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.

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