Monday, September 30, 2013

More Thoughts on United

Thinking RFID
Photo by Jacob Boetter

Thoughts and Ramblings:

o The Premier League is more wide open this season than ever before.  Anyone who writes off Spurs' chance of winning the title -- or better yet, Arsenal's or even Liverpool's -- is kidding themselves.  Okay, maybe the ones writing off Liverpool aren't kidding themselves.....

o But back to our point.  Yes, we believe City and Chelsea will strengthen as the season grinds on and their respective Managers get a better grip on their side's talent, as well as that of the competition.  And it's not so difficult to imagine that David Moyes' Manchester United will show some kind of flicker of life still to come; after all, even his Everton sides did that season after season.  But with the supposed 'big boys' of English football dropping points left and right early on it's going to be a wild fight to the finish.  And it's not only the Premiership that's up for grabs: any one of the top 6 or 7 teams could be in the race for a Champions League spot, as well.  Interesting times, indeed....

o David Moyes needs to close his mouth.  One the one hand, it's admirable that the Scotsman is a straightforward, honest guy.  But on the other and, a leading Manager does not -- nay, should not -- come out in September and say his squad does not have the quality to win the Champions League.  Did Chelsea have the quality in 2012?!  First off, the Champions League is not always won by the team in Europe with the best quality; it's a knockout competition, and the team with the best talent on any particular day can and will win. Second, what message is this candor sending to your team, the men you are being paid to motivate?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Slow, Plodding and Boring: West Bromwich Albion 2 - Manchester United 1 -- Player Ratings

Slow Caution Danger Sign
Photo byKen Teegardin

Manchester United continued its laborious and frustrating start under head coach David Moyes, losing 2-1 to West Bromwich Albion in front of a questioning home crowd at Old Trafford on Saturday. Failing to score from the run of play for a 5th  consecutive game, the United attack was positively sclerotic against the visitors, with dull, plodding and -- even worse -- boring the kindest descriptives a neutral observer might offer.  A series of defensive breakdowns on Saturday compounded the problems caused by an offense that has been transformed from the League's most prolific to parsimonious seemingly overnight.

Herewith, the individual player ratings for a performance that will set the critics to resume sharpening their knives:

De Gea: Once again, almost nothing to do before the interval. Denied Saido Berahino to snuff out one threat, but was beaten by a fine piece of individual skill from Morgan Amalfitano after the break. Stretched to his limits to deny Amalfitano's set piece near the 65 minute mark, but beaten by Berahino just a short while later for the winning goal.  7.0

Jones: Looked infinitely more settled than Smalling has as Rafael's backup, but not a natural right back by any means.  6.5

Ferdinand: Was fortunate that Berahino just missed netting the cross that skimmed over his head in central defense before the break. Embarrassed badly by Amalfitano with a 54th minute nutmeg and was beaten in the air by Olsson before being bailed out by a friendly cross bar.  4.0

Evans: Never under pressure before the break, but was badly beaten by Sessegnon to give West Brom a chance after the interval. 5.0

Buttner: Doesn't possess the attacking game of Evra, but did manage to get involved going forward. Gave the ball away far too easily in the second half, and cleary needs more seasoning. 5.0

Nani: Heavily involved in the first half attack from the right touch line, with several inviting crosses that the home side failed to take advantage of. Looked even more creative in the second half, but to little avail. 6.5

Friday, September 27, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: 7venth Sun Brewery Mangrove Rum Barrel Aged Imperial IPA

(10.00% ABV) Mangrove Double IPA was poured from a growler into a IPA glass designed by Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada Brewing. The beer was drunk on a recent Sunday afternoon while watching NFL football.

Mangrove DIPA poured a thick orangish-gold with yellow highlights. The beer had a better than decent head of pure white bubbles.

The beer's smell was all tropical fruits and yeast -- almost intoxicating just by itself. We smelled pineapple and papaya, with a rum scent underlying it all. The hoppiness of the IPA was just barely there, lurking right below the surface.

Holy cow, was there there a lot going on in the beer's taste...!  The beer was big and buttery on the outset, tropically fruity in the middle and the hops remained fairly well hidden; we tasted pineapple and orange mainly on the ultra smooth finish. This beer was incredible, definitely elite in its class. A

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hangin' On: Manchester United 1 - Liverpool 0 -- Player Ratings

Manchester United outlasted a determined Liverpool side that gave as good as it got on Wednesday night, hanging on for a slim 1-0 victory in a third round Capitol One Cup match played at Old Trafford. Handed an early second half lead by a superb piece of footwork that saw Javjer Hernandez turn in Wayne Rooney's cross, United bent but ultimately did not break as the game wore on. Although the victory may not have answered all of the questions swirling around the club's new manager, David Moyes, a victory over the Red Devil's greatest historical rival will have relieved some of the immediate pressure which had built up after the Manchester derby. 

Herewith, our ratings of the players' individual performances in a very hard-fought contest:

De Gea: Came out strong to deny Suarez in the first half, but otherwise had precious little work to do before the break.  Superb distribution almost led to a United counterattack near the hour mark, and the Spaniard used every bit of his lightning quick reflexes to deny Victor Moses' second half header. 8.0

Rafael: Added an attacking element on the right flank that the Red Devils have been missing of late, but was forced to focus on defensive duties as Liverpool chased the game in the second half. 7.0

Evans: Trouble dealing with Daniel Sturridge's speed, a misjudged header and getting a couple of clearances caught in his feet showed the toll of accumulated rust.  Not bad, but far from his best. 6.0

Smalling: Very composed performance in his customary role of central defender. But for one giveaway, difficult to find fault. Man of the Match for our money. 8.5

Buttner: Good headed clearance to deny Sturridge in the first half and generally played better defense than given credit for by his critics. Late giveaways showed he's still learning on the job. 6.5

Nani: Showed more creativity in the first ten minutes of the game than United has seen from the wing all season long.  Flubbed a linkup with Kagawa near the hour mark, and appeared to be trying too hard in the second half. A mixed bag. 7.0

Spurs on Wheels

Maserati Wheel | Maserati Wheel Before | Maserati Wheel Refinishing Services | Alloy Wheel Repair
Photo by Glen Martucci

Ed is happy, for now:

Ever since that game the week before this week I've been just too excited. . . . too excited . . . . but I don't totally wan't to say it because I may just jinx it, but it's my job, kinda, or sort of, or, well, I don't really get paid for it but regardless here it goes……

Spurs are pretty good.

Damnit!!  Can't believe I let it out.

Christian Erikson as a number 10 who's calm with the ball and gracefully creative?  Yep.  Changes the whole dynamic of these Spurs.  Tough in the holding two with Moussa Dembele and Paulinho (and Sandro and Capoue -- what is that depth?), and graceful and purposeful up front with Erikson and Roberto Soldado.  And while Andros Townsend takes too many bad shots -- too many!! -- at least he's not hurt all the time and appears the threat.  And he might not even have to start because Eric Llamela looks pretty darn good also.  And Nasir Chadli and even Gylfi Sigurdsson is in on the action freed up of some space with all these other playmakers.

Spurs are pretty good.

Last year they go into a game like Cardiff and Man City all over it losing that one after dominating and banging it off every part of the woodwork and every part of a ridiculously lucky/good goalkeeper.  But this year, this year they win it with a fancy flick in the 93rd minute.  And it wasn't even Bale!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Crashing Down the Table to Earth: Southampton 1 - Liverpool 0

Earth - Global Elevation Model with Satellite Imagery
Photo by Kevin Gill

The illusion of the perfect season now shattered, Scott is starting to ask a few questions:

Brendan Rodgers had Liverpool fans everywhere scratching their heads with his team selection on Saturday and then smacking their foreheads on any nearby steel pipe by the end of the game.  Yes, Glenn Johnson was injured and, yes, Philippe Coutinho was also injured.  But FOUR center backs all in the same lineup??!!  Kolo Toure on the right, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtl in the center and Mamadou Sakho on the left.  To say there wasn't much offensive threatening down the flanks would be an understatement.  But surely a quadruple dose of height and brawn would render aerial assaults useless.  Ironically, the only score of the game came from a headed in corner.  Of course.

Aside from really missing Coutinho's energy and creativity, without mobile defenders on the outside for overlapping runs (except for Toure's one significant amble into the penalty area), Liverpool struggled all night to transition through the middle third of the field.  High pressing from the Saints exacerbated their problems too.  Nor did Artur Boruc's sublime goalkeeping for the visitors help the situation, saving a sure-goal on Steven Gerrard's free kick, among other feats.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Plain and Simples: Some Opinions on Manchester United

“School is not a place for learning but a place to experience the diversity of minds.” / SML.20130322.PHIL
Photo by See-ming Lee
First off, a disclaimer: To those of you who believe a Manchester United fan should do nothing more than blindly support your club, you are entitled to that view.  To those of you who are calling for the new Manager's head, you are also entitled to that view (a little rash, in my opinion, but you are fully entitled to your belief).  There is nothing in the club charter that says a "true" fan (I hate that term) can never dissent with official club policy, or is not allowed to question team selection. 
These are all opinions.  As is the point of view that you are not entitled to express your thoughts -- that is, on the very face of it, an opinion. So as long as we are all in agreement here, now we can offer some constructive criticism of Manchester United's season to date.  This is not written in the silliness  of the "Moyes out" movement; rather, it is written in the spirit that a club (or a person) which is unable (or unwilling) to listen to criticism is a club which is in the process of not improving. 

One can always -- even as a club -- become better, inprove and learn from others.  To use an analogy: Being a football club is like riding a unicycle.  You are either moving forward or backward, but you had better not remain stationary.
o The team selction was all wrong yesterday.  Ashley Young should not see the starting lineup again for a number of weeks, until his decision making process and skill levels improve.  And to those of you who believe he is a scapegoat for an exceptionally poor team performance yesterday, you are only partically correct.  Bar a decent pass or two, Young has comfortably been United's worst player this season.  It's time for the Manager to recognize this and make a change.  
o Chicharitos' speed could have made a difference.  We obviously can't say for certain, but one thing we do know is that pumping balls to Rooney in the air was never a strategy that was designed to succeed against City's defense.  Stretching the defense, of which the Mexican striker is more than capable, would have been a smarter play in our opinion.  For all of City's stolid defending on Sunday, re-watch the first ten minutes of the encounter.  This City defense, under Pellegrini, is capable of being carved open.
o We could go on an on about playing a 4-4-2 instead of a five man midfield, or dwell on Chris Smalling playing in place of Fabio, but we won't.  Suffice it to say that Moyes is proving exceptionally stubborn with his lineup selection in his early days.  It's a trait that has served the Manager well in his career, but he must remember that stubborness is only one step away from becoming stuck in your ways, and he will need to be a quick learner to succeed in his new job.
o United should never have allowed David Gill and Alex Ferguson to leave in the same year.  This is not to say Gill was a magician, and a loss that we are unable to overcome, or to compare him in any way, shape or form to Sir Alex.  Instead, what we are saying is that Gill was an immensely capable Chief Executive Officer.  When your CEO and Chairman (Fergie) leave in the same year, your infrastructure (at the very highest levels) is rightly shaken.  Manchester United  can do all the covering they want in the press ("We got the player we wanted in the transfer market," "We weren't prepared to spend that much for XYZ, etc., etc.) but the truth is as follows: with both of United's top men leaving at the same time, it was always bound to get rocky.  The transfer window was a shambles (clearly getting played by Fabregas' and Ronaldo's agents, etc.). Now that the new season has begun in a similar fashion, no one should be surprised, least of all the Old Trafford brass.  It should not have happened in this way.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Wrecking Ball: Player Ratings -- Manchester City 4 - Manchester United 1

Manchester City's attacking troika of Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and Alvaro Negredo conspired to give Manchester United well more than they could handle on Sunday, easily dispatching last year's Premier League champions in an emphatic 4-1 derby day victory on Sunday afternoon.  Although the pregame questions may have concerned the severity of Robin Van Persie's injury situation, post-game questioning will shine a more difficult spotlight on the lineup selection of United's new manager, David Moyes.  United were outplayed, outhustled and outscored during a 60 minute battering by their cross-town rivals, who turned the atmosphere at the Etihad into a Sunday carnival of sorts for their fans.   Although the visitors performed better over the game's final half hour, the turnaround was much too little, too late to reverse the three goals by City scored within minutes of either side of the interval.

Herewith our player ratings for individual performances in what was a damaging and demoralizing team loss:

De Gea: Little he could have done on City's goals, but his spill of Dzeko's long-range strike showed how badly his confidence was shaken by conceding four times. 5.0

Smalling:  Struggled mightily to handle the left side of City's attack  and went missing in the first ten minutes of the second half. Tellingly, was often the United player furthest forward on attack. 4.0

Ferdinand: Never saw Aguero coast in behind him for the fourth of the afternoon.  May need a rest -- what ever happened to that Jonny Evans guy? 4.0

Vidic: Key first half interception kept the scoreline from being even worse for the visitors. 4.5

Evra: Had a close-up view of Aguero's stunning 16th minute strike that set City on their way,  and was unable to keep up with a rampaging Jesus Navas at the start of the second half.  Was unfortunate not to score with his 80th minute header that hit the woodwork. 4.5

Valencia: Lost his man to allow City's first goal, and played Toure onside for the second from his position on the post. A shadow of the player we saw in the second half against Leverkusen. 4.0

Fellaini:  Worked hard in a vain attempt to contain City in the middle of the park, but lost Toure when it mattered most just before the interval.  His lack of pace in the middle of the park was exposed badly today. 4.5 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Happy Birthday To Us

Going Down the Drain
1,036 Posts Down the Drain
Photo by Lee Jordan

Well, three years later and 1,036 posts down the drain and we're still going.....  Happy Anniversary to all of our staffers who have scoured the ends of the earth to bring you the best in word football coverage.  Is it possible another year has passed us by?

To celebrate, we'll be tailgating tonight at the "re-boot" of the North American Soccer League's rivalry between the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and the New York Cosmos -- a  contest that once included the likes of George Best and Pele.  While the soccer may not be at that level today, we'll hardly notice.  

That's because we'll be too busy listening to country tunes on the car stereo while pre-gaming in the parking lot, drinking delicious American craft beers, and watching the sport we love the most with friends.

A heartfelt thank you to all of our devoted readers for taking part in our ongoing journey.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Green Room Pablo Beach American Pale Ale

(5.00% ABV) Pablo Beach was poured on draft at American Social in Fort Lauderdale, Florida into a much-too-cold glass that sapped the beer of most of its head, and likely a fair bit of its smell, as well.  

Because the beer's scent was virtually non-existent. We mean nothing; nothing at all.

It was interesting to taste, however.  Pablo Beach had a vaguely citrusy sweetness mellowed by a bread-like aftertaste, followed by just enough hoppiness in the finish to keep it interesting. We would describe this as very well-balanced, basic beer. A solid from a small brewery up by north Florida way.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Jonjo and Jerry: Liverpool 2 - Swansea City 2

photo by Joe Shlabotnikvia PhotoRee

Shiny-domed and brimming with energy, Jonjo Shelvey started Swansea’s game against Liverpool with a mighty whiff from outside the 18 that looked straight out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon.  Fortunately for him, just like Tom, he carried on as if nothing had happened and, after a slight touch to his right, unleashed a rocket that bounced off the Slovakian wall known as Martin Skrtel.  This being Looney Tunes land, of course that bounce found its way back to Jonjo Tom who pounced on it and, with poise and touch miles apart from his first attempt at the 18, slid the ball to his left foot and then calmly finished past the previously impenetrable Simon Mignolet.

Still dazed by his good fortune, and the smiley faces circling over his head, his no-look back pass was perfectly read by the poaching Daniel Sturridge who smashed the happy halo to pieces with his left foot.  Poor Jonjo went from Hero to Zero in the space of minutes and was reduced to literally smacking himself on the side of the head.  Unfortunately, Jonjo should have read those concussion warnings that get sent out to the youth soccer teams these days.  He was clearly still showing symptoms when, in the 36th minute, he inexplicably passed the ball directly to Liverpool new-boy Victor Moses at midfield.  The Nigerian thanked the hapless Jonjo by cavorting to the 18 and firing into the left corner.

Alas, as I mentioned, this is Looney Tunes land and if we can’t have a happy ending, we at least need some parity.  As such, messieurs Hanna and Barbera sketched a scene in the 64th minute where Jonjo deftly headed down to the advancing Michu who made no mistake with his one-time finish that leveled the score.  That strike swung the pendulum of momentum so far to the home side that, for the next 25 minutes, Liverpool personified Jerry clinging to a curtain with his nails, while the hungry Jonjo Tom waited below with mouth agape.  Swansea passed and shot and poked and prodded while Liverpool cleared and lunged and gasped and bungled.  But just when Jerry’s nails had unavoidably cut the fabric to lower him now within reach of the salivating Jonjo Tom and his fellow felines….. a stuttering pig halted the proceedings and saved both a dangling rodent and a point for Liverpool.

This is farlieonfootie for September 18.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Attack Attack Attack: Player Ratings -- Manchester United 4 - Bayer Leverkusen 2

photo by riptheskullvia PhotoRee
David Moyes served up an attacking eleven for his initial foray into the Champions League, choosing to hand both Shinji Kagawa and Marouane Fellaini their starting debuts, and  was rewarded for his aggressiveness as United punished their German visitors 4-2  in a compelling Tuesday night Champions League match at Old Trafford.  The home side settled the crowd’s nerves early on as Wayne Rooney bounce-volleyed Patrice Evra’s cross into the net for a 1-0 first half lead, although the Reds' opener owed at least as much to Antonio’s Valencia’s potential obstruction of Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno as it did to Rooney’s skill.

The visitors fought back to tie the game after the interval, as Simon Rolfes’s long range shot deflected off an unfortunate Michael Carrick to leave David De Gea in no man’s land, and punish the Reds for an earlier blown opportunity to stretch their lead.  Robin Van Persie restored the one goal advantage with a side-legged volley before Wayne Rooney put the result beyond doubt by bending the ball past Leno after receiving a fine distribution from De Gea.  The home side padded their lead to three with a counter attack that’s been too rarely seen in recent times, with both Ashley Young and Rooney assisting Valenica’s confident finish. Although the Germans pulled back a late goal, the only effect of the final margin was to take a bit of the gloss off what was a  very enjoyable victory by the home side.

Herewith our thoughts on the players' individual performances:

De Gea:  Virtually uninvolved in the first half -- if he did any less he would have to be described as a spectator.  Left rooted to the ground for Rolfes’ equalizer, but held on well when needed, and his long ball to Rooney led directly to the third goal of the evening. Will be disappointed with his effort on Leverkusen’s second goal of the evening. 7.0

Smalling: His height made it difficult for Leverkusen to penetrate from the left and gave United another threat on set pieces.  Advanced the ball decently but didn’t present the same offensive threat as Rafael.  7.0

Ferdinand:  On cruise control for the first half, but somehow managed to miss a clearance that led to Leverkusen’s first real shot of the evening. 6.5

Vidic: Ever dangerous on set pieces and saw more action in front of the Leverkusen net than United's during the first half.  Will not be pleased with the defense’s inability to clear the ball at times in the second half. 7.0

Evra: A beautiful cross led to United's opening goal but the Frenchman was less involved on the offensive end than usual tonight. 7.0

Valencia: While the majority of his first half play was marked by less-than-accurate crosses, the Ecuadorian did offer a valuable assist during the first 45 minutes – in the form of his body block on (and in) Rooney’s goal.  Valencia significantly upped his game for the second half, offering the ball that RVP buried to restore the home side’s lead, and the winger will be more than pleased to have scored an emphatic goal that accounted for United’s final score on the evening.  He played as if the Manager asked him for more at the break, taking on defenders in ways we haven’t seen in months.  8.5

Carrick: Afforded loads of time on the ball by the visitors, but was the unfortunate victim of a deflection on the equalizer. 6.5

Kagawa: The Japanese international was handed his home debut this season, and split open Leverkusen’s back line near the half but United were unable to take advantage of Kagawa's skill.  Will be disappointed not to have scored before the break after displaying fine skill while chesting down Valencia's cross. 7.5

Monday, September 16, 2013

Grabbing Our Attention: Week 4 in the BPL

photo by 20after4via PhotoRee

We drank some beer, watched some football, saw some highlights and even managed to sneak in some NFL this weekend.  In other words, it was just another weekend at the corporate office.  Without further ado, our thoughts on a relatively hum drum week in the BPL:

o Watching Chelsea play Everton made us realize Jose Mourinho thinks it's still 2006 in the Premier League. Frank Lampard and John Terry are not everyday starters anymore. David Moyes was under a similar impression at United, but someone finally mentioned to the new skipper that Ryan Giggs is nearly 40 years old these days....

o Laurent Koscielny is one of the most rash defenders in the BPL. Always one hare-brained decision away from either a red card or a penalty, the only other defender who rivals the Frenchman is Chelsea's own Sideshow Bob.

o Referee Martin Atkinson's poor decision making was illustrated brilliantly when he denied an advantage to Sunderland's Jozy Altidore on a play on which the American scored -- to helpfully pull the ball back for a free kick, which was promptly wasted by the home side. If ever there was a referee who needed to be relegated, it's Atkinson. The guy is a walking disaster.

o Alvaro Negredo is quickly learning the ins and outs of Premier League football. In his first start, the Spaniard was straightened right out by Referee Mark Clattenburg, who helpfully explained that while artfully pretending to be on the receiving end of head and facial injuries may be greeted with a wink wink, nod nod in Spain, playacting is generally frowned upon England.  With the notable exception of Ashley Young, of course....

o Is it just us, or does Manuel Pellegrini always look as if he's just walked out of a horror movie? Truth be told, that's likely how'd we feel, as well, after watching Manchester City play  these past couple of weeks. The kindest thing we can think to say of the new City head honcho is that his starting XI choices strike us as slightly naive.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Cisco Brewers Pumple Drumkin Spiced Ale

(6.00% ABV) Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a snifter after an evening spent studying our fantasy football team for the rich reward offered by the farlieonfootie office football pool. Pumple Drumkin poured a deep copper color with a massive head of caramel colored foam.

The smell was quite mild, actually. The beer offered some very slight spices and some breadiness.  This was definitely not the heavily spiced, pumpkin pie-like aroma that many other brewers have chosen to feature.

Even upon tasting, the pumpkin doesn't smack you in the face as with some other harvest-themed beers. Cisco's offering has more of a bitter finish than many fall beers, as well, and has a certain earthy, vegetal quality. It's tingly on the tongue, rather thin bodied and refreshing.  Try it if you want something different: B

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ho Hum: Player Ratings: Manchester United 2 - Crystal Palace 0

photo by lovecatzvia PhotoRee

Manchester United overpowered a Crystal Palace side that played more than half the game with only ten men after Kagisho Dikgachoi's late first half sending off, winning in front of the home crowd by a final margin of 2-0.  Although Robin Van Persie's spot kick and Wayne Rooney's free kick gave the contest its final score, the story line lay more in Ashley Young's first half penalty.  After being booked earlier in the game for simulation, Young received the benefit of Referee Jon Moss' late first half decision, but only after the official was forced to consult his assistant after Dikgachoi spilled the United left winger in the box.

Offsetting some of the joy from the victory will be United's failure once again to score from free play against a ten man, newly promoted side playing at Old Trafford.  The Red Devils' offense, which seemed predictable and sluggish for a third game in a row, was enlivened only after young Adnan Janujaz entered the action with approximately 20 minutes left.  New signing Marouane Fellaini also impressed in his brief time on the pitch after he replaced Anderson late in the game.

Herewith, our player ratings for a game whose outcome seemed never in doubt, but still difficult for the home side to put away:

David De Gea: A virtual spectator in the first half, the Spaniard was forced to make himself big to deny Palace's Dwight Gayle before the break. Could have used a beach chair to properly enjoy the second half. 8.0

Fabio:  Adventured forward quite a bit in the early going, but failed to link up well with Valencia. 7.0

Rio Ferdinand: Not much to do in truth, but was thoroughly turned around by Gayle's speed on Palace's near miss at the end of the half. 7.0

Nemanja Vidic: How does a wrecking ball fly so gracefully? 8.0

Patrice Evra: Made numerous slicing runs through the right side of the Palace defense, but his failure to control the ball in the box led to less than optimal results. 7.5

Ashley Young: A surprise starter based on his last outing. Booked correctly for a first half dive, but repaid the Manager's faith with his first half run that led to Dikgacoi's red card dismissal. Overlapped well with Evra on the left hand side of the pitch. A thoroughly mixed bag. 7.0

Anderson: Let's just say that ball control was not his specialty in the first half. Offered a beautiful pass to unlock the Palace defense at the beginning of the second half, but Young was unable to capitalize. Looked sluggish, possibly from a large pre-game meal. 6.0

Michael Carrick: Quietly efficient, distributed the ball well. He's so good in so many little ways it's hard to quantify. 8.0

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ten Questions for Moyes

photo by charles chan *via PhotoRee

We're only three games in, and although not a lot of time to draw strong conclusions, there has been at least enough action to warrant a few questions regarding Manchester United's current campaign:

o When will David Moyes start winning the big games?  Sure, it's nice to get three points on the road at Swansea, but the Manager still does not have a "signature" victory over a top club that will ease up the pressure.  Surely it will come, but when?

o Where is Shinji Kagawa?  Does he fit in David Moyes' plans, or will he remain on the outside looking in?  How do you say "angry and confused" in Japanese?

o Ditto Chicharito.  This guy has got to be worried about getting playing time in a  World Cup year -- providing Mexico can actually qualify for the Big Dance.  Will the Mexican see more playing time going forward, or will he remain the team's fourth striking option -- or worse..?

o Who will Marouane Fellaini knock to the bench?  What does his arrival mean for Tom Cleverley and Anderson?  And are we now saying Darren Fletcher's career is, in fact, over?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My Favorite Uncle Sam

Ed weighs in on the U.S.'s Cup Clincher:

It was a pleasure to watch the good ol' US of A beat up on Mexico.  Apparently there are no Mexicans in Columbus, Ohio, which makes games there seem like home games as opposed to games in other parts of our country.  I've never been much of a fan of people who cheer for the team of their country of origin over their country of citizenship.  But I guess it's a changing world....

The USA put together a win with many of their B-team in the field.  Kyle Beckerman wasn't outstanding but played one of his best games as a pro.  Clarence Goodson looked, well, good.  Eddie Johnson showed that he was a different level of athlete, and Tim Howard seemed to erase all notions that he isn't the USA number one.

The first thirty minutes of the game Mexico poured it on and the US players looked terribly mediocre.  It seems sometimes that Jermaine Jones takes at least that long for his touch to become something other than wooden.  He's a tough enforcer, but I question how effective he is in light of his giveaways, penalties -- another close one in the box -- and yellow cards.  Sometimes I think all of the US players, with the exception of maybe Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, need more Coerver drills.

I can't say I started out as the biggest fan of US Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, but he has delivered and brought many new players into the mix.  I think he has more talent than coaches prior to him, but he also has the team playing with enthusiasm rather than scared.  Ultimately the test will be the World Cup and how well he does.  But this start couldn't be better and for that he deserves lots of credit.

Monday, September 9, 2013


photo by Auntie Kvia PhotoRee

Jurgen Klinsman's got some choices to make, and not just the obvious ones -- like whether to play 4-5-1 with a lone striker or play a 4-4-2 that involves more of his midfielders in attack. No, instead we're talking about the elephant in the room: Tim Howard. At fault for Costa Rica's third goal on Friday night, Howard has been off the top of his game for several months now. He's still an excellent 'keeper, mind you, just not the best the US has to offer now. We're not advocating for Nick Rimando, but instead talking about Aston Villa's own Brad Guzan. Surviving the baptism of fire that was the Villans' relegation battle last season -- not to mention a massive barrage of shots -- Guzan grew in both skill and international stature. The time may finally be here to give him a shot at the number one kit. 

o Could we please, please, please give the January transfer rumors a rest for at least a couple of months?  No sooner does the summer transfer window slam shut than the new rumors heat up: Gundogan, Ronaldo and Herrera have all been linked --  or re-linked in all three cases -- with United in the last 48 hours.  Call us skeptical, but if United wanted all three of those guys so badly, what would have been wrong with signing them last week...?

o And meanwhile, the United front office has been in major damage control all week, claiming it's outrageous that a club of their stature wouldn't understand complex tax issues, that they never tried to sign Wesley Sneijder -- not to mention a bunch of other silliness. Facts or not, the behavior of the club bordered on the bizarre during this last window, and that can't be argued. We're willing to give the new crew a one-time pass on this one, but we hope it's been made clear: this type of effort will not suffice going forward. 

o And if true that United turned down the opportunity to sign Mesut Özil, we're still scratching our heads. Sure, we've got (a clearly unsettled, although possibly not unhappy) Shinji Kagawa and (a clearly unsettled and possibly still unhappy) Wayne Rooney. But we're of the Bill Parcells school of team management, which goes something like this: sign the best available athletes no matter their position. World class athletes pick themselves, and Özil is one of the best attacking midfielders in the world at the current time. People who say he wouldn't make United a better team are missing the forest for the trees. 

This is farlieonfootie for September 9. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: 2012 Vanberg and De Wulf Lambickx Unblended Lambic

(5.79% ABV) The bottle of Lambickx opened without the slightest hint of carbonation when the cork was pulled, and the beer poured with no head at all, essentially flat. The color was a solid orange-yellow.

The beer smelled funky, with some wine-like notes. Lemon citrus came shining through upon tasting, and the funk became more pronounced as the beer warmed up. Lambickx drinks more like a wine than a beer, with only the most minimal carbonation present.  We're not sure if this was by design or due to poor ageing, but it made for a rather unique experience which ultimately left us just a bit disappointed: B

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Holy crow! Three and Oh!

Scott enjoyed Sunday's game more than we did:

Liverpool’s recent modus operandi of scoring early and then hanging on by a corn silk strand for the victory has been effective thus far but I’ve had to double my heart medication.  On the bright side, compared to last season’s start, at least I’m treating a hereditary condition rather than simply clamoring for any type of drug to dull the pain.  It’s been three up and three down so far, with the latest narrow victory over Manchester United catapulting the Reds to the top of the table.  Bruised from self-pinching and with splinters and callouses on my knuckles, 2 weeks is way too long to wait to see if this ride will continue against Swansea.
In the 161st meeting between Liverpool and Manchester United, since the rivalry began in1895, the players were serenaded with cacophonous renditions of You’ll Never Walk Alone before, during and after the game.  With 24 of the last 41 championships having been claimed by one of the Reds on the field, it is not hyperbole to say this derby is huge in multiple senses of that word.  And since games are opened up by goals, what a treat to see the Good Guys score in the 4th minute due to intense offensive pressure that lead to a corner.  Daniel Agger was there to dutifully head toward his namesake, Daniel Sturridge, who glanced the ball past Patrice Evra on the line for his third goal in three games. Who would have thought that would be the only goal of the game?

Game Day Beer Review: Bayoue Teche Brewery Cocodrie Tripel Ale

(8.00% ABV) Cocodrie -- the French word for alligator -- was poured from a 22 ounce bottle into a tulip glass at the home office. This beautiful honey colored beer had a fluffy white head that refused to leave, like a houseguest who has overstayed their welcome -- except in this case, the lacing added nicely to the beer's overall effect as the glass slowly drained.

The beer's smell was the combination of of the yin-like funkiness of yeast and the yang-like sweetness of orange, with a hint of dry apple to balance the twin scents out.  We tasted many of the same flavors upon drinking Cocodrie, with some wheat thrown in for good measure, and there was just a hint of hoppy bitterness at the end. Cocodrie had a long and smooth, dry finish, and alcohol was very well hidden. A-

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight

o It's ironic, isn't it?  A summer-long transfer saga that began simmering over Wayne Rooney's disheveled mindframe has boiled over after a frutratingly inept transfer window closed yesterday, leaving many Manchester United fans in the very same state that their number 10 found himself: angry and confused.
o When was the last time you heard Manchester United referred to as a "laughing stock?"  We'll bet most fans can't recall that far back -- before yesterday's events reared their ugly head.  The reputation for shrewd business dealings and disciplined, tactical efforts in the transfer window lies in tatters now as the United front office managed to turn the present champions of England into the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight in a little over two months time.  We won't go so far as to apportion direct blame -- we'll leave that to others to decide, as things in our experience are never quite as they appear -- but we will say that Messrs. Woodward and Moyes had to expect that their first transfer window would be an event by which their behavior and results would be judged.

o In this blog we will more closely examine the pathetic situation which occurred over the past several weeks, a situation that reached its apogee in a fiasco-laden effort to secure a fax from Real Madrid as the clock ticked menacingly toward 11pm BST -- a fax that ultimately failed to arrive at its destination. [The cheap and easy thing here would be to make an analogy to Ed Woodward's failure to arrive at his destination after the United Chief Executive left the pre-season tour of Australia on "urgent transfer business" BACK IN JULY, but we wouldn't be so cruel and callous as to do that.]
o First off, a quick question for all of you out there, especially those of you who operate in what is commonly known as a "business" (a term the United front office may want to investigate): Does anyone still use a fax machine?  Has the front office at United heard of PDFs?  Adobe is a rather large software company, one with a global reach, and most professionals use its Portable Document Format to scan and send documents and signature pages by e-mail these days.  Here's a tip for the front office: you may want to look into this newfangled technology. It's a bit complicated, but we think you might ultimately get the hang of it.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Allagash Curieux Bourbon Barrel-Aged Tripel

(11.0% ABV) Poured from a 750 ml bottle into a snifter glass after a late night on the football pitch. Curieux poured a clear and deep gold color with a head composed of the purest white, tiniest bubbles we've ever seen in a beer -- more akin to shaving cream than anything else.
The beer smelled of ripe fruit up front: bananas, apples and lemon, mixed with some slight woodsy scent and a peppery smell as it lingered.

There's bourbon through and through this beer after the initial fruit taste wears off. Curieux is aggressively carbonated and tingles the tongue. The beer contains some slight heat on the finish as the alcohol makes itself apparent. It's not nearly as sweet as some other tripels, and very much to our liking. Curieux is a great beer from a great brewery: A