haunted - x__dejection

(no subject)

My LiveJournal Sitcom
xanderharrisfan And Me (TNN, 7:00): xanderharrisfan (Jessica Alba) and wiccan (Molly Ringwald) don't believe in modern dance. Meanwhile, becksgirls (Farrah Fawcett) accidentally throws away beckhamfamily (Jerry Orbach)'s hairbrush. Nearby, buffyquotes (Mila Kunis) gets in trouble with the law when bigirls_uk (Will Ferrell) discusses armchairs with an undercover cop. Also, soft_princess (Vanessa Redgrave) and soccerfans (Colin Farrell) sneak a salad into the dentist's office. On the other side of town, webdesign (Tom Cavanaugh)'s new friend alienates pagan (Brian Stokes Mitchell). Presented in HDTV.
What's Your LiveJournal Sitcom? (by rfreebern)
haunted - x__dejection

Manchester United 1-0 Bolon Wanderers

John O’Shea grabbed his first goal for United as the Reds defeated rock-bottom Wolves 1-0 at Old Trafford to stay amongst the early season front-runners.

United, with a much changed side from that which beat Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Saturday, always had the edge where possession was concerned, but Wolves carved out most of the serious openings.

It was almost twenty years since Wolves last set foot in Old Trafford with points at stake and on that occasion, (29th October 1983), it was United who claimed a 3-0 win with goals from Frank Stapleton 2 and Bryan Robson.

United, the FA Cup holders, were in the First Division’s top spot at the time having lost just two of their opening ten fixtures.

Ron Atkinson was in the hot seat at Old Trafford whilst Graham Hawkins was in charge of team affairs at Molineux, and surprise, surprise, Liverpool were the reigning league champions.

All of United’s summer arrivals were included in the squad for the first time. Eric Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson, Ronaldo and Tim Howard were all in the starting line-up, whilst David Bellion was named as one of United’s five substitutes.

Gary Neville, who was back in the side after recovering from an injury he picked up during the tour of America, was making his 250th league start for the club.

Wolves, in their classic old gold and black strip, included two former United favourites in the opening line-up. Defender Denis Irwin, who received a warm reception from the Old Trafford crowd, and Paul Ince, who got a somewhat cooler welcome.

United started brightly with Forlan figuring prominently in the early attacks. Twice United broke through during the opening exchanges but without success. Then, in the 10th minute, the Uruguayan provided the pass that gave John O’Shea the chance to put United in front.

The Reds were awarded a corner on the right which Forlan elected to take. He swung, left footed, into the area where O’Shea nodded home his first ever goal for the club.

Ronaldo, who started the evening wide on the left, switched to right soon after United’s goal and his Fred Astaire-style foot work had them swooning in the stands.

Wolves’ serious attempts on the United goal weren’t exactly a frequent occurrence, but they certainly went close in the 29th minute when Henri Camara’s shot flew within inches of Tim Howard’s crossbar.

Ronaldo looked all set to open his goalscoring account for the club when he received a neat through ball from Ruud van Nistelrooy in the 34th minute. The Portuguese international was well placed in the Wolves area, but he couldn’t control the ball the visitors were given time to clear.

Two minutes later, and Wolves should have been on level terms. Camara was sent clear with just Howard to beat but he put his shot wide of the left post.

Forlan, who’d had a good first half for the Reds, completed the first forty-five with two rasping shots that fizzed over Michael Oakes’ bar. Both were some distance from finding the target, but the crowd appreciated the striker’s willingness to have a go.

Remarkably, Camara was given another opportunity to put his side level as the half came to a close, but again he failed to beat Howard.

Alex Rae had the Wolves supporters singing his name in the 50th minute after he’d unleashed a low drive, which sizzled past the post.

Wolves looked lively in the opening few minutes of the second half with Camara also going close with two fine efforts; the second of which was a spectacular overhead that only just failed to dip over Howard’s outstretched arms.

United took on a more familiar look in the 67th minute when Sir Alex sent on Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes to replace Ronaldo and Kleberson. The Wolves’ fans chipped in with a slice of humour following the changes. “It’s not the real Ronaldo,” they chortled.

Wolves, having opened the season with two heavy defeats, 5-1 at Blackburn and 4-0 at home to Charlton Athletic, certainly didn’t look like a team capable of leaking goals at that alarming rate. United continued to dominate in terms of possession, but Wolves were ahead on points when it came to clear-cut scoring chances.

The game petered out towards the end with the Old Trafford crowd growing increasingly restless as Wolves pushed forward in search. The gold shirted side threatened continuously as the game reached its climax, but United, much to the relief of the fans, hung on to retain their 100 per cent start to the season.
haunted - x__dejection

yes yes I know I've not updated in aaaaages!

Let's start off with the Friday Five (yes... I know it's Sunday :P):

1. When was the last time you laughed?
Probably this afternoon, at one of Rob's jokes

2. Who was the last person you had an argument with?
Sabe - reckons West Ham United FC were right to sack Glenn Roeder :(

3. Who was the last person you emailed?
Kaz, for my Willow fic-a-thon assignment

4. When was the last time you bathed?
Couple of hours ago - washed my hair too

5. What was the last thing you ate?
Half a tube of Pringles
haunted - x__dejection

Newcastle United 1-2 Man U

United came from behind to beat Newcastle United at St James’ Park this afternoon (Saturday).

Alan Shearer gave the home side a first half lead, but goals from Ruud van Nistelrooy and Paul Scholes ensured another memorable victory on this famous old ground.

There was also a sensation midway through the first half when United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was banished from the dug-out. Fergie had let his feeling known following two refereeing decisions and his outburst resulted in him being sent from the United subs bench.

United appeared to be on the ropes for they went behind shortly afterwards but another spirited fightback saw them home in fine style, although not quite as spectacularly as last time United were in this part of the world.

The incredible result in the corresponding fixture last season still reverberates around Tyneside for the talk before the game was not so much about whether United (Manchester) would win the game, but by what margin.

That fantastic 6-2 win was of course something very special and will take a few more years to live down in the North East, but it certainly caused a few considerable ripples on the river Tyne.

United were without Quinton Fortune and Nicky Butt (both injured) from the side which won the FA Community Shield and best Bolton last Saturday. John O’Shea was drafted in to replace Fortune whilst Butt’s slot in midfield was filled by Eric Djemba-Djemba, making his first competitive start for the club.

Newcastle also had the injury problems with both Jonathan Woodgate and Craig Bellamy missing from the teamsheet.

The match almost opened in sensational fashion as United pushed forward in search of an early goal… and they almost succeeded. Ruud van Nistelrooy had a terrific shot palmed over by Shay Given and from the ensuing corner Mikael Silvestre’s firm header was block on the line by the Newcastle keeper.

And moments later the home fans were screaming for a penalty after Silvestre had halted Shola Ameobi’s progress in the area. Referee Uriah Rennie had a long look at the incident and decided there was no crime to be punished.

It was certainly an explosive start to this fixture, which always has its fair share of flying sparks and it wasn’t long before the game threatened to overheat again. Newcastle’s Andrew Griffin found his way into the referee’s notebook after bringing down van Nistelrooy. The locals were not too sure whether the foul warranted a yellow card but the man in the middle had no doubts.

Midway through the first half and the game turned sour for United. In the 23rd minute Sir Alex Ferguson was sent off following an altercation with fourth official Jeff Winter. The Reds’ boss had objected too vigorously after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Giggs had been brought down en route for goal. Giggs confronted referee Rennie after being taken out by Aaron Hughes but without success. Meanwhile, the boss was on the touchline making sure his opinions were heard. Rennie and Winter exchanged observations and moments later Ferguson ordered from the bench.

It was later suggested that the United boss was watching the action from the confines of Bobby Robson’s office.

Two minutes later and United's troubles were increased when Alan Shearer headed the home side into the lead. The Magpies’ skipper, perfectly positioned in the United area, scored with virtually a free header from Laurent Robert’s left wing free-kick. Silvestre was on hand, but appeared to loose his footing as the ball arrived.

It was a shocking double blow for United, but they managed to weather the storm well and for the remainder of the half they continued to press forward looking for the equaliser. Van Nistelrooy, Giggs, Solskjaer and Paul Scholes all had attempts on goal but as the half-time whistle sounded it was Newcastle who held the advantage.

Van Nistelrooy was given a great opportunity to put United on terms in the 50th minute when skipper sent him through with just Given to beat. The keeper moved quickly to narrow the angle and United’s deadly striker screwed his shot wide of the post.

Sixty seconds later, however, and United duly placed their name on the scoresheet. Keane, once again, provided the assist and van Nistelrooy the finish to put the Reds level.
It was the 10th successive league fixture in which the Dutch Master had found the net and also his 50th Premiership goal.

United should have been in front in the 56th minute after Solskjaer had crossed from the right. Van Nistelrooy got his head to the ball and it fell to Scholes’ feet but he couldn’t react and the chance passed.

Keane, having a masterful match in United’s midfield, was involved again, in the 59th minute when United moved into the lead. The captain sent over a teasing little cross from the right, which kidded the Newcastle defence before finding Scholes who directed the ball across the ball across the line with his chest.

A little of the steam had gone out of the game, but that didn’t stop van Nistelrooy from having his name taken after a bad challenge on Andrew Griffin.

Newcastle boss Robson upped the stakes in the 72nd minute when he made a triple substitution. A ploy obviously designed to inject a fresh spark into the home side.

Not to be outdone, United also made a switch sending on Cristiano Ronaldo for Solskjaer.

The sun was beaming down at St James’ Park as the game reached its conclusion with both sides striving relentlessly to find the net again.

Tim Howard, who’d enjoyed another fine match in United’s goal, made an important block in the closing stages as Michael Chopra was primed to shoot. The American charged out to smother the ball and kill off the Magpies’ final chance of the afternoon.

The home side could claim that they had the better of the first half, but nobody could deny that United had comeback in great style to snatch another famous victory in one of football’s true hotbeds.
haunted - x__dejection

Manchester United 4-0 Bolton Wanderers

United supporters found themselves a new hero figure as United overcame Greater Manchester neighbours Bolton Wanderers 4-0 at Old Trafford this afternoon.

The Reds stormed to an opening day victory with Ryan Giggs grabbing two of the goals, but it was new-boy Cristiano Ronaldo who took all the plaudits at the end following his debut which lasted just 29 minutes.

He replaced Nicky Butt to a torrent of roars from Old Trafford faithful and within seconds was tearing into the Bolton defence.

It was truly remarkable debut from the 18-year-old Portuguese wideman which had the Old Trafford hordes purring with admiration. And, if that’s a sample of what the future holds then the departure of David Beckham and Juan Sebastian Veron will soon be forgiven and forgotten!

And it was also a special day for Ruud van Nistelrooy who became the first player in United’s history to score in nine successive league matches.

Paul Scholes was United’s other scorer as began the defence of their Premiership title.

Taking into consideration the number of comings and goings at Old Trafford in recent weeks there was a familiar look to the Reds’ line-up when the teamsheet reached the press room.

United’s line-up was in fact exactly the same as that which started against Arsenal in the FA Community Shield game at the Millennium Stadium six days earlier.

There was no place for Eric Djemba-Djemba or Christiano Ronaldo, but both were given a slot on the substitutes’ bench alongside the more familiar Roy Carroll, Diego Forlan, John O’Shea.

Old Trafford was bathed in warm, summer sunshine as the opening game of the new Premiership campaign got underway with United defending the Stretford End goal. Several club presentations had got the crowd ‘warmed up’ and the noise was quite something from yet another sell-out attendance.

After a somewhat tentative start it was Bolton’s Finnish international keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen who first to pressed into serious action. A beautiful move involving several United players eventually saw the ball arrive at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s feet. The Norwegian striker had time to compose himself before launching a missile of a shot at the Bolton goal. Luckily, for the visitors, their keeper was fully alert to the danger and pulled off a terrific flying save.

Almost immediately the focus moved to the other of the field where United’s Tim Howard, making his league debut for the club, was forced to pull off an equally important save from Kevin Nolan. It was a shot-cum-cross from the player who’d scored in his two previous outings at Old Trafford, but the Stretford Enders were mighty pleased to see the USA international push it over the bar.

The game had certainly caught fire early for twice within the next few minutes there were chances at either end. Ryan Giggs just failed to reached a dangerous through ball whilst Nolan was guilty of poor control when he looked in a perfect position to strike.

Giggs was through again shortly afterwards but stumbled just as he was shaping to shoot and seconds later Kevin Davies fired over from a fine location in front of Howard’s goal.

Ten minutes before the break and United moved into the lead with a set-piece that until recently would have been the shared province of Messrs Beckham and Veron. Bruno N’Gotty, the Bolton defender, was shown the yellow card for balking Ruud van Nistelrooy. Giggs claimed the ball and moments later Jaaskelainen was picking it out of the net after the Welshman had claimed the first goal of the season with a curling shot in-off the left post.

Ivan Campo, who had been showing beautiful touches during the first half, almost broke through United’s defence in the closing minute of the half, but Phil Neville eventually halted his progress.

Bolton helped themselves to the first real chance of the second half when Davies played the ball into Nolan’s path. The stiker was well positioned but his shot fizzed by the post.

Reds’ skipper Roy Keane nipped in to dispossess the impressive Campo before chancing his luck with a rising drive that zoomed into the Stretford End.

Not to be outdone, Bolton captain Jay-Jay Okocha tried his luck with a low drive which Howard did well to smother.

Both managers made personnel changes early in the second half in an attempt inject fresh impetus into the game. Henrik Pedersen made way for Youri Djorkaeff in the Bolton side whilst Portuguese ‘wonder-kid, Ronaldo was sent on to make his debut in place of the withdrawn Nicky Butt.

“There’s Only One Ronaldo,” roared the Stretford End as the former Sporting Lisbon player made his way into the action.

And they were soon believing their own words when the 18-year-old showed terrific footwork in the visitors’ area with several Bolton players in close attention.

His reputation as being one of the hottest young properties in football was further enhanced in the 71st minute when another teasing run ended with Bolton’s Nicky Hunt taking him out. Van Nistelrooy stepped forward with a place in the United history books beckoning, but his attempt to score in his 9th consecutive league, which would have been a new club record, was wrecked when Jaaskelainen dived correctly to block his spot-kick.

United continued to seek a second goal and barely two minutes later they achieved their aim. Van Nistelrooy’s shot was blocked but not collected by the Bolton keeper and the ball ran free for Giggs to claim his second goal of the game.

Four minutes later and the game was put beyond Wanderers’ reach when Scholes added United’s third goal after substitute Eric Djemba-Djemba had made it all possible with a strong run and fine pass through the centre.

And three minutes from time van Nistelrooy duly claimed his place in history when he scored his first goal of the season to put United four-nil in the lead. It was enough to see him claim a nine-goal scoring run thus beating the previous record of eight which he shared with Busby Babe Liam Whelan.
haunted - x__dejection

Friendly: Stoke City 3-1 Man U

Manchester United completed their pre-season preparations with a 3-1 defeat against the Potters at Britannia Stadium last night.

It was their second consecutive reverse in the build-up to the new season, but whilst the Stoke fans reveled in the result it meant little where United were concerned. More importantly it gave several members of United's first team pool another run out before the big kick-off on Saturday.

The locals in the 21,436 crowd who congregated in the hope of seeing a battalion of United's mega-stars putting in an appearance in the Potteries must have been at least a little disappointed to find there was no Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Rio Ferdinand or Paul Scholes in the United line-up. Nonetheless there were no fewer than six full internationals in the United side which started the match.

The strains of 'Delilah', Stoke City's anthem, was reaching a crescendo in the 15th minute just as Chris Greenacre sent away Gifton Noel-Williams. The former Watford man had a clear view of Barthez's goal but he couldn't direct the ball past the French international.

Stoke had another great chance to steal a march on their illustrious visitors in the 23rd minute when John Eustace crossed from the left to Carl Asaba. The striker got in a firm header but Barthez dived to his left to make a spectacular save.

Both United new-boys on view, David Bellion and Eric Djemba-Djemba, had unsuccessful attempts on the Stoke goal during a first half in which the Reds rarely threatened to undo the Stoke defence.

United increased their firepower after the break with Daniel Nardiello joining Diego Forlan and Bellion up front with midfielder Nicky Butt the man making way.

Stoke 's supporters were given something substantial to cheer in the 59th minute when their team broke the deadlock. Substitute Marc Goodfellow running to a long through ball from midfield before rifling a low drive past Barthez.

Nine minutes later and Forlan put United level with a terrific shot that flew past Stoke keeper Neil Cutler from fully 25 yards. It was his fifth goal in three pre-season starts, a promising record.

Remarkably, the status quo was maintained for barely a minute with the home side regaining the lead when Goodfellow's drive of equal ferocity to Forlan's thudded against the bar before entering the net off Barthez's back.
haunted - x__dejection

Community Shield @ Cardiff: Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal AET, Manchester United win on penalties

Manchester United passed the first test of 2003/04 by winning the FA Community Shield on penalties, with new goalkeeper Tim Howard saving two of Arsenal's five spot-kicks.

The American denied Gio van Bronckhorst and then, decisively, Robert Pires to help the Reds win 4-3 in the shoot-out after the initial ninety minutes had ended 1-1. Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Diego Forlan all scored from the spot, but Ruud Van Nistelrooy failed for the first time in twenty penalties. His effort was saved by Arsenal's new goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.

Like most of the country, Cardiff was sweltering under sub-tropical temperatures as United and Arsenal locked horns in the annual pre-season joust between the previous season’s Premiership champions and FA Cup winners.

At least on this occasion the organisers had the good sense to stage the game with the Millennium Stadium’s roof open to the elements. United’s previous two games at the venue - two years ago against Liverpool in the FA Charity Shield and earlier this year against the same team in the Worthington Cup final - were played under a closed roof. Closing the roof may add to the noise and atmosphere but also makes the venue a little stifling.

United went into the match with a less than satisfactory record from their most recent appearances in the annual curtain-raiser – now called the FA Community Shield. Their last four games in the event all ended in defeat with two of those coming against the Gunners.

Both teams observed a minute’s silence before the kick-off as a mark of respect to United starlet Jimmy Davis who was so tragically killed in a road accident on Saturday morning. Both teams also wore black arm-bands.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard was the only one of United’s three close season recruits to start the game, whilst David Bellion and Eric Djemba-Djemba were amongst United’s seven named substitutes.
Arsenal kicked off, defending the end of the stadium where most of their supporters were congregated and within seconds most of those fans were on their feet demonstrating after Phil Neville had clattered Patrick Vieira close to the left touchline. The Arsenal skipper was quickly back on his feet whilst the Reds full-back received a rapid yellow card.

There were countless rows of empty seats amongst the Arsenal supporters which didn’t go unnoticed by the Reds who quick to taunt the Londoners with the chant of; “Part-time supporters.” Unsurprisingly, it was the United fans who were making most of the noise and in the 15th minute they were given the opportunity raise the volume even further when the Reds moved into the lead. Ryan Giggs sent over a corner from the right, which found Roy Keane at the near post. The Reds’ skipper nodded the ball into the area and there was defender Mikael Silvestre to provide the finishing touch.

Arsenal were not in arrears for long. In the 20th minute French international Thierry Henry grabbed the equaliser with a cracking free-kick. Nicky Butt had appeared to foul Vieira about twenty-five yards out. The United midfielder escaped with a finger-wagging from referee Steve Bennett, but Arsenal retribution was quick to arrive when Henry cracked the set-piece past United’s keeper Howard on his competitive debut for the club.

United almost regained the lead in the 33rd minute when Giggs headed against the Arsenal woodwork. Phil Neville provided the cross, and when Ryan's effort came back off the post, Ruud van Nistelrooy was unable to make the most of the rebound, also hitting the frame with his header.

The ploy which brought United’s goal almost worked again in the 42nd minute but Silvestre, who was again first to Giggs’ corner, couldn’t get the right direction on his header. United also went close a few seconds later when Giggs was sent away down the left. The Welsh winger, appearing once again in his home town, attempted to lob Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann but the ball ended up on the roof of the net. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer then blasted a shot against Lehmann’s side-netting and Fredrik Ljungberg hit a rising drive as the tempo increased during the moments before the break.

There hadn’t been much to choose between the teams during the half, but there could be no doubting both teams’ commitment to the game. This was no pre-season friendly in the accepted usage of the term. United and Arsenal both looked determined to open the campaign with a trophy in the cabinet. The Gunners made two changes for the second half with Sylvan Wiltord and Robert Pires replacing Henry and Ray Parlour.

United had a penalty claim waved away in the first minute of the second when van Nistelrooy fell following a challenge in the box. Referee Bennett would have none of it and the game was allowed to continue.

Scholes became the second United player to be yellow-carded after felling Lauren in the 53rd minute.

Pires was presented with a good opening when Wiltord sent him clear with two United defenders giving chase, but his shot went tamely wide of Howard’s goal.

There was another yellow card for United in the 59th minute when Quinton Fortune’s name went into the ref’s notebook after clashing with Ljungberg.

Eric Djemba-Djemba, United’s summer capture from Nantes, was given his debut in the 61st minute as a direct replacement for Scholes in United’s midfield.

Another United favourite John O’Shea was thrust into the action (in place of Fortune) in the 69th minute and he was quickly involved sending Giggs away on another sortie. The Welshman’s tricky lob sailed over the target.

The simmering rivalry between these two teams came to the boil again in the 75th minute when substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card after tangling with Phil Neville. Several players, from both teams, raced to the incident but the referee soon restored order.

Fifteen minutes later, the ref had to organise a penalty shoot-out to settle the fixture. It started with Scholes scoring from the spot for United and finished with Howard saving the fifth Arsenal effort by Pires. Not for the first time in 2003, the Reds had been held to a score draw by their arch-rivals but had emerged as the ultimate victors, lifting silverware aloft. Here's to more in 2004.

(from ManUtd.com)
haunted - x__dejection

Sporting Lisbon 3-1 Man U

Manchester United have closed their pre-season tour of the USA and Portugal with a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Sporting Lisbon in the 55,000 capacity Jose Alvalade Stadium.

The Reds officially opened Sporting's impressive new ground - named after the Viscount of Alvalade who founded the club in 1906 - and showed off their new midfielder, Eric Djemba-Djemba, on the day that Juan Sebastian Veron left the team for talks over a move to Chelsea.

As well as Djemba-Djemba, Fabien Barthez and Mikael Silvestre made their first appearances of pre-season, having been rested following their participation in the summer's Confederations Cup tournament. Diego Forlan missed out the match, which the Reds needed to win to finish their Community Shield preparations with a 100% record, with a thigh strain.

Ruud van Nistelrooy started the match on the bench, leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer upfront with Paul Scholes just behind him. Nicky Butt captained the side, providing a very strong heart of midfield. John O'Shea switched to right-back, meanwhile, to allow Silvestre to partner Rio in the centre of defence.

The Reds have links with the Lisbon outfit, as Sporting are one of the many teams around the globe to have entered an alliance with United - with the Portugese benefiting from United's coaching and the Old Trafford outfit having the pick of their young stars. Add to that Peter Schmeichel's arrival here in 1999, when the Dane helped them to win the League - and the term "friendly" may never have been more apt.

A laser show kicked proceedings off in the new stadium, with a huge curtain surrounding the pitch until just before the start of the match. It was dropped in dramatic effect to reveal what would prove to be a less-than-perfect playing surface, and after the pomp and ceremony, the match could begin.

Sporting, looking like United's first pre-season opponents, Celtic, in their green-and-white hooped shirts, kicked off the stadium's inaugural match.

The clash started slowly, with the Reds - Fabien Barthez and John O'Shea in particular - struggling to come to terms with the newly-laid turf that cut up very easily. Djemba-Djemba, meanwhile, took to life in the United engine room like a particularly aggressive duck to water.

With the midfields dominating, the first shot in anger did not arrive until the eighteenth minute, when Sporting's Rochemback powered the ball just over the bar from way outside the area. Barthez, who had slipped again on the surface, watched the ball sail into the crowd with relief. Two minutes later young Lisbon striker Cristiano Ronaldo - linked with Juventus - fired a powerful shot that Fabien did very well to block. His namesake in Madrid would have been proud of the effort as the home side upped the tempo.

Midway through the half, debutant Djemba-Djemba tried an effort from distance that was inches from crowning the perfect start to his Reds career. The strength and power of the run that took him to within shooting distance hinted at the contribution he will be making in the 2003/04 season. He'll be a force to be reckoned with.

But the next minute, the Reds found themselves in arrears. Rio Jorge crossed in from the left, the ball evaded the whole United defence and fell to Filipe at the far post who made no mistake in side-footing past Barthez. Sporting, who had lost all four of their pre-season matches so far, were leading the team who had been victorious in all four of theirs to date.

Ten minutes before the break, any damage Fabien's reputation has suffered was undone with a superb diving save from the Frenchman to redirect Beto's goal-bound strike wide of the post.

One change was made by Lisbon at the break, but it wasn't a substitution. In a move reminiscent of United at The Dell in 1996, they swapped their kit from green and white to their gold and black away strip. The Reds made a tactical change, meanwhile, pushing David Bellion upfront alongside Ole with Paul Scholes moving to the right of midfield.

Six minutes into the second period, a superb through-ball from Joao Pinto found Ronaldo in the box, but despite a lot of jinking he couldn't put Fabien off and his shot was smothered by the World Cup winner. Straight afterwards, Mark Lynch replaced John O'Shea - who along with Rio Ferdinand had started all five pre-season matches.

And just before the hour mark, Sir Alex made a triple substitution - bringing on Phil Neville, Danny Pugh and Darren Fletcher for Butt, Richardson and Scholes. Fletcher in particular has impressed everyone, especially the manager, during the pre-season campaign and could hope to make an impact on the first team this season.

The new-look team conceded a goal almost immediately, however. Pinto, who has eighty caps for Portugal, got his head to a well-taken free-kick, and one of the shortest men on the pitch headed past Barthez to give the home side a 2-0 advantage. Suddenly the proud 100% record was looking in danger.

With twenty minutes to go, Ronaldo charged towards goal yet again with one thing on his mind - making the game safe for Sporting. A fabulous save from Fabien prevented that from happening, though. Ten minutes later Ruud van Nistelrooy came on for Fortune as the manager attempted to get something out of the game.

But before Ruud could touch the ball the Reds were 3-0 down. A Joao Pinto strike from the edge of the area beat Barthez all ends up, and the home fans went wild. A late own-goal from the home side gave United some consolation for their night's work, but at that point - with two minutes to go - all the players wanted to do was get home.

3-1 the final score, and it was a shame to end such a successful tour on a losing note. Fatigue and jet-lag coupled with a poor playing surface combined to end the 100% record, but maybe it's best to remind ourselves that we're not invincible. For now, anyway.

(from ManUtd.com
haunted - x__dejection

Manchester United 3 Barcelona 1(@ Philadelphia)

Manchester United rounded off their USA Tour with a fourth win in four matches as the Reds saw off Barcelona 3-1 here at the Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night.

The success of the tour can measured both by Sir Alex Ferguson’s verdict – he claims it is the best pre-season tour the team has been on – and by United’s results. With 14 goals in four games, and only three conceded – with considerable note to the level of opposition - United look in great shape for the start of season 2003/04.

However, it didn’t start off so smoothly here at the brand new Lincoln Financial Field.

Ronaldinho, named in Barcelona’s side for the first time since snubbing United in preference of the Catalans, looked particularly dangerous. The army of Reds fans among the 68, 396 crowd were left wondering what might have been as the Brazilian produced some fine trickery in the opening exchanges – the same skilfullness that so attracted Sir Alex to the former PSG midfielder earlier this summer.

And it was somewhat ironic – although perhaps predictably in the script – that Ronaldinho would make the first telling influence on the game. Stood confidently with the ball at his feet on the edge of the 18-yard box, the Brazilian took what seemed like an age without being closed down to pick out Kluivert’s clever run into the penalty area. A lovely flighted Ronaldinho cross found the Dutchman lurking at close range, and he powered a header past the unfortunate Tim Howard.

Unfortunate because only moments earlier, Howard had pulled off an amazing save to keep the score at 0-0, denying targetman Kluivert. The Dutchman burst through on goal and looked odds on to score after just eight minutes of play. But Howard managed to claw Kluivert’s shot to safety in a save reminiscent of the great Peter Schmeichel.

Ronaldinho continued to threaten the United goal with one shot that fizzed past the upright, and another strike that flew over the bar. United were struggling to contain the Nou Camp club.

Diego missed a golden opportunity to bring the scores level on the quarter hour mark, but he lifted the ball fractionally too high over Victor Valdes in the Barca goal, and the Catalans were let off the hook.

United were missing the guile and strength up front that Ruud van Nistelrooy, who started on the bench, so readily supplies.

Fergie’s side were again frustrated after 22 minutes when Darren Fletcher, starting on the right-hand side for United, picked out Ryan Giggs with a glorious 50-yard pass. The Welshman seemed to get one move ahead of himself in lining up his shot, momentarily taking his eye off the ball and allowing Michael Reiziger the chance to steal in and spoil his shot.

But it didn’t take long for the frustration to be lifted. Halfway through the first half, Giggs picked up the ball in a similar position to Ronaldinho for Barca’s goal. He found Forlan making a late run into the box, and from his cross, Diego fired in a diving header to haul United back into the game.

Ferguson's side began to control the midfield with Keane and Butt influential – and the outstanding Quinton Fortune managing to curtail Ronaldinho’s forays down the right side. And on 37 minutes, United got their just reward. Phil Neville fed a ball through to Nicky Butt on the right wing and his cross deflected off Oscar Lopez with Diego Forlan on hand to make it two for the evening, four for the tour.

It was Barcelona who had taken the game to United early on, but the key battle in midfield, and some clinical finishing from Diego saw United wrest the momentum from Barcelona’s grasp.

Barcelona’s attacking poise was largely stunted at half time when the dangerous pair, Ronaldinho and Patrick Kluivert, were among four half time substitutions.

Tim Howard continued to impress with a handful of second half saves – one in particular from a free kick taken by Xavi. The ball looked to be heading for the top corner of Timmy's goal, but his agility saw him palm the ball away.

Two-goal Diego made way for Ruud van Nistelrooy in the 53rd minute, and Darren Fletcher, who, despite three glorious passes, looked slightly out of position on the right, came off for David Bellion.

Van Nistelrooy instantly made a difference, and looked threatening whenever he received the ball. Ruud often had two or three defenders on his back, and it may have taken 32 minutes, but the Dutchman got himself on the scoresheet.

Patrick Anderson dawdled on the ball for a split second too long, and Ruud ruthlessly dispossessed him, held off the challenge from Oscar Lopez, rounded the keeper and scored his fourth in four games in the US – there seems no stopping United’s deadly Dutch striker.

It was fitting that Ruud, who has won a lot of friends in America on this tour, should sign off with another impressive strike to add to his already impressive collection.
haunted - x__dejection

Manchester United 4-1 Juventus (@ New Jersey)

Manchester United smashed four goals past Juventus to make it three wins out of three on the USA Tour here in New Jersey.

On the third leg of the tour of America, United made the short trip to New Jersey from the team’s Manhattan headquarters, and ruthlessly beat Serie A champions Juventus in front of a record 79,005 Giants Stadium crowd.

This magnificent Meadowlands stadium witnessed four equally impressive goals from United – Giggs, Scholes, Ruud and Ole all getting in the act, dwarfing Pavel Nedved’s consolation strike for Juve.

Ruud van Nistelrooy’s goal – an absolutely exquisite volley - was the pick of the bunch. Controlling Veron’s lofted pass with his chest, United’s Dutch striker swivelled to set himself for the volley and rifled the ball home - all in one majestic movement.

Pre-season tests don’t come much tougher than Serie A winners and Champions League finalists, Juventus. But United made the Italians look mediocre in the first half. The Reds' slick passing in the first 45 minutes left Juve as mere spectators at times.

United exerted pressure on their familiar foes early on, van Nistelrooy and Giggs both attempted to chip Buffon in the Juve goal. Unfortunately, Giggs’ effort was underhit and fell into the Italian stopper’s arms, whereas Ruud’s lofted shot was overhit, and sailed over the crossbar.

On 20 minutes, Ruud forced Buffon to punch clear with a stinging close-range effort, and Seba Veron failed to beat the keeper from the rebound.

Juventus weren’t completely without chances of their own, however. Edgar Davids curled a shot just over the bar, and the impressive Tim Howard - making his United debut in front of a home crowd – was forced to earn his keep by pulling off a handful of good stops.

It took 25 minutes for the deadlock to finally be broken, and it fell in United's favour. Scholes was felled on the edge of the box and, dare I say it, in the absence of David Beckham, it was Ryan Giggs who stepped forward to take the resulting free kick. A strike that Beckham himself would have been proud of was the result. Giggs’ wonderfully placed free kick nestled in the back of the net, to rapturous applause from United’s trans-atlantic followers. And 1-0 it stayed until the interval.

United came out after the break and seemed to take their foot off the pedal, but only momentarily. Ole twisted and turned in the Juventus penalty area just before the hour and, before sending three black-and-white-striped defenders completely the wrong way, fed the ball to Paul Scholes, who duly doubled United's lead.

In rampant mood at this point, it didn’t take long for the Reds to make it three. Seba spotted Ruud in the penalty area on the hour mark, and lofted a ball into the the Dutchman's path. In one elegant pirouette, Ruud brought the ball down on and lashed it into the top corner of the net.

“Ruud, Ruud, Ruud…” rang out around the ground from United’s jubilant fans - the Juventus supporters sat silently. ”Juve, Juve what’s the score…?” taunted the Reds.

Marcelo Lippi immediately acknowledged something needed to be changed to stop the rot. Ten outfield substitutions was the result.

As the public announcer struggled to identify each and every Juve substitution, Paul Scholes rattled the upright, and Sir Alex too decided to make a change. The United manager's alterations were meagre by comparison. Only three changes. Scholes departed for Bellion, Ruud made way for Forlan and Veron came off for Darren Fletcher.

Compliments don’t come much bigger than being handed a central-midfield role alongside Roy Keane - and David Beckham’s old shirt number. But such an accolade, bestowed upon 19-year-old Darren Fletcher by Sir Alex, befits his undoubted potential.

And the young Scot immediately proved it by stamping his authority on the game. Latching on to a Quinton Fortune pass, Fletcher cleverly feigned to shoot before setting up Roy Keane, who shot narrowly went over. Competing with the likes of Pavel Nedved can only enhance his career prospects at United.

For all United's pressure, and with twenty minutes remaining, it was the new-look Juventus team who managed to find the net next. Juve looked genuinely dangerous for the first time in the match as the brilliant Pavel Nedved – one of the 11 subs - started pulling the strings in midfield.

And it was the Czech international who finally broke down United’s stubborn back four. Nedved slid the ball into David Trezeguet on the edge of the box, and went for the return before rifling past Tim Howard in United’s goal.

Howard was again called into action moments later to produce an amazing double-save from Trezeguet and Del Piero to preserve United's 3-1 lead.

And on 79 minutes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wrapped things up for United with a strike bearing at least some resemblence to van Nistelrooy’s goal. Ole chested down Forlan’s cross-field pass before rifling the ball home and completeing an impressive night’s work for United.

It could have been an even more comprehensive victory but for the misfortune of Diego Forlan. Forlan impressed with his approach play but spurned two glorious goalscoring opportunities. Placing the ball the wrong side of the post in the 74th minute was forgiveable. But an 89th-minute open-goal miss to rival Ryan Giggs’ faux pas in the FA Cup last season, left the Meadowlands crowd somewhat stunned.

All in all though, a thoroughly enjoyable game left many Reds not bothered by the late evening rain here at the Giants Stadium - most of whom walked away still talking about that Ruud van Nistelrooy goal.

(report from ManUtd.com