Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Still Life in Red": Eight Things We Learned From Manchester United's Draw With Liverpool

photo by needopticvia PhotoRee

Sir Alex can still spring a surprise with the lineup, as he did on Saturday with Rooney, Nani, and Chicharito all beginning the action on the bench.  Many United supporters gasped when the starting XI was revealed, but I for one saw it a bit differently. There's a reason teams have a squad, and United's is bigger than most -- and I for one would not be interested in taking a chance at a draw in the Champions League come Tuesday night. Even though it's relatively early on in the group stage, the mid-week European tie has taken on a dramatic feel after the two early draws.  Although I think we'll emerge with a comfortable home win, I felt the same way going into the FC Basel encounter. If offered a draw pre-game at Anfield yesterday I likely would have taken it, and if Ryan Giggs hadn't flinched at an inopportune moment, the Mighty Reds of Manchester may have taken all three points on the day, despite the B-side which played the first 65+ minutes of the contest.

o It's still early in the season, but the free flowing football we saw at the beginning of the campaign from United appears to be a thing of the past.  The match against Liverpool began as a jumble of turnovers, jangled nerves and frayed tempers, and to be fair neither side showed any quality whatsoever on the ball. The second half wasn't much better, and United were never really able to create a sustained period of attack, even after the intriduction of Rooney, Nani and Chicharito.  Some of that is to be expected given point #1, but United appeared weak in midfield today -- a recurring theme from last season -- and would seem to my feeble football mind to need Tom Cleverly's creative spark on the ball. To my eyes at least, Fletch still appears a shadow of his former self. 

o Rio Ferdinand still has it. There's been a lot of talk in the press over the past few weeks about how Rio has lost it, is past his prime, etc., and also increasingly loud rumors about Rio coming across the pond to play for the MLS' Chicago Fire, but based on his performance against Liverpool in the first half yesterday, those days are still in the future and Chicago will have to wait. The English centerback was fluid and free moving on both sides of the ball yesterday, and stood in front of net like the Colossus of Rhodes.  If not for Charlie Adam's blatant playacting, Ferdinand had the type of stellar afternoon that would have put a hush to the all the criticizers -- at least until the next game.

o Steve McManaman is still a biased twat. Having "Macca"  announce a Liverpool game on ESPN2 is to listen to the in-house scouse home feed. No Liverpool foul was anything more than "accidental" and every Manchester United foul was "clear." Should we start calling ESPN2 the Liverpool Network? Even Ian Darke got in on the act, and should be ashamed of his pandering -- to question whether Rio should have stayed on the pitch after Adam's dive just shows how much McManaman manged to rub off on his counterpart, who should know better. Even cuter was the fact that both men laughed off Macca's obvious bias in the post-game show. Is this really the best ESPN2 can do for its American audience?  I guess there's one obvious benefit about being stuck with Macca: at least we weren't subjected to Ray Wilkins' inane drivel.

o Luis Suarez is still a diving cheat.  But then again, so are Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam, both of whom feigned contact in a blatant attempt to gain an advantage for their squad. Maybe the Uruguayan is rubbing off on his teammates, and he even appeared to rub off on his coach's post-game commentary, in which Kenny tried to claim that Jonny Evans' upper arm brush against the ball was a penalty. As if the one at the other end, committed by a Liverpool player, wasn't....

o Without retroactive yellow cards for diving, the FA is sending children everywhere a very clear message: Cheating still pays. Liverpool filled Anfield with three diving cheats in one afternoon, with Suarez, Downing and Adam all flopping pathetically to earn free kicks for their side. The last dive was the most costly, with Charlie Adam's pathetic grounding costing the Champions an unnecessary goal and all three points.

o Chicharito is still a game changer.  Nine of the Little Pea's 16 EPL goals have come after the 73rd minute, making him even more of a dynamic game changer -- at least on a percentage basis -- than Red legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Little Pea stabbed home a ball with his head late on to salvage a vital away point at Anfield, and it's nice to see him having an impact again after the early season woes he went through.  His pre-season concussion and Stoke's dirty fouling may finally be a thing of the past.

o David De Gea is still shite, huh?  I guess people are finally beginning to see what an importnt signing the kid was this past summer, and if he keeps up his current form he'll end up just fine.  It was nice to see at least one prominent member of the British media acknowlege the young Spaniard's class today. Easily the Man Of The Match for me.

This is farlieonfootie for October 16.

1 comment:

  1. A few points about this game, and I'm sure Correspondent Scott will clean up the rest.

    First, from the "Ferdinand still has it" category, if you actually watched the Adam dive, the strange part about it was that Adam DECIDED to dive because, as rightfully pointed out by the commentators, he had just beaten Ferdinand and would have had a great scoring opportunity if he didn't drop. That said, his calculus turned out to be right due to Giggs' unwillingness to take one in the family jewels.

    Second, it is clear that despite his repeated statements about the importance of the game, this game for Fergy was, well, unimportant. He was all about the Champions League game this week, and thus the junior varsity lineup on Saturday. It also showed a generous lack of respect for the Reds, something the Reds may have earned from their battle with Tottenham earlier in the year, but something that almost came back to bite the old man.

    Third, in the same way the repetition of the importance of the game was basically a political statement and not a truthful one, FOF seems to be missing the reality that the constant plugging of De Gea by Fergy is also intended to give the guy some confidence and is not actually commentary on how good he is. Fergy would switch back to Van der Sar in an instant if the Dutchman were still around. De Gea had, basically, one good save in this game (the Henderson volley -- the rest were shots that happen to be driven right at him), but he still finds himself in bad places on crosses, and his lack of leadership and ability to organize the defense is simply frightening for a top level club. Perhaps it's his inability to speak English that's the problem. Right now De Gea is similar to Spurs' Gomez -- good stuff alongside screw ups. De Gea is a work in progress, not the bees knees. Which again is why we have to talk about how great he is every time he doesn't blow it.

    Fourth, despite constant maligning from persons who work at this site, the Liverpool player who had the most impact on the match was not Stevie G but was our old friend Charlie Adam. Liverpool controlled the center of the pitch, and both the goal and the blown shot by Suarez in the first half were both the result of decisive runs by the midfielder. Reminded me how he dominated the midfield against United for Blackpool last year. Guess he isn't all that bad.

    Fifth, United was LUCKY to get out of this one with a draw. Their B-team was outplayed, and Liverpool blew several good opportunities. Even when forced to put the A-team back in, Liverpool put constant pressure on United. Fergy is likely very happy about this draw, but then again, to him the EPL is not the prize, the Champions League is.

    Sixth, after this game it turns out United IS the second best team in Manchester. Wow, that must hurt. This week's a big week for the Red Devils.

    Seventh and finally, back off Macca. He's one of the few commentators that doesn't have a chip on his shoulder and actually adds some insights to the game that he's watching. Plus he's a fun and happy guy. Just because he may be about 20% as biased as FOF shouldn't get him thrown out of ESPN.


    Carlos T. (Fortunately for you FOF, you ugly American (please forgive the contextual ambiguity -- I don't mean America is ugly, just that you're an American AND are ugly), due to some generous vacation time I've been given by my employer, I've had a few days to brush up on my language skills and to enjoy a few games.)