|photo by marcleh
Difficult to control the footie thoughts today, popping out of my head from seemingly nowhere at all:
- What in the world did Dimitar Berbatov do to lose his starting place, and what does it all mean for him and Manchester United? The Bulgarian still to this day leads the EPL in scoring for the season, and his general play, attitude and hustle -- yes, hustle -- have been outstanding this season. So how is he rewarded for all his hard work? Have a seat, Dimi.... I'll be the first to admit Berba's been streaky this season -- putting up big numbers against Liverpool, Blackburn and Birmingham, and often going dry for a number of games. But it seems as if just when he last hit top gear -- against Birmingham, in late January, with his third hat trick of the season -- that he was shunted aside yet again. Am I missing something, or does he just not fit into the Reds' current scheme? I don't ask this question lightly, as it's impossible to dismiss the preternatural rise of young Javier Hernandez this season, or the undeniable fact that Rooney is finally beginning to play himself into the form that we expected a bit earlier in the campaign, or recognize that Sir Alex prefers a five man midfield in "more important" games, but again I ask: Where does Berba fit in? I love the guy and I would like to see him on the pitch more often.
- Is Valencia really going to play at that level right from the get go? Was anyone else astonished by his performance on Saturday? I mean, doesn't Antonio need a game or two to warm up? The Ecuadorian's 45 minute shift against Arsenal was simply astounding, and he looked as if he hadn't missed a game all season. Showing pace, verve and confidence, Tony V reminded us all what we've been missing this year: directness on the ball, terrorizing defensive backs with breakout pace and stinging crosses, and providing a quick outlet for the 'keeper to get the ball up the pitch. I hope it continues, 'cause if it does it will make all the difference in the run-in. Talk about a new signing...! My guess is Valencia will fit in a bit better with his "new" teammates than Torres is doing down in London.
- City in the Semis? One of the things I love about top flight football is that just when you think you are well and truly done with someone, they pop back up again on your schedule. We've played City twice this season, and both games have been tough affairs -- sure the game at Old Trafford was four times the drab affair conducted by Mancini and his boys at Eastlands, but only one goal (and what a goal!) separates the two sides after 180 minutes plus stoppage time. It'll be a nervy affair at Wembley come mid-April, and a battle very few saw coming after Rooney dispatched the Citizens with his parting gift of a bicycle. In the same vein, I have a sneaking suspicion that if -- and I say if -- United get by Marseille later today, we may be seeing Chelsea a couple more times in the Champions League.
- Was that really Owen Hargreaves back in training yesterday? Or was it a mirage? Last seen almost four and a half months ago vs. Wolves, Hargreaves was back on the pitch with the reserve squad for training yesterday. I think it's too late for him to salvage his career with United -- and most likely, and sadly, any kind of a career at all -- but it would be nice to think he might feature in one or two games in the stretch run. Fingers crossed; he's been through enough over the past three years, and it would be a sweet day for him if he got a runout between now and May.
This is farlieonfootie for March 15.