Month: September 2016

Manchester United 1 Zorya Luhansk 0

29/09/2016 21:55, Report by Ryan Grant

UEFA Europa League | 29 September 2016 | Old Trafford | Attendance: TBC | Scorer: Ibrahimovic 69

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s second-half goal was enough to give Manchester United a crucial Europa League victory over Zorya Luhansk on Thursday evening.

The Reds were frustrated for long periods of the game but found the all-important breakthrough 20 minutes from time, as the striker headed home at the back post.

Jose Mourinho had stressed the importance of winning the game in his pre-match press conference, and delivered on his promise to start the Swede, with Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and in-form Marcus Rashford also included in a strong United line-up.

Following last weekend’s dismantling of Leicester City at the Theatre of Dreams, the Reds again played with intent from the off, but it was the Zorya’s Zeljko Ljubenovic who registered the game’s first effort at goal in the fifth minute, a shot well blocked by Eric Bailly.

United were in total control of possession in the opening stages, though a notable chance for Mourinho’s men didn’t arrive until the 20-minute mark, when Ibrahimovic’s deflected effort from the edge of the box looped into the air and narrowly wide.

It was a close call which sparked some life into the Reds, and the deadlock was so nearly broken just moments later, when Pogba glanced Mata’s corner into the path of Rashford, whose powerful strike cannoned back off the underside of the crossbar.

During a half when chances were few and far between, neither side fashioned an opening again until the 38th minute, when Tim Fosu-Mensah regained possession for United on the edge of the Zorya area, but Mata couldn’t direct his header on target from Pogba’s cross.

Five minutes before the break, the Reds then had two half-opportunities in quick succession, as Zorya defender Rafael Forster stabbed the ball just wide of his own goal, before Fellaini’s header bounced up off the turf and over the top.

It meant the sides went in level at the interval, with the game finely poised ahead of an important 45 minutes.

HALF-TIME STATS:

Possession: United 75% Zorya 25%
Shots: United 7 Zorya 3
On target: United 0 Zorya 0
Corners: United 7 Zorya 2

The second period soon fell into a similar pattern, with the Ukrainian side looking to hit United on the break. They might have done so, had Ljubenovic made contact with team-mate Olexandr Karavaev’s delivery, but it was just beyond the midfielder’s reach. United, by contrast, were still dominating in terms of possession, without creating any real goalscoring chances.

The game’s first shot on target came just after the hour mark, when substitute Paulinho forced Sergio Romero into a routine save with a curling effort. It was a chance nonetheless, and one which prompted Mourinho into bringing on Wayne Rooney.

Moments after his introduction, the skipper was immediately involved in United’s opener, skewing an effort into the path of Ibrahimovic, who couldn’t miss with his header at the far post from close range. The goal – Zlatan’s sixth since moving to Manchester in the summer – brought relief around Old Trafford.

Having kept the Reds at bay for so long, Zorya were visibly disappointed, and almost conceded again when Fellaini volleyed over with time running out. The away side had a late chance through Aleksandr Karavayev, but Romero saved comfortably to ensure a vital victory.

FULL-TIME STATS:

Possession: United 72% Zorya 28%
Shots: United 15 Zorya 8
On target: United 2 Zorya 1
Corners: United 9 Zorya 4

United: Romero; Fosu-Mensah (Martial 73), Bailly, Smalling, Rojo; Fellaini, Pogba; Lingard (Rooney 67), Mata (Young 73), Rashford; Ibrahimovic.

Substitutes not used: Johnstone, Carrick, Schneiderlin, Memphis.

Booked: Bailly.

Zorya: Shevchenko; Sivakov, Chaykovsky (Gordiyenko 80), Kamenyuka, Petriak, Kulach (Paulinho 59), Forster, Karavaev, Ljubenovic (Lipartia 76), Grechyshkin, Sobol

Substitutes not used: Chuvayev, Sukhotsky, Opanassenko, Chercher.

Booked: Kamenyuka

Old Trafford Experience

The Old Trafford Adventure

The first time I began supporting Manchester United was at the age of six. This was the first time I heard about them. The reason for the choice was because I thought that it was Chester Williams (Springbok wing in 1995 world cup winning) team. Since that time till today Manchester United have been my only team in terms of support with regards to Soccer. My brother in-law from a young age has been supporting Man United.

We have watched them at their best in 1999 when they won the treble as well as the glory years of 2008 and 2009. These were some of the greatest years of our lives as Man United played some of the best football ever. Yet we have not only supported them through the highs but the lows of the last couple of seasons. With our ultimate dream to visit the Theatre of dreams.

This year our dream came true to watch our beloved live. We contacted the Cape Town Man United supporters club and told them about our desire to watch United. They promptly replied and provide us with tickets for the Man United Vs Man City Game. The club chairman Ricky was truly amazing in organizing all the details and making all the arrangements. Ricky deserves allot of praise for the selfless work that he does.

Finally, the 10th of September came. We stayed an hour away from Old Trafford. We left home at eight in the morning. With the game only starting at twelve am. However, it felt like the journey would never end. Not because of traffic or any other obstruction but because our excitement was uncontrollable. Eventually as we left the highway and moved towards Old Trafford we beheld the theatre of dreams in all its glory. The air at Old Trafford was electric it was like the atmosphere was coming alive as we walked up the walk way towards the Theatre of Dreams. All the legions of fans descending on the Theatre of dreams like pilgrims on a religious pilgrimage.

Thanks to Ricky at the Man United Cape Town supporters club we had perfect directions to collect our tickets at the Munich tunnel. We wore our supporters T-Shirts with pride as we ascended to our seats to watch the game.

The game was a disaster within thirty minutes we were trailing 2-0. Until Our New Swedish hero made it 2-1. We held our breaths expecting a great comeback and we thought it came through Marcus Rashford. However, it was not to be!

We however, enjoyed all the celebrations and atmosphere as we cheered on Man United. It was truly amazing to be at Old Trafford and to watch the first Manchester Derby at Old Trafford we will be eternally grateful. A special thanks must go to Ricky and the Man United supporters club. Moreover, the sponsors for this once in a lifetime chance to watch the champions live at old Trafford.

Mata: We needed this result

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata claimed the emphatic 4-1 win over Premier League champions Leicester City was the perfect response to recent criticism of the Reds.

The Spanish playmaker’s return to the starting line-up was one of eight changes from the midweek EFL Cup win over Northampton Town and he scored one and assisted another goal in the team’s standout performance of the season so far.

“I think we needed something like this,” admitted Mata, acknowledging United had gone into the sixth Premier League game after losing the fourth and fifth to Manchester City and Watford.

“There has been a lot of talk about the team in recent weeks but we scored four different goals and showed what we could do.

“Once you score the first one and the second one, you gain confidence and it’s great for the fans because it’s been a while since they have had something to celebrate like this.”

As the goals flew in during a frantic 20-minute spell, Mata scored his second of the season, having also found the net with United’s first Premier League strike of 2016/17, at Bournemouth on the opening weekend.

He told MUTV: “It was a nice goal but the most important thing was that it came at an important moment in the game. After we scored the first goal, Leicester were still in the game so the second goal and then the third goal killed off the game.”

The Spaniard’s left-footed strike to round off a fine team move was the only one of United’s four goals against Leicester that didn’t come from a Daley Blind corner. Mata’s fellow midfielder Paul Pogba joined Chris Smalling in scoring with a header and when another setpiece fell to Juan, he teed up Marcus Rashford for a close-range finish.

“We have always worked on corners,” commented Mata. “As a team we try to get the ball into the box for someone to put it in the back of the net. We tried it a few times last season but it didn’t work. Now we know we have strong people, tall people to head the ball in.”

More: Watch all the United v Leicester goals in our highlights video.

25/09/2016 07:10, Report by Nathan Salt

Smalling: Our high tempo will hurt teams

Chris Smalling believes opposition teams will not be able to live with Manchester United if the Reds can reproduce the same tempo shown in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Premier League champions Leicester City.

Smalling opened the scoring against the Foxes with a towering header after just 22 minutes, before further goals from Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and a first senior goal from Paul Pogba effectively put the game to bed before the break.

The 26-year-old defender feels the impressive first period is something his side should try to repeat as the quest for consistency continues.

“If we can start games with that tempo there won’t be many teams that can live with us,” Smalling told reporters after the match.

“I think when we start the game like that, you can see everyone is on the front foot and you can see the urgency. We could have had more goals I think in that first half and playing on the front foot benefits us all.

“By winning games and dominating games like that, I think everyone gets their confidence back and you could see we really put that game to bed in the first half and hopefully there is more of that to come because everyone really enjoyed that.

“It’s now about finding that consistency so we stay at the top end of the table. We don’t want any more blips, hopefully we have had our last blip for quite a while now.”

Smalling suggested pre-match words from United manager Jose Mourinho had the desired effect by inspiring the players.

“The boss really wanted to get the enjoyment factor across,” Smalling continued. “He stressed how there is 70-odd thousand people in the stands who want to be in our shoes and in his shoes. It’s a case of realising how lucky we are and how we should go out there and enjoy it. You can see that everyone did enjoy it and the message clearly did get across.”

The win over the Foxes was even more crucial following Premier League defeats to Manchester City and Watford and a Europa League loss to Feyenoord and the central defender believes the Reds have moved on from those disappointments and can now look to build on the win with two further home games fast approaching.

“There was a lot of talk about us needing to turn the situation around because we obviously had a bad week with the three results,” Smalling added. “We could only show we have moved on by doing it on the pitch and I thought that first half was a great performance and really gave us a marker.

“You try and shut out the negatives, but we all know as players that we are a lot better than we showed in those defeats. We have tried to improve each day and hopefully we can now take this into the two big games coming up, both at home, and hopefully put on a show.”

Smalling skippered the side in the absence of Wayne Rooney, who started the game on the substitutes’ bench, and the stand-in had some specific praise for the club captain.

“He is our captain, he is one of our main players and there is no doubt that he has got a big part to play,” Smalling commented.

“He is often the most vocal in the dressing room and he was the same today. Regardless of the situation, whether he is on the bench or playing, he is always the same character and that is why he is England’s main man and our main man.

“I think he is a very experienced guy and he has played that many games it is only a matter of time before he is back in there and firing again because he is quality.”

25/09/2016 22:30, Report by Jamie Allen

Pogba: We were almost perfect

Paul Pogba felt Manchester United’s first-half performance in Saturday’s 4-1 win was “almost perfect” as the Reds dismantled league champions Leicester City to lead 4-0 at the break.

The Frenchman himself brought up that scoreline with his first-ever senior goal for the club, rising above the Foxes’ defence to head past Ron-Robert Zieler from Daley Blind’s corner – the same setpiece route that also created United’s opening and third strikes registered by Chris Smalling and Marcus Rashford respectively.

Juan Mata was the other player to find the net in a rampant first period last matched at Old Trafford, at least in terms of goals, in April 2007 when Roma were ultimately defeated 7-1 in the Champions League.

“The first half was almost perfect and that’s why we won the game I think,” Pogba told MUTV. “It was our best half since the start of the season. It wasn’t easy for the players in the second half to switch on when we knew Leicester were going to push up to try to score goals but I think we did great.

“The thing we did well was we did great without the ball. It was very important and when we had the ball we just played like I knew we could. We were very focused and we produced a big performance on the pitch. We want to carry on like this.”

Pogba, who was voted Man of the Match by followers of @ManUtd on Twitter, was no stranger to the scoresheet for United’s Reserves and Academy sides. He’s thrilled to have now opened his first-team account in this second spell with the club, especially on home turf.

“It feels great to get my first goal at Old Trafford,” the no.6 said. “For me it was very good and very important. I hope it won’t be the last one.”

The record signing is also hoping for more of the same from the team as a whole, describing the overall display as “the best performance from me and the team since we came back from international duty. There are a lot of games to play so we will keep fighting and hopefully continuing with performances like this one.”

When asked if he is enjoying the variety of tests thrown up by the Premier League, Pogba admitted: “It was a big challenge for me to come here, even though I‘d won four titles with Juventus. It was a challenge with the history at United – but I always go for challenges.”

On the topic of recent media criticism of the team, the Frenchman retorted: “I never read the newspapers but I always say one thing – at the end you will see.”

24/09/2016 16:31, Report by Adam Bostock, Nathan Salt.