Darren Fletcher quickly cancelled out Steven Pienaar’s opener for the Toffees, before second-half goals from Nemanja Vidic and Dimitar Berbatov put United in a commanding position.
Tim Cahill’s header in the first minute of injury-time appeared nothing more than a consolation, but Everton continued to press and took a share of the spoils when Mikel Arteta drilled home a loose ball deep inside the United area.
Sir Alex Ferguson, who omitted Wayne Rooney from his squad, would have been left mystified by his side’s late lapses in concentration after defending capably for much of the match and spurning several chances to tie up victory.
Rio Ferdinand was also absent, while Antonio Valencia and Chicharito missed out after their midweek international exertions. That prompted the deployment of Dimitar Berbatov as a lone striker, flanked by Ryan Giggs and Nani and supported by a three-man central midfield of Fletcher, Paul Scholes and John O’Shea. As the Irishman shunted forward, Gary Neville returned at right-back in an otherwise unchanged defence.
Everton’s team selection betrayed the spate of injuries that had claimed the majority of their striking department. Yakubu was only fit enough to make the bench, while Louis Saha missed out entirely, provoking David Moyes’ selection of Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill as his side’s roving focal points.
Makeshift or not, the hosts flew out of the traps and pegged United back for the best part of 10 minutes. Everton hassled and harried, giving the Reds no time to savour possession, and it some sturdy defending to repel the hosts’ aerial bombardment and scrap feeding.
The woodwork also chipped in to keep the Toffees at bay. After Neville had blocked Pienaar’s run towards the area, Mikel Arteta’s subsequent 25-yard free-kick clipped the top of Edwin van der Sar’s crossbar and bounced to safety.
The Everton playmaker was soon involved again. After another sustained spell of possession from the hosts, Arteta cleverly shimmied past Scholes, but his drilled left-footer thudded against Jonny Evans’ chest and behind for a corner.
Having largely ridden out Everton’s early flurry, the Reds’ first sustained spell of pressure almost yielded the opening goal. The hosts failed to properly clear a United attack, and O’Shea cracked the loose ball against the outside of Tim Howard’s post from 25 yards.
As the half wore on, Berbatov’s wandering repeatedly caused consternation for the home defence, while United’s massed midfield ranks were quick to offer support wherever possible, with Neville and Nani particularly keen to sling in crosses
Although there was a scare when Leighton Baines wastefully screwed a half-volley wide, United began to turn the screw. Former Reds goalkeeper Howard twice thwarted his former employers: magnificently sticking out a leg to divert Scholes’ free-kick over the bar after a wicked deflection off Baines, then turning away Giggs’ right-footed effort at close quarters.
The significance of those stops became apparent when, from the corner which followed Giggs’ chance, Everton broke and took the lead. Arteta pounced on a missed bicycle kick by Evra and bore down on van der Sar. Although the Dutchman denied the Spaniard in a one-on-one, Leon Osman displayed tremendous awareness to slip the loose ball to Pienaar, and the South African slotted his side into the lead they just about deserved, even if it had come amid United’s best spell of the half.
Nevertheless, having built up momentum, United were of the mindset to hit straight back and parity was restored within four minutes. Nani took advantage of non-existent pressure from Pienaar and Baines to curl a magnificent cross between Howard and his defence, and the onrushing Fletcher was on hand to volley home his third goal in as many seasons against Everton.
Incredibly, the Reds almost snatched the lead before the interval. Giggs picked out Berbatov with a raking cross, and the Bulgarian’s magnificent stretching volley skidded fractionally past Howard’s upright. United wouldn’t have to wait long to take the lead, however.
Less than two minutes of the second period had elapsed when Berbatov’s shot was deflected off target by Sylvain Distin. Nani’s subsequent corner was cleared to Scholes, who picked out the winger with an impishly poked pass, and Nani crossed superbly between Distin and Cahill to find skipper Vidic, who glanced home his first goal of 2010.
Although Everton’s response was plucky, United withstood their pressure manfully, with Vidic and Evans repelling anything airborne and Fletcher, O’Shea and Scholes dropping deep to pick up the leftovers. As Everton toiled and kept an increasingly high defensive line, United were able to pick them off.
Nani’s scuffed low shot was kept out by Howard, but the American was left completely exposed by his defence on 66 minutes. Scholes’ superb 50-yard pass exposed Distin’s poor positioning, and Berbatov’s immaculate first touch compounded it. The Bulgarian then caught Howard cold by taking an early shot with the outside of his right boot and putting United two goals clear.
Having superbly turned the game on its head, United’s gameplan was simply to contain and counter; which yielded further opportunities. Scholes, Berbatov and Nani all fired off-target from presentable openings, while in normal time Everton came no closer to reducing the deficit than when van der Sar comfortably clutched a poked Osman effort.
In injury-time, however, the game underwent a stunning transformation. First Cahill rose to thump home a header from Baines’ left-wing cross then, as United retreated, another Baines cross landed at the feet of Arteta, and the Spaniard smashed in a leveller.
So swift was United’s collapse, that time remained for both sides to attack again. A United corner was cleared, allowing Everton to break, but referee Martin Atkinson sounded his final whistle just before Phil Jagielka forced a smart save from van der Sar – much to the ire of David Moyes.
Given the manner in which his side conceded two points, one suspects Sir Alex Ferguson’s mood would have been significantly darker. – by Steve Bartram]]>
Avram Grant’s side arrived at Old Trafford bottom of the table and without a win in their first two games – defeats to Aston Villa and Bolton Wanderers, which on both occasions saw them concede three goals. Their narrow 1-0 midweek win over Oxford offered some respite, but the second round of the League Cup is a far cry from Old Trafford, and the gulf in class was brutally apparent.
However, United too had a point to prove – which Sir Alex’s men would do emphatically – after dropping two against Fulham last weekend. Sir Alex made three changes to the team that drew 2-2 at Craven Cottage. Rooney, who missed the Fulham trip with a stomach bug, replaced Javier Hernandez up front alongside Berbatov. Nani was drafted in for Antonio Valencia, while Ryan Giggs replaced Ji-sung Park.
The autumnal weather in Manchester – a seemingly random mix of wind, sun and rain – left a slick surface which, as well as encouraging a few late sliding tackles from West Ham’s feistier players, allowed United’s rapid passing to blossom.
Rooney registered the first effort on goal after 10 minutes, shuffling across the edge of the box to fire a low, skidding effort into Robert Green’s arms. United’s attacking play was full Rooney, Berbatov and Nani at the centre of it. The latter two men combined on 20 minutes for a move that should have yielded the first goal. Vidic’s long, diagonal ball forward picked out Berbatov in space. The Bulgarian – nonchalantly as is his way – flicked the ball back into the path of Nani, whose thunderous effort crashed off the crossbar via a vital fingertip save from Green.
West Ham, for their part, offered energy and industry but little genuine quality. And after 33 minutes United finally took the lead from the penalty spot. Paul Scholes’ sumptuous pass picked out Ryan Giggs on the left and he befuddled former Red Jonathan Spector and was subsequently clumsily fouled by the American. After Nani’s miss last week at Fulham, and with United’s talisman back in the team, there was no doubting who would take this penalty. Rooney stepped up confidently, arced his run and sent Green the wrong way to give United a deserved lead.
Clearly in the ascendancy the Reds went searching for a second before the break. Darren Fletcher forced another fine save from Green, this time with a curling effort from 25 yards that West Ham’s shot-stopper turned around the post. Then Berbatov fired over from six yards with a difficult shot on the bounce, while Nani also shot over the bar with a lob that required a far more delicate touch to beat the onrushing Green. United went in at the interval with a slender 1-0 lead; fully dominant thought not completely ruthless in front of goal.
But there was no profligacy from Nani five minutes into the second half. The Portuguese winger cut inside from his station on the right, had defenders back-tracking and falling over their own feet, then struck a vicious left-footed shot past Green from 18 yards to make it 2-0.
United’s football at times was sublime, the neat trickery and interchanging play between Berbatov and Nani in particular catching the eye. Admittedly, West Ham looked lost defensively. Kieron Dyer hit the outside of the Edwin van der Sar’s post after 55 minutes, but it says it all that the Hammers fans almost didn’t notice, they were preoccupied with entertaining themselves with their repertoire of songs.
The Reds’ third goal was the best of the lot and came after 69 minutes, unsurprisingly with Nani and Berbatov combining to score it. Nani pitched up a cross to the far post and Berbatov waited unmarked before scissor-kicking the ball past Green. Technically wonderful, with pin-sharp precision, summing up the Bulgarian’s input all afternoon.
With the points wrapped up, Sir Alex made a triple substitution with fifteen minutes to go. Chris Smalling came on for his home debut, replacing Jonny Evans; Michael Owen made his first appearance at OT since suffering an injury in February, in place of Berbatov; while Michael Carrick came on for the, once again, impressive Scholes. The Hammers fans’ joked “we’re going to win 4-3” and even resorted to pretending they’d scored four goals to clinch victory. There was no chance of that, of course, United were a class above Avram Grant’s side. And while performances like this indicate that the Reds will be challenging at the top end of the table this term, so too it suggests that West Ham will be scrapping at the exact opposite end of the table. – by Ben Hibbs]]>
Goals from Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Fletcher gave the home side a deserved lead at the break before substitute Ryan Giggs volleyed home a third to underline United’s dominance. By then, though, it was all academic: the result never looked in doubt against a Magpies outfit that struggled to take flight, despite an encouraging opening 10 minutes.
Before kick-off there was greater-than-usual anticipation in the pre-match television build-up, as fans waited to see what sort of side Sir Alex would name for this season opener. It soon transpired there was no room for the summer signings, as both Chris Smalling and Javier Hernandez started on the bench. Berbatov and Wayne Rooney were given the nod to lead the attack, while Patrice Evra, despite not featuring in any of United’s pre-season preparations, took up his familiar left-back position.
Fletcher and Paul Scholes, the latter taking part in his 15th consecutive opening-day fixture, were charged with bossing the centre of midfield and in former Red Alan Smith and tough-tackling Joey Barton found themselves up against formidable and physical foes.
The Magpies endured the expected early spell of sustained Reds pressure, but it was Chris Hughton’s side who fashioned the game’s first real opportunity. Andy Carroll had done well to win a corner off Vidic and it was the young centre-forward who rose highest to meet Joey Barton’s corner on 10 minutes; he’ll certainly feel he should have done better than head wide from six yards out.
At the other end, Sir Alex’s men were restricted to speculative shots from distance. Smith bravely blocked from O’Shea while neither Nani nor Rooney could bend free-kicks around the Newcastle wall. Worryingly for the vocal visiting support, though, Newcastle’s stubborn defending appeared to be accompanied by a desire to self-destruct, as James Perch and Fabricio Coloccini both gifted possession to the Reds in dangerous areas of the pitch. But Sir Alex’s men did themselves no favours, either: Scholes, masterful for most of the night, uncharacteristically picked the wrong pass when United had the Magpies on the back foot before Rooney unwittingly nicked a volley off Berbatov’s toes and then blasted over from 12 yards.
United’s perseverance and patience paid off on 33 minutes, though, when Berbatov latched onto Scholes’ pass to fire the Reds into the lead. Jose Enrique managed the merest of touches on Scholes’ defence-splitting ball but couldn’t divert it away from Berbatov, who finished low and hard into the far corner.
The visitors hinted at an immediate equaliser but United soon took the reins again, monopolising possession and asserting dominance. And it wasn’t long before the second goal arrived. Good link-up play from Nani and Evra on the left flank released the Frenchman into the penalty area. From there, his drilled cross bounced off Rooney and up, tantalisingly, for Fletcher to hit on the spin and send the Reds into the break with a deserved two-goal cushion.
The interval provided welcome respite for the visitors, but within minutes of the restart Sir Alex’s men were terrorising the Newcastle back four again. In fact, the hosts could easily have been four goals to the good by the hour mark. Scholes was denied what looked a decent shout for a penalty under a rash challenge by Coloccini before a delicious move involving five one-touch passes ended with Berbatov poking the ball just wide of Steve Harper’s left-hand upright.
Rooney’s frustrating evening – little came off for the England striker, who’s still without a club goal since March – came to an end on 63 minutes when Sir Alex introduced Javier Hernandez for his Old Trafford bow. The 22-year-old’s every touch was cheered by the home crowd and Scholes and Nani wasted no time in playing balls in behind the Newcastle defence for the speedy Mexican to chase.
Berbatov thrice produced clever skill close to goal that was exciting yet ultimately fruitless, while Newcastle substitute Shola Ameobi came closest for the visitors in the second half when he headed Barton’s corner well wide of the mark on 80 minutes.
In truth, though, the contest had been over after 45 minutes. It was clear then where the three points were heading; Ryan Giggs’ superb third – a volley with the outside of the foot after he’d been picked out by Scholes (who else?) at the back post – was little more than icing on the cake. – by Nick Coppack]]>
As Newton Heath the club were elected to the first division in 1892. They finished bottom in their first season but retained their station after defeating Small Heath 5-2 in a Test Match play off.
The following season saw the club again finish bottom of the first division and this time they did go down after a 2-0 defeat in the Test Match to Liverpool.
The club had two opportunities to win promotion back to Division One while the Test Match system was still in operation but failed on both occasions and it was not until 1906 that, as Manchester United, they regained a first division place.
Manchester United History: Early Success
In 1908 United stormed to their first league championship, followed this up by winning the inaugral Charity Shield and then won the FA Cup for the first time in 1909, beating Bristol City 1-0 in the final.
After claiming another league title in 1911, however, the club stopped challenging for honours and spent three spells in the second division before the outbreak of World War II. It was only when football started up again after the war that United began their inexorable journey to become the countries, perhaps the worlds, biggest and best known club.
Much of the credit for the clubs rise to international prominence belongs to Matt Busby who took over as manager of United following the war and remained in control for 24 years. Busby produced a succession of stylish sides which have become a benchmark for subsequent Old Trafford teams, not just in terms of success but in how the game is played.
Manchester United History: The Busby Era
Busby’s first trophy as United manager was the 1948 FA Cup which they claimed after a 4-2 win over Blackpool. This game, in which the Red Devils roared back from 2-1 down late in the game, is considered by many experienced analysts as the greatest cup final of them all.
In 1953 United won the league championship and the increasing number of home grown youngsters being introduced into the side led to the team being christened “The Busby Babes.”
This team became without question the finest side in England, winning successive league titles in 1956 and 57, being denied a probable double on the second occasion when an early injury to their goalkeeper was a massive factor in their 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa.
Busby had complete faith in his young charges and the club looked certain to dominate English football for a decade or more with star players like Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton and Tommy Taylor in their ranks.
Busby, indeed, had his sights set on glory further afield and defied the Football League by taking his side into Europe to compete in the European Cup.
With the team on the verge of perhaps fulfilling all of Busby’s dreams in one go disaster struck the club in February 1958 when a plane crash in Munich as United returned home from a tie in Belgrade decimated their squad. Eight players died in the crash and several others found their careers over. From the rubble United staged an astonishingly rapid recovery.
They made the 1958 FA Cup final on a wave of emotion only to lose to Bolton Wanderers, but within four years Busby had constructed another side capable of challenging for honours.
United reached the FA Cup semi finals in 1962 and would do so again in each of the next four years, winning the trophy in 1963 with a 3-1 victory over Leicester City.
Manchester United History: The 1960′s
Still Busby craved European success. In 1968 he fulfilled his last remaining ambition as United beat Benfica 4-1 to become the first English winners of the European Cup.
Busby had realised his dream just in time, however. As his side began to age and Best began to implode the club suffered a sharp decline which became still more severe when the great man eventually stepped aside.
Under Docherty United reached successive FA Cup finals, losing surprisingly 1-0 to Southampton in 1976 before turning the tables in 1977 with a fine 2-1 win over Liverpool.
The club continued to be a major player in the cup competitions but became increasingly frustrated at lack of success in the league, especially as their major rivals Liverpool were monopolising the first division title during this period.
United won the FA Cup in 1983 and 1985 with victories over Brighton & Hove Albion and Everton but the league continued to prove elusive.
Manchester United History: Beginning of the new Era
Two Mark Hughes goals gave United a splendid Cup Winners Cup success over Barcelona in 1992 but still the league title refused to come back to Old Trafford.
United missed out on capturing the old Division One trophy for the final time in 1992 after a late surrender allowed Leeds United to take the crown but the newly formed Premier League proved much more to their liking.
United won the first Premier League title in 1993 and then carried on winning it with regularity, claiming 8 titles out of 11 up to 2003.
They also won the League Cup in 1992 and the FA Cup in 1994, 96, 99 and 2004, a remarkable run of success.
The pinacle of Ferguson’s reign came in 1999 when the club staged an amazing recovery to beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in the European Cup final. Injury time goals by Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer gave United their second European crown and also completed a unique treble of league, FA Cup and European Cup.
Latterly the clubs domestic dominance has been halted by the millionaires at Stamford Bridge and with concern among United’s huge fan base at the takeover by American tycoon Malcolm Glazer yet to be subdued the next few years in the life of the country’s most charismatic club could well prove to be the most dramatic in Manchester United History.