Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pulse Pounding: Six Thoughts on Manchester United 4 - Newcastle United 3

Photo by LibraSon on Flickr

o Gloomy: The day's weather matched yet another dismal opening by the home side. Cloudy, gray skies and a torrential downpour made for a slick pitch, but neither of these meteorological excesses were responsible for the day's first giveaway -- Michael Carrick's overly generous bit of charity, gifting the ball to Demba Ba in a very dangerous position. Carrick's error led to a further mistake by the defense, as United's Spanish 'keeper, David De Gea, parried the resulting shot directly into the path of an onrushing James Perch.  And so it was that we found ourselves in a familiar position: less than ten minutes in and United trailing at home.

o Missing: Missed passes in the final third continued to bedevil the home side. No one was guiltier of this than United veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs, but numerous Reds fell victim to attempting to thread the needle one too many times, hitting passes that lacked the required inch-perfect accuracy. The result was a paucity of opportunities for the home side, even as they attacked the famed Stretford End -- until the home side equalized near the half hour mark after a goal mouth scramble that came off Robin Van Persie's deflected free kick, with defender Jonny Evans conjuring something from little more than nothing.

o Cheat: Once again, Referee Mike Dean played a key role in the day's outcome. Ignoring the blatantly obvious fact that Papiss Cisse was two yards offside, as well as the fact that the Senegalese striker's very presence interfered with Evans' ability to play the ball, Dean placed himself at the center of yet another offside controversy at Old Trafford by allowing the Magpies second goal of the afternoon to stand as an Own Goal by Evans (his second strike of the afternoon). It was clearly familiar ground for the apparent Liverpool supporter in charge of the game, as Dean overruled his assistant to make the call -- something he notably neglected to do when Chelsea won the League at Old Trafford three seasons ago.

o Sloppy: It was difficult to tell which of the following four elements was the sloppiest on the afternoon: (i) the rain soaked pitch; (ii) the lazy officiating from Mike Dean and crew; (iii) Sir Alex's almost inexplicable decision to start Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs in the same midfield; or (iii) the home side's repeated mental mistakes, which included falling asleep at both ends of the pitch. Shortly after tying the game on slow roller from Patrice Evra, United's somnambulant defensive crew allowed Newcastle to take the lead on a play that developed from nothing more complex than a simple throw in.

o Clutch: A brilliant toe poke from Carrick led to an Van Persie equalizer -- 3-3 for those keeping score at home, and another great finish from the Flying Dutchman. But Carrick was saving his best for last -- as the clock clicked to 90 minutes, the midfielder floated an inch perfect pass into the box that was tapped in by a poaching Hernandez to give United its first lead of the afternoon at 4-3.

o Shot: Our nerves on this most compelling of afternoons. Yesterday's game was the kind that entertainment that constitutes the League at its best: pulse pounding, stomach-in-knots excitement, followed by the kind of existential release only associated with late winners. It was edge of your seat stuff, indeed, and a game which saw the Reds increase their advantage over their local rivals to seven points.

This is Farlieonfootie for December 27.

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