Spurs in that position and it must be something Ferguson is considering

    For Newcastle things look pretty bleak, as is the case with most teams when United are in town they raised their game. Despite United having a very poor day at the back and gifting Newcastle a goal, they still failed to take advantage of the opportunity. Obviously they have alot of injuries but their defence as always look very weak. They have an extremley tough run in and based on recent peormances I find it hard to see them staying up.

  • Comment number 8.

    Phil, not a bad blog. But I do detect a sense of resignation to Manchester United's forthcoming parade to the title.

    As others have said, United have been winning games while playing way below their own high level while on their current run - its got to end some time - and Liverpool's visit to Old Trafford might just be that time. The real question is, should Liverpool do what they are capable of, and get the win at OT, how will United react?

    They've also got a real cup tie coming with Inter, and Jose won't be coming to make up the numbers, of that we can be sure!

    I feel that the situation will be much clearer after these two games - two defeats and the wheels could very well come off, to victories, and it WILL become a procession...

  • Comment number 9.

    sorry i't Comment 1 that took my attention.

    There will be a surprise........
    the trouble is you media types will come across all shocked and react as though you didn't expect it.

    Be fair to them , seems fair enough that they will be shocked by something happing that they didn't expect, or how else are you supposed to react to surprises exactly ?

    Talk about people in Glasshouses throwing stones. Some of the criticisms of the bloggers on here are laughable.

  • Comment number 10.

    Brillaint blog Phil.

    Comment 5: Yes they would have been expecting a utd win but away to newcaslte they would of been hoping maybe they can take something. newcastle going 1-0 must have had chelsea and liverpool glued anxiously, only to see united stretch the gap once again. so i think they would have been very distraught.

  • Comment number 11.

    I really don't like this 'grind it out' cliche.

    I don't think Man Utd are a 'grind it out' side. it suggests that Man Utd are a side that nick a scrappy goal and then defend it. The equalising goal last night was very good.

    The truth is that the Premiership is not an easy league and there is no place where an easy 3 points is up for grabs. The worst team may be West Brom, but is it easy to get points at Middlesbrough, Blackburn, Hull or Stoke?

    You can go on about grinding it out but I don't see any team winning games 4-0 or 5-0 on a regular basis. The Premiership is in stark contrast to La Liga for example. I suspect the likes of Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and maybe even Liverpool would score goals for fun in La Liga as its such an open, attacking league.

    I often think the media damn with faint praise. Man Utd have won 11 games on the bounce and Van der Sar hadn't conceded a goal since November. Yet there is talk about being 'below par' and 'not quite at their best'.

    If you read most match reports each week you often see an opinion that Man Utd 'were not quite at their best'. I think its a fantasy that a teams can steamroller its rivals 5-0 every week.

  • Comment number 12.

    Teams in England according to Phil McNulty

    1 Man Utd
    2 Liverpool
    3 Arsenal
    4 Chelsea

  • Comment number 13.

    The shot of SAF showing his anger at his team for giving away cheap balls during final quarter of an hour sums up why it would be mighty difficult to see anyone else other than United taking the League this season.

    Without doubt they would drop points in the run in but they have done the dirty work of winning ugly for the last couple of months which the likes of Chelsea & Liverpool failed to do has meant they have the decent gap which exists today.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Last night wasn't so much a case of Utd grinding out a result as fluking a completely undeserved victory. The attempted chest back to the keeper...unbelievable.

    Having said that, it was so refreshing to see a team play Utd and not look like they are terrified and resigned to defeat from the moment the game kicked off.

  • Comment number 16.

    I'll say the title is UTD's when we are 10 points clear with 3 to play... Until then it can all change.

    Everyone is talking about UTD not losing several games. But two draws is a loss of points greater than one win a loss!!! Look at Liverpools draws at home to see the points loss.

    The only thing that can give an element of confidence is that do Chelsea & Liverpool have the ability to up their game enough to put in a run of wins like UTD have, not sure...

    I think the run in will be tighter than people predict.

  • Comment number 17.

    A Phil McNulty blog with a response from a touchy Liverpool fan.
    How tiresome and predictable.

  • Comment number 18.

    My first match watching my beloved for over 20 years (many, many reasons why..) and I pick a game where my team forget how to pass the ball.. wonderful...

    I can't see how any Utd supporter can say we deserved to win last night, the best we could have hoped for is a draw but then there always that one little point.. ya have to stick the ball in the back of the net.. and the Toon don't seem too keen on being able to do that... although from where I was sitting they came far, far too close to many times.
    We will have to improve against Liverpool if their best team turns up.. but if we get the one that played the first half against Sunderland we'll be 6-0 up by half time.
    Not a good night at the office.. but seven points is seven points.. and I got to see my team win.. BLISS!!!

  • Comment number 19.

    SpursGuru...Im pretty sure Liverpool and Chelsea were expecting a United win but once Newcastle went 1-0 up their expectations may have changed.

    Fair play to Newcastle though, they didnt sit on their lead and continued to play football, ultimately this lead to their defeat. It would have been interesting had they parked the bus for the next 80 minutes and asked United to break them down.

    I dont expect our run to continue but who knows? To be fair our last 3 games in England have been below par so perhaps this is our blip.

    United know they can afford to draw with Arsenal, Liverpool and City at home and still win the title(thats if we dont win our game in hand!). That takes a huge amount of pressure off in all those games whereas Chelsea and Liverpool know they cant afford to draw a game now. With them both still in the Champions League, therefore unable to realistically rest players, this piles the pressure sky high.

    Rafa for one has never been in this position in England before. Usually at this stage of the season hs 7-8 best players are dropped for league games to preserve them for the CL. He cant do that now without looking like hes throwing the towel in.

    I cant wait for March 14th because its a game Liverpool have to win, a draw isnt good enough, and this should play into Uniteds hands ( i hope) therefore making for a cracking game.
    Benitez cant sit back and counter attack ala Madrid away because i dont think SAF will give him anything to counter against. Should be an interesting game.

  • Comment number 20.

    QUINTUPLE HERE WE COME!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    The result is not exactly unexpected but removes a lot of the hope that Liverpool and Chelsea may still have had. In the premiership this season any game is a potential banana skin and Newcastle had a go last night. United have been winging it for a few domestic games now, presumably their minds are on the Inter tie. But as Phil says, they are still able to grind out the results.

    Even if the chasing pack manage a strong finish to the season, they are simply running out games...

  • Comment number 22.

    What a boring blog, tell us something we don't know. Man U are gonna win the league, great, insitive we didn't come to this conclusion ourselves.

    Why not focus on other aspects of the Premier League like the filthy game at Wigan.

  • Comment number 23.

    Your comment about managing to win rather than draw is right - but let's not forget that earlier in the season that was exactly Man U's problem - losses away against Arsenal and Liverpool when in the past a draw or a sneaked win would have been more likely. And followed up by draws away to Everton and Aston Villa when, again, wins would have been expected from a side destined to retain the premiership.

    The difference has been that apart from two draws, United's have taken maximum points from teams outside the top 6. That is an unbelievable feat. They've definitely had some luck in their recent run of maximum points (which stretches back to mid december for heaven's sake) but you could equally argue they were unlucky with some of their lost points earlier on.

    I personally don't see United losing the plot. I think what we are seeing right now - with a draw against Spurs in the CC sandwiched between two edgy victories - is as wobbly as it will get. As SAF points out - a bit of bad luck (or master gamesmanship from Mourinho) at OT next week or against Fulham could easily occur. But you get the feeling that they will probably win both. And of course the premier league is certainly in the bag.

    At the other end it is still unclear. I can see the writing on the wall for West Brom - though they are doing a great job - especially when you compare them with Derby's pitiful showing last year. If I had to put money on it, I'd bet on Middlesbrough joining them - there's something about their inability to keep going after beating Liverpool. Spurs look ok and so, just about, do Hull - so I'd pick one of Stoke, Portsmouth and Blackburn for the other spot. I don't see Newcastle being that far ahead, but I think they will have just enough to escape.

  • Comment number 24.

    Comment 11.........I don't support Man U, but you are spot on.

    Just because you are the best side in the league does not mean you will win each game 4-0, or dominate for the full 90 minutes. It has never been that way in the history of the league and thank goodness for that.

    If it was, why on earth would people and TV companies spend so much money on watching and presenting football.

  • Comment number 25.

    i don't think there is any surprise that Man Utd are going top win the league at a canter... whilst there is always the "happy optimistic" Liverpool fans that think this, like last year, and the year before and the last 10 will be the year they can challenge, i dont think any body with any real sense ever thought Liverpool were going to stay on top and that united simply weren't the better side and squad, and also had the better manager (certainly for the domestic league).... in fact the liverpool fan i work with (that incidentally goes to every game) never once actually felt they would actually win the league....

    I am not a United fan so i am not biased to either United or Liverpool...infact i spent last night watching Birmingham City v Bristol City!... wow - the dizzy heights of trying to make the Championship play-offs!

  • Comment number 26.

    there's lots of great expectation that United will slip up sometime - sure - but for all those gleeful fans I don't think are going to do it four times in 11 games - given the fact they haven't lost (with the exception of the derby game) full stop since the arsenal game and have only drawn once in the league that simply isn't going to happen.

    Fergie not only great at picking the right 11 for each game - something Benitez is not - but also the team, as pointed out, can grind out a result, again something that livepool can't do. That doesn't mean they will continue to grind out results just that when below par they can.

    There's lots of optimism about livepool somehow beating united at OT. I simply can't see that happening.

  • Comment number 27.

    I actually do not believe Manchester United have been at their flowing best for quite long periods of this season, and yet they have a healthy, although not yet unassailable, advantage in the Premier League title race.

    The current state of the league table says a lot about them - but what does it say about the chasing pack led, by Chelsea and Liverpool?

    Sir Alex Ferguson is an avowed advocate of attacking football, but he talked a lot about fighting spirit after the Carling Cup win at Wembley on Sunday.

    This has been as much a part of United's success this season as their natural attacking gifts.

    What did Newcastle fans think of their performance? I thought they showed they have the capability to stay up if they can get Michael Owen playing regularly and show the same intensity they displayed last night.

    I'd love to hear from Newcastle supporters as well. What are your emotions after last night? Are you optimistic you will stay up? I would be.

  • Comment number 28.

    2 penalties in the last 2 games, incorrectly not given. An opposition player gets a yellow card instead of a blatant red one.
    Yup, all the refs favour Man Utd ( I'm sure many idiots will repeat that line over and over when a decision goes Uniteds way)

  • Comment number 29.

    but this does not give defenders carte blanche to launch themselves in his general direction and expect to escape punishment.

    -----------------------
    It's a pity you didn't comment on the treatment Torres received at OT last year. It seems SAF can give it out but doesn't like it when it's done to his players.

    And, Phil, if Liverpool or even Chelsea were gifted a goal to win a game, (which has happened this season), You would be labeling them 'lucky!'

    Fair play to Utd though.

  • Comment number 30.

    Well cant exactly disagree byt as a man united fan I would have like to hear something that I havent heard before.We all know united know how to grind out a win but perhaps you could try and analyse other things hey Phil good blog though

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    A number of factors are being overlooked in this debate.

    Firstly, Utd have played 6 more games than Chelsea and Liverpool (Charity Shield, Eufa Super Cup, 2 CWC, 4 more CC, less 1 FA cup replay, less game in hand). That's significant in a congested season.

    It means more injuries and Utd have coped with a huge injury list in the past 2 months. 9 different defenders were responsible for the clean sheet record. In that context no team is going to run away with every game. The fact Utd have won 11 in a row in those circumstances says everything you need to know about their quality.

    Secondly, this 'grinding out results' term is very subjective. In all the games Utd have won 1-0, and even in the case of last nights game, they have invariably (with the exception of the Blackburn game) dominated the stats in terms of goal attempts, possession, corners etc.

    The fact is Utd are, by a distance, the best team in the PL with a squad depth nobody can compete with. This has been enhanced by another excellent crop of young players coming through (something you don't see at Liverpool and Chelsea).

    The title may be Utd's to lose but there's not a prayer that they will lose it.

    Ferguson has done it yey again. This squad is legend and destined for much much more!

  • Comment number 34.

    I doubt very much whether Chelsea or Liverpool fans (let alone Hiddink or Rafa) were expecting MU to drop points against Newcastle. Hoping, maybe, but certainly not expecting.

    MU will drop points. And if one of the other teams had shown some consistency, there would have been a close fight. But I am afraid for this year, the league title is settled as I don't see MU dropping more than four points.

  • Comment number 35.

    Bye all, the speed of moderation in this site compels me to move on.

  • Comment number 36.

    Phil

    I know this isn't your doing - but can you have a word?

    Everytime I come to BBC Sport these days there is a slide show of Man U winning a game.

    OK they're very good. But a slide show. After every game?

    It's a bit OTT aint it?

  • Comment number 37.

    Good Blog Phil.
    Obviously the title race is very much dependent on Manchester United suffering the traditional "wobble" which as yet they haven't done (or maybe they have but the quality in depth has masked this with priceless vistories over Newcastle, Blackburn, Stoke)
    I think the Liverpool Man Utd game on the 14th should be more open as rafa knows his team will have to go all out to win and even if they do, their chances of catching Utd are minimal. This will probably see a decent flowing game.
    Chelsea's run in is probably less tricky than the others but this means they have no influence on their rivals so can only hope they slip up and Utd have the run in to help determine what happens in the race for 2nd and 4th.
    I still think there is a blip due and i pray its not against Fulham or Inter.

  • Comment number 38.

    comment 11.
    Totally agree, there aren't any easy matches in the prem any more. Standards are really high throughout, which is why great teams like Arsenal, Chelsea & Liverpool have been dropping points, more points than United.

    United aren't grinding out results, they are just a little bit better.

    Wasn't Rooney's goal sensational. He is such a fantastic player.

  • Comment number 39.

    # 11

    I think you are spot on. The difference between United and the chasing pack is that they still attack despite being in front and do not rest when they have the lead. To their credit, Aston Villa have done the same this season with differing results.

    Phil,

    When you say "grind out results" it makes me think of the 1-0 Fulham victory last year when Ronaldo scored in the final minutes. That was a hard fought, ground out victory. When Liverpool and Chelsea score last minute winners or, more to the point this season, equalisers they are "grinding out" results.

    Not conceding for 11 games is hardly fighting for victories. We have won more games in the league than the rest of the clubs and that is why we are top. United have played some sublime football this season (anyone remember the Chelsea result?)

    I think you are too reactive to one match rather than taking a look over a season. Goal difference for example is still better than anyone else in the league.

    I do accept your point that United can perform better. A worrying sub theme that will not sit happily with teams who are performing to their best but still not picking up the results they need.

  • Comment number 40.

    Well played Newcastle, atleast they tested manu's character. Phil you are right, this is hall mark of champions.
    This is a crunchy part of the premier league season where most teams won't care about conceding goals as long as they are winning, so i dnt think man united will be worried about conceding a goal or two at this stage if they keep getting 3 points.

    As for liverpool, its a must win game for them at old tradford. They have no alternative but to get a must 3 points which looks unlikely. If they lose then its over for the season.

    Man Utd play inter midweek so liverpool won't be on fergie's mind at all. Plus Rafa will be making changes on 14th so nothing to worry.

  • Comment number 41.

    In my opinion, Man Utd still haven't hit top gear. We are now in March and I have watched United coast through many games this season just doing enough. We got a shock last night as Newcastle was the first team in a while to actually play against us. They had no fear in the first 20 minutes. I do not care about the manner in which we won last night.

    With Fulham on Saturday I'd imagine there will be another bit of squad rotation as we prepare for the big game against Inter midweek. Anyhting could happen in that game and I dont't think anything could suprise you. But I will be very dissapointed if United don't win.

    Liverpool will not beat Manchester United on the 14th. They really did scare me earlier in the season as they were pulling out some fantastic results. The 3-2 against Man City being one. But it has become apparent that they do not have a big enough squad to win it. That isn't having a dig, I think that is the truth. If they come to OT and even think about playing N'Gog or El Zahr....

    I think United will win the league for certain. The FA cup and the Champions League could be anyone's.

  • Comment number 42.

    29 - what "treatment" was that then Torres received last year at OT? My recollection is he was tackled hard - but usually pretty fairly - during the game.

    Unfortunately (like Ronaldo) he doesnt like people tackling him.

    I more seem to remember the fouling and constant moaning of Mascherano until he got his deserved red card.

  • Comment number 43.

    its verry sad to admit the blogs and the medias cant see the BPL beyond the top 4 these days !its same thing over and over again .. its about how M.U is going to win the leage and how arsenal could grab that final CL spot!!i think by now most of us know M.U would definitely win the league and i think most of the fans who support other team could get bored of reading the same thing over and over again!i have found the mini league that have formed at the bottom of the table more interesting then reading about these Top 4! b'cos there's more movement in the table then top 4!! but the pundits are not really interested to look at them and analyse the up coming matches and current situations of those teams and give their opinion about how they are going to survice and avoid the drop instead of repeating the same old story of how M.U is going to win again and how CR7 is going to change his hairstyle next time!
    i think it would be refreshing to read about those bottom clubs ( other then westbrom) who are trying hard to survive and grinding out results to move up and avoid relgation!
    note:- am not against M.U i do watch every M.U game but its reaching to a point of overdose and repetition ! may be these bloggers think those articles would attract less readers and comments !!

  • Comment number 44.

    Post 42,

    Tackled fairly??? You have to be joking, he was kicked off the park! Mascherano was moaning for that very reason. Actually, he was asking why such treatment was allowed to continue? Granted he asked a bit too much and was deservedly sent off by the letter of the law.

    If you think the tackling was fair, i.e. the constant kicks, sneaky at that, to the shins and ankles you need specs mate.

  • Comment number 45.

    Its funny how everyone talks about United not being "at their best" when compared to last season. OK, the trophies don't lie but United actually slipped up fairly frequently last year and were still behind Arsenal at this stage. I remember them losing at home to City in February and thinking it might be a real struggle. They also made hard work of closing out the title (although that may yet happen again) . The defence was good last year but was more culpable that this year. The attack was definitely more potent but that was mainly down to Ronaldo's amazing goalscoring form, which was always going to end at some point.

    However, while United were cutting teams aprat in the premiership, the champions league was won the hard way, with some very professional performances, especially against Roma Barca. This approach seems to have been the blueprint for this season. Although it isn't quite as easy on the eye, it has been getting results, especially since christmas. It also leaves United less reliant on Ronaldo, presumably so that if he leaves in the summer it won't be so hard to replace him.

    Overall United are less easy on the eye but defensively stronger and in general more consistent than last season...

  • Comment number 46.

    Some interesting notes of caution being sounded by United fans - and who can blame them?

    They face a crucial week now. If they emerge unscathed from the FA Cup tie at Fulham, the Champions League game with Inter Milan and the Premier League game with Liverpool, then Sir Alex Ferguson will have increasing difficulty in playing down talk of "the quintuple."

    Many expert observers I have spoken to still have the feeling Jose Mourinho may be the man to wreck the dream, despite United looking far superior to Inter in the San Siro.

    It will be interesting to see what sort of line-up United field at Fulham. Ferguson certainly has plenty of resources to play with, as we saw at Wembley.

    Still not heard from too many Newcastle fans - let's hear your thoughts about your team as well.

  • Comment number 47.

    #29- if by the treatment of torres you mean being defended out of the game by the best central defensive partnership in the league then fair point.

  • Comment number 48.

    Is it really ‘inevitable’ that United’s run in the league will come to an end? And do you really think that if (and that’s a big if) Liverpool sneak a win at Old Trafford then the race is back on? Yeah United may well lose a game or possibly two, but do you really think Liverpool and Chelsea are capable of winning all their remaining games? I don’t think so. They’ve been shockingly inconsistent over the second half of the season and if you think that’s title winning form then you’re obviously deluded. United have been quietly doing the business while others continue to self-implode.

    No doubt next season will see bookies yet again install Chelsea as favourites. United will just get on with what they do best – winning trophies.

  • Comment number 49.

    man utd win after a struggle, the say its a hallmark of champions or they grind out results like champions do. when a team like arsenal win by a 1-0 margin, the say the managed to win unconvincingly after a below par performance. i dont understand these guys. they are just hypocrites and haters. they shouldnt write stuff if they have got nothing to write about.

  • Comment number 50.

    #16 I think the run in will be tighter than people predict.
    --------
    You will find that most if not all of these people work for either;

    a) The BBC
    b) Sky
    c) Fleet Street

  • Comment number 51.

    Grinding out wins when a team does not play well is mark of champion, but grinding out wins after wins is mark of a poor league. Sorry, but Chelsea and Arsenal's bad fortune, and Rafa's inability to find good strikers has gifted Man U the title.

  • Comment number 52.

    To StJohn_Red_Legend - Clone catcher:


    How can you say that "if liverpool do what they are capable of doing" they will beat United at Old Trafford.

    If both teams have their best 11 out and are both playing at their highest capability there is no contest. United would win everytime.

    The only team that are capable of sustaining any kind of title challenge is Chelsea. They are strong and powerful and have the kind of players to win games.

    Even with Torrid and Schtevee Liverpool are no way a match for United.

    You will have to wait, spend a boat load of cash (again) and maybe, just maybe you might have something to shout about next season.

  • Comment number 53.

    Man Utd will obviously win the title , yet again, but the other top 3 have handed it to them on a plate. Especially Liverpool this year. It was theirs for the taking and a combination of pathetic management skills by Benitez and Gerrard's overly physical celebrations after the Newcastle thrashing have contrived to throw away their best chance in ages to win the Prem.
    United have not exactly set the football field alight with their stunning performances of late.

  • Comment number 54.

    United face 3 crucial games this week, and IF they win all of them then the whole quintuple thing may have some legs.

    It is the media's way to place ever increasing pressure on runaway favourites in order (a) to increase the pressure on them and therefore somehow provoke a slip and (b) increase the shock factor if there is a slip.

    Hence countless and increasingly dull articles on the topic of United being unable to be stopped.

    I had this game pegged as a draw, which would have provoked a great deal of speculation about United's nerve fraying.

    Ferguson has seen this all before and so have a number of his players, and they are coping well with the expectation....so far.

    There will be a wobble before the end of the season. There always is.

  • Comment number 55.

    United fans need to be cautious, remember the way the fixture schedule was drawn had United playing all the other top 6 teams away right at the beginning of the season, and we now have most of the same teams (except Chelsea) at Old Trafford in the run in - Arsenal. Liverpool, Villa, and City which will put a lot of pressure on continuing the fantastic home record that has been achieved so far.
    The away games look easier, but based on last night there are few easy away games, specially against teams fighting for survival.

    United are clearly odds on favourites for the Championship, but there are still a lot of potential banana skins ahead.

    In the Champions League we should go through against Inter, based on recent Inter perfromances. The FA Cup is probably the most doubtful as Fergie will rotate the squad, and I did not see much from Gibson, Welbeck or Nani at Wembley at the weekend to make me think they are interchangeable with the regular starters.

    The Premier League is the most important this year as we need to equal Liverpool's total, so that 2009/10 we can go one ahead of them!

  • Comment number 56.

    to be honest, im not that optimistic we will stay up. Ok our performance was good but once again a mistake cost us. By the team the final whislte goes after we have played chelsea it is highly likely we will be in the bottom 3. We are poor away so a point would be a good result at Hull, but I cant see us beating arsenal or chelsea, although I can see us getting draws. If we are in the bottom 3 then it all depends on how we react, we will have to then go to stoke who are a good team at home, and if we lose that then there will be so much pressure on the team, and I think that too many of the players can't cope with that. With our last 3 away games against tottenham, liverpool and villa, i really cant see us getting any points there, so we will have to win all 3 of our home games against middlesbrough, portsmouth and fulham, which yes, we can do, but thats 3 of our last 4 games and may be too late. I not optimistic but I will ever give up hope. We ARE too good for the championship, but unfortuantly nobody is too good to go down.

  • Comment number 57.

    Expectations for United are ridiculous, a quintuple of trophies when only two are in the bag and about 20 games are still left to be played is all media hype.

    Man Utd are not looking as ruthless at the moment, but (with the exception of VDS last night) look more disciplined than i have ever seen.

    I've said this before, but C Ronaldo has not hit the form he had last season, if he does then who knows what will happen.

  • Comment number 58.

    To 15: timwebber

    Did you watch the whole game or just the highlights?

    If you did watch the whole game then I am not sure what game you were watching, If you watched the highlights then I can understand why you would think that.

    I watched the whole match and apart from a spell early in the 1st half and late in the second United (Manchester) completely domintated.

    They had more possession, more shots on and off target and more corners so to say that it was a fluke is really said without looking at, to coin Senoir Benitez, FACTS.

    United weren't great but were definitely the better team.

  • Comment number 59.

    #33 - you dont see good young players coming through Liverpool????

    Liverpool have won the fa youth cup twice in recent seasons, and the reserve league north with a team with an average age of 18. This season alone El Zahr and Insua have made themselves part of the first team squad. Also Plessis and Stepehen Darby have played for the 1st team squad and the young strikers Pacheo and Nemeth are 2 highly rated young talents with Nemeth already a full international.

    No good young players, get your facts straight before you comment.

  • Comment number 60.

    Man utd is just onstoppable. It would take a negative miracle for them to lose the premiership title now. Instead let the others battle for the second spot.

  • Comment number 61.

    # 16,
    The ' Run In ' will indeed see many twists and turns ' and all top 5 teams will likely drop points, United included.
    BUT when you view the fixtures, United have arguably the ' easier ' run in especially in May when all matches are at OT bar 1.
    Liverpool can come to OT and win, but they need to definitely raise their game to at least equal United's sub par performances which seem to be better than the main contenders for the title and are good enough to beat all others.
    Banana skins, City, Liverpool, Villa maybe Middlesbrough.
    Personally , if the spine of the team stay injury free ,I don't think SAF will allow the points gap to close by much at all with the squad he's put together.

  • Comment number 62.

    I think the Inter Meelan game could well prove to be our banana skin.

    Jose will have watched the opening 20 minutes and rubbed his hands with glee.
    He knows if he gets his side to attack from the off and utilise Ibra and Adrianos strength they may well get an early goal.

    One things for sure, they will defend a hell of a lot better than Newcastle!

    The FA Cup tie is not a foregone conclusion either. SAF will put out a version of the Carling Cup team and Fulham are pretty hard to break down at home.

  • Comment number 63.

    The title race is over. It was actually over a few weeks ago. It is not about Utd losing X number of games, it is all about whether Chelski and Liverpool can win all their remaining games. The answer is :- NO. Chelski would have a better chance as they are quite good at "grinding" out 1-0 wins, but it is certainly over for Liverpool - they are just not mentally strong enough.

    I thing SAF would like to wrap it up by April so his team can concentrate on CL.

  • Comment number 64.

    #29 torres was not treated any worse than he is any other game. He probably was intentionally fouled a few times, but if you think all teams dont do that to the best players of opposition you would be wrong.
    You should watch more of Ronaldo in every game if you want to see players being kicked around the pitch....not saying he doesn't dive but he is probably the most genuinely fouled player, but then he's "earned" that.
    Also comparing torres last year to last night is wrong. No United player swung at torres' face with their forearm did they!! The guy last night deserved a red. The fouls on torres were no more than yellows, and the likelihood is they wouldn't be repeated by the same player if a yellow was given.

    Re United, maybe I'm over-confident but I dont think the run-in will be close. I think how many points United win by will depend on the Inter result. If United go through then I can see SAF picking close to his best team in the league in the short term and hoping others drop points to extend the lead so that he can effectively play reserves (and I do mean reserves rather than weakened teams) in the last few games and hopefully have fresh players for the CL. If this happened, whether others would do the same and rest players would depend on whether Villa and Arsenal are in with a shout for CL places.
    If that happens the points difference probably will be closer than it would have been as United may drop points when they field weakened teams, but it wont actually be close as the league will have been won.

    The only disappointing thing is that if United field reserves it may not be fair on teams who are not playing them who have played against United's stronger team.

    If United go out of CL, I can just see them extending their lead in the league and really going for the FA Cup (if they dont lose to Fulham) to try for the domestic treble.

    I just cant see United not winning the league, but I could be wrong.

  • Comment number 65.

    Scottish Scouser you need to have a word with yourself. Torres 'kicking received' at OT last season is one of the biggest myths doing the rounds that was used at the time to conveniently hide the fact that once again Liverpool had been taken to school by there biggest rivals.

    One incident I can think he got chopped was just before the Mascherano incident Rio took his legs away as he was past him. Everything else was firm but fair unless you can quote specifics with someone who was at the match. Torres was also very lucky not to get a red for going in late on Vidic second half when he lobbed a pass back to VDS (hed already been booked). If Bennet hadnt already sent of Mascherano, Torres was a goner.

    March 14 will be no different to the last 2 seasons, Manchester United playing keep ball with 30 mins to go, different planets.

    3-0 You heard it here first.

  • Comment number 66.

    phil mc nulty says 'winning when playing below par is a sign of champions' but when liverpool wer doing it earlier this season it was all about luck! granted we dont now look like being champions, but this type of witching between every other team n united is just plain silly. i gave up tho arguing this point a long time ago... phil, change the record m8... its down to luck, plain n simple, most of uniteds wins (lots of the many many 1-0's the have 'grinded out' owe alot to luck, not sheer perseverence, penalties, fouls that wernt n all that lark. with all that great defence they have its took shoddy desicions to keep united where they wer on many an occassion... can count atleast 5 times united should have drew a match b4 ronaldo dives n gets a free kick/penalty or that the other team have had perfectly good penalties turned down... atleast 5 draws would b 10 points dropped n on parr with the chasing pack... make no mistake, if united do go on to claim this title, n they should from this position, lady luck has played a more than usual hand to united on too many occassions this season n its masking over what is 120 millions pounds worth of strikers that really cant kill teams off as the price tags suggest

  • Comment number 67.

    I dont think United will win everything this year but whatever they do win they will deserve because the way UTD have played recently is exactly as they have played all season long - Hard working, focused and determined.

    This is the starting place for ANY team wishing to achieve success.
    Sometimes you can win 1-0 (even on a bad day at the office) sometimes you win by 3 against an inferior team that arent up for it.

    A team as gifted as United are expected to win by 2-3 goals on a regular basis but when you face an opposition team that works really hard and is just as determined and focused, handsome wins are not likely.

    Add to this the odd 'bad day at the office', injuries, roation etc and its clearly just not possible to win well each week, but working your butt of almost ensures you will not lose!

    Also, anyone who watches football knows that no matter how good a team is the magic will not be there every week but by defending properly you will not lose the game and have every chance of of nicking one at the other end.
    Thats the formula - pure and simple.

    People who knock this for any reason are idiots.
    You may say what i've just said is so bloody obvious that its stupid BUT the difference is that all the teams having good seasons (Aston Villa, Everton, Liverpool, Fulham, West Ham, Wigan) put this philosophy into practice EVERY WEEK with no excuses and this is regardless of their lack of flair or class. Why else are inferior squads to Arsenal so close to them in the league (Everton and Villa)

    Its not referee decisions, lucky breaks etc that decide league positions in the long term, you either have the squad thats willing to work its socks off or you dont.

    Newcastle dont, because if they played every game this season like they played last night they'd be safe.

    To all the biased posters that knock United and call them lucky etc I say that ye simply dont know enough about football.

    The team that wins the league is ALWAYS the hardest working team - Chelsea wee magnificent in their two winning seasons and they had the stomach to take the fight to anyone.

    So, focus on your own team and its merits/shortcomings and admire/dislike other teams for what they are, not for what they stand for in your biased minds and a lot more posts on here will be actually worth reading!

  • Comment number 68.

    Post 44

    You must have had You'll Never Walk Alone coloured specs on my friend!

    The reason that Mascherano was complaining is that he thought Liverpool were getting a rough run of it decisions wise, which is absolute nonsense!

    Torres, as talented as he is, is a bit of a girl (just like Ronaldo is).

  • Comment number 69.

    I don' think there are quite enough people on here saying 'There are no easy games in the Premier League these days'. I for one will never tire of hearing that original, illuminating, well-expressed observation. I'd be grateful if all those who haven't yet uttered these wonderful words pull their finger out and light up my world.

    Thank you

    p.s. There are no easy games in the Premier League these days.

  • Comment number 70.

    It is funny how many times people say "the good run can't last" and in the same breath say "they are scraping wins".

    We COULD actually step up a gear, stop scraping results and turn that good run into an amazing run.

    Chelsea are scraping results and Liverpool aren't even scraping results at all, bar the odd win.

  • Comment number 71.

    I would agree that Utd have been 'grinding out' results this year, winning a lot of games by the odd goal.
    So the fact that Utd are 7 pts ahead w a game in hand, without getting out of 2nd gear (certainly in the attacking third) really tells us that Utd are miles ahead of the rest of the league and likely to stay there for several years yet.
    Their 1st XI is stronger than everyone else's, their 2nd XI is also stronger than most team's 1st XI, and their 1st & 2nd XI's are very interchangeable - one just doesn't notice any impact when they change the team around.

  • Comment number 72.

    Saying that United have not been at their best this season is not true. It is an opinion.

    Success in football is all about results and trophies.

    Going forward they may not have appeared to be at their best this year but the defense has been more solid.

    Last season they may have appeared better going foward but they were not as solid at the back.

    United look like they are going to have another amazing season, however they choose to go about it.

  • Comment number 73.

    If Chelsea and Liverpool both take maximum points from their last ten games, United still only need 24 points from eleven games to win the EPL

  • Comment number 74.

    As many people have said, it is the team that grinds out victory's when they are not playing their best, that win. Liverpool are a great example of a team that does itself no favors. When they suck they are terrible and drop points like its going out of style. This is not the best United team ever in terms of ability but they are the best in terms of spirit and perseverence which can often make the difference.

    http://www.futink.com/2009/03/version-of-il-fenomeno.html

  • Comment number 75.

    To #58: danschmidt

    I watched the second half of last night's game. In my opinion you took the lead because of a woeful piece of defending by Taylor, nothing more; I have to say it actually made me cringe. Apart from that I thought Newcastle matched you quite comfortably and could have seen the game out as a draw at least.

    I've watched pretty much all Utd's games for the past couple of months (including 3pms) and have been disheartened by the way their opponents have approached them. Newcastle on the other hand showed a bit of self-belief and it very nearly - deservedly - paid off. I also think Gutierrez was the best midfielder on the pitch last night; does anyone disagree?

  • Comment number 76.

    33. At 10:54am on 05 Mar 2009, WordsofWisdom wrote:
    A number of factors are being overlooked in this debate.

    Firstly, Utd have played 6 more games than Chelsea and Liverpool (Charity Shield, Eufa Super Cup, 2 CWC, 4 more CC, less 1 FA cup replay, less game in hand). That's significant in a congested season.

    ___________________________

    so what about liverpools two champions league qualifiers then??

  • Comment number 77.

    I read this blog/article whatever you call it this morning then noticed it was taking more than an hour for comments to be "moderated" why? Man Utd. look unstoppable...no sh** Sherlock.
    Then half the blog (or whatever) is devoted to Newcastle. Phil wonders why 'toon' fans are not responding, so why not title the piece can Newcastle beat the drop? or something similar. I'm pretty sure you would get plenty of replies (from Newcastle fans if I did not make that painstakingly obvious.)
    Next week WBA look doomed but Leicester have a chance of promotion could be the title but we will also get references to the shape of corner flags.

  • Comment number 78.

    Is it me or does this post just state the complete obvious?! Man Utd favourites for the title, no really?! Newcastle in trouble at the bottom, never would have guessed it. Winning games when not playing well - crikey that lines used every season

    Not really sure what to say. Blog doesnt really give any different insight to events this week and this rather hefty blog about nothing inparticular could have simply been replaced with a glance at the league table!

  • Comment number 79.

    dandolinho - you can think of at least 5 games where Ronaldo dives and gets a pen/freekick or where other teams have had perfectly good pens turned down.

    OK can you name them then. You have said you know of at least 5 games.
    Presumably United always score from these pens/freekicks.
    By the way United have only had 2 pens in the PL given to them this season, so are you saying that both were dives from Ronaldo?!

    I assume liverpool have not had any decisions go their way, so whilst you would happily deduct points off United for this decision or that, you would leave all other teams totals alone as only United can possibly have any lucky decisions??!!!!

    For a start the decisions all went Newcstle's way last night - no red card for Taylor (that was defintely deserved).....no penalty - I'm not giving my opinion on whether it was a pen, but there was a clear shout as it struck the Newcastle defenders arm....not even a card for Martins on Vidic - again may have been nothing in it, but Martins was clearly trying to make out it was a clash of heads where Vidic knew he got an elbow in the face which replays proved - why would Martins try and cover up that fact?
    I'm not trying to say we were harshly treated last night but am pointing out with evidence that we are not getting referees decisions all the time.

    Get over it, United have been streets ahead of the rest and are better off points wise than they were last season at this stage.

  • Comment number 80.

    To #71: chriscorlett

    I'm not sure that their first 11 is stronger than everyone else's; I think that's a very tight call and the reason why the Champion's League is the trophy they are unlikely to win. I think their strength - particularly with regards to the league - is the quality they are able to bring in. For instance, a 3rd choice striker worth £30 million. As an LFC fan I would be grateful to even have a 3rd choice striker.

  • Comment number 81.

    To stevenufc....one of the main concerns I heard at St James' Park last night was about the difficult run-in Newcastle have got - and I have to say it could have been a lot easier.

    And spirits certainly sagged when Hull got that winning goal at Fulham just a few minutes after the final whistle had gone at Newcastle.

    This is why I believe Michael Owen's return to fitness is absolutely crucial.

    Regular readers of this blog will know I am a huge Owen admirer. He has that knack of scoring crucial goals and this is why he really can make the difference in what are certain to be succession of tight matches towards the end of the season.

  • Comment number 82.

    Phil,

    I am encouraged by our performance yesterday but it will mean nothing if we don't repeat it against the teams we need to beat to survive; Hull, Stoke, Boro, Pompey, Spurs.

    The most bizarre thing is that I think our squad is stronger than last season's despite it being smaller and yet we're embrolied in this relegation battle.

    Still a 1-1 draw and 2-1 loss shows a remarkable improvement on the 5-1 and 6-0 thrashings we got from Man U last season.

  • Comment number 83.

    Re Post 66

    dandolinho. Give it a rest mate.
    Yes ronaldo goes down to easily, but name me a team in the prem that doesn't have one player that goes down (Liverpool have Gerrard, Chelsea have Drogba etc etc)
    Yes Ronaldo goes down too easily and its infuriating but luck evens itself out.. Ie How taylor got a yellow card last night is beyond me for hitting ronaldo in the face (however lightly) followed by the challenge on carrick. But had the ref followed the letter of the law, Newcastle would have been down to ten men but the player that gifted Utd the winner wouldn't have done so......

    If you think winning the prem is purely about luck then why are the consistently stronger teams at the top?

    Liverpool had a £50million strikeforce until they decided they didn't need Keane. Rafa's stubbornness does amaze me! Utd are scraping wins but are still the top scorers in the division.....

    Please show me where the luck comes into it?

  • Comment number 84.

    although it looks like the PL is going to Manchester United i wont say they have it until there is 1 game left and they are 4 points infront.

    The main thing is that the other teams must learn to do is... when you play badly win,

  • Comment number 85.

    I have to disagree with those who say United's good run cannot last. That is guesswork at best - no-one can say with certainty.

    What we do know is that they have put together the sort of surge after the turn of the year that has won them titles in the past.

    As I said earlier, the next three games will go a long way to shaping their ambitions for the end of the season, but under Sir Alex Ferguson every trophy is up for grabs. He is in them to win them - and despite the understandably cautious messages he will be believe he can.

    Any more thoughts on the clash between Steven Taylor and Cristiano Ronaldo?

    My view is that Taylor was very lucky to stay on.

  • Comment number 86.

    "The title is beyond reach barring a miracle. It is so because on off days, draws and not scrappy wins were achieved by other teams."
    Although better than reading about financial woes, there's nothing new or different in that. It just confirms what every Premiership fan in the country already knows, including even the most delirious Liverpool or Chelsea fan.
    Early and mid season are easy times for even mediocre Sports writers. These are the months full of promise and speculation of what's to come. A December blogger can afford the odd slip-up and state the obvious because there will yet be many opportunities for angles and intreague.
    Now we are come to the end however and it's time to show YOUR mettle also Phil. But like Liverpool and Chelsea, you continue to 'grind out' mediocre articles by just stating the obvious. And not only the obvious; worse still, on numerous occasions you try to make savoury otherwise well gnawed cliches.
    - Take the wind from their sails
    - Bad day at the office
    - Give an inch, take a mile
    I teach these expressions to my foreign language students!
    Come Phil, I know it's not easy with the Reds 7 points ahead with a game in hand, but surely you can come up with something more original.

  • Comment number 87.

    to #75

    I dont get the double standards. you just stated that Man United took the lead due to some woeful defending by Taylor. Didnt Newcastle take the lead due to some woeful defending by Van Der Sar? At the end of the day, who has more goals gets the three points.

  • Comment number 88.

    Its a fact that Man.United are performing below last years standard and yet winning.
    That tells us that the Premier League this year is below par !
    All the best teams are NOT playing with flair, and that includes Man.United.

  • Comment number 89.

    75. At 2:32pm on 05 Mar 2009, timwebber wrote:

    I agree that the way that Newcastle approached the game was a refreshing change from most teams in recent weeks except Wigan and Blackburn.

    Gutierrez was very good last night but I still feel that on the balance of the game Man United were the better team.

    Because Newcastle are a lesser team thir performance gets bigged up slightly.
    I don't want to put Newcastle down because they did perform above par but If that was a mirror performance by Chelsea or Liverpool then people would be saying that MUFC deserved the win.

    In comment to the Ronaldo.Taylor situation.

    Taylor was very lucky to stay on. If it had been Rooney or another player with less of a rep he may have been off.

    It was a good job he was on the pitch because he may not have gifted the goal otherwise.

    Good blog in my opinion Phil, generally on the money, even if it is to the distaste of L'pool fans everywhere!!

  • Comment number 90.

    Congratulations Mr McNulty on joining the army of people engaging in mind games. We've had the doubters and United's form remained unaffected, so now we get the Conceders who are anything but convinced the title is over, but desire to unsettle United by encouraging complacency. There are still eleven tough games to go for United, starting with Liverpool (a game I think we'll lose) followed by Fulham, Villa, Sunderland and Wigan, all of which will be difficult encounters. Add to these games the Champion's league and FA Cup games and you can see that the pressure in the league is building rather than abating. A defeat on Saturday could affect the confidence of the side seriously, just as the whole season in 1994 was in jeopardy until Mark Hughes stretched out his right boot to steer in a vital equalise in the FA cup semi final against Oldham. Chelsea is a transformed team since Guus Hiddinck and Liverpool will not give up the chase. Your assertion reminds me of the behaviour of the bookmakers who would pay out early on United in 98 and 02 only for the reds to stutter and fall short.

  • Comment number 91.

    im not for 1 iota of a second assuming that other teams havnt had their luck, n again im not suggesting that united score EVERY free kick or penalty, but they have scored a significant ammount btw.

    are u suggesting that united havnt had lady luck on their side? they have shown great resiliance IN DEFENCE, but as anattackin side no, the differences have mainly, but not exclusively come, n i include the majority of match winners in theis from either 1. a free kick that more often than not CR7 'won' or from vidic popping up at the right time, which on vidic's part is fair enough, he has actually been streets ahead of any1 this year, n deserves to get player of the year over any1 else by a long shot, baring in mind that ur record this season altho attributed to VDS owes more to vidic than any1 else. on CR, he does dive more than any1, does win more freekicks than any1 for 'simulation'.. its pretty clear to c... yeah yeah, all the jaron about him being themost fouled is true... but ill pose a little story for ya, sure u have heard it, cant b that long since the teacher told it ya... about the little boy who cried wolf! n anyway, the kicks he gets are far outwieghed by the shear amount he does get away with, n all that with the petchulence shown when he doesnt, which, should he get the same treatment as the rest of the league, masc at OT last season comes to mind (ignore the total flip he had AFTER the card was shown, what came before it was not half as bad as what i have seen from CR), united would b without the 1 player they couldnt do without, again arguably dropping points, not guaranteed, but i think its pretty safe to say ud have been as flat as the start of the season, when u didnt have him

    i will add tho, that liverpool, n chelsea have just not done enough, united can only beat whats put in fron of them, n every team needs the luck, liverpool n chelsea have failed to do that, thats their/our problem.the main point of the original article was 'united are brilliant when winning games, but when chelsea 'grind' out results or more to the point when liverpool were at the start of the season n earlier this year it was just plain old fashined luck... to me its all the same, cant band 1 about without the other being true, wasnt a true attack on united, i kinda save that for better times, now clearly aint that time :p

    happy posting tho

  • Comment number 92.

    As a United fan, Ronaldo's behaviour on and off the pitch this season has taken a noticable turn for the worse and its not good to see. However, thats no excuse for Taylor's challenge which was could have done some real damage.

    Apparently in the tunnel afterwards (According to the papers) Ronaldo called Taylor 'Rubbish' and Taylor called Ronaldo 'Ugly'. They were both right.

  • Comment number 93.

    Phil nice piece but I don't agree.......

    "The goalkeeper's grateful thanks to the team-mate who had bailed him out was obvious for all to see."

    But to quote you straight after this sentance, probably sums up United and VdS and the real reason for his celebration with Rooney.

    "It summed up the Manchester United psyche. "

    That's how they play, TEAM.

  • Comment number 94.

    Yes Phil,

    Taylor was lucky to stay on. Rooney has been lucky a couple of times this season, as has Ronaldo. I think just about every club gets away with them, and so not because of the club they play for but because the incident either isn't seen or the official(s) bottle it.

    I agree about Owen too. If he is fit then Newcastle should stay up. If he isn't then they will find themselves right in the mix.

    If United continue to go far in the cups I don't think it will have much of an effect on their league form. Its amazing how winning all the time breeds confidence. The best thing they can do is to keep winning every single game and battling on all fronts. They have the squad, talent and experience to handle it.

  • Comment number 95.

    #98 - its right to be cautious but we've not lost one from this good a position. In 98 we had a big points gap but Arsenal always had a lot of games in hand. In 2002 we were never very far clear. Sure we will drop points at some point but dropping 10 is unlikely and even this would require either Liverpool and Chelsea to win all their games, which they are unlikely to do, especially as they will prioritise the champions league...

  • Comment number 96.

    oh, n taylors tackle, yeah was bad, ill admit that, but sooner rather than later ronaldo is gonna b a victim of one of them challenges, if ur gonna goad players with step overs for a laugh, baisically embarassing players, he will get hit hard, n the ref, well he'll think he's feigning it again... it will happen either in the red of united or the white of madrid... but mark my words it will happen.

    if ur not a united fan, think about it like ur playing him, after so long ur gonna get tiked right off, rightly or wrongly n take a swipe...

  • Comment number 97.

    it was a good performance from newcastle, but its not how they perform against the best..its how they do against the teams around them that counts. i think the manner in which they let a point or points slip away will demoralise them. my picks for relegation are West Brom, Blackburn, and Newcastle or Stoke. I hope to god its Stoke as they are the one team in the league that are just not Premier League class at all and they don't belong...Hull would be in there if not for their great start

  • Comment number 98.

    Phil,

    You won't see many NUFC fans on here because there too busy dreaming about the past.

    As fans you are allowed to be one eyed for sure, but Newcastle has got what they wanted a Soap Opera.

    Why sack Robson when he finshed in the top 6 two seasons running? This led to a procession of managers. The big players have left, Owen is only 50% reliable at best and most of the team up there is average at best. Martins is a classic world beater one week and a pub player the next.

    Newcastle's fixture list will condemn them to a season or so in the Championship, and the ground they call a temple will be nothing more than a millstone round their neck.

    Will they learn that stabilty gets you there, patience is virtue and no something to lose at the stroke of a poor result. Villa and Everton are clubs Newcastle need to take a look at. Even if the just stay up, a wager they'll not change and run the same rollercoaster.

    Honestly Michale Owen aside anyone, would you have any of the Newcastle team in your side.....no. There you go.

  • Comment number 99.

    dandolinho -
    Ronaldo has scored 2 pens and 2 or 3 freekicks. One fk being the other week against blackburn which is the only one I can remember the foul on and it was for a blatant hack down on Evra so they haven't had a significant amount scored (4 max, probably at least 2 of which were deserved).

    Some of your post seems to be quite sensible and other parts a bit of a rage against United, or Ronaldo especially!!
    Last season Masch got sent off because he deservedly got booked for a challenge through the back of Scholes and then for persistently going on at the ref at almost every decision. It wasn't for that one moment when he got his 2nd yellow. I watched it in a pub with United and liverpool fans and every one of us said he was going to go off about midway through the half if he didn't shut up!!

    I would say the kicks Ronaldo get far outweigh his dives not the other way round. No doubt he does dive....as does gerrard by the way....but often it is exagerating a foul, sometimes though unfortunately not.
    He also has been petulant this year by kicking out a couple of separate occasions and he should have got red cards for those occasions. However, he was clearly swung at last night by Taylor and Taylor should have been off.

    If you are looking to cite possible incorrect refs decisions that have won us points, I would be surprised if it is more than one or two decisions. liverpool have probably had the same.

    I agree with some of what you say though as liverpool had an outstanding first half of the season, and were not lucky. However the correct word I believe is consistency and United have clearly been far more consistent.

    Also agree Vidic for player of year.

  • Comment number 100.

    Steven Taylor does have a reputation - not as a persistant dirty player but as a dodgy defender.

    That is why so many people, including all on MOTD keep saying he gifted the goal last night. Watch the replay pointing towards the Gallowgate goal. Steven Taylor number 27 is watching number 16 Ryan Taylor doing the horrific chested back pass.

 

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