Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

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.

Ferguson and several pundits wasted no time in pointing out United were undone after central defender Jonny Evans was sent off for a professional foul early in the second half.

But City were already on top at that point and earned their extra man on the pitch by carving United open with a defence-splitting pass -- which left Evans only with the alternative of letting Mario Balotelli run through on goal.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

United get rude awakening

The plain sailing Manchester United would have expected in the group stage of their Champions League campaign has turned into a rough ride after Tuesday’s 3-3 home draw with Swiss side Basel, who were unlucky not to have come away from Old Trafford with the three points.

Two draws in their last two games, away to Stoke City in the Premier League and the late escape against Basel, will have rooted out any complacency that might have crept into Alex Ferguson’s men after their flying start to the season which included an 8-2 drubbing of Arsenal.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Champions League kicks off but is there only one winner?

Can any team steal Barcelona's Champions League crown this term?

The easy answer is no.

They were so strong last season that even the final against a good Manchester United side was a stroll.

This term Pep Guardiola's men have strengthened, if that was possible, with the additions of Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez so it is hard to look past them and their silky skills.

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:

Soccer Break Thursday – Champions League recap

SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/Where to start after four brilliant Champions League quarter-finals, even if the intrigue for next week's second legs has all but gone from three of the ties with Barcelona leading Shakhtar Donetsk 5-1, Real Madrid 4-0 up against Tottenham Hotspur and Schalke 04 in total charge against holders Inter Milan after the 5-2 triumph at the San Siro.

However, the appetite has most certainly been whet for the very probable 'Clasico' semi-final between Real and Barcelona, a meeting of the world's two best players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. April 26 or 27 and May 3 or 4. Do not miss these dates. Not that Spain's two leading clubs are thinking that far ahead.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Friday

SOCCER-WORLDThe first day of the fourth month means April fools day, so we would really love to hear from you if there are any dubious stories doing the rounds.

Here are some. Frank Lampard’s ‘goal that never was’ at the World Cup is to be finally given. Ronaldo will start playing for Spain. And here is a list of five other classics from the past.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Friday – Champions League draw special

SOCCER-EUROPA/Well well well. Now the Champions League really is wide open..

So here's that quarter-final draw again:

Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur

Chelsea v Manchester United

Barcelona v Shakhtar Donetsk

Inter Milan v Schalke 04

As Gary Lineker put it, there will be an English team in the semi-finals, but could Tottenham make it two sides? Real are certainly not invincible.

Now, before taking a look at all the domestic leagues over the weekend, a recap of Thursday's highlights from the Europa League. Quite a night of upsets.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Rooney strike — wonder goal or shinpad special?

SOCCER-ENGLAND/Wayne Rooney's overhead scissors kick goal to win the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Saturday has sparked a tidal wave of hyperbole in the British media, with "wonder goal" the most popular tag used to describe it.

The general consensus was not that it was just the nailed-on winner for "goal of the season" but was also the best of Rooney's career and even the best ever seen at Old Trafford.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Inter v Bayern means repeat of 2010 Champions League final

SOCCER-SPAIN/Holders Inter Milan will face Bayern Munich, the team they beat to clinch the trophy last season, in the Champions League last 16 with a repeat of the 2006 final also due after Barcelona were drawn to meet Arsenal. 

Bayern might actually be favourites given Inter's struggles so far this term while Barca and Lionel Messi destroyed Arsenal in the quarter-finals second leg last season despite the two sides' similar style of play.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Will United fans forgive and forget?

SOCCER-ENGLAND/Football fans are very forgiving types – if my football club were a person I’d have stopped speaking to it a long time ago.

Pretend for a minute you are Manchester United and Wayne Rooney is your best mate. He swears undying loyalty to you – it’s a friendship that will last forever. Then suddenly he tells you you’re basically not good enough for him and that you should get lost.

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