Looking At A Bear – Manchester 9th May 2015

With City and Arsenal now assured of top four, Manchester United and Liverpool are now locked in a battle over who is the worst of the best. A sort of consolation prize that modern football and it’s obsession of finishing top four now sees as more important (financially at least) than winning the FA Cup. A contest that should’ve been all over now, is still in play, due to United’s infuriating habit of doing the hard bit, then ballsing up the relatively easy bit. At St James’s Park two years ago, there were pictures of the Arsenal side celebrating coming fourth with more vigour than how Liverpool celebrated their last title win in 1990 (if they knew what was to come, I’m sure they wouldn’t have been so blasé). With United beating Crystal Palace today and assuming that Liverpool somehow beat Chelsea tomorrow, United still need three points to be guaranteed top four. Should United get back into the Champions League next season, it will be good to see the reds back where I believe they belong. That said, having watched the Barcelona V Bayern Munich match the other night, United are a year or two off having a serious stab at winning the thing. Should the qualification happen (and it really should now), I don’t want to see any of triumphant photographs, à la Arsenal. It’s the minimum requirement.

At Selhurst Park last season, the literally untouchable Michael Oliver, Continue reading Looking At A Bear – Manchester 9th May 2015

Krul To Be Kind – Manchester 5th March 2015

Police horses cowered in fear, the streets were dark both far and near, Geordies cried long into the night, it was krul to be kind and great to be young.

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A £44.00 view at St James Park. God just out of the picture (photo courtesy of Lee Thomas)

Another frustrating performance from United yielded probably the wildest celebrations of United fans for the best part Continue reading Krul To Be Kind – Manchester 5th March 2015

Oh How We Suffered – Manchester 26th December 2014

This could’ve been tricky. Newcastle have a lousy record at Old Trafford but on their last visit here, just over a year ago, they beat United at Old Trafford for the first time since 1972. The protests that were raging against Alan Pardew’s incumbency a few months ago have gone somewhat muted in recent times as Newcastle had built up a good run of results which included beating this seasons likely champions Chelsea, a few weeks ago at St James Park. Such was the revival in Newcastle’s fortunes that paper handkerchief manufacturers were in serious danger of laying workers off due to the fact that Geordies weren’t crying in the stands, their broon ale or threatening to burst the banks of the Tyne with their relentless squawking after a bad result. A last minute goal from Adam Johnson the other day for Sunderland and United’s eventually easy win today should see normal service resumed for Kleenex pretty soon.

United players celebrate Robin van Persie’s goal in the 53rd minute (photograph courtesy of Neil Meehan)

Without dominating play, Newcastle made a lively start. Continue reading Oh How We Suffered – Manchester 26th December 2014

Magpies squawk to high Evans – Newcastle United V Man United , 7th of October 2012

Former Arsenal & Scotland goalkeeper, BBC sport anchor and all round nice guy Bob Wilson recently said that when he was a goalkeeper “you could tell where the ball was going to go five yards after it left your opponents foot, nowadays a goalkeeper doesn’t know where the ball’s going to go until it’s five yards away from him“. I quote this because Uniteds’ talented but heart stopping goalkeeper, David De Gea, gave a performance today which reminded me of what Wilson said. His handling of crosses is diabolical. If a keeper comes out for a cross then his defence should know about it through a shout. This is something you learn at the age of eight. The fact that he ends up challenging his own defenders for a cross means either he’s not putting a shout up or worse, his defenders don’t trust him. On other occasions he flaps and completely misses the ball and creates chaos in his own area. A mistake of his from a cross on the 51st minute nearly caused a goal for Newcastle United. Newcastle fans were screaming at referee Howard Webb and linesman Darren Cann to award a goal after Papiss Cissé headed the ball goalbound following De Gea’s mistake. The referee and the linesman called it right due to the fact that they had to be sure it crossed the line. Having now seen the incident from more angles than a protractor can give, you still can’t be sure it’s a goal so how they can tell it in real time is a mystery. How the on form Papiss Cissé didn’put the ball away with almost the entire goal at his mercy is the biggest surprise. David De Gea did what he does best and made a fantastic instinctive save even if he did cause the problem in the first place, today, in the space of 30 seconds, we saw the best and the worst of our young Madridian goalkeeper.

David De Gea pulls off an amazing save from Papiss Cissé Continue reading Magpies squawk to high Evans – Newcastle United V Man United , 7th of October 2012

A Prayer to St Jude – Manchester 6th of May 2012

After Papiss Cissé’s goal of the season strike against Chelsea last Wednesday, there was always hope that Newcastle would make City struggle at St James Park earlier today. I’ve never been comfortable with relying on other sides to do United a favour but, needs must and all that. It quickly became apparent at Newcastle that barring a robbery, City were going to win. They looked dangerous going forward, strong in midfield and watertight at the back. In the second half, Yaya Touré, (the man whose agent, in November 2009 said, “If he leaves Barca, he will not go to Manchester City…he would sign for a more  important club”), took a grip on the game and scored twice to give City a deserved 2-0 win.

 The journey to Old Trafford was more of a subdued stumble than my usual brisk walk. If Newcastle had got a result I’d have been skipping like a kangaroo to the ground. I drove past Old Trafford about three hours before kick off to pick up the Red Issue. When there then, the weather was glorious but the sky seemed to get more grey through the day as the blue moon rose. When the game kicked off, it had all the intensity and atmosphere of a pre-season friendly. United were frenziedly chasing the ball when it went out for throws, corners or free kicks. As laudable as it is for intent, United were trying to claw back a ten goal deficit in goal difference, it all looked like a massive case of too little too late.

Swansea City, the same Swansea City that beat Man City a couple of months ago were, contrary to Roberto Mancini’s risible claim last Monday, not easy opponents. They came to Old Trafford and tried to play their usual passing game, Nathan Dyer in particular giving Patrice Evra a headache in the first half. On 28 minutes Paul Scholes scored, diverting a Michael Carrick shot with a speed of thought that he’ll never lose. Two minutes later Javier Hernandez missed a great chance to make it 2-0 but Ashley Young on 41 minutes doubled United’s lead. In the second half, the game petered out with a stubborn Swansea defence repelling a a United attack with plenty of intent but precious little invent.

Swansea fans were in great voice today. Their rendition of Evan James’s Land of My Fathers had the hairs on the back of my neck standing. They had a very funny song to the tune of Sloop John B about Scotty Sinclair and Rosie Webster but then they came out with all the usual generic bollocks about supporting their local team. United fans were understandably deflated with the result at Newcastle earlier in the day but the truth be told, barring the home game against Liverpool, the atmosphere from United fans at Old Trafford has been lamentable this season (when United fans can’t get wound up for the visit of Liverpool will be the day to really worry). Towards the end of the game, the Stretford End came up with a rousing Red flag. Originally a song adopted by United fans in the wake of the Munich  air disaster (and not originated by Chelsea despite what that pillock John Motson may say) it has become over the years, a song of defiance. It’s a bit like We’ll Support You Evermore, a song of consolation to a team that’s ultimately about to come up short. After the match, I reckon a good chunk of people who were singing the aforementioned anthems with such passion and fervour, left the ground without applauding the players on their traditional end of season lap of honour. Alex Ferguson said in the post match speech, to his adoring masses of a two thirds full stadium that Hopefully next week will be the biggest celebration of our lives. If that happens, he’ll be spot on, there’s no question about that. In the meantime, fellow Reds, especially any with a religious conviction, join me in a prayer to St Jude. AMEN