Having picked a taxi up at the airport, I was lectured by a driver who sounded uncannily like Steve McLaren. “This is a city of 220,000 people, we have fantastic red light district and great shmokers’ cafes, why would you want to go to a shithole like Amsterdam?”
With this logic, it was hard to argue with a driver who had a similar physical presence to Wladimir Klitschko (and a similar barnet). It didn’t help this driver’s humour that the E27 was slowed almost to a standstill by a combined harvester that had a suspiciously yellow and green colouring. After all this time, I think Buckscanary has finally got his revenge.
Outside the Philips Stadion. This photo makes it look a little like Sunderland’s stadium, here though is where the comparison ends. Eindhoven’s a cracking place to visit, Sunderland… (photo courtesy of John O’Dea)
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.
A cagey game saw Chelsea win 1-0, with a goal scored against the run of play from Eden Hazard in the 38th minute. Some say John Terry fouled Radamel Falcao in the run up to the goal, maybe he did but to be fair to the referee, it wasn’t blatant. It’s goals like this which show a team who’s going to win the league. Chelsea didn’t play well and were there for the taking should United had posed any decent threat upfront. After the Chelsea goal, I couldn’t envisage a Manchester United equaliser. John Terry and Gary Cahill, never looked seriously threatened by United’s forward line. Prior to that, United’s best chance came from a Luke Shaw cross, which fed Wayne Rooney sixteen yards from goal in the 3rd minute. Rooney calmly sidefooted the ball high into the stanchion of the side netting. The ripple of the net deceived the travelling reds in the Shed End and David de Gea, into thinking United had scored.
This was a great win for United. Lucky, very lucky but a great win, and the luck has been overdue this season. Arsenal can (and knowing them, will) moan endlessly about the referee, Mike Dean, missing Marouane Fellaini’s push on Kieran Gibbs. This in turn led to United’s first goal, and then to Wojciech Szczesny’s rib injury. They will, like Match of the Day, conveniently ignore Jack Wilshere sticking his beak into Fellaini in the 30th minute. This was twelve minutes after Wilshere had sniffed at a chance of putting the home side in front when one-on-one with David de Gea.
United fans celebrating outside the stadium after the match
The longer Arsenal went without scoring, the more the anxiety rose within their team and supporters. United, with an inexperienced and makeshift defence, were in a state of siege in the first half. David de Gea was again outstanding. When United went in front with a Kieran Gibbs own goal in the 56th minute, the home side and fans visibly lost heart. The goal, which came from an Antonio Valencia ball which he just clobbered across the Arsenal box, was as comical Continue reading No Pleasing Some People – Manchester 22nd November 2014
With United not being in Europe, we can sit back and watch what happens with a detached amusement at what sometimes goes on around us. At City on Wednesday, they lost to CSKA Moscow but they weren’t happy at their treatment by UEFA. They were so incensed in fact that not only did some fans not turn up to the game in protest, one of their number even decided to paint up a protest banner which pointed away from the pitch and in a true display of mancunian rebellion (this time against Grammar) they wrongly spelt two words out of the ten on the banner
You had one job Bramhall Paul …… And you spelt it wrong and held it the wrong way around … you fucking clown. pic.twitter.com/H7phlXxY3J
Crystal Palace have made a reasonable start to the season. Nobody was taking a win against them today for granted. There’s a different vibe around Old Trafford nowadays. One that’s not been felt on a regular basis since the early 1990’s. There’s not the same confidence pre match that this fixture would’ve enticed before Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
Relieved United players celebrate Juan Mata’s winner in front of the F Stand (photo courtesy of Neil Meehan)