Sunday, 30 August 2009
Wenger loses plot..mounts dugout
This article was going to be very very different at half time…..
I wrote small sections of it in my head. About the failure of United’s 4-3-3 system as it had in the Champions League final. About the legs of Ryan Giggs no longer being able to get up the pitch in the role of attacking midfielder. About the shakiness of Michael Carrick. About Nani taking 6 minutes to cross the ball every time he was wide. About Wayne Rooney playing the role i hate him playing most…the isolated central striker. At half time, it felt like hopeless doom. And when they trotted out for the second half, and i saw no changes in formation. No substitutions. I thought it was all over. I prayed i wouldn’t have to write an article with the emphasis on “..if we had Ronaldo”
Thankfully that article is now in the mental waste bin
In what proved to be a manic game of football, full of Premiership grit and steel, United battled and out fought the Wengerboys to wrestle away the three points from the clasped hands of the North Londoners. It was not pretty. But it was effective. In fact, it was the United of old. ‘ If you cant pick the lock of your opponents door, then you simply kick it down’
I was worried when i heard the team announced as i arrived at Old Trafford. I could sense that Rooney would be isolated…both Nani and Valencia are far too conventional to play this system. They are made for 4-4-2. If the boss had played Berba up top with Rooney left and Park right, i would have got the idea…maybe even had been enthused by it. But I just felt deflated. I was happy with the rest of the team but could not see where the goals were gonna come from.
The first half was fairly even with good possession at times, but with no real attacking thrust. Rooney was frantically waving his hands as Giggs struggled to get the ball to him. At one stage there was no United player within 30 yards of Roo, so every time we attacked, Arsenal merely had to mark the space between midfield and attack…all way too easy for them. Arsenal started to look menacing as the half progressed. Arshavin was being allowed more and more space, and eventually it was this that led to the first goal. It was quite a beautiful strike, and the little Russian turned away to the crowd with his “finger to lips – shut your face” celebration…most original. The half time whistle could not come quick enough for us in the stands. Too coin a Mancunian catchphrase, it was all going pear-shaped.
During half time i stood there mentally writing bits of my article. Actor heart-throb (and United mad) Max Beesley was wheeled out onto the pitch to make the draw in the matchday raffle. He enthusiastically shouted out on the mic that United would win 2-1. I thought he was an idiot but now realise he must be the owner of the Delorian from Back to the Future. What a clever man.
The Second half was very different. United meant business and we all reacted in the stands. Rooney upped his work rate. Giggs played a more disciplined role in the game, relying on his skill rather than his physical frame. And Darren Fletcher turned into Bryan Robson. The man is immense. Nobody (except maybe the manager) could have predicted what the Scotsman would turn in to. He is the sole reason why United have not added to the central midfield this year. For me now, he is United’s first choice central midfielder…(oh if we had had him in Rome) I would have sold Fletcher 3 years ago..when he could not string a pass together and ran around like a chicken missing it’s head. But his development has been poetic…’Young man from a nation in footballing decline..has limited ability but works like a dog and it all comes good for him!’ Just brilliant. We really need to get him a song for the OT crowd…he deserves it. Even Owen Hargreaves has his “curly hair” song and he has only played about 10 minutes for the club.
I’m not really going to go into depth about United’s two goals (for this is not really a match report but a reflection of the day) Rooney’s penalty was a definite foul. Abu Diaby’s header was the best own goal i have seen in years. And Arsenal’s 95th minute equalizer was a country mile offside in the first phase of play (the second phase of play – Van Persie’s shot at goal, was directly influenced by the first phase, so the offside stands) I wrote an article on my blog some weeks ago about the Madness of King Wenger. His reaction on the sidelines convinced me that Arsenal’s stoppage time effort must have been onside, but this was corrected when i saw the replay. The man is barmy! Yes, get upset when you definitely know something is wrong. But he would have seen the replay on the touchline. Him standing on the roof of the old tunnel will live in the memory of many United fan who witnessed it for years to come. One of football’s classy statesmen, once again allowing old age to effect his decision making, and hence treading on his own reputation as Brian Clough did in his later years (Punching fans, wearing green jumpers, being pissed, etc, etc) Arsene may yet have the last laugh, for his team played some good stuff and have started the season well…but the same problems that were there the day before the season started are all still there and cannot be clouded by some pretty, mathmatically formulated football.
But just for now….we have the bragging rights