Monday, May 7, 2012

Thanks for the Memory: Manchester United 2 - Swansea City 0

Bob Hope

Having taken only four points in their last four games -- and almost certainly pissing away the title in the process -- Manchester United took the pitch today at a subdued Old Trafford needing a record setting win against the visitors to put them back in the title picture. Shorn of Danny Welbeck up front and Jonny Evans in the back, the Reds were weakened on both offense and defense entering the fray.  What follows are some thoughts on the on-pitch action, even as my mind was racing with scenarios of what might have been:

o For a team that often scores six but seldom scores ten, Sunday would have been a good day to have done the latter. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.

o The boys picked the wrong time of the season to hit a scoring slump. In retrospect, two shutouts in the team's last four games entering Sunday was no way to win a championship.

o The players' moods during the contest were summed up by Paul Scholes' non-reaction to the game's opening goal.  Acting as if he has missed the net instead of hit it for the fourth time this season, Scholes walked glumly back toward the center of the pitch after his tally at the half hour mark narrowed the goal difference with City down to nine.

o Chicharito's season was seen in a perfect microcosm during a five minute period in the first half, in which the Mexican missed scoring from a back heel and a ball off his shoulder -- both shots which would have found the net for the Little Pea last season.

o Ashley Young's issues were well summed up, too, when the United winger was scythed down inside the box in what should have been a clear cut penalty. Perhaps giving weight to the Englishman's burgeoning reputation for "embellishment," Referee Chris Foy chose to look the other way for a penalty which could have narrowed the goal difference even further.

o Young did cut the difference to eight just a few minutes later, bending the ball around and behind Dutchman Michel Vorm.  Young betrayed his emotions by his reaction to the score, just prior to the half time whistle: racing to pick the ball up and attempting to score another rather than celebrate. After all, when you're tied on points, it's all about the goals....

o Which came fewer and further between as the game drifted toward its conclusion: a Kieran Dyer and Angel Rangel block here, a missed Chicharito header and Wayne Rooney shot there, and the clock continued to tick away on the Reds' title chances -- as opportunities which really should have ended up in the back of the net failed to accommodate the home crowd's wishes.

o Of most note in the second half was Wayne Rooney's yellow card -- amazingly, his first of the season. Tellingly, the announcers still spoke tritely of the "red mist coming down" for Rooney, although -- in truth - his disciplinary behavior in a United kit this year might better qualify him to win the gentleman athlete award.

o For me personally, I was happy to see Dimitar Berbatov appear for perhaps the last time in a United uniform. If it is goodbye, Berba, I want to steal a line from Bob Hope: Thanks for the Memory. Your guile, silly smooth playing style and effortless magic on the ball will be sorely missed.

o The 2-nil win in the end was comfortable enough, but the final whistle brought only cold comfort indeed to a side that appears to have handed the title to their main rivals at their penultimate home game of the season.

This is a farlieonfootie who's searching for answers to what might have been on May 7.

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