Since I missed the whole of last week (and I’ll pretend you guys missed me too), here’s a quick look at the more ‘interesting’ stories from days just gone by.
Warning – this is a long post.
Manchester United (of course I start with them) played two vastly different games – a stumbling, fortuitious win against Crewe Alexandria, and a thumping, classy win against Bolton.
Forget that we had a second-string team playing in the Carling Cup. Forget that we were playing a League One side at their home ground (god knows what the pitch was like, right?) who were pumped for the fixture of the year and were treating the game like a cup final.
What did Fergie say?
“I am really disappointed with the performance. I told the players, ‘These teams battle and make it hard, we have to match that’, and we didn’t do it. We allowed them to make the play. We all have to share responsibility. Maybe it was a bit more difficult for some of the senior players to get motivated. It was a careless attitude and it was looking like penalties. Kieran saved me embarrassment because I never win penalty shoot-outs. I have only won one and that was in the Charity Shield. Crewe were very unlucky. They were the better team. They played nice football and had great enthusiasm.”
That Charity Shield penalty shootout was Tim Howard’s finest hour in a United shirt (and one of his earliest games, so go figure), but to see Ferguson frankly criticise his team was refreshing to say the least. United’s second-string are not top class, but it’s more about the attitude than the talent. Can’t wait for Jonny Evans and Rossi to come back and for David Jones to get Premier League appearance.
Bolton? We attacked in the first 15 and last 15 minutes, but for the rest of the game every United player sat out and watched Vidic, Ferdinand, van der Sar and Carrick defend against a marauding but toothless Bolton. Neville hung on to Anelka but you would have thought he was facing Joe Cole, while Evra is still working is way towards being a solid defender. Rooney came back to tackle, but against Bolton he was playing further up front and was more determined than ever to lead a counter-attack than to go fetch the ball.
United have been at the receiving end of such thundering starts in the past, so it’s good to see the Reds notch one of those up as well. Bolton are still in 3rd spot and look good for Europe this year – and they’ll manage it as long as Nolan and Anelka keep them firing. Bolton’s defence won’t face such a threat again until they meet Arsenal, Chelsea or United again, and those are the games everyone is expected to lose.
Ritchie Jones heads off to Colchester United on an emergency one-month loan deal.
United Rant wonders who will replace Edwin van der Sar. My view is that Ferguson is banking on Foster to be the long-term replacement, with van der Sar continuing as long as he is able to, and Kuszczak stepping up when necessary. Like Cudicini and Cech at Chelsea, United will have two young and very talented keepers at their disposal.
Why Foster? Like van der Sar and Cech, he has a better command of his box and instinctively knows when to come out and when not to. It’s a rare quality that some other top keepers (like Lehmann) lack, and it should tip the scales in his favor.
It is a testament to the fickleness of the English media that the man who was, alongside Hargreaves, England’s most effective player in the 2006 World Cup has been labelled a failure. Myles from ANR gets it right when he wonders how people will remember David Beckham – the guy who played as a sub for Real Madrid and was bought to sell more shirts, or the star who won 6 Premiership titles with Manchester United?
There’s a lot more to be said for the man and I’ll put up an article soon. I have said earlier that Beckham should retire, and on a related note, Macca’s latest soundbite about Becks has been that he had the support of the senior players in dumping Beckham from England. Fascinating, ainnit?
Petr Cech’s recovery is going well (expected to be back in training in January at the earliest), and from recent statements from Hunt it seems like he’s moving on as well. I suppose you have to put such things out of your mind and start focusing on football again, but the idea of a footballer getting off the hook for kneeing a keeper in the head is a bit disturbing. The Portsmouth fans are behind him and because Chelsea are so hated in the Premiership even the hospitalisation of one of the best players and the nicest people in the league is not enough for the Chelsea-haters to actually accept that something wrong has been allowed to go unpunished.
Chelsea keep winning thanks to Hilario’s penalty saves and goals from Lamps and Ballack. It’s the midfield scoring again for Chelsea, one wonders if Drogba or Sheva will be Chelsea’s leading scoring come May 2007.
Guardian Football has a good interview with Michael Essien – man, I wish I had that job 🙂
Chelsea have Barca coming up on Tuesday – more on that later.
So they finally won something 🙂
Everyone’s had a pop at Pardew, Tevez and Mascherano, Terry Brown and West Ham in general, but it’s easy to see that their confidence is shot to shreds – they couldn’t handle the expectations, and a little bit of pressure led to a dramatic collapse in form.
West Ham have Arsenal, Boro and Chelsea next, so cue 2 more defeats and another miraculous win to give the fans some hope (or 3 straight defeats to make it 11 out of 12).
And if you think Tevez and Mascherano are not being preyed upon by the media, witness the lack of furor raised by the broadsheets at Defoe’s nibble on Mascherano.
Kudos to Martin Jol for framing the incident with the words ‘comical’ and ‘nibble’. No mark, for sure, but players have been red-carded for less. Wonder what would have happened if Tevez had done the same to Jenas. Can you say witchhunt?
Wenger’s not bothered about a new contract, and to be honest I don’t see why he should be – he’s got it going pretty well and despite what rumour-mongers might think he’s still faithful to Arsenal, so he’s not going to go anywhere else unless a combination of strange things happen (some other time, I’ll explain that one).
Arsenal drew 1-1 with Everton, and predictably, Wenger and Henry had a lot to say about Everton’s tactics. It’s a bit like babies throwing their toys out of their prams because they’re not being allowed to get their way, except that I don’t know anyone who would like to spank Wenger or Henry for it. Show some class please. Arsenal are good enough to beat teams who waste time and play defensively. Or are you telling me that Wenger hasn’t been able to devise a strategy to beat teams who play like this?
More on this in the coming days, for sure.
A few general reads:
- Race and color in football.
- Blatter apologises to Australia – I’m not sure, but it sounds like Blatter is sucking up to the Aussies while there in order to get support for something or the other. Italian football is the punching bag for anyone looking to bang corruption and cheating, it’s a shame to Blatter get in on the action.
Or does he not have the balls to call Michael Ballack for diving and rescind Podolski’s award because he was diving as well?
- I’ve been saying this all along – football fans are absolutely crazy.
- Quietly, the penalties for the some of the charged clubs have been reduced. Was bound to happen.
That’s it for now, I’ll be covering some of these in full articles later this week, here and on BlogFC.