Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Manchester United likely to show patience with David Moyes…for now

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Two defeats and one scrappy draw amid a hat-trick of pitiful performances in as many heavyweight bouts showed in no uncertain terms just why Manchester United manager David Moyes lamented over a tough Premier League start for the English champions when the fixture list was drawn during the close-season.

Sunday’s comprehensive 4-1 drubbing by cross-town rivals City, which followed a 1-0 defeat at Liverpool and a tame goalless stalemate with Chelsea, exposed all the chinks in the armour of a squad who won their 20th league title last season thanks to the scoring prowess of Robin van Persie and the firm steering hand of Alex Ferguson.

Neither played any part in the derby.

The prolific Dutch striker pulled out with a groin strain while the trophy-laden Ferguson, who welcomed the prospect of no longer suffering by the touchline when he retired last season after 27 years in charge, must have felt at least some of the pain suffered by Moyes in what has become an extended baptism by fire for the former Everton manager.

After all, Ferguson hand-picked the fellow Scotsman for the job.

As my colleague Martyn Herman pointed out, only the long-standing winners’ mentality and the seemingly perennial ability to grind out results in the face of adversity papered over last season’s cracks at United, which have come down on the ill-prepared Moyes like a ton of bricks.

Has Alex Ferguson lost his edge?

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- Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said in the run-up to his team’s 1-0 defeat by Manchester City that playing for a draw in the derby with so much at stake would be inviting trouble and he did exactly that with a cagey and defensive 4-5-1 formation lacking any sort of guile, creativity and bite.

If it was a last-gasp attempt by the wily and trophy-laden 70-year old Scot to outfox his Italian counterpart Roberto Mancini, it backfired spectacularly as United were second best throughout the contest and were lucky not to have lost by a bigger margin.

Still refusing to accept that his team are in the driving seat to win the title after overhauling an eight-point deficit to go top on goal difference with two games left, Mancini appears to have unnerved Ferguson with his pre-game rhetoric just as he emphatically won their tactical battle on the pitch.

City v United is fitting climax to Premier League title race

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Three weeks ago it seemed the Manchester derby would be little more than a dead rubber after City’s 1-0 defeat at Arsenal left champions United eight points clear at the top, in a commanding position to clinch their 20th league title and their fifth in the last six seasons.

But a rollercoaster Premier League title race produced yet another twist after United’s 1-0 loss at lowly Wigan, followed by a rip-roaring 4-4 home draw with Everton in which they threw away a two-goal lead late in the game, let City back into the title race after they had squandered a seven-point lead over United with their own dip in form.

Aguero adds name to football’s stupid injuries list

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We don’t actually know what Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has done after manager Roberto Mancini refused to go into details about what his “stupid” injury was. All he did say was that the injury was not the Argentine’s fault.

Here is a list of 10 injury classics.

Santiago Canizares – the Spain goalkeeper missed the 2002 World Cup after shattering an aftershave bottle and a piece cut his foot

English plight in Europe is no fluke

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Anyone who might have assumed the deteriorating form of English clubs in Europe since Manchester United won the 2008 Champions League resulted from a convergence of misfortunate circumstances such as tough draws or mounting injuries to key players has been emphatically refuted.

Come Thursday, the Premier League might be left without a single club to represent it in either the Champions League or the less fancied Europa League, where Manchester rivals City and United were not just beaten but also played off the park last week by rivals many of their fans will have considered second-class opposition.

And Porto will play…..Europa League draw provides some stardust

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There was the usual hushed silence and then sudden intake of breath heard in Nyon on Friday, though not for the Champions League Round of 16 draw but the first two ties of the Europa League Round of 32.

Holders Porto will play mega-rich Manchester City, they were the first two names out of the little plastic balls when UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino was finally able to open the second after Davor Suker had tried and failed, and Ajax Amsterdam will take on Manchester United.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Have City knocked United off their perch?

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was quick to say that his team’s 6-1 mauling of arch-rivals United meant little more than another three points in the bag, but the Italian must surely be hoping it could signal a shift in the balance of power.

Having knocked Liverpool off their perch when they won a record 19th league title last season, United now face the prospect of playing second fiddle to City in England and Manchester, should their heaviest defeat to their neighbours in 56 years prove to be more than just a temporary setback.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Can’t win with kids? United just did.

“You can’t win anything with kids,” said former Liverpool defender Alan Hansen of Manchester United’s young team in 1995. Alex Ferguson’s troops went on to win the Premier League that season in 1996.

Are we about to see a similar outcome in the 2011/12 season after Ferguson hauled off the experienced trio of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Michael Carrick with United 2-0 down to rivals Manchester City before they staged a second-half comeback to win the Community Shield 3-2 on Sunday?

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

What next for pampered players — overcoats?

ISOCCER-ENGLAND blame the late, great Keith Weller of Leicester City.

He started the trend for "cold-weather clothing" when he pulled on a pair of white tights one winter's day in the 1970s.

He did not know it at the time, but that began the wimpish drift towards gloves, hats and now the ridiculous snoods, or neck warmers, being worn by the likes of Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, and most fetchingly, Marouane Chamakh of Arsenal in the last few weeks.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Will Rooney’s departure signal United’s decline?

SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/Wayne Rooney's demand for a move away from Manchester United has stunned manager Alex Ferguson, especially given the striker's poor form and support the club have given him through personal problems.

After winning three successive Premier League titles with United and the 2008 Champions League, Rooney enjoyed his best personal season with the club in 2009-10 -- when his impressive tally of 34 goals in all competitions was only enough to bring  the League Cup to Old Trafford.

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