Filed: Thursday, 24th November 2005
By: Matthew Coker
Its all back to the Boleyn at the weekend for our second successive Sunday game, Teddy’s second game in a row against one of his old teams and a fair chance that the name Ferdinand will appear in the Monday headlines again. It’s a four o’ clock kick off in front of a full house and the Sky cameras as we continue our Premiership adventure.
This is supposed to be a United in crisis but if you dig a little deeper, they are not as far off the beaten track as the papers have you believe. The facts are that this United has suffered injuries to some key players and that the crop of young players coming through the ranks does not have the same quality as the previous classes. They have only lost two games, one to unexpected opposition and one by an unexpected scoreline but are nevertheless a serious proposition for a newly promoted side.
They currently sit third place in the league and have already beaten Chelsea and Villa at home and Everton, Newcastle, Fulham, Sunderland and Charlton away. Liverpool, Spurs and Man Ciddy have held them to draws and they were beaten by Blackburn at home and Middlesbrough away. The 16 points from a possible 21 on the road are the most poignant statistics for Sunday.
The gaffer is knight of the realm, Sir Alex Ferguson, a man who has enjoyed success in his 45 years working in the game. He is a strict disciplinarian and a master of the Jedi mind games that seem to pass for communication amongst the top managers. He has won eight Premier league championships, five FA cups and a Champions League title in 1999. You can also imagine that winning the 1983 European Cup Winners Cup with Aberdeen and beating Real Madrid in the final felt pretty good as well.
His most recent accomplishment is to ingrain the word “bollocks” into the national vocabulary, the broadsheets quoted him verbatim, (though no doubt the red tops called it b******s) after his post-Chelsea dismissal of him sailing professionally close to the wind this season.
Sir Alex had to go shopping for a new number one in the summer after their last goalie moved onto to bigger things. The acquisition of the 6'6" Dutchman was a shrewd move, he is a top class shot stopper who made a good start at his new club with three successive league clean sheets. 104 caps for his country is further proof of his ability.
The back four has suffered the loss of both Gary Neville and Gabriel Heinz, thought the spawn of Neville Neville may be back in contention for Sunday. The back four has lined up with Republic of Ireland international John O’Shea on the left, Rio Ferdinand and French international outcast Mickael Silvestre as the centre-back pairing and, sporting a natty ginger afro, Wes Brown (or occasionally academy product Philip Bardsley) on the right.
The elder Ferdinand is in a very small club of ex-Hammers who can return to a decent reception. He seems to be an easy target for the papers and his recent absent minded approach to drug tests and hard line approach to contract negotiations have stirred up a frenzy. Despite his shortcomings, he has always behaved with dignity towards us in both word and action and his frequent appearances at our away games further cements the relationship that West Ham and Rio enjoy.
The midfield will line up with Paul Scholes playing in front of converted striker Alan Smith. Whilst Smith has a natural aggressive and combative nature that would suit a holding midfielder, the consensus amongst United fans is that he tries hard but is a little clumsy in the tackle. Mark Noble should beware but having seen the way he handled the Pitbull on Sunday, he probably doesn’t need my advice.
The widemen will be sweaty sock Darren Fletcher who has the misfortune of trying to fit into Beckham’s shoes (and who on appearances to date appears to be falling a little short). No 7, Christiano Ronaldo should start on the other side, the pock-faced Portuguese international has signed a new deal this week. Quite how Mr Stepover will cope against Tomas Repka will be anyone’s guess though I expect he’ll go to ground a couple of times, one way or the other. South Korean Ji Sung Park offers an attacking option and often features as a substitute.
The true quality in the side is the front line which has provided a decent return for the Ł49m investment. Team captain, Ruud Van Nistlerooy, despite his equestrian appearance, is a predatory striker with a first class scoring record. He has already bagged 12 this season and is lethal in the 18-yard box, in fact his second goal against Charlton last week was the first that he had scored for United from outside the penalty area.
His partner is the man-boy, Wayne Rooney. His performances with a ball at his feet demonstrate a maturity that is often missing from his discussions off the ball and his conduct off the field. His performances this season have been spectacular, a succession of goal of the season contenders, copious defensive challenges and creation of many goals for his partner have meant the various claims of him being the white Pele are starting to have a small element of credence. Next summer could see Roomania threaten to engulf the whole nation.
One more player to keep an eye out for is Guisseppe Rossi, a 16-year-old Italian striker originally born in America. He was poached from Parma before turning professional for a small compensation fee which could prove to be a shrewd investment if he turns out to be as good as the fans believe he can. He has already bagged his first Premiership goal in the victory over Sunderland. I also found it interesting that despite this strong forward line, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was one of the players that the fans felt that they had missed the most this season.
The speed at which this game sold out marks it down as an especially big one and it is a fixture that has traditionally thrown up more than a few classics, the last one being a 3-5 defeat. West Ham have never gone into this fixture attempting to merely stop the Reds and we will be even more inclined to go for it under Coach Alan’s stewardship.
I am going to continue my pessimistic train of thought and put us down for a defeat in the knowledge that whenever I have marked us down to lose, we always muster up at least a point. Therefore, I am going to go 3-2 United with Teddy and Zamora getting amongst the spoils.
Enjoy the game.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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