Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Partizan Belgrade-Arsenal: Player Ratings and Recap

Arsenal travelled to Serbia today to match up against Partizan Belgrade on the second matchday of the 2010 UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal led Group H after demolishing Braga 6-0 on the inaugural day of fixtures while Belgrade lost 1-0 to Shaktar Donestk. The Gunners travelled without Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, or Manuel Almunia, but manager Arsene Wenger could easily afford wholesale changes with such a robust squad of attacking talent.

Each side pinged the ball around in the beginning, getting a feel for what promised to be a physical match in the loud, intimidating atmosphere of the FK Partizan Stadium.

Completely under the kosh, Arsensal broke on the counter after 15 minutes through Andrei Arshavin. He played through to Wilshire who brilliantly back-heeled back to the little Russian to strike home from eight yards, quieting the raucous crowd. Arsenal led 1-0 against the run of play.

On 26 minutes, the Londoners broke through with clinical triangular passing only for Arshavin to over-elaborate. They broke again from the half-clearance but Arshavin's close-range chip was blocked. The Russian sparkplug fed Rosicky through a moment later as the Gunners unloaded their clip; Belgrade's keeper did well, though.

On 32 minutes, an arbitrary handball by Denilson gifted Belgrade the chance to equalize from the spot. Cléo obliged, slotting calmly to the right..Belgrade 1, Arsenal 1.

The equalizer buoyed Belgrade enough to see the half out without any more clear-cut chances for either side.
On the opposite side of the break, after ten minutes, Chamakh was sent through down the middle and was felled by Jovanovic inside the box. The Belgrade defender was shown red; Arshavin banged the penalty, with power instead of accuracy, and Stojkovic saved heroically.

Despite being up a man, Arsenal were unable to consistently pressure the Serbian side. However, on 70 minutes, Rosicky crossed to Chamakh whose header was athletically saved by Stojkovic  onto the bar. The Moroccan turned in the rebound, giving Arsenal a 2-1 lead.

Arsenal utilized their man advantage, playing keep-away for the next ten minutes. After winning a corner, substitute Samir Nasri curled in a sweet cross for Squillaci to rise to. Belgrade 1, Arsenal 3.

Immediately following the goal, Belgrade penetrated Arsenal's penalty box and earned a penalty via a Kieron Gibbs tackle. The head referee called it straightaway without help from any linesman. Fabianski saved the Cléo's penalty, diving left and low.

The Gunners pressured casually until the whistle, and left Belgrade as 3-1 winners and Group H leaders on goals, virtually assured of qualification into the knockout stages. 

Player Ratings

Not all the lights were on in Belgrade
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Partizan Belgrade

Stojkovic (8.5) The best player on his side, despite ultimately letting in three goals. Ridiculous save after ridiculous save was a hallmark of his game today.

Krstajic (6) Masked captain led by example but couldn't keep up with Arsenal's passing, mostly.

Jovanovic (4) Being sent off enables me to give him a four without having to justify anything else.

Lazevski (5.5) Did well in the first half, but did little in the second.

Stevanovic (5) Most of Arsenal's joy was on the left side, where he was defending.

Petrovic (6) Had some joy in the first 15 minutes of the match, but only just.

Medo (6.5) Competed in the center with strength and flare until inevitably overrun by the more trained side.

Ilic (4.5) Anonymous, perhaps because of my own ignorance, but, what am I gonna do?

Tomic (5) Subbed early after generally ineffectual performance.

Cléo (7) Belgrade's newest signing looks like a bargain after scoring eight times in qualifying and netting again today.

Boya (6) Tracked back nicely on some occasions, otherwise did his best to contain an uncontainable Arsenal side.


Fabianski (8) Fabianski had a great game at a great time for his career. If Almunia continues to blunder, you may expect the Polish keeper to earn more time between the sticks.

Djourou (5.5) Some needless tackles, but otherwise did what little was required from him.

Squillaci (8) Headed strongly for Arsenal's important third goal. The summer signing was also the most assured member of his backline today. Central defenders are a real commodity in European football, and on evidence it seems Wenger made another intelligent signing.

Gibbs (5.5) Contributed on both sides of the ball, but conceded a silly penalty late.

Sagna (6) Belgrade offered little in attack. All the Frenchman had to do was pass sideways and track back occasionally.

Song (6) Marshaled the midfield athletically. Passing was askew at times. Good, positive drive.
Denilson (7) Needed to make a fantastic tackle early, and did. Partnered Song nicely to provide Arsenal's bevy of attacking talent.

Wilshire was on the verge of tears at one point
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Wilshire (7) Fans of the London club prize this young man. He's deserved their adoration and hope more on prior performances than that today, but to be fair, he was hacked down at every turn. Nice assist on the first goal.

Arshavin (7) Had several chances in an outstanding first half. Over-elaborate at times, though, and faded in the second. Took the dumb-fire approach on the penalty and earned the save from the keeper.

Rosicky (6.5) Saw plenty of the ball but didn't do anything totally remarkable with it.

Chamakh (7.5) Rose to score a crucial second goal, one of many nicely won headers. Seemed too eager to go to ground, which is not something new for the former Bordeaux man.

Scholes injury is bad ju-ju

Paul Scholes was ruled out of Manchester United's crunch clash tomorrow at Valencia CF due to a calf complaint.

This is when things get pretty hairy.

Scholes has started every senior match this season, and he's looked bloody great. But his forced preclusion from the side on Wednesday will expose United's lack of natural cover in the central attacking midfielder role.

Let's run down the brief list of candidates: Anderson is a poor passer and only just recovering from injury, on top of being more natural to a holding role. Fletcher and Hargreaves are both holding midfielders, albeit good ones, decent passers, but not incisive or creative. Carrick's effect can best be described by awkward silence. Gibson can crack from range, but otherwise is a poor man's Fletcher. Giggs is crocked and obviously makeshift at best in the role. Who else is there?

If Rooney wasn't injured, he'd be the most natural replacement to Scholes in midfield. In fact, it's where he should probably play, period, especially as Javier Hernandez proves to be the better striker. But that's way out of anyone's paradigm.

Tomorrow is going to be a low-scoring affair. Take the under, sure, but hope that Scholes gets back sooner than later. Otherwise, it's going to not only be an aesthetically ugly season, replete with boring hoofs and hopeful crosses, but it'll be one filled with increasingly mediocre results.

Scholes is one of a few players United can't afford to lose this season; a strange circumstance for a 35-year-old player, a damning indictment of United's transfer and youth policy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Valencia-United: Too early to need points... right?

It's far too early in the Champions League season to be having must-win games, just as it's probably far too early in an editorial to use a cliche like "must-win."

Forgive me, but don't forgive Manchester United. The club's plight is highly relative: they're merely not a veritable top three side in the world. It's not enough reason for fans to go out and commit seppuku. But integrity and altruism from the owners, more courageous decisions from the manager, and simply better performances from the players would all benefit the product on the field.

And that's just the place they'll meet Valencia on Wednesday in the second matchday of the Champions League group stage.

Dearth of wingers, yet youth displaced

With Ryan Giggs out with a calf strain, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is forced to shoehorn in Park Ji-Sung—admittedly a player he'd probably wrongly use anyway—going away to their toughest competition in the group, La Liga leaders Valencia.

Park has been arguably United's worst player so far this year, with Jonny Evans and Wayne Rooney both competing for the indistinction. Ferguson could afford to play Park in the past in such ties, at least when Ronaldo was around to release counterattacks and gloss over the Korean's attacking shortcomings.

Fergie is not faultless
Alex Livesey/Getty Images 
But now, it's not as if the Scotish gaffer has many options: or does he? God forbid anyone suggest something radical, like playing Patrice Evra at left wing with a da Silva behind, or giving Gabriel Obertan or Javier Hernandez berth along one of the touchlines.

Antonio Valencia's injury—hell, even Cristiano Ronaldo's departure in 2009—will continue to reverberate up and down the peaks and valleys of this season without the right cover continually being purchased or selected.

United's youth must grow by fire, and fast, to compete throughout the long season, something that won't happen if they only get 15 minutes every other game.

Evans fails as defense wobbles

Having only mustered one point at home to semi-minnows Rangers, United definitely need at least one point come Wednesday.

Unfortunately, their usually Jupiter-solid defense is more likely to implode into a black hole than gravitationally deflect projectiles away from it's figurative blue marble.

Evans has been stretched further than that analogy throughout most of this season, and each time Vidic orbits away from the back line, United's inner atmosphere is inevitably penetrated.

He's been so bad, frankly, that I had to use the analogy again. That bad. This is the same player who displaced current European treble winner and World Cup winner Gerard Pique who, to be fair, at times looked just as wonky in his United tenure.

There's no reason to assume ultimate failure for Evans, but as Rio Ferdinand malingers in perpetuity on the sidelines, we might assume ultimate failure for United this season.

And not just for one reason; not just for Evans' current malform (were it to continue). United's other failings are well documented. They are a club in transition since they cashed in and sold Cristiano Ronaldo, led by an aging manager with a proclivity—or necessity—to rely on aging players, with an overrated talisman and without a natural on-field leader.

United fans would like to see this image less this year
Michael Regan/Getty Images 
Doesn't mean they can't barely eek by Liverpool at home, or deserve to; but it should lead—on probability at least—to a tough, drawn-out season, inevitably ending in defeat to clearly more complete and robust squads.

Valencia sales not enough to assure hope

A point away in Spain would be a positive result, despite the Spanish leaders being presumably weaker this year. In place of their two best players, Valencia now have over £70 million, having sold David Villa to Barcelona and David Silva to Manchester City at robust profits.

On travels this year, though, goals have passed through United's defense like neutrinos, penetrating their back line wherever Vidic wasn't. Through six games this season, the Mancs have conceded nine goals, seven away from home. In their double-winning 2008-09 term, they conceded 24 overall, and just 10 away from Old Trafford.

That'll have to change to get anything out of a game that should be viewed, at least by the United team, as a "must-win," lest the cliche becomes more and more applicable to their match previews as the European season unfolds.

At the very least, fans of red or neutral orientation may enjoy the glorious, final bow from an in-form Scholes, and the majesty of Berbatov on song; two conditions less likely to continue throughout as United fall short, if not only just.


As abysmal as Wayne Rooney has been lately, and considering their manager's penchant for the 4-5-1 in away European ties, the best-case scenario here probably involves Berbatov up front, alone. Rooney needs the rest, being knocked, tired, off-form, and stressed, and quite frankly, shouldn't even travel. (Reports state that Rooney is, in fact, not traveling.)

United's defense has been so porous, they could use an extra midfielder holding in front. The inclusion of Ji-Sung, in theory at least, contributes to more defending, but scoring should pose a problem. Expect a low-scoring game, perhaps even a nil-nil, as United continue to be competitive this year, if only just.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

United-Liverpool: Player ratings and Recap




United hosted Liverpool in Sunday's early kickoff. If you hadn't heard, it was totally awesome.

The game started very slowly, though. United controlled everything; Liverpool didn't appear to mind. Most of the first half consisted of long periods of possession for the home side punctuated by the odd half-chance or two.

After 42 minutes of dominant but deliberate United build-up, Berbatov opened the scoring from a Giggs outswung corner. The Bulgarian didn't have to jump,  or even really try, as Torres pretended to apply defensive pressure. It was an awkward moment for the Spaniard, but who cared: United led 1-0 into the break.

This game would eventually get very hairy. Liverpool still didn't look like they felt like playing. United pressure with half-chances and whatnot until Berbatov braced up on 59 minutes with serious aplomb.

Nani crossed left-footed from out wide. Berbatov juggled the ball on his thigh and bicycle-kicked into the top corner from 10 yards. No luck about it. To call it "masterclass" would not be a misapplication of the vaunted term. His first touch was deliberate; his second was religious. United led 2-0.

As soon as the froth subsided, the match took a "Thelma and Louise"-type turn off a cliff. Johnny Evans clearly felled Torres in the box after 64 minutes of anti-football from the Mersey men. Gerrard stepped up and slotted in the penalty kick. Liverpool trailed 2-1.

Five more minutes, more bad juju. Gerrard curled in a free-kick from 21 yards out when Fletcher and O'Shea formed a window instead of a wall. Van der Sar was less stranded than he appeared, but it didn't matter. United gave up another lead in the top flight; the game was level at two.

As the violins played their despairing songs, Dimitar Berbatov stepped up and got his first United hat-trick to save the world from ending.

On 84 minutes he leaped highest and strongest, heading in O'Shea's cross after a square Scholes dish. I put down my samurai sword, stood up, and continued the live blog.

United saved at least blushes, at most their domestic season, by not utterly failing in the most Shakespearean way today. Berbatov deserves all the headlines he'll soon claim. The classiest player on the pitch proved his worth empirically today, and let me be the first to welcome so many finally onto his bandwagon.

Player Ratings

Manchester United

Van der Sar (5) Every shot on goal Liverpool had today scored.

O'Shea (6) Slowly traversed the right flank with characteristic neutrality. Subtracted from a few attacks before assisting Berbatov's final goal.

Vidic (8) Finally got the better of Liverpool today after being sent off in their last two matches. Vida is in very good form and it shows no sign of receding. Any errors his back line made today were not made by him.

Evans (5) This player looked so promising two years ago. Last season his form was forgettable. This year he is not even into third gear yet. Potential is great but only if it becomes kinetic.

Evra (7) Easy game for Patty because Liverpool had no width, intent, or desire. It's nice to see the Frenchman have an individually positive day at the office, for a change, after what's been a rough calender year.

Nani (6) Needs to stop diving so egregiously. It's pathetic and embarrassing.

Fletcher (7.5) Commanded possession. Played with real and obvious desire. Slowly, methodically getting into fine form for the season. Arguably his side's most most important player, and definitely one of three or four candidates.

Scholes (7.5) Fletcher and Scholes form a very yin-yang partnership which should have featured more last season. Unfortunately, Sir Alex was still playing Carrick then. Scholes has not played poorly yet this season. Today Liverpool didn't try to get in his face as much as they could have. One remarkable turnover led to an opposing chance. Assisted Berbatov's last goal by feeding O'shea out wide.

Giggs (6) Giggs had some moments. He also didn't have some moments. Fairly average day for him.

Berbatov (9) Played about as good as he always has for United in three years. The Bulgarian maintains a level of consistency throughout his play with only minor variance. It was only a matter of time until his positivity resulted in goals, just as it was only a matter of time for Rooney's own inflated numbers last season to self-correct.

Berbatov scored a masterclass goal today. He also scored two others. Furthermore, he importantly won headers throughout the match and contributed to build-up just as you'd expect.

United need him to play big up front more often and win more of those 50/50 headers than he did last year. Majestic day from Berbatov and a very fulfilling one for his greatest supporters. Leads the EPL in scoring with six.

Rooney (6) Had some decent passes, but otherwise appeared tentative to pull the trigger or assert his true self.


Reina (4) Off form, frazzled, bald. Didn't make many saves, let in three goals.

Skrtel (5) Assumed the same general sense of bewilderment as his teammates throughout.

Carragher (5) Pretty bad.

Konchesky (4) Meh.

Johnson (6.5) At least pretended convincingly to care about the result. Really good player; outshone the really bad performances elsewhere on his team without actually objectively playing that well himself.

Poulsen (4.5) Allowed Scholes and Fletcher to run proceedings according to their every whim. Is this really a player Hodgsen wants?

Gerrard (6.5) Converted a penalty. So. Also scored, somewhat luckily, direct from 22 yards. Otherwise he didn't really embody the gusto and hustle Liverpool unfairly require. Still almost stole a point by himself, though.

Meireles (5) Half chance here or there. Mostly ran around trying to contain Manchester's onslaught of patient, deliberate build-up. Might be a decent player, but will need time to gel with the rest of his asynchronous team.

Cole (5) Not so much. Tried to do some things on his own, but. Basically fell into the black hole of shitty football the rest of his team were spiraling down.

Rodriguez (3) This man was paid more this week than I'll make this year despite me having produced far more for the game today than him. When he was substituted, I remembered he was playing.

Torres (4) What's up with emo footballers? These guys get paid millions to play sport. Torres was very bad today. He got sent through and drew the penalty from Evans. Otherwise, from open play, he didn't appear to care. He literally let Berbatov score his first goal, standing behind him instead of defending the corner kick. It was a strange and awkward manifestation of his obvious listlessness.

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Manchester United-Liverpool: Live Blog, Play-By-Play and Analysis

Really fun play-by-play of an outstanding game featuring an outstanding performance from an outstanding player.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

United will win bugger-all this year and here's why:

With such a title, it'll be assumed I'm a self-hating mofo, some reactionary noob. I'll be accused of a "doom and gloom" paradigm, and be further patronized with sarcastic, "sky is falling"-type rhetoric.

But I am certain when Antonio Valencia's left ankle dislocated and broke, Manchester United lost one of the two players they absolutely could not afford to, at least on last year's evidence.

Only Darren Fletcher was more individually important than Valencia last term. Even Wayne Rooney often scored despite his form, not because of it; and often as a result of the Ecuadorian's crossing.

Yeah. Without Valencia, and without real cover, United are basically screwed this year.

Not only will Nani now feature even more often, but United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will now have to play Ji-Sung Park, or more likely, Ryan Giggs, match-in and match-out throughout the year.

And it should be a relatively dismal one. Park has shown no semblance of good touch since the World Cup, and Giggs, though undoubtedly effective in patches, has been relied upon far too long by his Scottish gaffer.

Both Giggs and Scholes have a place in the side, as they have for almost two decades. But over the last few seasons, Ferguson has shown a disinclination to replace either, even with younger talent. Quite frankly no one else on United's roster is a natural left-winger or a natural attacking central midfielder.

Giggs should be a luxury, not a necessity
Alex Livesey/Getty Images 
Whatever Zoran Tosic did to Sir Alex, he was never forgiven. Nor should Sir Alex be granted any pardon for transferring the promising Serb without a legitimate chance in Manchester.

Gabriel Obertan looked equally dynamic and atrocious throughout the minor opportunities he was given last year. He could fill Valencia's boots on the right side, but without the pace, delivery, strength, or maturity. Not yet, at least.

Bebe—a player not a single United fan knew of a month ago—played with potential today for the reserves in a loss to Aston Villa. Could the 20-year-old provide relief on the flank? Sure. Should he be expected to already? Definitely not.

Yes, it's all very sad. Fergie will invariably opt to move Nani to the right wing and employ Giggs on the left. Unfortunately, at this stage in his career, the Welshman is much better in the middle than he is on the wing, and even then mainly only in a 4-5-1 (4-3-3), which has been proven as an ineffective formation for United over the last several years.

Either that, or United fans will be treated to watching Park play more; good, at best, and abysmally, at worst, with some of the heaviest touches in the English top flight.

In short, another season of inadequate incoming transfers, or blossoming homegrown talent, equates to the stubborn and nostalgic gaffer overusing Scholes and Giggs for another season to try and cover either his club's financial shortcomings, or his own egregious tactical blind-spots.

There's no way the shortest player on the field scores 10 headed goals again this year, and sadly, there's little chance United compete seriously in either of two major competitions come springtime.

The Red Devils are too shallow. They can only trump Chelsea at home, or a myriad of clubs abroad, if their best players perform out of their mind throughout the whole season—an extreme improbability that other clubs with more depth don't need to rely upon.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ranger loss pales to Valencia blow

Manchester United went out and drew nils Tuesday evening at Old Trafford with Glasgow Rangers.

The result itself isn't as alarming as some would have you believe. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson opted to rest the majority of his first-team players—only some of whom surely needed it, though all benefited from it.

United dominated the match, but Glasgow had their tactics right. Not that their manager's ideas were revolutionary: the majority of sides coming to Manchester just try and put 10 behind the ball. More often than not, United eventually breaks through after constant pressure, and while they controlled throughout on Tuesday, the opening goal never came. If it had, it would have been for the Red Devils.

As things stand, United can afford to drop two points here rather than any more in the EPL. Their group consists of Spanish side Valencia and Turkish minnows Bursaspor. Valencia are without their two best players of seasons past: striker David Villa is now at Barcelona, and David Silva rides pine for another Mancunian club. Bursaspor are essentially walkovers. United should be fine.

On the home-front, United host Liverpool on Saturday, and are already four points behind Chelsea in the EPL rankings. That's not to say Ferguson didn't gaffe by leaving Berbatov off his teamsheet Tuesday night:

''We wanted to see how Javier Hernandez would do in a full game,'' said Ferguson. ''Because of that we left Berbatov out and his form has been absolutely fantastic. He has been one of our best players this season and his ability to create in tight situations would have made a difference.''
Javier Hernandez looked better than his strike partner, which would become a trend if they were expected to play together often. Wayne Rooney's poor form for United continued despite being rested on Saturday after playing brilliantly for England twice last week. 

Obviously, the most alarming development Tuesday night was the injury to Antonio Valencia. Behind Darren Fletcher, the Ecuadorian was United's most form player last season, with Wayne Rooney in third for sheer goal glut. But only the two former players arrived and ended the season in positive touch, while Rooney often scored despite his form, not because of it.

Looking at United's roster now, you wonder why Ferguson was so eager to get rid of Zoran Tosic, or why he wasn't eager at all to sign Adam Johnson. If the gaffer wasn't so bloody stubborn, United fans could hope to see more of Gabriel Obertan, but what we'll probably end up seeing is more Ryan Giggs on the wing throughout another trophy-less season.

Having said that, you'd still expect them to get out of the Champions League group stage. Ferguson's notion to rest his first team players wasn't imprudent, but his second-tier players were ineffective, more an indictment to his personnel than his ideas.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

arguably the worst play-by-play ever written

Manchester United visits Goodison Park for the early kickoff in the English Premier League's fourth matchday.

It promises to be a tense tie for many reasons. Everton, despite being a perennial top-six contender, have yet to win a match this campaign. Their squad is largely the same as prior seasons, so you expect the variance to equal out. It may begin today: Everton defeated United 3-1 last year in the same fixture.

Rumors also have it that former Everton teen star, current United superstar Wayne Rooney, will be rested against his former club. Obviously on the heels of allegations he cheated on his wife—something so commonplace in professional spots it's a marvel why anyone pretends to care—he'd be assured an utter lambasting from opportunistic Everton fans.

Whether he plays or not, it's a meaningful tie for both sides. Both clubs and their most cheesy writers may view it as a "must-win," but don't be surprised if they each settles for one point, instead of three, after 90 minutes.

So, BR dropped around the 80th minute. I went and had breakfast (sherking all responsibility) to come back and see Everton tied the game at 3! Unbelievable, as a United fan. But as a person who bet on the draw, I'm not unhappy. It was a cracking match apparently made even better. Thanks for listening and I'll wrap up your footballing perspectives in a nice bow in the coming days.
Fellaini takes his turn to fire over but Everton are enjoying more possession. Couldn't blame United for being a little lazy with a comfortable lead.
70 are past and Baines is lining up a free-kick from the left side. It's a foot wide, though. United lead 3-1 after going down a goal, just as Everton did last year in the same fixture.
68 minutes. Everton are ringing in the changes. Coleman and Yakubu are in for Everton. They're possessing without making any real chances.
Berbatov uses his trivella after a diaganol ball from Scholes. Everton 1 United 3! Distin got skinned by Berba's quick first touch and United are far ahead now.
United pass the ball around the back. It ends up with Berbatov up top but he's crowded out by virtue of there being more blue than red up there.
56 minutes so far. Pienaar skins O'Shea but Evra makes a superhero tackle. Everton continue to pressure, though.
Vidic and Cahill exchange more than words after some argy-bargy. In other words, they're enjoying themselves.
Giggs and Berbatov combine to turn the ball over after some heavy touches.
Everton win a corner but Vida knocks it away for Scholes to clear. Heitinga is carded for a rugby tackle.
United's captain headed home excellently to lead his side ahead. Awesome stuff, and a great beginning to what should be a cracking half.
Berbatov again earns a shot but it's deflected out for a corner. Nani crosses in and it's back out to him. He crosses in again and it's Monster Vidic who slams it home! Everton 1 United 2!
United kick off and Berbatov charges forward.
The half is finally over. I am spent. Really exciting half with some excellent chances, excellent saves, and excellent goals. Both sides are up for it. Both managers will get up in their asses at the half, and both will come out blazing in 15 minutes. See you then!
Giggs gets booked as an afterthought for some foul. He crosses for Berbatov a moment later and his excellent volley just skims by the left post. Berbatov on the volley is legend.
43rd minute and I'll eat my right shoe. Nani decides to cross first time instead of turning the ball over and Fletcher screams into the box like the awesome Scholes-Keane hybrid he is to equalize! Everton 1 United 1!
Where's your 4-5-1 now, playboy? Ferguson's pusilanimous tactics have United behind and lacking hope or reason for revival.
Neville gets beaten for pace and Everton get a couple chances to score which they do, PIenaar slotting it home from around nine yards after a deflected shot and square ball. Everton lead 1-0!
Giggs shoots right-footed and Howard makes another awesome save! The man always performs against United. Everton counter and, oh, no...
36 minutes done and Everton are swinging in a free-kick. It's one of those situations where the referee blows his whistle for some arbitrary foul that no one saw or complains about.
United are finally enjoying themselves but Nani keeps turning the ball over. He sure is fast, though :(
lays it off to Scholes. He strikes; it's deflected on target and Howard makes a ridiculous save. He looked like Morpheus there.
31 minutes past. United have a free-kick from 20 yards. I prefer Berbatov in this range. He's been successful curling free-kicks for Bulgaria and Leverkusen from close range. Nani takes it and...
O'Shea turns over in Everton's attacking third. Another sentence I hopefully never have to write. Why is he even playing? He is lamentable enough in his natural positions.
United would be down 2-0 at least if Everton weren't firing each shot over the goal. Good tackle from Vidic on 27 minutes shuts down another attack.
Scholes typically plays an absurd driven pass out left to Berbatov but there's no one else in red up there.
Pienaar is plenty lively. Nani writhes on the ground as the game unfolds around him.
After 19, United are slowing playing like a professional team. They lead possession in the last five minutes but just the one clear cut chance so far.
Gary Neville hasn't played this poorly since him and Phil were in the sandbox with holey knickers.
14 minutes gone and United finally string a few passes together. Ultimately it's John O'Shea who volleys against the post from range! I will never type that again in my life!
A few minutes and a few corner-kicks later and United are getting totally owned. Everton are firing in shots willy-nilly and their whole stadium is going nuts.
Nine minutes in and Everton have another free-kick after Arteta's long shot is deflected. Everton play it short and earn a couple shots on goal that are deflected or wide. They retain possession on the ensuing goal kick, though.
After seven minutes, two of which I've observed, Everton are controlling posession and United look unsure of themselves. After a scramble Nani breaks down the right side, over-elaborates and turns over.
As I hope becomes my trademark, I've missed the first few minutes. Arteta has a free-kick outside the box from about 20 yards. Arteta fires it over but it's a corner to Everton. Referee Stuart Atkinson changes the call so VDS takes the goalkick.
My rabid friend texts me to alert that Vidic receives the armband for United ahead of Giggs and Neville. Looks like Fergie got at least one thing right today.
David Moyes starts Howard, Distin, Jagielka, Baines, Hibbert at the back, behind Heitinga, Arteta, Fellaini, Pienaar, Osman and Cahill. Not really much more ambitious than his knighted countryman. This game should be an outright snoozer. Prediction: 1-1., both goals in the second half.
I've rolled out of bed and into the starting line-ups. Rooney doesn't start as Ferguson seems to opt for a 4-5-1; pedestrian to put it nicely. Van der Sar, Evra, Vidic, Evans, Neville, O'Shea, Scholes, Fletcher, Giggs, Nani, Berbatov. I have no idea where O'Shea is playing but it looks like their gaffer is aiming for a nil-nil. Sadface.
Match begins at 0445 PST, 0745 EST, or four years from now if you live in Alpha Centauri.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Never mind his bollocks

It shouldn't take Wayne Rooney allegedly cheating on his wife to introduce the realization that most people eventually cheat on their spouses; especially rich people.

If you want to know why, it's unlikely that scrutinizing his arbitrary situation, of millions of others, will bring that final clarity to your world view. So who cares?

When our vicariousness extends into the personal lives of footballers, it reflects more poorly on us than it does on them. Presumably people like Rooney are revered for their footballing skill, not their moral fabric. It's not my business what he did, and I don't care, because I don't care what kind of person he is, I just care how he plays.

But the one can relate to the other. Sunshine disinfects, and now, hopefully alleviated of some of the guilt and shame that faithfully accompanies deceit and disloyalty, Rooney's form has only one place to go—the same direction his member is inclined : up.

His form has been the worst of his career for the last six months, the same time period that News of the World were threatening to publish his scandal.

Imagine his plight: He was a young husband and a new father, with the most rabid media culture in the world forever prying into his private life. Upon his small head, he carried the hopes and sad vicarious needs of his rapacious nation throughout their abysmal World Cup.

All this while being essentially blackmailed by England's most salacious news carrier and lying to his wife, family, and self.

At least now, that stress is mostly gone. The world is off his shoulders. Better for him that everyone know he's a reprobate than for him to have to hide it all the time.

The painful process, only just now underway, will be a cathartic one, and it will matter most importantly: Both helping to account for his dismal form from last April and ushering in a less-harbored Rooney playing more carefree and more effectively.

Beyond that, I don't care and nor should you.

The only way to change a regrettable subculture is by not participating in it. Blame Rooney for his trade on the field only and leave the rest to hopefully less and less of lesser people.