Tag Archives: Manchester United

5 Hairdryer Lessons for Malaysian Politics

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For most Malaysians, 8 May 2013 will forever be remembered as a day when throngs of thousands braved the late evening showers and gathered…. UNITED in heart and spirit, not as Malays, Chinese, Indians or Bumiputeras, but as Malaysians…. UNITED in ONE Suara Rakyat.

However, for all Mancunians, 8 May 2013 will also forever be remembered as the day Sir Alex Ferguson (SAF) made his official announcement to retire as manager of Manchester United. After 26 years of building up a Red Empire that conquered England for a period spanning at least 2 decades, SAF tearfully decided to call it quits. :-(

For someone widely regarded as the most successful football manger EVER, there is arguably SO MANY things we can learn and follow. So, in the light of the recently concluded General Elections in Malaysia, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on some of the lessons or character of SAF that would be most exemplary to all politicians and ministers of both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat…

1. Be a Champion Loser – It is a well-known fact that SAF is someone that truly respects his opponents on and off the field. It has been recorded that one of his best known gestures of football management is to share a bottle of wine to congratulate his opponent in a big match or at the end of the season if he was the loser. He shared it with Wenger during those battling seasons with Arsenal and also with Mourinho in Porto’s dressing room after the Portugese sides shock upset over Man Utd in the UCL. Wouldn’t it be cool if our politicians have that same level of fierce confrontations on field but sincere respect and friendship off the field? Hmmmmm.

2. Dare to Cut Names – During his tenure at United, SAF is also well known to drill his philosophy that “no player is more important than the club!” If there were players who had crossed the line for disciplinary problems or non-performance, SAF would have no hesitation to drop them from the squad or (worse) sell them off! I remembered there was a time when Rooney had a fantastic stretch of games going but suddenly he got involved in some drunk driving and partying. Although the games that lie ahead were crucial, SAF benched Rooney for 3 matches (if I remember correctly)! Have our political parties reached that maturity to drop or cut off their members who are plain liabilities and do not have the heart to serve the rakyat?

3. Never Give Up! – I have seriously lost count of the number of times Manchester United have fought back or scored in crunch time (aka final 15 minutes of the game + err..Fergis time, of course..:-P). The club wouln’t have been able to amass so many trophies if it weren’t for this indescribable desire to fight on till the final whistle. Who could forget the “Football…Bloody Hell!” moment at the Nou Camp in 1999 with two goals at the death won SAF his first Champion’s League trophy? Likewise, for politicians or parties that have lost the votes or seat, my advise is to continue to serve the rakyat and Never Give Up!

4. Have a Personal Touch – One of the things I admired most about SAF was his willingness to be personally involved in any player deals – especially the high profiled ones. 😛 In his biography, stories are shared about how SAF would personally visit the players the club would buy next, to the level of visiting them in their homes! How nice if our politicians emphasised more on serving the rakyat at the grassroots, giving a personal touch in the areas or constituency they are serving?

5. Focus on Youth and Build a Legacy – One of the key football management elements of SAF is his penchant to build up a youth system to unearth and develop talent for the future of the club. Of course, there are times he would simply just BUY the talent but YOUTH remains a priority. The endless crop of players like Beckham, the Neville brothers, Butt, Scholes, Giggs to the current batch of Welbeck, Cleverly, Buttner, Young, Hernandez is testament to SAF’s solid youth-development policy. Eventually, this would lead to the formation of a very strong squad to leave behind to his successor when he leaves. SAF is genius in this way that he doesn’t want to abandon a ship that is in tatters but one that is still strong and powerful. An extract from his retirement speech:

“It was important to me to leave an organization in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so,” Ferguson said. “The quality of this league winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth setup will ensure that the long-term future of the club remains a bright one.”

Has our political parties thought of succession planning and developing youth in their agenda? If not, they should quickly learn from SAF. :-)

THANK YOU SIR ALEX FERGUSON! 😀

20 Factors Contributing to Man Utd’s 20th Title

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1. Magnificent leadership of Sir Alex Ferguson

2. Embarrassment of letting the title slip from our grasp in 2012 to City (on goal difference, on the last day, etc.) hurts so bad that it was used as an inspiration and drive for this season’s glory!

3. Never say die attititude. Personally, I’ve lost count of the number of times Man Utd had to rally back from a goal or two goals down to achieve a result in a match this season. Inspiring attitude.

4. Spanish laundry service finally clicked! After months of frustration in goal, De Gea finally came good about  a month and a half ago when he managed to keep like 5-6 consecutive cleansheets. Perhaps SAF’s keeper rotation tactic really DID work!

5. Consistency. With the level of football at its highest in the BPL where every weekend offers a tough challenge, whether Man Utd were playing the likes of Chelsea or Wigan, the team with the more consistent performance would revel.

6. Although a bitter pill to swallow, the ‘early’ defeat in the UCL (last 16) did help the cause. (Sigh)

7. Offensive Defense! This season saw the likes of Evra, Evans and Rafael consistently getting on the scoresheet at important times of the season. Whoever said that the best defense is offense is genius. :-)

8. Vintage performances. Apparently both Scholes and Giggs still have some legs left in them as their presence in some of the key matches helped steady the ship. :-)

9. City self-destruction. There were certain stretches in the campaign that City seemed unwilling to win, drawing with numerous mid-level clubs and allowing us to build our lead at the top.

10. Psychological win at the Etihad. Though relatively early in the season, RVP’s last gasp curler of a freekick that secured the 3-2 win over City in the first Manchester derby certainly had a telling effect in the months to come. So, although the loss to City in the Old Trafford reverse was tough to chew, the lead that we built over the course of the season was already too wide to cover.

11. Nov-Dec blitz! It was during this remarkable stretch that Man Utd secured critical wins over Arsenal, Chelsea, City (and a whole lot more) that probably became the foundation of building an uncatchable lead.

12. Opening loss to Everton was certainly a JOLT in every sense and probably a stern reminder of the quality of all teams in the BPL.

13. The tough 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane with Spurs knicking in the equaliser at the death would probably be what I would call the second JOLT that propelled Man Utd to engineer a 7-game wining streak in the BPL. Examples like this certainly cements Man Utd’s reputation to respond positively after each heart-breaking loss or draw.

14. Game-changer rotations. In a curious observation, I notices that whilst the team was more or less built on the consistency of RVP thoughout the season, there would be evident instances that ONE midfielder would emerge for short stretches of time. For example, I could recall those stretches where Nani was instrumental in a few matches before going off injured; then there was Cleverley for a few matches; and (even) Anderson had his time in the spotlight as well; Young was dangerous in a few matches in Jan-Feb; as was Valencia and of course Kagawa, who suddenly seems to fit into SAF’s formation like to the T. I can only imagine how devastating Man Utd would be if all our midfielders were healthy and consistent throughout. :-p

15. Rooney’s patches of brilliance. Sure it would seem that Wazza was playing second fiddle all along this season to RVP, but there were certain stretches in the season that he almost scored at will and combined with devastating effect with RVP. With constant injuries to the Man Utd midfield, Rooney often sacrificed his preferred striking role to play a much deeper, play-maker role in much of the season. Personally, I feel he definitely still has a place in Man Utd’s starting 11.

16. Itching strikers. For Welbeck and Hernandez, I guess it can become rather frustrating to watch most of Man Utd’s games from the bench, with SAF ‘s preferred Rooney-RVP as his first choice. However, one would notice that probably because of this, everytime Welbeck or Chicarito gets a chance to play, they would be playing as if their lives depended on it – scoring some important goals in the process too. :-)

17. Wealth in Youth. This has already been in SAF’s mind for a couple of years, what with the crop of young players like Young, Jones, De Dea, Buttner, Cleverly, Rafael running regularly on the pitch. Certainly helps to have young and energetic legs to keep up with the pace of other BPL teams.

18. Survival during Christmas-New Year peak period. All teams in the BPL would acknowledge that one of the toughest stretches in the season comes during the time when other European leagues go off on their winter break. Whilst most of the other pretenders faltered, Man Utd continued their solid consistent performance during this insane period to secure 7 points from a possible 9 from 23 Dec 2012 till 1 Jan 2013.

19. Barcelona. My personal theory is that SAF had steadily invested and built a team worthy to take on Barcelona. Kinda like when Starfleet designed the USS Defiant specifically to take on the Borg. :-p Anyway, from the displays during UCL nights, it was clear that he had already or was close to establishing the right pieces, formation and tactics to finally match mighty Barcelona. Whilst Man Utd’s defeat to Real Madrid was truly unlucky, I believe that in the evolving process of designing Man Utd to fight Barca, the team became considerably stronger. :-)

20. Robbie Van Persie. Sporting Jersey no. 20 from the start of the season was a clear sign of his intentions. Simply the X-Factor and made the ultimate difference with his unstoppable goal-scoring feats. ‘Nuff said. Personally, I’m truly happy for RVP for FINALLY securing his first BPL title. Couldn’t he have come to Man Utd any sooner? Hehe. :-p

RVP in Man Utd Formation?

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I am SOOOOO excited with the start of the new BPL season 2012/13…..especially so much more so when RVP had just been acquired. Woo Hoo!

Now the biggest question would be how would RVP fit into SAF’s Man Utd formation this season?

Here is my recommended formation for Man United with RVP in the lineup (see diagram above).

For starters, Man United should revise from their typical 4-4-2 to a more solid 4-3-1-2. Simply because now we have the players to do so. Kagawa has impressed much during pre-season that he is certainly capable of filling in the hole in the middle, just behind the two main striking duo of Rooney and RVP. I would prefer Cleverley to play the defensive midfield role flanked by Nani and Valencia. At the back, I think healthiness is key but I would like to see a back four consisting of Jones, Evra, Smalling and Vidic. Of course, with Jones and Smalling still out injured, it may be sometime before Man United sort out the defensive formation.

Are you excited with your team’s formation for the new season? 😀

My Premier League Review Playlist

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Sigh. It’s over. No matter how many times I replay the recently concluded BPL Season 2011/12 in my head, Man City still end up champions (on goal difference also!!!). Sigh.

So instead of weeping my way whilst cataloging the season in review the typical way, I thought it would be more fun if I were to review my recollection of the entire BPL season as if  it was replayed and reviewed on MY music player….so, the playlist would look like this…

Pre-Season: “We Are The Champions” (Queen)
7 Aug 2011; Community Shield: Man Utd 3 Man City 2: “Rollin'” (Limp Bizkit)
28 Aug 2011; Man Utd 8 Arsenal 2:  “Unstoppable” (Kat DeLuna)
First 5 games of season: Maximum points. Crushing all opponents…: “Let The Good Times Roll” (The Cars)
23 Oct 2011; Man Utd 1 Man City 6; Humiliated at home: “Bad Day” (Daniel Powter)
8 Dec 2011; Basel 2 Man Utd 1; Knocked out of Champions League Group Stages: “Unbelievable” (EMF)
8 Jan 2012; Man Utd 3 Man City 2; FA Cup. Humiliation avenged: “Redemption Song” (Bob Marley)
28 Jan 2012; Liverpool 2 Man Utd 1; Knocked out of FA Cup: “What The Hell” (Avril Lavigne)
16 Mar 2012; Athletic Bilbao 2 Man Utd 1; Knocked out of Europa League: “We Don’t Care” (Kanye West)
11 Feb – 8 Apr 2012; Scholes returns: “Irreplaceable” (Beyonce)
….and inspires Man Utd’s assault to the top riding on an 8 game winning streak: “The Climb” (Miley Cyrus)
8 Apr 2012; Arsenal 1 Man City 0; Man Utd hold 8 point advantage at top with 6 games remaining: “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” (Celine Dion)
12 Apr 2012; Wigan 1 Man Utd 0; Early signs of choke..: “Bitch” (Meredith Brooks)
22 Apr 2012; Man Utd 4 Everton 4; 2 points dropped after holding 3-1 and 4-2 leads; more signs of choke. Lead dwindles to 3 points..: “Free Fallin'” (Tom Petty)
1 May 2012; Man City 1 Man Utd 0; Title Decider.City go top on goal difference with 2 matches left..: “Livin’ On A Prayer” (Bon Jovi)
13 May 2012; Final Day. Title Deciding clashes..Man City vs QPR; Man Utd vs Sunderland…as it unfolded…
20th min; Rooney scores! Man Utd 1 Sunderland 0: “Keep the Faith” (Bon Jovi)
40th min; Zabaleta puts one past Kenny. City 1 QPR 0: “Damn” (Matchbox 20)
48th min: Cisse equalizes for Air Asia! City 1 QPR 0: “I Believe I Can Fly” (R Kelly)
54th min: Joey Barton’s dark side emerges as he is sent off for elbowing Tevez…: “I Saw Red” (Warrant)
65th min: 10-men QPR shocks City with a Jamie Mackie diving header! City 1 QPR 2: “Top of the World” (Carpenters)
90th min; At this stage, Man Utd would be crowned champions..: “So Close” (Evanescence)
91st min; Dzeko pops in a header off one of City’s hundredth (I reckon) corner. City 2 QPR 2: “Don’t Stop Believin” (Journey)
93rd min; Aguero skips past two defenders and clinically smashes home the title deciding goal…:-( City 3 QPR 2: “Heartbreaker” (Mariah Carey)
Final scores: Man City 3 QPR 2, Man Utd 1 Sunderland 0; Lost title on 2 stoppage time City goals vs QPR…: “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (Bonnie Tyler)
Post Match Blues: “Misery” (Soul Asylum)
Post BPL Acceptance : “Life Goes On” (Poison)
Looking ahead to 2012/13 Season: “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” (Kelly Clarkson)

I will conclude quoting a tweet from Rio Ferdinand, simply inspiring for all Man Utd fans:

“Our history is built on coming back to WIN…..its what we do best…I can’t wait for the new season already”

 

 

Post Mortem: 5 Things That Went Wrong at the Manchester Derby

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I am pissed. Seriously pissed.

At the beginning of April, Arsenal snatched a win at the Emirates over Manchester City to gift Manchester United with a whopping 8 point lead at the top with only SIX games remaining! Man Utd were in a position beyond ‘pole’ to claimed their unprecedented 20th Premier League title.

3 matches later, Man Utd had dropped FIVE points – suffering a 0-1 shocker at Wigan and a near impossible, wild 4-4 draw vs Everton. All of a sudden, the Manchester Derby on Labor Day 2012 would prove more decisive than ever. With THREE important points at stake and having a more superior goal difference, Man City would go top if they were to triumph over Man Utd.

End result: Man City 1 Man Utd 0, with Vincent Kompany heading in the only goal to push Man City to the top on a +8 goal difference with 2 matches remaining. Sigh.

So without any ‘grey-coloured’ jerseys to blame, where did Sir Alex Ferguson get it wrong this time? Here’s my post mortem of 5 things that went wrong at the recent Manchester Derby:

1. Lacking Ambition

Holding on to a slender 3 point lead heading into the Derby, SAF was clearly lacking the ambition to go ahead to kill off the competition. His tactics and strategy clearly highlighted his objective of securing a draw and protect the 3 point lead. I don’t think I saw any dangerous attempt at goal or even any shot on target from the team in red. Big Mistake.

2. Ageing Midfield

I still couldn’t believe SAF opted to start the Derby with a museum-like midfield consisting of Scholes, Giggs, and Park. With Man City’s tough midfield general in Yaya Toure and flanked by speedy Nasri and Silva, Scholes in particular had absolutely no chance to dictate the pace of the game. Park was left running aimlessly (till he was substituted) and Giggs was quite invisible supporting the flanks.

3. The Hunger Games

SAF totally got it wrong if he had thought experience would win see Man Utd through. With so many ageing stars who already have won plenty at the club, perhaps a gutsier option would be to throw in some youth who would have more hunger to win the Championship. Check out the talent left warming the bench: Young, Valencia, Chicarito, Welbeck, etc. With Nani being the only noticeable winger o the field, Man Utd offered absolutely no threat along the flanks. I usually notice Nani pairs up well with Evra on the left, but the preferred lineup pushed him to the right, which impeded his usefulness.

A better option would have been to start with Valencia on the right and Nani on the left, offering more offensive options along the flanks. Scholes should have been rested in this high-tempo game in favour of Jones in midfield and Rafael to cover right back. But then again, SAF was playing his defensive set of cards that day..sigh.

4. Faulty Formation

Over the years, SAF has been openly criticized for playing the ultra-defensive, Champions League mode formation of 4-5-1. It has (i) never really brought Man Utd much success and (ii) often created more confusion amongst the players who are almost programmed to play the attacking 4-4-2 formation week in, week out.

So the 4-5-1 formation clearly cements SAF’s fear of the opponents capabilities. It was until much later in the 2nd half when Valencia and Young were thrown in to save the game. Sadly by then, the noisy City bus was already parked in their goal behind Joe Hart.

5. Losing Mind Games

I have to tip my hat off to Mancini. Over the years, SAF is highly regarded to be a master at playing mind games with his opponents. Most evident was when Man Utd chased down Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle from 14 points down in 1996 to win the title behind SAF’s effective mind games.

This season, Mancini has successfully taken the pressure off his players in these last few games by insisting Man Utd would still win the league, bla, bla bla. I would never have imagined Man Utd to lose the plot with just 6 games remaining but it looks like we are choking as badly as Keegan’s Newcastle back then…

When I reflect on the past 36 games of the current season, I have to admit Man Utd has been quite poor in terms of consistency in performance, exertion of authority and in-game focus. However, it does not take away the fact that coming round the final bend of this season, a run of 8 consecutive matches has put Man Utd in a superb position to win the league again…until now.

We have totally lost the initiative to Man City with 2 games left. I certainly hope SAF can inspire Man Utd to finish strongly and hope for Man City to drop points to Newcastle or QPR…

What could be worse than living next to noisy neighbours? Why, living next to noisy champions, of course…. :-(

Please Man Utd…please don’t make it so….

Manchester Assemble!

The race for the BPL crown seems to be going down right to the wire this season, especially with the Manchester derby this coming weekend poised to be the “title decider”. At the same time, one of THE most highly anticipated movies of this year (if not, of ALL time), ie. The Avengers looms upon Malaysia this coming weekend too…

Now, the more I see and think about it, the more I couldn’t help myself but to reflect on the many parallels from the BPL race and The Avengers that would suggest that Manchester United are really like the Avengers who are mankind’s only hope against the Loki and his army, who seriously resembles our noisy neighbours, Manchester City! (Gasp!)

Don’t believe me, here’s some proof…

Proof #1: The famous rallying cry of Earth’s Mightiest Superheroes is “Avengers Assemble!” Now, when you think about it, the word ‘ASSEMBLE’ is strikingly synonymous with ‘UNITED’, which means a gathering of parts or people, joined together for a single purpose, etc.

Proof #2: In the upcoming movie, The Avengers, the evil Loki will be seen donning a long corporate-styled trenchcoat and sinisterly accessorised with a neckscarf too! If you are now scratching your head to think where have you seen someone that looks like this before…..ahhhh….look no further to Roberto Mancini – City’s manager who was the eerily same sense of taste in fashion, hairstyle, stare and all…

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Spot the Difference?!

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Proof #3: In the movie, Loki does not take on the world on his own. He will apparently summon an evil army from another dimension to do his bidding. So what do these creatures look like? In brief, they look tall, scary, strong and most importantly, sports a blue-coloured skin. And what colour of jersey does Manchester City wear?…

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Proof #4: In the movie, Nick Fury is the character from SHIELD that is responsible for gathering all of Earth’s mightiest superheroes to defend against the threat of Loki. Now, do you think it is a coincidence that the name ‘ FURY’ is strikingly similar to Sir Alex Ferguson’s ‘HAIRDRYER TREATMENT’?…

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YIKES! Need I say more?…

Manchester Assemble!

Basel-ed, Bundled and Embarrassed

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Ever since I got married and had kids, I had started to seriously prioritize and manage my football watching time. Where once I would be able to watch almost ALL matches featuring Manchester United, I have become wiser (and also older) with age that I couldn’t possibly watch every match anymore.

These days, I don’t even bother to watch the League Cup unless Manchester United makes it to the final. This Mickey Mouse trophy in the domestic front has been nothing but a distraction, at best. I pick and choose FA Cup ties to watch, since FA Cup matches are a one-off and a defeat means instant elimination. As for the UEFA Champions League, I have stopped or ‘let go’ watching the first round group matches since a couple of years ago. After all, all these group matches are supposed to be customary in nature, to allow other nations’ top sides to get some European experience with the big boys, right?

When the draw was made for the group stages a couple of months ago, I was quite delighted that Manchester United were drawn into the same group as Basel, Benfica and Otelul Galati. More delighted from the fact that I would be able to get through to next year in UCL without having to lose any of my sleep!

O how wrong I was!

By the time the penultimate group match was played, Manchester United were sitting second in the table with 9 points, tied with Benfica who get to play Gulati on the final day. Basel was third with 8 points but had home ground advantage going into their match with Manchester United.

“Avoid a defeat, and we’re through!” was what I kept telling myself.

But honestly, I was pretty nervous because United had failed to impress in their last 5 group matches. The pick of the crop was when they hosted Benfica and Basel and failed to beat them. Heck, United even needed a last gasp equaliser from Ashley Young to deny Basel a famous victory in Old Trafford!

It also meant that I had to sacrifice my sleep to cheer Manchester United on yesterday morning, knowing that it could well be their last UCL match this season!

And as fate would have it, United failed to showed up again in these chilly European nights, succumbing to an embarassing 1-2 loss to Basel. Though I must add that I was truly impressed with the way Basel controlled the midfield (Shaqiri was a standout) and stood firm in defence (apart from the near own-goal of the decade by Steinhofer).

I felt that the real undoing for United was their lack of creativity in midfield, and their shaky defence. Evra was caught once too often on the left back. In offense, Young was clearly out of sorts and failed to even deliver proper crosses into the box. The only United player to show up was probably Nani. To add salt to our wounds, Vidic suffered a knock to his knee that could probably rule him out for the rest of the season! Sigh.

So there’s that. Another end to yet another disappointing UCL season. Sigh.

Silver linings?

– With no more European nights, I get to sleep more in 2012. Will only tune in to watch the Europa final if United makes it that far. I sincerely doubt it as Sir Alex Ferguson would probably start fielding his League Cup reserves (now unemployed too) to get more European experience. As Evra rightly said it “It’s embarrassing to be in the Europa League”. Now if only he had worked harder..sigh.

– Our noisy neighbours were also bundled out at the same stage! Of course City were placed in a much tougher group with Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villareal, but an elimination is an elimination! 😀

– United can now focus more on the Premiership!

– No more humiliation by Barcelona this season!

– United actually stands a chance to win the Europa League?!!