Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Blogger's form dips with United

No excuses are necessary for either the dirth of my posts recently or United's few performances this season. The causes for each are known, and I'll expound on the latter but stay schtum on the former. I've been thinking about a lot of things relating not only to United but the start of the domestic leagues in Italy and Spain so let's see what I can produce.

At the beginning of the season I made a claim that Scholes could score in the double-digits this year; let's just compromise to say that it was an opinion expressed more out of emotion than reason. That's not to say it won't happen, but little Scholesy's performances in the last few matches have been translucent. He has virtually no impact defensively and simply does not get forward enough to influence matches in the way United need him to. It was Anderson in a very useful position during United's goal against Liverpool, indeed his flick setup Berbatov's run, and Anderson immediately made his own run into the box, drawing both defenders and leaving Tevez open for the goal.

Bobby McMahon on Fox Sports Report made a few good points about Scholes last night. Firstly that he may occasionally be able to dominate lesser opponents, but against combative, top class midfielders, Scholes has not been able to measure up. I'm not going to write him off yet and say that he can't measure up, just simply that he hasn't. Second, McMahon offered the possibility of putting Rooney in that position, which is the first time I've ever heard a pundit suggest the notion that I have been trumpeting (?) for almost two years.

At this point in the season, you could dismiss Scholes' form as being "not yet match fit" or "working out the kinks" after the summer, but for a veteran player with his legs, it is more realistic to hope the beginning of the year is when his legs are freshest, not visa-versa. Granted, he does not have the benefit (?) of playing internationally anymore, which may have lengthened his club career and could help to justify his lack of form thus far.

To be fair, he did have a good first match in the community shield, after which I had the fanboy effrontery to suggest his 10 goal tally. I'm not taking it back, either! Not yet. However, after a few more months of these types of displays, which marred the last season as well, it will not be enough for pundits and commentators to marvel at how Scholes is "always in the right place" or "Look at that pass", here and there, when his overall effect on the game is lacking, and it's something most of us would prefer not to admit.

Carrick broke his foot, which is just as well, because his availability only obfuscates Ferguson's decision making when it comes to the central midfield. Carrick is a distraction; now Sir Alex can choose rightfully between Scholes, Anderson, and hopefully Hargreaves, and maybe even Rooney.

I still think Scholes and Anderson is the best combination, but if Scholesy can't turn his form over then Hargreaves should anchor the Brazilian, when his tendinitis permits.

With Berbatov questionable and Vidic out, United will be hard pressed against Chelsea. However, Ronaldo might simply just win the game for us. After last year, he gets plenty of credit for being brilliant; European Footballer of the Year, Premier League Player of the Year, and possibly World Player of the Year, in addition to the groveling of so many sports writers have all contributed to his enormous stature, and rightly. It takes great, imaginative leaps to inflate his ego any more than it deserves already, which Ronaldo manages to pull off, anyway.

I still think, though, the individual effect he had on so many games last year is under appreciated. He simply won games by himself, and did it often, sometimes in consecutive games, for three to four months of the last campaign. If I had to specify I'd say between November and March Ronaldo was virtually unstoppable. He had his plaudits, sure, in each match report, but not enough that he deserved. It doesn't mean I cherish him as a player, his whimsies every summer dreaming of greener grass in Madrid aren't deserving of any frenzied fandom when he shares a dressing room with stalwart paragons like Scholes or Neville, but you'll never hear me diminish just how fucking good Ronaldo is when he's flying on form. Ronaldo has improved every year at United (something quite outstanding by itself, I don't say flippantly), before all our eyes, and if there is room to improve this year, it would come in the bigger matches where he's known to be found wanting, so let's hope he marks this weekends occasion in London with the striking speed and dynamic swagger that sets him above all else, including Messi.

For the record, Van der Sar evokes little confidence. He can barely punt the ball straight while his footwork is suppose to be his trademark. He lacks the agility that he had in his younger years, and I wonder if he will grow into a liability. I am sure Sir Alex believes that Ben Foster's return to form from injury couldn't come long enough, as England and United's long-term number one is within his potential.

If I had more money, I'd have bet a good sum on Chelsea owning Manchester City last weekend. The book would have been tilted in City's edge, probably by a lot of public money that bought into the concept of the Eastlanders suddenly being a title contender because they bought one overpriced winger. It takes a lot more than a little genius to create a consistently good team, here's two examples: a midfield and a defense. Anyways, having all the money in Dubai at your disposal won't prove a bad thing, but anyone in the know knew the hype was just that. McMahon said that it takes 4-5 years to make a club a top contender, which is strange because it took Chelsea one year to win the EPL after their dramatic makeover. I'll give City at least the same time before passing too much judgment. They do have a huge target on their chests, now; any team will be up for it, knowing they can beat City, and treat the victory like it was a "Top Four" result, in their minds.

I should follow with brief notes on Italy later today or in the next few days.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Transfer deadline

The wait is over.

United have finally signed Dmitar Berbatov from Tottenham after a tug-of-war for over a month between the two clubs.

United neighbors City also shocked world football by being bought outright by an Arabian consortium on the final day of the transfer deadline, bidding audaciously for four world-class players and sealing the signature of Brazliian Robinho from Real Madrid.

City gave Chelsea a taste of their own medicine, outbidding on the player highly sought by the London club and smashing the British transfer record for 33 million pounds.

The transfers of Wright-Phillips and Robinho are somewhat ostentacious from City, as they now enjoy a ridiculous surfeit of attacking options, with Elano, Petrov, Robinho and Shaun Wright-Phillips all rightfully vying for starts, none of them being true strikers.

The city of Manchester should be a highlight reel for wingers this season with Ronaldo scheduled to return early from injury later this month.

United did brilliantly to prevent a stale rehash of last year's memorable yet fortunate season by filling a huge void next to Carlos Tevez formerly named Wayne Rooney. Rooney should find himself third and last on the depth chart, with Campbell moving to Tottenham to get top-flight and European experience. I was afraid United would sign Berbatov without loaning Campbell, making him fourth on the depth chart which is a disservice to his potential. This is a great deal for both clubs, Campbell can partner well with Bent or Pavlyuchenko, while Berbatov and Tevez with Ronaldo ablaze and Rooney supporting will be full of class.

I still think Rooney should be slowly getting some time in an attacking midfield position, instead f attempting to strike traditionally, perhaps something similar to the role Scholes did supporting Van Nistelrooy before Rooney arrived. Rooney tries to make up for his lack of flair and confidence by chasing defenders fruitlessly and yelling obscenities at the ref with incredulous looks on his face. 'Wazza' might become more than a nickname if Rooney lets his potential go the way of the dodo like did Gasgiogne. If Rooney doesn't grow this year, and Campbell enjoys a storied year as he did with Hull, scoring more than 15 goals in seven months during their promotion campaign, I could see Rooney being transferred abroad, or to a lesser English side.

Rooney has marketing appeal, being somewhat of a poster boy, video-game famous and on Nike posters, but I don't think many people are truly passionate about the player who showed so much flair when he arrived with Everton and whirled downward since. He's a player you'd like to get behind but generally lets you down. Despite a goal tally which can fluctuate upwards, his form has never matched his potential.

Gotta still root for him though, if he only had more confidence when he was attacking players with the ball, and used more of the body fakes and shoulder-drops that he was growing a legend for in eluding defenders.