That’s unfair, methinks, and fortunes in football are volatile and unfaithful. One day you’re winning against Blackburn 4-1 after scoring 4 goals in the last 30 minutes of the game, and you are heroes.
The next game an heroic performance is over-looked because of defeat, and a lacklustre follow-up is barracked as the death of the title race.
It took a Carrick screamer to put an end to the negativity, and by the time that Michael Carrick – that useless, over-priced, limited and waste-of-18m player – had capped a fantastic match with his second and the best goal of the game, Manchester United were delicately placed back on their pedestals as the premature champions of England.
The media are fickle, and as a result if you want an insight into United’s form, reading the news is not going to help.
What you want is hard analysis, so let’s do that – let’s look at how Manchester United stacked up against Roma last night.
- Roma were atrocious. They had no one shoring up the midfield, Mexes was awful, Doni horrendous and the attacking players were toothless against a remarkably effective Manchester United defence.
- Michael Carrick played in Paul Scholes’ position, and was absolutely fabulous.
The first goal says everything about Carrick’s game. Ronaldo, after making space for himself on the right flank, crossed a ball to Giggs standing 5-10 yards outside Roma’s penalty area. He was marked by a Roma defender, so no one moved to intercept the pass (Ronaldo had already pulled one of the central midfielders out of position with his run).
Out of no where, Carrick strides in, intercepts the pass, looks up and puts a rocket (a half-lob, half-blast) over Doni’s head into Roma’s net.
People will criticise Doni’s positioning but that is unfair on Carrick – he saw the open space, positioned himself correctly and took his chance. It was a collective frack-up by Roma but it was also sheer brilliance on Carrick’s part.
The second was a better finish (if not a better build up) – the ball crashed into the side netting in the opposite corner after Carrick had latched on to a Heinze pass outside the Roma penalty area (a bit to the left), and it was still going up when it went in. Doni had no chance, and Carrick had, in 50 minutes, proved everyone wrong once again.
- Ronaldo is crucial to Manchester United’s chances for the league and the Champions League, but to call United a one-man team would be as disrespectful as calling Chelsea completely-reliant on Drogba. Both teams have other players who can pick up the slack, and both have outstanding performers (Scholes, Rooney, Giggs for United, Lampard, Joe Cole, Essien for Chelsea) who contribute just as much during the game.
- Roma’s win in the first leg had blinded people to their league form this season – they have been patchy at best, and my initial comparisons of Roma with a wide-eyed virgin in a brothel were not far off the mark. They were executed mercilessly at Old Trafford, and while the margin of victory might not have been the same on any other day, United would still have won.
- Manchester United’s 2 defeats in the last week made people forget that we had thrashed Blackburn very recently. This is an excellent team, and they have not only gotten over their blip but they also have two easy games in which to improve their chances of winning silverware this season.
- Despite the media assassination, Roma are not as bad as 7-1 suggests. They would probably have lost 4-2, or 3-1 on another day, but they got outclassed and everything United did came off flawlessly.
- This was one of Manchester United’s top three performances of the season, right up there with the opening day win against Fulham (those goals were of a different class though) and the recent win against Blackburn. All three of them have come at Old Trafford, but no one’s complaining, not right now.
- A lot of people have criticised Richardson – from what I’ve seen of him he’s too eager to make things happen and this lack of patience and poise puts him into trouble. He’d benefit from a full season in the Premiership playing week in week out for another team – I hope Keano takes him to Sunderland next season on a loan deal.
Richardson was probably played yesterday to get him into some sort of form for the Watford and Sheffield United games – Ronaldo needs to be rested, especially with the key games coming up after Sheffield Utd, so expect Park and Richardson to play a greater role for Manchester United in our next two games.
At least 9 (and at most 11) games to go this season, and Manchester United are in pole position on getting to the FA Cup final, winning the Premiership and in with a very good chance of playing at Athens.
Crisis? Not today, not this week. Chelsea can wait, this weekend we have Watford, and we’ll be winning that without (hopefully) Ronaldo’s help.
I’m off to watch the Milan v Bayern game.