Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

David Healy: Manchester United will soon find top gear

When Manchester United aren’t winning easily and playing free flowing fantasy football, there tends to be a national debate about what is going wrong at Old Trafford.

United fans welcomed Cristiano Ronaldo back from injury with a standing ovation, but the Villarreal match ended in disappointment.

It’s true that United haven’t started the season on fire, but I can’t imagine Sir Alex will be too worried just yet.

On Wednesday night in the Champions League I felt that United dominated the match against what I see as a very good Villarreal side.

They didn’t finish second in La Liga last season for nothing you know.

They were composed on the ball and had quick, sharp players yet United, despite not ever really sparkling, were the major force over the 90 minutes.

Obviously all the United fans wanted a victory, especially after losing to Liverpool, but a 0-0 draw is not the worst result in the world especially when you consider that Celtic could only draw 0-0 at home to Aalborg in the other Group E fixture.

I’m sure my international team-mate Jonny Evans was happy to have kept a clean sheet.

He was given the nod in central defence alongside Rio Ferdinand and did really well. He’ll know himself that he perhaps should have scored with that second half header that hit the post, but we’ll let him off with that one because his main job is to keep the goals out at the other end and he did just that.

I’ve always rated Jonny and believe he is going to become a big player for United and Northern Ireland.

It will be interesting to see, with Nemanja Vidic suspended, if Sir Alex selects him for the league game with Chelsea on Sunday. I know Jonny would have no fear playing in it, that’s for sure. Another man who might start at Stamford Bridge is Cristiano Ronaldo.

As I’ve written before, he didn’t help himself over the summer with all the talk about moving to Real Madrid, but the huge reception he got when he came on against Villarreal showed how much he means to United and to the fans.

It was a fantastic ovation.

Just back from injury he certainly gave United that little bit extra and the more game time he gets, the more effective he will become which is bad news for defences around the country.

With him returning and the likes of Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez relishing playing beside him, and don’t forget Dimitar Berbatov either, I am sure it is only a matter of time before United click into gear.

And when that happens, watch out because somebody will be in for a hammering. I’m not sure that somebody will be Chelsea though. The Sunday showdown should be a cracker.

The way Chelsea are playing at the moment, they will really fancy this, especially with what happened in the Champions League final still fresh in their minds.

They’ll be out to make up for that while United will be desperate to make sure they don’t fall nine points behind their main title contenders.

There will be no thoughts from either side about playing for a draw. Both will want to win and I’m expecting one of the best games of the season.

So far, so good for Gerrard and the Kop boys

Steven Gerrard was at it again for Liverpool this week.

What a player he is for them. On big occasions he just keeps coming up with the goods.

The first of his two goals in the 2-1 win over Marseille in the Champions League was outstanding.

What must be even more pleasing for Gerrard though is that other Liverpool players are putting in big displays as well at the moment.

The 2-1 victory over Manchester United last weekend was the prime example of that when Gerrard only came on for the last half hour, yet by then Liverpool looked the better team and most likely to win.

That’s what Liverpool need to put in a big title challenge. Lots of players delivering, rather than just say Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

At the start of the season Liverpool were fortunate to beat Sunderland and Middlesbrough but those results breed confidence and self belief and there was an abundance of that right through the team against United once they equalised.

That’s a great sign and so is the fact that they keep coming from behind to win.

A few weeks back I said that I felt Liverpool would finish third or fourth, but so far they have suggested they have what it takes to be up there with United and Chelsea.

Too often in the recent past they have found themselves 10 or 15 points behind the leaders going into the crunch period.

It would be really interesting to see how they would react if come March time they were just a couple of points behind or better still for them leading the pack.

It would also be interesting to see how United and Chelsea would react to having Liverpool in the mix.

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I love the Ryder Cup. It is one of my favourite sporting events.

One day I hope to watch it live in America or in Europe. This time around though I’ll be glued to the television.

I’ll miss some of it over the weekend but I’ll Sky Plus the action and turn off my phone so I don’t know what’s happened when I watch it.

Yeah, I’m really into the Ryder Cup!

And I’m really hoping our own Graeme McDowell does the business.

Graeme has had an excellent year and I’ll bet he can’t wait to get on that first tee.

Kentucky will be a cauldron in terms of atmosphere but I’m sure he’ll cope.

The Irish of course have a great relationship with the Ryder Cup. Just think back to Darren Clarke a couple of years ago when he played so well at the K Club and when Paul McGinley holed the winning putt at the Belfry before that and back in the 80s when Christy O’Connor Jr produced the shot of his life.

Now it could be Graeme’s turn to be the hero.

It would be fantastic if he stepped up on Sunday night to hole the putt that helps Europe retain the trophy.

Incidentally I bumped into Rory McIlroy in the airport last week. He is a fantastic talent and a great guy. I’ve no doubt in years to come, he will become a big player for Europe in the Ryder Cup.

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