Manchester United

Liverpool vs Manchester United preview

Tomorrow’s top of the table clash between Liverpool and Manchester United will be the first time in more than 20 years, that these two arch-rivals will be squaring off as first and second in the table.

The rivalry might have died in recent years it could be argued. With United top of the league and leading by three points, reigning champions Liverpool will want to and be eager to make up ground on their arch-rivals.

Win and The Reds are top, lose and Liverpool will be further behind. They won’t be out of the title race, especially since Man United will need to still play Man City, Tottenham and Leicester.

Trying to claw back a six-point deficit, although not impossible won’t be easy.

This Manchester United team, although not being at their sparkling best, they have been good enough to win several matches this year.

Merseyside club Liverpool have a very proud home record, and The Red Devils are unbeaten in 15 games away from home. The game between these two promises to be a classic.

Rashford and co coming up against a patched-up Liverpool defence, but Jurgen’s men have on the whole done well this term despite a depleted team sheet.

United’s defence, having conceded six against Tottenham earlier this season, have somewhat tightened up in recent weeks.

The return to form and fitness of Eric Bailly has been crucial to this renaissance. Ivorian Bailly, will be crucial to Manchester United’s hopes of getting a positive result from this top of the table clash at Anfield.

Liverpool centre back Joel Matip, who is close to full fitness, will be assessed before a decision is made to see if the former Schalke will feature .

As for the visitors United, Anthony Martial, Victor Lindelof and midfielder Nemanja Matic will be looking to prove their fitness.

As for my prediction, sorry to be nice and boring … I am going for a 1-1 draw. But what do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Sports and COVID-19

For the past year, it’s dominated our lives and it’s dominated the news headlines too. I am not referring to Brexit, which in amongst itself has been a constant topic on everyone’s lips, I am indeed talking about the Coronavirus (Covid19). What started in December 2019 it’s believed (hence the name) has been a topic and an issue that’s still just as prevalent as it was over 12 months ago.

The virus has affected all aspects of life. From work, to shopping, to getting  a haircut and sports athletes too.  Supermarkets were rationing, which in turn lead to a Royal Rumble in its own right. In England and the rest of the UK is in yet another lockdown, where barber shops are closed and a lot of shops- recognised shops from the high street are closed. Here, I want to talk about the Coronavirus from more of the sporting side of things.

As mentioned, sports stars/athletes have been affected by Covid19 with many of these sports stars we adore and idolise suffering from Covid. So sports has been carrying on, but not with some of the worlds best and most known athletes. Football matches have been cancelled and rearranged and sports like snooker are just competing in one arena.

This year’s snooker masters tournament, just like with the other snooker tournaments that have been in a bubble environment. Cricket has been the same too, but in this article I want to talk about sports and is sports setting a bad example during covid?

Well, yes sport is but at the same time, I feel sport is unfairly targeted. Problems in the world, such as racism .. it seems like sport is solely responsible to sort the problems of society on the whole. The other side of this topic is, there’s been moments like football players clearly breaching lockdown guidelines, but at the same time the nations Prime Minister has fallen foul of the rules too.

Now if our leader isn’t following the rules, then how can we single out sports stars? There has been incidents such as India’s cricketers being seen at a Melbourne restaurant. Or the fact the Milijovic and Mitrovic been seen together.

But the one case which really took the biscuit was Manchester United’s women taking a trip to Dubai. This has caused a knock on affect in this current time for the women’s game. Sport has been seen by many as being some form of antidote to those who have mental vulnerabilities during this lockdown.

Sounding a bit like Liverpool of old?

Get excited about leading the Premier League in January, constantly bringing up past glories and saying this is our year …. No I am not talking about Liverpool. It might be hard to believe, but in fact I am talking about Manchester United.

The United players don’t do this of course, but the fans have and even the statisticians are too. Man United’s 1-0 win over Burnley, put The Red Devils three points clear at the top of the Premier League. It’s been their first time since 2013 and that was when a certain Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge that his has happened.

Cue, the over-reaction theatre …. They still need to play the champions at Anfield and games with Chelsea as well as Man City wait too. City, are resurgent it must be stated and in John Stones and Ruben Diaz, The Citizens arguably have the best defence in the league.

Sir Alex has been retired for seven years, but the narrative is always obsessed with him. He was a great man, a brilliant manager but please United fans give it a rest. You sound like a guy who is obsessed with his ex, who knows isn’t coming back and he full well knows but still wants to pine for her return.

United fans are craving for their former love, but Sir Alex is seeing other people and so should Man United fans too. I am not that old to fully relate (honest I am 34), but I get the impression that before this title win of last season, Liverpool fans would talk about Bill Shankly, even though he had long departed the Anfield dugout.

Liverpool have moved on to pastures new and have Jurgen Klopp at the helm. The future looks bright for The Merseysiders. I find it ironic, that what Manchester United fans criticised Liverpool fans of doing, this is what they’re doing themselves.

The, “this is our year brigade as I call them” seems to have moved to Old Trafford. What you work so hard to avoid, is what you sometimes end up becoming.

FA Cup fourth and fifth round draw

Manchester United and Liverpool face each other in what is the tie of the fourth round. Due to the coronavirus, both the fourth and fifth round draw were done on the same day.

The Red Devil’s who were last years semi-finalists face Liverpool, who of course won the Premier League last season after a 30 year wait. These two Premier league giants, are due to face other in the league this month, and this extra game between the two sides, has all the ingredients to be a classic.

In some other ties of note, third round giant killers Crawley are rewarded with an away game to Championship high-flyers Bournemouth. Fellow giant killers Chorley face Premier League Wolves, and if the Lancashire side beat Wanderers, then holders Arsenal could be awaiting in round five.

The remaining minnow left in the draw (Stockport, at time of writing), could face the mouth watering prospect of facing United in an alternate Manchester Derby match up.

Here is the full draw of the FA Cup fourth and fifth round;

FA Cup fourth-round draw

Cheltenham Town v Manchester City

Bournemouth v Crawley Town

Swansea City v Nottingham Forest

Manchester United v Liverpool

Southampton/Shrewsbury v Arsenal

Barnsley v Norwich

Chorley v Wolves

Millwall v Bristol City

Brighton v Blackpool

Wycombe v Tottenham

Fulham v Burnley

Sheffield United v Plymouth

Chelsea v Luton

Stockport/West Ham v Doncaster

Brentford v Leicester

Everton v Sheffield Wednesday

FA Cup fifth-round draw

Fulham/Burnley v Bournemouth/Crawley Town

Manchester United/Liverpool v Stockport/West Ham or Doncaster

Sheffield United/Plymouth v Millwall/Bristol City

Chorley/Wolves v Southampton/Shrewsbury or Arsenal

Barnsley/Norwich v Chelsea/Luton Town

Everton/Sheffield Wednesday v Wycombe/Tottenham

Swansea City/Nottingham Forest v Cheltenham Town/Manchester City

Brentford/Leicester v Brighton/Blackpool

Saturday FA Cup Round up

In a season, that started late due to the ongoing Covid situation, this year’s FA Cup third round got under way, pretty much as per usual.

Marine, Chorley and Stockport are three sides from Non-League football and have done brilliantly to get this far.

At time of writing, Lancastrians Chorley shocked the footballing world with a 2-0 win against Championship side Derby.

Upon further reflection, it can be argued that this result for Chorley, isn’t that much of a shock due to The Rams’ first team squad being depleted . This has been due to a Covid outbreak in the East Midlands side first team.

The fourth round and fifth round draw, will be taking place later on today. Manchester United who are one of the most successful teams in the FA Cup , put their name into the hat for round four with a hard-fought 1-0 win against Championship play-off chasing Watford.

Despite The Hornets having plenty of good moments in the game, Watford weren’t able to fashion too many good chances and can arguably see this as a chance lost in getting to round four.

Holders Arsenal, beat Newcastle 2-0, to carry on their recent good form. The Gunners left it late, and they need Extra Time to get through.

Andy Carrol had a great chance in normal time for The Magpies , but the striker missed a chance, which can only be described as a sitter.

West Brom, are still yet to win under new Head Coach Sam Allardyce, after his West Brom side were beaten on penalties by League one side Blackpool.

Fellow Premier League strugglers Sheffield United won for the first time in six months, after they beat League two side Bristol Rovers 3-2.

There’s plenty more action to commence later today, with matches including Marine vs Tottenham, Newport vs Brighton and Manchester City vs Birmingham.

Here at ayyazmalik.com, we will be providing a round up of today’s matches this evening. See you then!

A season like no other

After Leicester City, shocked the footballing world by winning the Premier League title against the odds, this year’s title race is promising to be something similar to that of four years ago.

To emphasise that point, just four points are separating joint league leaders Manchester United & Liverpool and Everton in seventh.

Champions Liverpool, are due to face United this month, in what will be a crucial game for both sides.

But the unpredictability factor has been there too. Southampton have been top of the Premier League, for the first team in their history . Tottenham also have been top of the league, which is something they haven’t done for some time.

What has made this season, stand out however is that there have been some surprising results, there is a perception of more of an even playing field.

Aston Villa’s 7-2 mauling of Liverpool comes into mind and The Reds’ 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

That result for Liverpool in South London is a result not to be sniffed at, as Roy Hodgson’s men are no pushovers.

Many observers see the Premier League as the best in the league, but at the top of the Premier League, it tends to be a foregone conclusion (last year for example).

The season before that, we witnessed what was arguably one of the best title races in years. Manchester City narrowly edged out rivals, Liverpool, by a single point. That year was special as both teams got above 90 points.

Whereas this season, arguably won’t be a season like that pointwise, the excitement is most definitely there, due to the anyone being able to beat anyone affect. In Europe, it’s been the same too.

Usual league leaders of Germany Bayern Munich, maybe top, but they just don’t seem like themselves, in France PSG, are third.

Yes, the champions may only be a point behind leaders Lyon, but it’s a surprise that any other team are compete against The Parisians this year.

In Scotland (predictable Scotland), Celtic are not top! The top spot goes to Rangers who built up a 19 point lead at the top.

There may be three games in hand for The Hoops, but they still have to win those games. In Italy, Juventus who have won their domestic title for the past seven seasons, are languishing in sixth.

The Old Lady’s win against leaders AC Milan might have revived a faltering title charge, but this year has been a year like no other.

No one will forget 2020 in a hurry that’s for sure.

Tottenham, are through to final after Brentford win

Tottenham Hotspur booked their place in the final of the Carabao Cup after a 2-0 win over Brentford. The West London side, did beat Premier League side Newcastle 1-0 in the last round to get here.

With that in mind, it was evident that The Bees would be no pushover in this game. Brentford have had to rebuild after the sales of Said Benrahma and star forward Ollie Watkins.

To their credit after an arguably slow start, are competing within the higher reaches of the Championship again.

Key to this, has been Ivan Toney, the 26-year old former Newcastle and Peterborough striker has scored and impressive 16 goals this term.

The homeside Tottenham, knew that if they were to progress in this one, they will need to keep Toney quite and star forwards Harry Kane and Son Heung Min will need to perform.

Perform they did. Despite Brentford having, bright moments in this game, Spurs through goals by Mohammed Sissoko and Son, are through to the final, at the expense of the visitors Brentford, who were in their first competitive semi-final in their history.

A red card for Brentford’s Josh Da Silva, effectively ended any chance that the visitors had in progressing to the final.

For Tottenham, this is their chance to get their hands in silver for the first time since 2008, when they won this competition by beating Chelsea 2-1 that day.

Despite losing this semi-final, Brentford exit this tournament, with their heads held high.

They have clearly shown by their performances this year in the Championship and Carabao Cup, they are a very capable team and are a match for any one.

Come May, they will be back in the promotion race for sure.

This Tottenham team, have gone some way to show that they’re now ready to move to the next level. Jose’s back, Manchester City or Manchester United … you’re next are you ready?

The Red Devils turn good, to defeat The Villains

Goals from Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes, helped Manchester United battle to a 2-1 win against Aston Villa.

The Red Devil’s, who before the start of kick off, knew that if they beat The Villains, they would go joint top of the table with arch-rivals Liverpool, took the lead through under fire striker Anthony Martial.

If Man United thought that goal would make things easier for them on the night, then Aston Villa were about to prove that to not the case after Trarore levels for the visitors.

To ruin my prediction for this game, United would find a winner through Fernandes’ penalty.

The Portuguese star, made no mistake from the spot, after appearing to get fouled, a decision which didn’t please Midlands side Aston Villa and their boss Dean Smith.

Despite not being at their fluent best, United move level on points with league leaders Liverpool.

As for Villa, they stay sixth. This season, is only just getting warmed up!

Premier League Preview

With 2020, coming to an end, I Ayyaz Malik take a look at this round of fixtures as the Premier League gets towards the half way stage.

The match between Manchester United and Aston Villa, promises to be a good game for the neutral.

The Red Devil’s, on the whole have struggled at home, come against a Villa side that is competing towards the top of the table.

With the signings of Ross Barkley and Ollie Watkins, The Villains won’t be an easy game for United . Chelsea and Liverpool can verify that.

This game, I see it as a 1-1 draw, a better result for Aston Villa no doubt, but Dean Smith’s side are an opponent not to be underestimated.

Other games across the fixture list see Liverpool come up against Southampton. This game may seem a forgone conclusion, but due to Liverpool’s recent struggles, it’s anything but.

Having said that, I think Liverpool will edge this one 1-0 and return to winning ways in the process .

Last years title rivals to Liverpool Manchester City, square up to Chelsea, a team tipped to challenge.

In fact both City and The Blues were tipped to be serious title contenders, but it’s not quite panned out like that this year, despite Chelsea going on a 17 game unbeaten run.

Since then, Frank Lampard’s men have lost to Everton, Wolves and Arsenal. I don’t see them getting back to winning ways here.

My prediction, Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea.

The last game, I wanted to review was Tottenham, who were joint top just recently, up against a resurgent Leeds who have won their last two games quite comfortably with an aggregate scoreline of 6-0.

The Lillywhites Leeds, who have impressed since returning to the Premier League after a 16 year absence, will prove a stern test for Jose’s side. With this one, I see this one ending Tottenham 2-1 Leeds.

That’s your Premier League review. Have a good weekend!

Dear Jurgen, a letter from The Sports Buff

Dear Jurgen,

Hi, you don’t know me but we need to talk. My name is Ayyaz Malik, Aka The Sports Buff. I am a sports writer and talk about sport too (for those who are kind enough to listen). As a Man United fan, it’s hard to say this, but congratulations on becoming Premier League champions.

Four and a half years ago, many of us United fans were no doubt jealous you chose Anfield over Old Trafford.

Purely from a sporting point of view, the move seems to be justified.

A Club World Cup, Super Cup, Champions League and now Premier League trophy shows you’re a great manager.

You might look like you should have been in the Bee Gees, but football fans make no mistake about it you have achieved greatness.

One of the best teams in the Premier League era, Manchester City were conquered this year with ease.

This is the English Premier League, you will say but the records your Liverpool team have broken speaks volumes in itself.

This isn’t me just being a bitter Manchester United fan here, but I express caution. Look at my team Manchester United.

Their manager from 1986-2013 was Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably one of the greatest, if not greatest club managers in the British game.

Sir Alex was a master of building teams for four, maybe five seasons and then making subtle delicate changes to it.

Jurgen please look at the example of Fergie. If you think this is blatant appraisal of the former United manager, that’s not the case.

Ferguson was the master of being steps ahead of his rivals when his United teams would be crowned champions.

Sir Alex Ferguson, would always be on the prowl for talent that could help better his team for many seasons to come and not just for the short term.

That changed in what would be now known as the last season of his reign.

Where players for the now and future were bought, Robin Van Persie a 29-year old from Arsenal who was in the peak of his years was signed in Sir Alex’s last season, which proved to be a title-winning one.

It was a testament to Ferguson, that he was able to win the League with a squad that was really past its sell-by date in his final year before retiring.

To prove the point I am trying to make, the following season The Red Devils needed two managers to finish the season, and they finished in seventh!

That was seven years ago, and it’s only now that Manchester United are looking in a respectable position of rebuilding.

It took Liverpool 30 years and over £1 billion spent in players transfers, you have done the hard work, as a football fan be smart and invest in playing talent.

Your Liverpool team isn’t getting younger. Jurgen, please don’t make the mistakes that Manchester United did.

If you do, it will be a long wait for title number 20, I don’t think Liverpool fans will have the same patience as they did this time.

Yours sincerely

The sports buff

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