Sunday, November 21, 2010

Manchester United Hit Top as Wigan See Red

photo by ƒяαиcєscα яσsєvia PhotoRee

farlieonfootie and Spurs correspondent James, in attendance at Old Trafford today for the visit of Wigan Athletic.   I like James' style: a real corporate guy who shares the same vision for farlieonfootie as the brass back at the home office.  It's a pleasure watching a game with James, with his keen footie eye and cerebral approach to the game -- not to mention his love of a good beer....  One of several we drank on the day is profiled below.

Old Trafford / Manchester, England / November 20

It's the Youth Parade on Full Offensive Display at the Theatre of Dreams Today, with Obertan and Macheda up front, supported by Nani and Park, with Fletch and Carrick pulling the strings in midfield.

It's Wigan, though, with the day's first real opportunity, as first Rafael is beaten and then Vidic slips, the two combining to present Wigan hitman Hugo Rodallega with a ball that's been wrapped with a bow. It's a good thing Rodallega himself slips as he goes to strike it, or United would be on the short end of the scoreline only five minutes into the match.

Nani blows in a fine free kick just a few short minutes later, and Vidic, now playing offense, is only a step or two short of heading it into the net. The big Serbian is forced to track back quickly, and switch back to his more accustomed defensive role, as he and Rodallega are busy playing a game of one-on-one, the two racing the length of the field after Rodallega is passed into the clear on a seeing-eye through ball. In the end, Vidic has just enough pace to close down the speedy Honduran, and forces him into a shot that ends up as a relatively comfortable save for Van der Sar.

After the flurry of early excitement, the game settles down, with neither team controlling play.  United seem woefully slow on offense today, their moves taking too long to unfold, and Wigan are only too happy to sit back and absorb pressure, mixing in a professional foul here or there to further stall the Reds' efforts. Nani and Figueroa get entangled in a fracas on the end line, perhaps a sign of the frustration the Red Devils must be feeling after creating a paucity of opportunities 35 minutes into a home game.

Wigan manufacture several good chances at the Stretford End as the half nears its conclusion, with only Van der Sar's sprawled body and Rodallega's wide effort on a bicycle kick standing between Wigan and a shock 1-nil lead. The Latics are growing in confidence at this point in the game, and the Reds seem to specialize this season in making cellar-dwelling teams feel good about themselves when they visit Old Trafford, acting as if it would be rude to insult the guests by handing them a beating.

Just before halftime, it's Evra with his first goal in almost four years, and only his second goal all time in the EPL, the Frenchman totally unmarked in front of net and burying Park Ji-Sung's cross in the back of it for a 1-nil advantage. It's a lead United don't deserve on the balance of play, but also one they're delighted to take into the locker room at the break.

It's ten minutes into the second half when a certain Wayne Rooney joins the game, the striker coming on with Paul Scholes for Macheda and Park. It's a dull roar that greets the Englishman's arrival, and its unclear whether the reaction is muted because of Rooney's messy public contract dispute or the Maroune-Chamakh-like turtleneck undershirt the striker is wearing.

It doesn't take long after the substitutes join the action for the game to take a twist, as less than a minute later it's Wigan's captain Antonin Alcarez picking up his second yellow on the day, and his subsequent sending off makes the Latics challenge now even more daunting than it originally looked. 

Less than three minutes later and Hugo Rodallega is shown the door on a straight red for a wild two-footed lunge at Park, and surely there's no way back now for a Wigan squad that's been reduced to nine men. Referee Martin Atkinson shows his seventh red card of the season after just 11 games in charge, displaying a quick trigger finger and a modicum of judgment in sending Rodallega off for a challenge that was indeed two footed, but very low and not especially threatening.

With Wigan short-handed, Fergie displays his ruthless side by introducing Chicharito for Carrick with 25 minutes still left in the match, and it's clear the Scot is now looking for a thrashing, perhaps in an effort to inspire his side. United hem Wigan in, applying constant pressure and probing for weakness. Rooney's first attempt, a sharp header off a lazy, arcing Rafael cross, is decent, but directed right at the goaltender.

United keep the ball for long stretches of time, but through the 75th minute produce few if any real opportunities, despite outnumbering Wigan by two men. In the 77th minute they finally extend their lead, Rafael offering a fine cross for Chicharito, who lays out low and buries the ball off his head into the back of the net for a 2-nil lead. It's another great goal for the young Mexican, and he is only too eager to try for another.

Ten minutes later and Rafael tees up another inch-perfect cross, but for once Chicharito gets his touch wrong and the Mexican misses just wide. In the game's closing minutes, Rooney, Evra and Obertan combine to miss chance after chance to add to the lead, as United end up grinding out a very workmanlike 2-nil win over a shorthanded Latics side.

It's not pretty, but it does the job, and combined with another shock Chelsea loss, as well as Arsenal's loss to arch rival Spurs, leaves the Reds tied for top of the table for the first time since August.  If the mark of a championship team is grinding out results on a day when the squad doesn't look very good, this United team now has multiple examples of doing just that.  

That's a good sign, but also a worrying one, as the Red Devils are seemingly struggling in just about every game right now.  Although @RioFerdy5 wants the Red Machine to keep on rolling, it appears as if the wheels need to be balanced before it will hit top speed.

Game Day Beer ReviewBrouwerij Huyghe Delirium Noël (10.00% ABV). This Christmas beer pours a medium red/brown color with little to no head. The first smell offers a strong scent of phenols, apricots and prunes. Upon tasting, Noël serves up a malty, spicy flavor, redolent of black cherry, raisin and other dark fruits, and finishes with sweet Belgian candy syrup, with just the hint of a slightly medicinal aftertaste. This brew is highly recommended for the holidays, and it's from a classic Belgian brewer -- go out and get some today: B+

This is farlieonfootie for November 22.


  1. I'm sorry, but I can't help but gag each time I see the name "Chicharito."