Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Big Match- Chelsea coming to The Theater of Dreams

The clash of the titans

I'd bet my life on the fact that every Manchester United fan worth his/her salt would have woken up to a kind of nervous excitement. The big match is here and everybody seems geared up for it. The frenzy has been building up on online forums and Twitter. This is way bigger than any Champions League Final. This is the title decider.

Let the mind games begin.

"We’re not going to United under massive pressure, only the pressure we put ourselves under. The real pressure is on United because it was their title to throw away." - Frank Lampard

"We're not going to get the decisions in these big games, I'm afraid".- Sir Alex Ferguson

The title has now turned into a two horse race with Chelsea making a late season run and Arsenal citing their young team to drop out of contention for yet another year. Chelsea are now 3 points behind United with three games to go. Admittedly United have an easier run in compared to Chelsea who have to face Everton at Goodison Park in their last game. But United would have a slightly inferior goal difference if we lose this game and that could prove very costly. 

The League Table as it stands:
                                      Played   GD    Points      
1 Manchester United        35       +38     73
2 Chelsea                        35       +38     70
3 Arsenal                         35        +32     67

Any United fan would have jumped in joy at the start of the season if told that we would be in this position come April. A Champions League Final, top of the league. But now it feels like we've been needlessly throwing it away the past few weeks in the league. A draw away at Newcastle and a loss to Arsenal at the Emirates have brought Chelsea back from the brink.

Now the biggest strength for United could be The Old Trafford factor. We have won 16 games and drawn just one game at home this season. With the Stretford end roaring them on we could sew up the title with a win. 

The one constant source of worry for Fergie will be center midfield which has been a problem are for United throughout the season. Will he go with the Carrick-Giggs combo with Park helping out or will he put Anderson in the mix after his goalscoring performance against Schalke. Personally, I feel he should stick to his tried and tested Carrick Giggs midfield. It gives us a certain mobility in midfield which we have sorely lacked. Giggs can drive forward while Carrick sits behind him spraying balls out to the wing.

Coming to the wide areas now, we have Valencia and Nani probably competing for one spot on the right wing. Who should get the nod? Valencia is my bet. Nani got in ahead of Valencia against Arsenal but that didn't work out so well. Valencia steaming down his wing should give Cashley Cole more than a few nightmares. Also, Fergie needs to play both Chicharito and Rooney with Rooney dropping deep in the role of a playmaker. Chicharito could cause Luiz and Terry plenty of problems with his runs. This could leave Rooney with space to run into. In defence Fabio is most likely to get the nod at right back. Evra remains a doubt but might be pushed by Fergie to start due to the magnitude of the match. This could backfire if  it aggravates his thigh injury again during the match. Rio and Vidic have sewn up the center back positions.  

It is imperative that United play like erm United. In other words the team needs to go out with only attack on their minds. Everytime we have set up defend it hasn't worked out for us. Win the game, take the title. That should be the motto. Chelsea will look to Drogba to give them goals in the encounter and Rio and Vida need to be alert to snuff out any danger coming from Drogba. Also, Carrick needs to track Lampard's late runs into the box which would nullify their main threat from midfield. 

While watching the Everton Man City match yesterday, I must admit I was a bit jealous of the crowd support Everton were getting . Old Trafford hasnt exactly sent the decibel levels soaring recently. So this is a call out for the crowd to get behind the team and roar them on to victory.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Chicharito- The Phenom

Baby-faced assassin 2.0?
The name on every United fan's lips.Rooney? Giggsy? Nani? The answer is Javier Hernandez aka El Chicharito. Now why is he in the spotlight?Why have the United fans in particular fallen for The Little Pea?I use this particular post to analyse his astonishing rise to fame.

In today's day and age, when a player kisses the club's badge after scoring, it is met with a sense of scepticism, especially by United fans after the Rooney episode. But somehow when The Little Pea does it, it makes us want to believe his love for the club. It gives us confidence simply because he projects an innocence that draws us like moths to a light. Only time will tell if this assessment is an accurate one. But for now I for one am willing to take his word for it. 

Now when Chicharito wheels toward the crowd with to celebrate after scoring another of his goals, the crowd goes ballistic. He inspires a certain sense of happiness in the fans. Playing with an impish grin on his face, he has managed to win over more hearts in a single season than many other players who strive season after season to be recognised by the fans. This is a footballer who enjoys playing more than anything else. The fact that he recognizes that he is playing for one of the greatest teams in the world is another alluring factor that draws us to him. I once read a comment on one his videos that said " I see why kids like him so much, he looks like one of them ". That pretty much sums up the general sentiment. He reduces grown men to giggling kids eagerly awaiting his next darting run. After every single outstanding performance of his it is very important to note his post match comments as this gives us an important insight into his character.

"This season has been a dream come true for me. I have scored 19 goals and we have almost won the Premier League. It is an unbelievable thing."
"If I had the chance to swap my 19 goals for a lot of championships for this team, I would do it."

These comments depict an enthusiastic young player who strives for the team. He may be an exceptionally talented young man, but he has no airs and graces. You can be sure that even if he is on the bench, he will be one of the first to celebrate a goal. Sulking and temper tantrums are alien to this football loving young man. 

Coming to what he brings to this United team. To come into a team which had Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov as its preferred strike pairing and then upset the apple cart by forcing your way into the starting line-up is no mean task. What Chicharito has achieved in his first season is phenomenal. How he dislodged Berbatov from the starting line-up is there for all to see. He brings a different dimension to the team by always running into spaces and opening things up for the rest of the team. This is something we have sorely missed since Ole Gunnar Solksjaer 'The baby faced assassin' retired (notice more than a few similarities between them? so did I). Always standing on the shoulder of the last defender, waiting for the killer pass to make that run behind the defensive line, Chicharito has brought a freshness to the team. Also he seems to possess that instinctive knack of being in the right place at the right time for those tap-ins. This facet of a striker has always been underestimated over the ages. Many legendary strikers have used this talent to rack up goal after goal. Some names that come to mind from the recent past are Inzaghi, Raul and to some extent our very own Michael Owen. Chicharito has managed to score so many important goals without particularly good service this season. Imagine what impact he could have with a ball playing attacking midfielder behind him in the mould of Modric or Sahin. That is exactly why the Rooney-Chicharito combination up front has worked. Rooney has taken up the role of the trequartista and he has a willing runner in front of him in Chicharito. This gives Rooney something he never had in his partnership with Berbatov. 

 Chicharito comes from a sporting background. He is the son of Javier Hernandez Gutierrez and grandson of Tomas Balcazar both of whom represented Mexico. Hence the family had high expectations from Chicharito. His father and Grandfather used to take him out to their empty plot to play little games of football. It was there that they noticed his passion for the game. He used to go sliding in dangerously to win the ball back from them. His grandfather feels that Chicharito uses his slight frame to his advantage as he has lightning quick reflexes and a burst of speed. They are proud of what The Little Pea has achieved in so short a time and hope he is able to maintain such high performance levels throughout his career.

When Fergie pulled him out of his hat before the World Cup, he was a virtual unknown. So our first glimpse of him was to be in the World Cup. Since I had no particular personal favourite I had decided to support the underdogs throughout the World Cup. But then Chicharito came and changed all that. From the time he came on as a Sub against South Africa, I had a new favourite. Chicharito and Mexico. El Chicharito didn't disappoint, scoring against France and Argentina and strengthening my belief that Fergie had once again unearthed a gem. Now he is rewarding Fergie and Manchester United for the faith reposed in him. 19 goals already this season is no mean feat.

For a kid who almost quit football a few years back citing a lack of opportunities back in Mexico, Chicharito sure has come a long way! His is a success story that is still in the inception stage and Manchester United fans , myself included, will be praying for a long and successful career in which he lights up The Theater of Dreams week in week out. Signing off with a Chicharito chant.

(P.s as I write this Manchester United have lost to Arsenal. But we're going to beat Chelsea and win the title. Believe. Chicharito is no less of a player after today. I say that because he had absolutely no service from the midfield which was woeful.Hopefully we'll turn on the style next week against Chelsea. Fingers crossed)