Joined The Choir Invisible

According to the fourth estate, the early part of Summer saw Manchester United rocked by Harry Kane staying at Tottenham Hotspur. We were shattered by David de Gea’s imminent departure (he hasn’t gone yet), snubbed by Paul Pogba and had more links than Houdini’s chains. United have been preparing, readying or launching bids for Uncle Tom Cobley, whilst at the same time getting rid of Paul Scholes’s replacement, Tom Cleverley… (having written that sentence, I suddenly had a choking fit).

In early July, Nani left United for Fenerbahçe. The Lisboan arrived in a huge fanfare of expectation in the Summer of 2007; some people claimed that he was better than Cristiano Ronaldo… (oh Christ, I’m off again). Nani looked like Michael Jackson but played football like Janet Jackson. A player of undoubted skill occasionally, he will always be remembered by me as a winger who took worse corners than Mads Timm and whose crosses would’ve been comfortably dealt with by a blindfolded Jim Leighton. To use the words of Brian Clough, he floated like a butterfly and he stung like one.

A seminal moment from Nani at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica da Luz in 2010. Cristiano Ronaldo turned Gerard Pique inside out, his exquisite goalbound shot from was gliding over Iker Casillas’s head and into the net. Nani decided to add the finishing touch, from an offside position. Ronaldo’s reaction was priceless

Another player joining Nani in Kadiköy is Robin van Persie, who has left United after three seasons. He came to Old Trafford having turned down a better offer from Manchester City (quelle surprise), and Continue reading Joined The Choir Invisible

Ernie From Sesame Street – Yeovil, January 4th 2015

It’s back, the magic of the cup™, that time of the year when fans of smaller clubs are condescended for being the beating heart of football (© the media). We have bemused footballers who didn’t grow up in the UK being asked what the FA Cup meant to them as kids growing up in, say, Germany, France or the Ivory Coast (real answer, “not a lot”, official answer, “everything”).

This year, the BBC and BT Sports have excelled themselves with their choice of third round matches to screen live. Continue reading Ernie From Sesame Street – Yeovil, January 4th 2015

Rampant United Raid The Cottage, Manchester, 21st Of December 2011

At 11.15 Monday night, I got a text off a friend of a friend in Brighton, telling me there was three tickets available for the match at Craven Cottage on Wednesday at £50.00QPR apiece. I accepted at once and having made plans to go down to Fulham, I got a pretty underwhelming text off the same kid, telling me the tickets had actually been sold last night before he’d texted me, but he didn’t know this at the time. I could’ve gone down on spec, like I’d done for the game at QPR, but there’s a massive difference between going to London at the weekend without a ticket and all the hassle and mither of going there on a Wednesday night ticketless (going straight from work, Wednesbury at rush hour, getting home at 3am and up for work three hours later, etc).

This is the first United match this season that I’ve either not watched in the flesh or live on the television, SKY sports had decided tonight to show the goalless draw between Wigan Athletic & Liverpool live, I believe so as to get one of their quota of crap matches out of the way, satisfy a contractual obligation with the Premier League and maintain a veneer of equality. Having failed to get any kind stream on the internet showing the match, I kept in touch with the match via the very old fashioned method of listening to the commentary on Talksport for the first half. By half time United were 3-0 up with Danny Wellbeck, Nani and Ryan Giggs scoring. Giggs scored his first league goal of the season and also by doing that, scored for the 22nd consecutive season.

Listening to the match on the radio is definetly more stressful than watching it on the telly or in the ground as you can obviously only use your imagination to picture what’s going on. In my formative years of being a United fan, in the 1980s, there wasn’t the saturation television coverage of football that we get now, we’d get something like five/six games a season live on television, seven or eight in a good year. Myself and fellow reds of my age were at the mercy of Piccadilly radio’s United correspondant , Tom Tyrell. A man so biased that he makes Paddy Crerand sound like Bob Wilson, he’s the only man I’ve ever come across who could induce heart failure in an eleven year old boy. With United running rampant by half time, there was none of the heart stopping moments that radio commentary gives you and by sixty minutes, I’d managed to find a stop/start stream of the match and United were in cruise control. On 88 minutes, Wayne Rooney let fly with a scorcher of shot, the kind a striker plays when his team’s winning 3-0. It was, to then, easily the best goal of the night and it was a nice way to wrap up a comfortable win. Dimitar Berbatov though had other ideas when a couple of minutes later, he backheeled an Antonio Valencia cross in the bottom left hand corner of the Fulham net to score a goal very similar to the famous one Denis Law scored for City in front of the Scoreboard End of Old Trafford in 1974.

The only other thing I can remember from tonight of significance was when Phil Jones was clobbered by Clint Dempsey’s elbow in the second minute. Having seen the replay, I genuinely think it was an accident. Dempsey is an honest lad, he looked pretty gutted to have done what he’d done. Jones, hard bastard that he is, played on for twenty minutes but was obviously not right, I’m just hoping it won’t cause his absence from the United team for too long. With the physios room at the moment at Old Trafford resembling the M62 rush hour, he’ll be badly missed if he’s out too long.

Happy Christmas

The Statues At The Liberty – Swansea 19th Of November 2011

On the 7th of November 1990, Alex Ferguson took his United team just over the Welsh border to Wrexham for a European Cup Winners Cup second round, 2nd leg match for a 2-0 win that would be the last time United played a competitive match in Wales until today. I remember that night well, with it being my first “Euro away” watching United, it was an efficient and dour performance with United doing just what was required and nothing else. Today, twenty one years, one hundred miles south in distance and the same place in quality of performance, United did enough to win a game against a team who have a manager who believes in having his team playing good football, but a team that United should have been out of sight of by half time, but for some sloppy final balls/passes. It’s becoming a recurring theme this, but United have yet again got away with winning a game when not firing on all cylinders. At this rate, I’ll be happy for United to stay in contention for the title by January where I’m hoping that Alex Ferguson spends some of that Ronaldo money which he insist is still there and get a midfielder who can pass a ball accurately, tackle and take control of the game. If he doesn’t, then I think we can forget about the title.

Despite Swansea City’s admirable attitude to playing football, they are a mediocre side who whilst having periods of dominating possession never really looked like scoring, save for a glaring miss by Scott Sinclair on 23 minutes. Most teams, losing to United by a goal with, lets say ten minutes to go, would go on kamikaze attacking mission against which would normally result in United breaking on the counter and scoring, occasionally a siege can develop and United will concede. Swansea today played the closing stages of the match like a team seeing out a draw. There was no urgency or frenzy from them. It was a strange approach from a home side. All through the game United’s defence had Swansea well under control, Phil Jones once again outstanding. On 11 minutes, the time defying Ryan Giggs hustled the ball off Angel Rangel to set up Javier Hernandez to stumble the ball home.

After that, there was an abundance of opportunities for United to extend the lead only to lay off a casual and sloppy final ball. Wayne Rooney was playing too deep, attempting the lung bursting playing style of Bryan Robson and Roy Keane, at one point in the first half, it looked like he was trying to play a twenty five yard pass to himself, such was his vigour. I love that sense of commitment and desire that Rooney has, but his union card says he’s a goalscorer and one of the best in the world too, hopefully his time in midfield is as a makeshift, in lieu of a new midfielder signing in January.

One statistic I heard after the match was that United have the most clean sheets in the Premier League. This is after the statistic being bandied about in early October that said United had given opposing teams the most shots on goal up until then. This means to me that far from being a calamity, United have, with David de Gea actually signed a good keeper. Odd that nobody in punditry has pointed that out after the glee that greeted his mistake at Wembley or the Hawthorns. Where’s Mike Summerbee when you need him ? Humbug !

As for the atmosphere in the ground, the Welsh, southern Welsh in particular, are famous for their love of singing and they didn’t let anybody down today. A noisy and raucous crowd finally seemed to lose heart after about sixty minutes when I could hear United fans singing songs about Andy Cole, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Paul Scholes. Take Andy Cole for example, my fellow reds are the only fans I’ve ever come across who sing songs celebrating a player who left ten years ago, whilst the match is playing. It’s a sign that if a player does good for us and behave honourably after leaving United (hello Mark Hughes), he’ll always be remembered and feted by Reds. It makes me proud to be a United fan but the truth also is that when United fans start singing songs in the middle of a game celebrating them players, it’s because they are bored. That’s fair enough, I’d rather United fans did that than do what the perenially unimaginitive do and start doing a Mexican wave. There’s nothing else in the world like being a red and tonight, I’m gonna be in the pub celebrating that, hopefully in true Manchester United style…