|photo by DrPleishner||via PhotoRee|
After me, the flood. In the ceiling above the United dressing room ceiling, apparently. A pipe bursting at the Stadium of $hite before kick off caused the ceiling in the United dressing room to collapse and the game to be delayed 20 minutes. Let's hope there's no foreshadowing involved here.....
My first thought on seeing a strange United roster: Where's Berba? It's a road game, and Rooney's out, so where's our leading goal scorer this season? On the bench, apparently. Better hope Owen stays on his current form. Sir Alex seems to be tinkering with the lineup in a bid to find a second pair of strikers in the absence of the favored pairing of Berbatov and Rooney.
Second, third and fourth thoughts: A first start today for Anderson, and Rio Ferdinand, too. Also, Evra's on the bench; maybe SAF is reading farlieonfootie after all!
United are clearly hoping the clean sheet at Valencia mid-week, which represented the first time our center back pairing of Rio and Vida played together this season, is the beginning of a trend. As for Anderson, who knows.... I've never quite figured this guy out. He doesn't score goals, and he has rarely bossed the midfield in the past two years after a semi-promising start to his United career. Fingers crossed he has a good game today.
Guess I didn't cross my fingers tightly enough. The start isn't promising: sluggish, slow and out of sorts. And that's Sunderland. United look even worse. The Red Devils are let off the hook several times on clear cut Sunderland chances, and Nemanja Vidic looks as if he's auditioning for a starting spot in the linebacking corps of the New York Football Giants. United play as if the match is being held underwater, perhaps an appropriate style given the dressing room situation, and create only one opportunity in the game's first 45 minutes.
United are completely overrun in their deep-lying midfield formation, with almost no possession to show for the first half. Did I miss the news that Xavi, Iniesta and Messi were mysteriously transferred to Sunderland in advance of today's match? I can't remember the last time we were dominated on the ball like this. Scholes, O'Shea and Anderson are responsible for a couple of shocking giveaways and Macheda and Owen spend more time defending Sunderland corners near their own goal than they do in the opposite half of the pitch -- you know, the one in which the Sunderland goal is located.
It's Berba on for Owen to start the second half, and within the first minute of the re-start he has more touches than Owen and Macheda combined. Within two minutes the ball is in the back of the net, although it's Chris Foy and not Mike Dean refereeing the game, and Berba is correctly judged two yards offside when he re-directs the ball past the Sunderland 'keeper Filet Mignon.
The game drifts along aimlessly for the next 20 minutes, as United slowly play their way back into the match. Clearly the United uniforms, soggy from their pre-match soaking, seem dried out and lighter after a blast of the Fergie hairdryer at halftime. Chicharito enters the game in the 65th minute as United seek to gain the upper hand and look for a late winner. Instead, the move seems to inspire Sunderland as they turn up the pressure in repsonse to the urging of the home crowd.
Inexplicably, Anderson stays in the game until the 80th minute, continuing to provide poor quality crosses and pinpoint accurate passes to the field staff and assistant referees. Incredibly, Bebe comes on to take his place, appearing for the first time in the regular season. It's Fergie's equivalent of throwing in the kitchen sink. Steve Bruce immediately responds with the introduction of Ghanaian World Cup hero Asamoah Gyan, who on his first touch attempts a simple Berba-style bicylcle kick straight into VDS's open arms. Pepe Reina take note.
United do not threaten again as Sunderland runs out the clock. Another United road game, another not-good-enough result. I'm fit to be tied, and so is United. And that's farlieonfootie for October 2nd.