An Empty Gesture In A Fit Of Pique – Manchester 20th January 2014

Last week, United beat Swansea City 2-0 with goals from Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck to seize a losing run. It was at times sloppy and Swansea gave United a scare or two in the first half, but United ended up winning comfortably. Yesterday, with United’s recent results in mind, some bookies were offering 4/1 on a straight United win. I reckon it’s over twenty years since odds as good as that, were offered on a United win. Even with odds as enticing and knowing that even now, United are capable of beating anybody on the right day, I don’t know anybody who had a serious punt on a United victory. Most reds I spoke to prior to yesterday were secretly dreading the potential leathering United could have got. The 3-1 result looked emphatic for Chelsea, anybody who watched the game will know that was far from the case.

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Yet again a merciful United attack spared the opposition when playing well. It was a surprise to nobody watching the match that with United dominating the early part of the game, Chelsea took the lead in the 17th minute. Samuel Eto’o sold Phil Jones far too easily on the right flank and then let fly with left footed shot that hit the back of the net right in front of the traveling reds via a Michael Carrick deflection. Before that, Ashley Young had forced the excellent Petr Cech into a save in the first minute. For all that possession up to Eto’s goal, I’m convinced that United, Young, Rafael and Evra in particular,would struggle to deliver a news paper, never mind a decent final ball. The quality of the crosses when in a good position was as bad as anything I’ve ever seen Nani deliver. Continue reading An Empty Gesture In A Fit Of Pique – Manchester 20th January 2014

An Old Fashioned Charabanc…Islington 29th of April 2013

Three weeks ago, United played City and for the first time ever, I didn’t see a single ticket tout working a United game. The same thing happened yesterday at Arsenal’s stadium at Ashburton Grove. The circumstances though between the two games and lack of ticket grafters were radically different. For the derby, the local plod had decided on a zero tolerance policy for the enterprising free marketeers who work on Warwick Road, doing as the government tell them to do by going out and earning a living. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Yesterday at Arsenal, I did not come across a single person selling a ticket until the game had kicked off. The concourse was flooded with reds desperately trying to get tickets and there was absolutely nothing about. Through desperation, I tried jibbing my way into the ground. Twice I got in and twice some over-enthusiastic and underpaid jobsworth woke up at the very second I didn’t want them too. On the third attempt, I was clocked by a Policeman who’d saw me getting kicked out five minutes earlier. After he compared me to a feature of female genitalia, he advised me in Anglo Saxon language with all the humour you’d expect from a copper that I’d be spending some time courtesy of his friends and her majesty at Blackstock Road Police station if he saw me again. I didn’t want that to happen as they have a habit of releasing people minutes after the last train has left so you don’t even get a nights stay out of them. With resignation, I was walking towards Holloway Road to find a pub showing the match when I bumped into an Arsenal fan who offered me a spare for £200.00. Seconds after I told him this amateur once a season tout which orifice he could place his ticket, I heard a faint cheer go up and I was convinced United had scored. Due to the local mobile phone masts going berserk, it was a good five minutes before I could phone somebody to be greeted with the news that it was actually Arsenal who had scored with a goal by Theo Walcott. Continue reading An Old Fashioned Charabanc…Islington 29th of April 2013

No Banana Skin On Boxing Day, Manchester, 26th Of December 2011

Boxing day in Wigan is traditionally a fancy dress day. This explains why 200/300 of their travelling 1500 army came dressed as bananas yesterday, there were other more free thinking ones who came dressed as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Lennie the Lion. The rest of the Wigan fans just sat there, so much so that I was beginning to wonder if they’d borrowed some cast offs from Madame Tussauds in Blackpool to pad out the pathetically low turnout of away fans on a bank holiday for a match that is sixteen miles from their hometown. Wigan, like Leeds, is a rugby league town that just happens to have a football team attached to it. Leeds have found their true and correct place in the second flight and hopefully will stay there ad infinitum, I have a feeling that Wigan are gonna be joining them there this summer, having stayed in the Premier League with admirable resilience, since 2005. Wigan are beginning to remind me of Wimbledon, who had an abnormally long stay in the top flight before being relegated, moving fifty odd miles away to Milton Keynes and completly losing their identity in the process. Like Wimbledon, Wigan’s support in regards to numbers is lamentable, when a club can’t sell out their ground for the visit of United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, then to my eyes, they have no business being in the top division. I could sit here all night taking the piss out of Wigan, but it’s a bit like kicking a puppy. At least the fans who came to Old Trafford yesterday dressed as bananas did try and create an atmosphere. They were, in the second half suddenly celebrating an imaginary goal, I was begining to think that they’d been on Ken Kesey’s favourite medication, then they tried riling a pretty bored K Stand by singing City’s Mancini song, to the tune of Volare and about City’s recent 6-1 win at Old Trafford. United fans ignored them in a way an adult would ignore a child jumping up and down saying look at me. United fans, myself included here, were looking forward to going back to the pub to carry on with the festive drinking session that always occurs on Boxing Day and which had been rudely interrupted by, unusually for United, a 3PM kick off.

Continue reading No Banana Skin On Boxing Day, Manchester, 26th Of December 2011

Little Pea Pop’s Up On The Camouflaged Goalkeeper At The School Of Science – Liverpool, 29th Of October 2011

Difficult match in store today, Everton are not a good team and it’s been a good while since they’ve had a good team but like any team managed by David Moyes, they’re hard to beat. United started the game with plenty of possession but also play with the nervous hesitancy of a team that have recently been clobbered. In the first half, Everton occasionally go forward but even with Louis Saha, there’s no potency or feeling of danger in their attack. To my surprise, Alex Ferguson started with Jonny Evans. My surprise was twofold, one that he wasn’t suspended after last weeks sending off and secondly after his poor performance last week, he was picked for a pretty tricky away game, so soon after. Evans, whilst not my favorite defender, didn’t do much wrong today.

Javier Hernandez scored on nineteen minutes after a good cross by the recently maligned Patrice Evra to put United deservedly in the league in front of the Gwladys Street End. Rooneys presence in the penalty area distracted two Everton defenders leaving Hernandez free. United applied plenty of pressure, Rooney’s attempt at a shot from eighteen yards was scuppered by referee Mark Halsey accidently getting in his way. I also notice that Danny Welbeck has today got a leaden first touch. The only significant threat from Everton today came from a Leighton Baines free kick, just before half time which hit the bar with David De Gea a spectator.

Today’s win was more than welcome, a traditionally hard place to go to, United have ground out what could be a crucial win. The atmosphere from Everton fans was of their usual languor. Whilst I don’t doubt their passion or fervour, Everton fans, to my eyes, have got the most laid back supporters I’ve ever come across. I sometimes think that most of them have come to the ground in a car filled with vapour from exotic hand rolled cigarettes and listening to Pink Floyd or Massive Attack en route.

The linesman went down injured in front of the Park End on eighty nine minutes. To me it looked like a back injury and it took fouth official, Phil Dowd a couple of minutes to get ready to come on. Due to the linesmans’ injury, substitutions and other sundry stoppages, there was six minutes injury time allocated. In the second minute of injury time, Rooney picked up cramp which adds another unwelcome minute to the stoppage time. With there being a total of seven minutes’ injury time played whilst United are stoutly defending a one goal lead, the usual moaning of excessive injury time in a United game is strangely muted today

Can You See The Goal Fernando? Manchester, 19th Of September 2011

Phil Dowd is, I reckon, one of the better referees in the premier league. Watching the match yesterday, I originally thought that he gave some very generous decisions in Chelsea’s favour, I still think that but I now realise he gave at least one goal to United that was offside. Yesterdays match was probably the most bizzarre I’ve ever seen between two top teams. United’s usual precision of passing was lacking and there was some very sloppy play from Uniteds midfield. Couple that with some very unusual waste’s of good opportunity from Chelsea, Ramires and Fernando Torres in particular (in fact Torres, more infamous) meant that this was as far from the usual keep it tight game that United and Chelsea usually serve, as can be. It was a great help to United that Chelsea insist on having a clearly past-it John Terry as skipper and first choice centre half. Whilst Chris Smalling was fractionally offside for United’s first goal, Chelsea’s marking was diabolical. It wasn’t as if Smalling was offside through a well marshalled Chelsea defence but by a shambolic and incoherent back four which left John Terry on his own, tracking back. By thirty minutes, Chelsea had spurned three great goal scoring oportunities from Torres and Ramires, but that was to get much better later.

Chelsea supporters are like the Oasis of football fans. Every song they sing is either directly nicked or bastardised from the United and to a lesser extent, Liverpool song books. They’ve even nicked the “el nino” banner that the scousers came up with for Torres, just changing it from red to blue. They sing the blue flag (sic),  Forever and ever, Bring on Sunderland and Arsenal and many more. The one chant that is their own is the awe inspiring repetition of Chewsee, chewsee, chewsee to the melody of “Amazing Grace”

Nani scored a belter to make it 2-0, he cut through the Chelsea defence like a hot knife through butter to hit, from twenty yards, a screamer which went flying past Petr Cech’s right hand side.

Phil Jones was immense yesterday, he has made a massive impression on everybody at Old Trafford since his debut. Most people, myself included were pretty ignorant of him until he came to Old Trafford but now, he looks like such an imposing figure and for such a big lad, surprisingly nimble footed. He dosen’t as much dance and skip his way through a defence, like Nani, as he just goes through them like a light footed tank. It’s hard to believe he’s only nineteen years old.

After the recent anihilation of Arsenal, the Stretford end serenaded Chelsea with Are you Arsenal in disguise ? Chelsea, who had in Ashley Cole one ex Arsenal player decided to answer that by bringing on another ex Arsenal player at half time in Nicholas Anelka. It took him all of thirty seconds to make an impact by threading a brilliant pass through to Torres who dinked the ball over De Gea to make it 3-1.

United’s counter attacking play can be devastating. Juan Mata had a shot on Uniteds goal which was brilliantly saved by David De Gea, Chelsea took a short corner, lost possession and within ten seconds, United had hit the bar through Nani and then won a penalty. Wayne Rooney took the penalty and his standing foot slipped just like David Beckham in Turkey in 2003 and also more celebrated by United fans, John Terry in Moscow in 2008.

Torres missed three great chances yesterday but the one that everybody will remember and the one that’ll have Ronnie Rosenthal doing cartwheels in gratitude, is the open goal miss in front a disbelieving & delirious Stretford End with five minutes to go. As Torres controlled the ball and rounds De Gea like the top class centre forward we know he is,  I’m mentally preparing for 3-2 and a late siege on United’s goal. The crowds reactions was like none I’ve witnessed in my thirty years of watching football. Relief, derision and the sound of scornful laughter from at least 73000 people. Even the Chelsea fans in the L stand behind me were laughing, though in a more rueful and resigned manner than we were. Chelseas heart, unsurprisingly vanished after the Torres miss, so much so that a bad miss by Dimitar Berbatov in the last minute will be, by most people, forgotten.