|photo by needoptic||via 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.