2011: A Year In Review

Hey everybody, welcome to the end of 2011, and the start of 2012.  This year in sports has been a pretty exciting one, and quite a few memorable things happened in the sports world in 2011.  One thing to point out from 2011, on July 11th, Down By 20 was created, looking to bring you sports from the view of the fans.  With just a few hours left in this year, let’s take a look back at the year that was. Read more of this post

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How To Build A Team To Win 66 Games in 123 Days

With the start of the NBA season right around the corner, they’re getting ready to begin an unprecedented 66 game season.  With the lockout stretching on longer than it should have, teams have been scrambling attempting to get their teams ready for the new campaign; some of them have been attempting to make trades that the commissioner wished they wouldn’t.  In five easy steps, I can show you the proper way to go about building a team for this shortened season. Read more of this post

Funny Lookalikes in Soccer

*By Joe Ballard and Kiran Balan*

In the spirit of the holidays, my colleague Kiran Balan and I thought it would be a fun idea to get some pictures of soccer players/managers/fictional figures who look so alike you may need to do a double-take to tell them apart. Enjoy!

Chelsea’s Juan Mata and Andre Villas-Boas: clean-shaven, they look like Roger Federer’s twin brothers!

Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli and Micah Richards: same mohawk, same mischievous smile? Look for the one who can’t get his training bib on and you’ve got it!

Shrek and Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney: Good thing you got that hair transplant Wayne!

Iain Dowie and Sloth: We here at Down By 20 apologize for any nightmares you’ll be having tonight.

Who knew Steve Bruce played a woman in Home Alone 2? Amazing!

Our investigative journalism discovered that Claude Makelele likes to rap with an American accent under the name Akon.

And last as well as least, a fond farewell to Carlos Tevez as he completes his move away from England…

Happy holidays from all of us here at Down By 20!

What’s Gone Wrong With United?

2010-11: Premier League winners, Champions League finalists

2011-12 (not even midway): Carling Cup quarterfinal loss to Crystal Palace (at home), 6-1 defeat to Manchester City (at home), and failure to qualify from a Champions League group that Sir Alex Ferguson might have hand-picked himself.  And now Nemanja Vidic is out for the season with a ruptured cruciate ligament.

So what on earth has gone wrong for United this season? In a word: everything.

The defense: Many people were fooled by the 8-2 demolition of Arsenal earlier in the season. The warning signs were always there; even as United were scoring goals for fun, they were conceding more goals than usual. With Rio Ferdinand clearly in the twilight of his career, the defense depends on Nemanja Vidic more than ever. This season, with Vidic injured, the kids have been forced into action and have been panic prone, particularly in European matches. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are excellent young prospects, but have made crucial mistakes that they will be expected to learn from. Jonny Evans, on the other hand, is a walking disaster of a defender.

Injuries: They’ve decimated United. A list of players who have been/are currently injured this season: Javier Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen, Darren Fletcher, Tom Cleverley, Anderson, Ashley Young, Rafael, Fabio, Ferdinand, Vidic, and Jones. It doesn’t matter how big the squad is; that list would cripple any team’s efforts. A telling statistic: Ferguson has deployed no less than six different players at right-back so far this season (Rafael, Fabio, Jones, Smalling, Valencia, Fletcher). The defense simply cannot compete at its best when it is constantly being changed, whether intentionally or not.

But none of this excuses United from failing to qualify from what should have been an easy Champions League group. My theory is that the players were overconfident and half-assed their way through these six matches. Wayne Rooney in particular was culpable on Wednesday, missing numerous scoring chances and only looking half interested. After a terrific first month of the season, he again looks like the Wayne Rooney of last season, a ghost of his old self. With Hernandez, Berbatov and Owen all out injured, United looked to him for inspiration. They looked in the wrong direction.

We already spoke about the issues with the defense, but another problem has been the glaring lack of a creative central midfielder. Why oh why, Sir Alex, did you not go and get Wesley Sneijder when you had the chance? Depending on 38-year-old Ryan Giggs, god bless him, to be the creative spark in midfield is embarrassing for a club of United’s stature. Ferguson also tried to deploy Phil Jones (center-back) and Wayne Rooney (forward) in the same role; it was practically an admission of defeat. Without a Snejider-like midfielder, the likes of Carrick, Anderson, Giggs and Fletcher have been woefully predictable in attack, and this particularly showed in European matches.

Finally, the issue of the goalkeeper. David de Gea has been somewhat slaughtered by the English media so far this season. I’m here to say: lay the f*** off. He’s a 20-year-old kid who’s arrived in a new country at one of the world’s biggest clubs; of course he’s going to make some mistakes. It’s acceptable when Jones and Smalling do it, so why do we slate de Gea for it? He is young, and like any other kid, he will learn from his mistakes. Ferguson followed this kid for two years before signing him; he obviously believes in him. A certain Wojciech Szczesny (google/copy/paste name into document) was full of mistakes when he first got his chance at Arsenal, and look how he’s blossomed.

Another issue with de Gea is that, especially for a goalkeeper, he appears quiet and even somewhat reserved. Perhaps it is somewhat intimidating having to command all these experienced internationals, but as he becomes more comfortable, I believe he will grow into his role.

All in all, Manchester United fans may have to accept that this is something of a rebuilding year, what with the combination of kids and injuries. I personally don’t think they will win any trophies this season, so even though moneybags City appear unstoppable, I’ll be enjoying sitting back and watching the youngsters develop. Give them time, and have faith in Fergie. Remember the Class of ’92?