Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Late, Late Show

photo by Jonas Bvia PhotoRee

A few thoughts on Manchester United's big 1-nil win over Everton on Saturday, offered in the spirit of both gratified relief and constructive criticism:

  • Sir Alex clearly had one eye on Tuesday's Champions League match with Schalke 04 when making out his lineup card, opting to rest Vidic, Evra, Giggs, Rafael, and Carrick at least initially, feeling he had just enough talent to see off an Everton side which had been playing the best football in the EPL over the last five games.
  • I thought Anderson improved as the game wore on and offered some nice through balls, but in the game's early going he was more than a bit careless with possession. On defense he often seeks to clear his lines with a quick hoof downfield, rather than having the composure of a Scholes (even as I make it, I know the comparison isn't fair) to keep his senses and see where he might be able to usefully play the ball.
  • The boys in Red were more than a bit lackadaisical to open the game, and it appears as if the hectic schedule may be catching up with them at exactly the wrong time of the season.  It was at least 10 minutes before they tested Tim Howard even once, and the slow pace of the game suited Everton well.  The only saving grace for United was that the Toffees lacked any sense of ambition in the first half, showing absolutely nothing going forward.

  • That changed with the introduction of Tim Cahill into the game after the break. Everton's talisman made an immediate impact on the game: all of a sudden the Toffees had a spring to their step, began pressing much higher up the pitch, and looked considerably more dangerous with the ball. 
  • Fabio showed flashes of offensive skill in the first half, but he and Rafael need to work on their physical durability during the next offseason. At this point in their careers they are both a guaranteed injury time out at some point during the 90 minutes, and/or a substitution waiting to happen.
  • United's corner kicks are bordering on embarrasing and irrelevant. I can't remember the last time we scored off a corner. I'm not sure I have a solution, but the only player who ever seems to get his head to the ball is John O'Shea.
  • United created a host of opportunities as the first half came to a close, although the final ball or shot was lacking virtually every time -- lacking composure is probably the best way to say it.  And none more so that when Nani's wide-open shot was hit low to the ground and unintentionally blocked by Chicharito on its way into goal.  It was yet another uninspiring 45 minutes of football on the run-in.
  • Rio Ferdinand may have gotten a bit lucky when he knocked down Victor Anichebe in the box in the game's second half, although I think referee Peter Walton saw the incident just about right. In any event, Anichebe went down all to easily for such a big man, and was clearly looking to draw a penalty.
  • The Reds picked a poor time to go off the boil and into their longest scoreless streak of the season, bordering on 270 minutes before Chicharito put an end to the misery and showed why he's been our player of the season. Prior to his game winner, watching the second half was extremely frustrating -- bordering on painful for this fan. There was often no one on the end of passes, Nani was out of sorts, betwixt and between on deciding whether to shoot or pass, and seemingly every cross was greeted by a blue shirt, most often worn by Phil Jagielka, who was immense. The United offense became all too predictable until the introduction of Michael Owen, Patrice Evra and Ryan Giggs helped to change things up.
  • Nani was fairly ineffective today, creating virtually nothing. He and Antonio Valencia both seem to have settled into a bit of a rut of late. I hope they work it out in the next few games, because that's all that's left to the season -- hopefully seven more.
  • IF Darren Fletcher can come back, and IF he can somehow find his 2009/2010 form, rather than playing the way he was before he made his way onto the long-term injury list -- and I realize those are two very big "IFs," he could playa huge role in the final few games.
  • I've said it before  -- way back when -- and I'll say it again: I think Javier Hernandez will be our leading scorer this season. The kid just has a nose for goal, and few of the 19 he's knocked in have been bigger than his header in the 84th minute today at Old Trafford. That goal must have hit Chelsea and Arsenal like a hammer blow, and brought the title another step closer to coming back to its rightful home.
  • Let's hope today's game was what it looked like. A team on the final run-in, a bit tired in the legs and looking for a breather. Everton were a worthy opponent, but didn't seem to trouble the Reds much on offense. Other than Jack Rodwell's deflected bullet, I can't remember Edwin Van der Sar really being tested on the day. And if we can fix the final pass, which has really let us down over the last three games, I think we could once again hit top form -- and just at the right time.
This is farlieonfootie for April 24.

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