Saturday, October 16, 2010

Up in Smoke

photo by H.G. WOOD PROJECTvia PhotoRee

My column up in smoke today, just like United's season.  Eighty minutes in and the column down the drain as the "autosave" feature on Blogger saves an accidental deletion of my entire day's production, with no option for retrieval.  Here's my attempt at recreating an especially witty piece:

Pre-game news starts off with a bang: a Roo-less lineup, as Sir Alex evidently believes that a United team with number 10 on the bench can handle the Baggies.  I'm of two minds about his decision: on the the one hand I was hoping to pick up some surprise points on the boys in my fantasy league, and liked Rooney's chances to get on the scoresheet; on the other hand I'm well pleased with the guy who's been chosen to replace him: Chicharito.  ¡Vamos United!

I'm less happy with the midfield, as Ando and Carick are both granted rare starts today.  I'll be keeping a close eye on them. 

I'm a bit more content in the 4th minute, as the game gets underway immediately: a swerving free kick from Nani is tapped past Baggies' 'keeper Scott Carson by an uncovered Chicharito, 1-nil to United.  I knew I liked this kid...

United start the game crackling with electricity, as the side that played Sunderland a fortnight ago fades to an awful memory.  Chicharito, Nani and Berba look especially lively.  Acres of green space allow Giggs and Nani room to run rampant against a dishevelled West Brom defense that looks nothing like the side that largely shut down Arsenal last time out.  There could be lots of goals today....  Strike that: should be lots of goals, as the Red Devils flub several easy chances to tear the game wide open, including a Berba tap-in from point blank range.  I hope we don't rue those chances later on this afternoon....

A response to my concern is quickly forthcoming: a Berba retweet to Nani is guided easily into the back of the net for a 2-nil United lead.  The game is becoming more comfortable now, and that's an especially sweet goal for me.  I've captained Nani and started Berba on my fantasy team today, resulting in13 points in the back of the net on that play alone.

Full credit to Roberto DiMatteo's boys as they refuse to throw in the towel and begin to create some opportunities on their offensive end. United take their foot off the gas pedal, happy to absorb pressure and look for opportunities to counter attack.   The Red Devils play several of the first half's last minutes with 10 men on the pitch, as Giggsy limps off with a recurrence of his lingering hamstring issue, until Gibbo finally replaces him just before time is called. 

United would have been better if they stayed in the locker room, as the second half of the game has a distictly different feel.  Shortly after a Vidic header off the post that was thisclose to killing the game off, United concede and and let the Baggies back into the match.  A ping pong of a goal caroms in off Evra and West Brom has a toehold at 2-1. 

The game is now set up as a true test of whether or not this Red Devil team possesses the "killer instinct"  that Sir Alex has recently demanded.  Unfortunately, there's an almost immediate answer to that, and it's not a good one: the defense goes wobbly, and a Van der Sar howler leads to  a 2-2 tie.  A shockingly easy catch for the Dutchman spills directly into the path of Baggie midfielder Somen Tchoyi, and he makes no mistake: the United lead up in smoke, along with the season.  United in tatters, Baggies fans going wild, and Rooney, Scholes and Macheda to the warm-up line.

photo by Tambako the Jaguarvia PhotoRee

United appear shell shocked as West Brom take the game to them, a rare occurrence for an opponent at Old Trafford.  The mystique is clearly gone with the lead, and the crowd at Old Trafford grows restless and begins to fear the worst.  A 72nd minute introduction of Rooney and Scholes lifts the crowd slightly (and confirm my impression of a weak game for both Anderson and Carrick), but there's no Hollywood ending to this, as the late Rooney winner is never forthcoming.  Boos ring the stadium as United walk off the pitch -- disappointed and disappointing, yet again.

Game Day Beer Review: Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest-Märzen (5.8% ABV). Pours medium light amber in color, with a thick, off-white head. First impression is a rich, malty bread-like flavor that fades quickly into a slightly sweet finish with notes of toffee. Not overly complex, but one of the better examples of this classic fall style. Sessionable and recommended: B+

The beer's better than United, as they are just not good enough for me today. I'm unhappy, unthirsty, and farlieonfootie for October 16.

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