We’ve had an eight day break from domestic football with an England friendly against Brazil thrown in to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the FA. In the days preceeding the match, this gave ITV an opportunity to show pretty bikini clad girls walking alongside the Copacabana Beach even though the game was in a freezin’ cold London. To my eyes, the most important thing about the game was that no United players came back injured.In the last week we’ve also seen ex England and Everton midfielder and occasional genius Paul Gascoigne check into a detox unit in Arizona. Apart from the obvious sadness at Gascoignes physical and mental decline over the last fifteen years one of the strangest things to be discovered about this affair was that Gary Lineker, Chris Evans and Wayne Rooney had chipped in to pay for his treatment and travel expenses. After the 1990 World Cup, Paul Gascoigne was supposedly a multi millionaire who was financially set up for life. John Lennon and Paul McCartney once said that money couldn’t buy them love, we all know it can’t buy you health but all said, how has it come that three of his mates have had to club together in so he could get treatment. Somebody somewhere has had Gascoigne over in a big way and it’s funny that it’s not been looked into.
My favourite bit of news this week has to be about an alleged fixed match between Liverpool and Debrecen in September 2009 when the opposition keeper was allegedly paid to concede more than two goals. Liverpool won the match 1-0 with a goal from Dirk Kuyt but it really does beg the question of how shit must they have been to have a goalkeeper ready and willing to let in three goals and they still only won 1-0. The other news out of Anfield this week was the announcement of Jamie Carraghers retirement at the end of this season. There have been a slew of tributes to Carragher and here I would like to throw my pennies worth into the tribute pool. In January 2006. Rio Ferdinand scored a last minute winner for United against Liverpool at Old Trafford which resulted in Gary Neville running towards the Liverpool fans and sharing his unrequited joy with them. Jamie Carragher commented at the time that if he had scored the winner for United he would not have done that and here, I can say with confidence that he was telling the truth. In the Liverpool/United match at Anfield in 1999, Jamie Carragher scored two own goals for United in front of the Kop and he didn’t run to them celebrating the goals. It has been speculated that Carragher is going to launch a career in TV punditry. If that is true then I can’t wait to see him behind the microphone next season. Having heard Carragher talk, I can say that he’s the type of man who makes a sentence sound like one mashed up multi syllabled word (eeeeeeeeeooooolllykkkkk). SKY TV have been frenziedly trying to entice people into subscribing to 3DTV, if they get Carragher on board, I’d advise that they abandon that campaign and instead try selling scouse translating hearing aids. In the unintentionally hilarious fly on the wall documentary series about Liverpool FC earlier this season, Jamie Carragher was so indecipherable that his spoken contribution came with English subtitles (I’m not making this up !!). Carragher did say this week in an interview with FourFourTwo magazine that winning the European Cup medal meant more than winning the Premier League. I suppose that’s easy for him to say but perhaps he should’ve asked Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville or even Jonathan Greening for that opinion before he spouted it, as they have won both and thus, should obviously know.
In my time I have seen United have some bad losses against Everton, particularly in the mid to late 1980s when a draw against Everton was, for a while considered to be a good result. From the 5-0 defeat at Goodison in October 1984, the 1-0 FA Cup final defeat of 1995 and the dreadful United performance on the opening weekend of this season which resulted in another 1-0 defeat, for all them adverse results the worst result I can ever remember in a United/Everton match was the 4-4 draw in last seasons corresponding fixture. The result of that match has been open wound since the final whistle was blown by referee Mike Jones. Immediately after that game, United were six points clear having played a game more than City, but City were just about to play away at an already relegated Wolves and everybody had a sick gut feeling going home after the match. The weird thing about that result was that it wasn’t a sense of revenge that United needed to beat Everton today. Everton didn’t do anything out of order in that 4-4 draw, thay just did what United allowed then to do from a winning position of 4-2. Today wasn’t as much about payback, as much as it was catharsis. Since United last played a match, at Craven Cottage eight days ago, City have unbelivably dropped five points to add to the other two points they dropped at Loftus Road a few days before United played by the Thames. City’s loss at Southampton yesterday was by the bookies definition, a shock result. Anybody who’d seen Southampton’s performances against United this season, combined with their desparately unlucky defeat at the tripe colony on the first weekend of the season might not have been too surprised that Southampton won yesterday. What was shocking however was just how bad City were yesterday.
With the knowledge that a win for United today could open a previously unthinkable twelve point lead, United were in no mood today to repeat last seasons fuck up against the same side. United didn’t play brilliantly but were proffessional and more importantly, enjoyed the kind of luck City had last season when they weren’t playing particularly well. United started with Giggs to add fuel to some peoples belief that Sir Alex Ferguson would gamble on a slightly weakened team in anticipation of the match against Real Madrid on Wednesday night. Earlier this season, the inclusion of Giggs in the starting line up would’ve emitted a groan from a certain faction within the Old Trafford crowd. After a Robin Van Persie open net miss on ten minutes, Van Persie unselfishly set up Ryan Giggs in the 13th minute for Giggs to score his first league goal of the season and also to find the net in the league for the 23rd consecutive season. Just think about that for a minute!
As expected, Everton eventually took the game to United with Leon Osman forcing a great save from David De Gea on 24 minutes and Victor Anichebe was dispossesd by the rapidly improving Rafael on 36 minutes. In first half injury time Robin Van Persie got it right second time round to make the score 2-0 and give everybody a far more relaxed half time than anticipated.
Despite the chants around Old Trafford today, nobody is going to be daft enough to consider this title race over. In 1996, United recovered a similar deficit from Newcastle to win the title, Arsenal did the same to United in 1998 and United came back from the dead in 2003 to eventually romp home to the title. The results lately have been very good to United, especially with City dropping points at Loftus Road and with them also still having Goodison Park and White Hart Lane to go to (amongst others). All said, especially with our experience over the years, only a dickhead would think the title is wrapped up now but there’s no getting away from the fact that United are in a pretty healthy position.
Wednesday just passed saw the 55th anniversary of the Munich air crash which eventually claimed the lives of 23 men. Geoff Bent. Roger Byrne, Alf Clarke, Eddie Colman, Tom Curry, Walter Crickmer, Donny Davies, Duncan Edwards, George Follows, Tom Jackson, Mark Jones, Archie Ledbrooke, Bela Miklos, David Pegg, Henry Rose, Willie Satinoff, Frank Swift, Tommy Taylor, Eric Thompson, Bert Whalley & Liam Whelan will never be forgotten. God bless