Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

The sort of result that wins titles: Middlesbrough 0 United 2

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In Spain, you often hear players and coaches talking about "the sort of match that decides title races". More often that not they're talking about the tricky away game against awkward opposition rather than a high profile match against direct rivals.

Manchester United's 2-0 win away to Middlesbrough on Saturday was just that sort of game, and just the sort of performance that will leave their rivals utterly deflated.

It was a match that could easily have re-opened the championship. United were playing less than 72 hours after their Champions League semi-final first leg at home to Arsenal and three days before the return in London.

Middlesbrough are desperate for points, as they scrap it out at the bottom of the table, yet Alex Ferguson was able to rest a bunch of players and yet still see his team win with plenty to spare, thanks to goals from Ryan Giggs and and Park Ji-sung.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Can United and Villarreal improve for Champions League?

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Manchester United and Villarreal must find some misplaced form to get the away results they need in Wednesday’s Champions League second legs.

United, who visit Porto, have not looked like European and English champions recently and have a lot to do to reach the last four after last week’s disappointing 2-2 draw with the Portuguese side at Old Trafford.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Macheda highlights Serie A’s impatience with youth

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Serie A clubs are understandably upset about English sides scooping up youngsters such as Federico Macheda from their academies.

Lazio President Claudio Lotito cried foul after the 17-year-old, a product of the Rome club's youth system, scored a stunning winner for Manchester United against Aston Villa in his Premier League debut on Sunday.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Champions League draw — your views

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So, here we go again. For the fifth successive season, Liverpool will face Chelsea in the Champions League.

Quarter-finals:

Villarreal v Arsenal

Manchester United v Porto

Liverpool v Chelsea

Barcelona v Bayern Munich

Semi-finals:

Manchester United or Porto v Villarreal or Arsenal

Barcelona or Bayern Munich v Liverpool or Chelsea

Liverpool will perhaps be marginal favourites in the all-English quarter-final after knocking Chelsea out at the semi-final stage in 2005 and 2007 but their fans will need no reminding that last season, when Chelsea got to play the second leg at home, it was the Londoners who came through.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Nothing’s gonna stop United … just look at the fixture list

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My colleague Patrick Johnston has been wondering aloud about the effect a 4-1 defeat by Liverpool is going to have on Manchester United. He's in good company, because Guus Hiddink also believes the door is open a little bit.

The match must have been enjoyable for Liverpool fans but it's not going to have an effect on the title race.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Vlog on the Pitch talks title racing with Wenger

Join vlogmeister Owen Wyatt as he takes the plunge and asks John Arne Riise whether he's still a better player than Andrea Dossena, the man who replaced him at Anfield.

And talking of the Premier League, Arsene Wenger thinks Liverpool's title hopes are still alive, and that none of the top teams are playing to their full potential. Dare to disagree with Wenger? Let us know in the comments, or record your own video rant and send us a link. If we like it, we'll embed it here.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Real Madrid v Liverpool — what a difference two months make

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Back in December, when the draw for the first knock-out round of the Champions League was made, Liverpool could be forgiven for feeling pretty pleased with the prospect of renewing their acquaintance with Real Madrid. How different things look now.

Back then, Liverpool were top of the Premier League, six points ahead of a Manchester United side facing a fixture pile-up and struggling for form. Real Madrid, in apparent disarray after sacking coach Bernd Schuster, were 12 points behind Barcelona, having just lost 2-0 to their arch-rivals.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Stat anoraks in a frenzy over Van der Sar

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The anoraks have had to dig deeper and deeper into their stat books to deny Manchester United's Edwin van der Sar another goalkeeping record.

His side's 3-0 win over a toothless Fulham at Old Trafford on Wednesday took the 38-year-old Dutchman's unbeaten league run to 14 successive games and an astonishing 1,302 minutes.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Is Ferguson being generous saying it’s a two horse race?

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Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has dismissed Chelsea's Premier League title hopes, but given his side's run of form he is perhaps being generous to Liverpool by saying they still have a chance.

"The title race now is going to be between ourselves and Liverpool," Ferguson wrote in the programme for the 3-0 home win over Fulham that sent the champions five points clear of Liverpool and 10 ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea.

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