Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vacant United survice creepy Crawley as Marseille awaits

Oddly, the losing fans probably had more fun at Old Trafford than Manchester United's multi-national supporters.

Crawley Town gave an audacious account for themselves, losing 1-0 but leaving the Theater of Dreams with their pride, a million quid, and a distinct moral advantage over the Premier League giants intact.

United's starting eleven consisted largely of names usually reserved for the substitutes bench.

Their best player was the goalkeeper. Anders Lindegaard punted and distributed very well in maintaining his first clean sheet under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Each da Silva twin marauded up and down the wing, both bungling and brilliantly executing tackles and passes in equal measure. Each suffered what seemed minor injuries and were eventually substituted. Both are improving, both are useful.

John O'Shea and Wes Brown comprised a nostalgic centerbackline and at least did more for their respective reputations than any midfielder or attacker.

Darron Gibson refreshingly showed some incisive through balls—the same type Michael Carrick used to play whenever he was worth a damn. Otherwise he was slow, passed over-simply, and disappeared in the second half. They each did.

As inferred, Carrick laid back and played one-time passes backwards while Anderson was virtually anonymous until leaving at halftime.

Gabriel Obertan and Bebe both displayed speed and dribbling panache at times, but unfortunately each also showcased a regrettable unfamiliarity with passing, in larger quantities and to greater impact.

Ultimately United were attacking Crawley Town like they attack most Premiership sides, at least when Scholes is off the pitch: from the outside-in, with wingers hoofing in hopeful crosses. Bloody hell, we're not Liverpool.

It was good enough, though, for a single goal, Gibson rising above an inherent not-belonging to cross nicely onto Brown's head after a half-hour or so.

A direct approach would have seemed more intuitive but credit to the minnows for deterring any attractive football through the middle, even if it was more from the detriment of the attending United players.

Javier Hernandez again implied that's he's more useful off the bench, and why not when his righteous speed is that more surprising to defenders already tired. His through runs strive on service which was scarcely provided by his teammates poor passing. Hernadez's inherent attributes still need to be complemented by improving skills which are sure to come based on his eager displays this term.

Wayne Rooney was given a 45-minute run-out at halftime. He quickly proceeded to prove that he was indeed not "back" in form—shocking, isn't it? About as shocking as the last ten times the echo chamber hoped him so.

He lacked confidence with several poor passing decisions and had an increasingly-present heavy touch. A few driven long-balls added requisite gloss to an otherwise mediocre 45 minutes. Also required was an inevitable tantrum and rash tackle after giving the ball away three times in thirty seconds against non-leaguers as the tie ebbed out.

According to all the adverts, the FA Cup has an inherent magic to it, and if it does, it's reserved to the smaller sides like Crawley Town for doing their small supporter base proud, enriching their club's finances
significantly.and proudly displaying their badge to television audiences around the world despite losing.

They weren't fortunate most of the players in red shirts played poorly because their own good play certainly contributed at least in part to United's midfield malaise.

It shouldn't really matter how well Crawley played, at least not to United; any millionaire eleven they trot out—at home—should crush a non-league side.

But the ends justify their means. The Reds will travel to Marseilles midweek in the inaugural knockout leg of their 2011 Champions League campaign rested and focused.

Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Dimitar Berbatov, Paul Scholes, Nani, Ryan Giggs, and Patrice Evra should all start and start sprightly on French soil next Wednesday.

As such, Manchester United won't be bothered by any romance lost domestically.

An in-form Marseilles await their arrival in a much more lucrative and prestigious competition—one with even more manufactured romance and far more real consequence for the billion-dollar superclub.

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