So once again, the luck of the draw doesn't do us any favors. Our record against Milan is quite embarrassing but history will have no part to play in this fixture. The last time we played Milan, our defensive crisis cost us the tie. Conceding 2 goals at home and then never really staying in the tie at the San Siro. I think we have a good chance this time around. Both teams won't have that burden of Kaka Vs Ronaldo showdown. Although both teams will have most of the players from the last tie, they are in a different phase than last time. The second leg at home will definitely help United. With Fergie's recent European strategy - I'm prepared for a 4-5-1 conservative line up in the first leg, trying to get that away goal without giving much away. So I do expect this game to be 50-50 coming into the 2nd fixture. Both teams have equal domestic pressure of catching up to the respective league leaders. On current form Milan have a slight edge as United battle with a massive injury list but given the fixtures are a while away, that will change. Let's hope all the pre match Beckham hype is something that the Milan PR machine have to deal with for a change.
Here's what Leonardo had to say about the draw:
"In the last 16 we'll face Manchester United who like us have a great European tradition.They have the same objectives as us and I believe we'll face each other on an equal footing"
"It's too early to make predictions because the tie isn't until February and there's a lot of time before then.But Milan and Man United are two teams that have Europe in their blood and looking back on past matches between the teams, they were always
emotional encounters in which you just had to be there."
Milan have won a few big games away in their CL group already, so they'll be confident about playing that 2nd leg away. So all in all, an intriguing tie awaits us. There's still time to revisit the pre-match hype closer to the fixture date.
AC Milan Vs Manchester United February 16, 2010, at the San Siro
Manchester United Vs AC Milan, March 10, 2010, at Old Trafford
Shay Given: Manchester City's 33 year-old stopper has maintained the
standards he set at Newcastle United.
Gary Neville: An Old Trafford great, Neville G has made over 500
appearances for Manchester United since graduating from the team's youth
Rio Ferdinand: The world's most expensive defender, Ferdinand joined
Manchester United for £30m in July 2002 and has matured into a solid,
John Terry, capt: A commanding, passionate centre-back who emerged from
the Chelsea Academy to become captain of his club and country.
Ashley Cole: Although he fails to inspire affection among many fans,
the 28 year-old is admired for his poise in defence and eye for
Cristiano Ronaldo: Searing pace and mesmerising footwork combine to
make Ronaldo the most lethal winger in the game, and the most expensive
player in history.
Frank Lampard: One of the most complete midfielders of his generation,
31 year-old Lampard's consistency brings with it tireless work, accurate
passing and an impressive goal-scoring record.
Steven Gerrard: A one-club man with Liverpool, Gerrard's match-winning
ability has made him an Anfield hero.
Ryan Giggs: The 36-year-old, named BBC Sports Personality of the Year,
looks set to end his triumphant career where he began, at Manchester
United, and be remembered for his dribbling skills and electric pace.
Wayne Rooney: Bursting into the England side at 17, while at Everton,
Rooney is now firmly established as one of the most powerful, yet
skilful, forwards in the game.
Thierry Henry: Despite that notorious handball, Henry should be
remembered for his electric pace, superb skills and outrageous talent.
Sir Alex Ferguson: as the rock of Old Trafford clocks up 900 games with
Manchester United, there is only one choice here.
With news coming in from the bridge that Everton had come from behind to grab an unlikely point against Chelsea, Fergie must have been delighted at the chance of tying them on points today. And then he went about it in the worst possible fashion - by going with a striker all alone up front. Time and again that's proven to be disastrous and we've played some of our worst football in that formation. And yet we were treated to a lineup that featured Rooney all alone with JS Park in the starting line up. JS Park won't get a start in any of the top 10 sides in the league and today's showing just cemented that belief. Half the battle was lost before the ball was kicked. Contrast that with Villa - who played like they should have - 2 wingers and 2 strikers up front, ready to take the game to us. Given the record of not having lost to them at Old Trafford since 1983, law of averages would come into play sooner or later.
We started out well and the goal came against the run of play. Villa are always a threat going forward and given how often we've had to chop and change at the back, them scoring was inevitable. Once again it took an adversity for Fergie to play to our strengths. He brought on Owen at the half, but wait, that's Giggs going off. Unbelievable. JS park better be selling a lot of shirts. Park off in the 63rd for Berba - too little too late. Lots of possession, no real threat to the goal, Friedel touched the ball a couple of times in the entire game. Rooney was unlucky to have hit the post and Berbatov missed a sitter. It was apparent it's going to be one of those games. 60-40 possession, 16-8 shots, 9-4 corners and nothing to show for it. A blip I hope. Not that we didn't lose or draw games while Ronaldo was around, but you can't help but think it was games like this that he produced that run, that free kick, that final pass that did the trick. In the end, we deserved a draw from the game, but that's how it goes. An excellent opportunity to tie the table toppers gone amiss. Doing it the easy way was never United's thing.
Boss echoed the predictable "one of those games" post match.
"Second half I think we deserved something.There wasn't much in it first half, they probably just shaded it and
deserved the goal. Second half we pummelled them, had a lot of good
chances and didn't get any. It's just one of those days it wasn't going
"You get to the point on adding
time on, it should be taken out of the referee's hands," he said.
"There were two stoppages of two minutes three seconds and we played
three minutes (stoppage time)."
"It's not an easy league. I
say that time and time again. If we get to January within touching
distance of the leaders then we're in with a great chance."
12 points still up for grabs in busy December. Wolves on Tuesday and then Fulham away on Saturday. Let's hope we get a run going. It's a tough league this, and we will keep in interesting till the end.
Still going strong: Ryan Giggs and (below) with the Premier League trophy for the first time in 1993
On Saturday, I took two of my boys to watch West Ham United play Manchester United at Upton Park. Ostensibly, they were there as West Ham supporters, but there was another reason it was important to secure tickets for this particular game. I wanted them to see Ryan Giggs play while there was time.
Not on television, but in a stadium. I wanted, rather sentimentally, for them to be able to live the cliché of telling their children and maybe their grandchildren that they saw him, the way my father saw Tom Finney, Duncan Edwards and George Best, the way I remember seeing Bobby Moore.
So there is the criterion. You may find it a shallow one, but when I look down the list of candidates I read one name whose achievements, in 50 years time, will still stand above all. Giggs. There will be other heavyweights, other captains, other drivers, other athletes, but 19 years, and counting, on the wing for Manchester United is a feat that will not be surpassed.
Two European Cups, 11 league titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, one UEFA Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, one Club World Cup, yet it would not matter if Giggs had won only half of it: just to have been there, to have held his place, as Sir Alex Ferguson built up and stripped down three, maybe four, great Manchester United teams would set him apart.
We no longer think of every season being his last, such is his remarkable will, but when, at the Club World Cup in Tokyo, Ferguson talked of certain senior players being phased out in the next year, nobody had any doubt that Giggs was among the names he had in mind.
Yet here he is, 12 months on, still ripping West Ham apart beside Paul Scholes - who it was also painfully delightful for the boys to watch - and showing no sign of inferiority to any of the bright young things who may have been considered his replacement.
Ferguson has never been one to cuddle up to the media, so it was no
surprise when he made a passionate defence of his young players after
last week’s slip up, and subsequent press criticism, against Besiktas –
and had a sly dig at the journos to boot. To remind you:
journalist wrote, ‘there’s no future for these players, no tomorrow for
them’. What an idiot. I can’t believe that. It’s unbelievable... but
the same journalists will be wanting articles from them when they are
stars, going cap-in-hand, begging them for interviews in a few years’
time – mark my words on that. They’ll be hypocritical and say, ‘I’ve
always said you were going to be a wonderful player’. What a world we
live in. The thing is, Alan Hansen made comments in front of millions
of people on TV and gets slaughtered for it, the journalist I mentioned
writes that and it gets buried in the middle of a newspaper article and
gets off with it. He should be sacked!”
Fair enough Fergie.
was surprised too at how quickly the press wrote United’s youngsters
off; after all, the Champions League is an elite competition and a
narrow home defeat should not be seen as the litmus test for a successful career at the top.
But similarly a Carling Cup win
over Tottenham should not be seen as the youngsters' redemption. It was
a much improved performance granted, with two crackers from Gibson
securing another semi-final, but I didn’t think much of Spurs, who
played like a team with other things on their mind (i.e. trying to
upset the Champions League football betting odds by displacing Liverpool in the qualification places).
truth is, we cannot predict the success of Fergie’s latest batch of
fledglings; did anyone see Fletcher as such a vital cog in the United
team when he broke into the side a few years ago? And I don’t need to
repeat Alan Hansen’s famous quote when Beckham and co broke into the
Unless you have the exceptional talent of say, Wayne
Rooney, who excelled in the Premier League just months after leaving
school, a player needs time and space to develop their talents. And
fans, coaches and journalists need patience to allow them that space.
With the amount of games United play in a season, games like the past
two midweek clashes offer great opportunities for United’s young second
string to gain experience. And while the criticism leveled over the
last week is a bit harsh, the praise they received this week should be
taken with a pinch of salt as well.
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