THE Christmas turkey is gone, the sprout effort is gone for another year and you may even be back at work. You may have been left asking ‘Is that all there is?’ in real life, but in the football world, where things really count, there were enough events this week to keep you on your toes. Yes, friends, as the family board games came out, Manchester United’s own trivial pursuit of silverware stalled at Swansea, was back on track at the end of Boxing Day and received a charitable donation from the Stadium of Light. Our own wise man, Sir Alex will hope it leads to the title and you have to say it’s good to be top as we head to New Year.
Swansea is always a hard game, foreign teams and foreign stadiums always prove an extra challenge and Swansea do impress; They appoint a certain kind of manager to rule the roost at the Liberty, a manager who will play the Swansea way; Laudrup has them playing without fear, as Martinez and Rodgers have done before him, but this season they’ve moved on a level so you knew we’d have to be close to our best form to get a win. In the event, we couldn’t get the job done despite the amount we huffed and puffed. The big talking point was of course Ashley Williams smacking the ball into the back of Robin Van Persie’s head, he giggles afterwards in a post match interview which doesn’t really help his cause and Sky Sports go hard on the ‘accident or intentional’ aspect of the kick. It’s laughable really when you think they had a brain expert from a University to speak about RVP’s chances of injury or death. It was all very overblown, it’s very simple, he did it, it could have had disastrous consequences for the Dutchman and Sir Alex Ferguson was correct to point it out;
“The referee had one of those days, we were not getting anything, it was a shocking performance and he’s a young referee but I was disappointed, I really was. He (Van Persie) could have been killed, the FA has got to look into it, irrespective of him (Williams) having a yellow card he should be banned for a very long time because that was the most dangerous thing I’ve seen on a football field for years.’
On the pitch, United started well, Evra scored AGAIN but it was he who was out of position in the run up to the home side’s equaliser. (Yes, AGAIN). David de Gea made one or two decent saves and will wished he held Jonathan de Guzman’s effort, Michu pounced on the rebound to level. Wayne Rooney had a game to forget, passes went missing and he was removed due to this poor performance, Sir Alex left the media in no doubt about that.
We didn’t do enough to win the game, we lacked ruthlessness in front of goal at times and when we did have that cutting edge, luck was in short supply. At the time it felt like two points dropped, but that’s the thing about Christmas; sometimes there’s one last present you haven’t unwrapped yet. That was the case on Boxing Day, on our own turf against Newcastle when we did our job (eventually) and were handed an unexpected gift certain to make the cold turkey sandwiches taste sweeter than ever.
“We went to take the game to United and we did” – Alan Pardew
The Newcastle game was brilliant and awful in equal measure. Brilliant in terms of entertainment and awful in terms of what Newcastle were allowed to do in attack, while we were being defensively dopey.
David de Gea’s desicion to parry the ball was punished once again as it was against Swansea with Michu. This time Ba has the shot and James Perch nets the rebound after just four minutes, I mention the time because it’s a rarity, Michael Carrick puts a foot wrong for once in the build up to the goal. He doesn’t do much wrong for the rest of the game.
Just before the half hour we get that moment. Former red Danny Simpson sends the ball in from the right, it misses Cisse, hits Jonny Evans and goes past de Gea to send the red United two one down. It’s disallowed at first, but then Mike Dean overrules this as Cisse doesn’t touch the ball once Simpson has played it, Cisse isn’t interfering with play and the goal stands.
Brian Clough said: ‘If he’s not interfering with play, what’s he doing on the pitch?’
From the footage it looks like the correct decision was to overturn and allow the goal, it’s why the officials have their ear pieces and all that techy nonsense. The rant in the rain was quality viewing and should be inspirational to any Manchester United fan, it’s exactly why we love Fergie and why we should keep him for as long as we can.
For the second game running Patrice Evra makes his forward run useful and is on hand to welly in a shot after James Perch heads out a Van Persie cross. It’s as if he thinks we can’t continue to bash him if he puts himself on the scoresheet, but we can dear reader because he’s off in the land of nod for the Newcastle third. Straight from the throw in which bounces over Ferdinand and Ba, Obertan of all people runs and cuts the ball across the area for Cisse to finish. It’s a disappointing goal to concede because while you can accept that Obertan has Smalling beaten, Evans and especially Evra should have the area under control; Evra leaves Cisse, watches the ball, allows the dangerous Newcastle striker to come in and finish well.
Robin Van Persie’s equaliser was quality and got the job done and from there Manchester United kept going like Manchester United do. Javier Hernandez was on a one man mission to win the game for us, rounding the ‘keeper and missing his moment, next finding Coloccini’s arm and later seeing his header saved from Valencia’s cross. In total we counted four chances in those closing moments for Hernandez and one for Van Persie from Carrick’s pass (almost a dress rehearsal for the goal, with Hernandez taking over the lead in the winner).
An astonishing game, Carrick was epic, Hernandez a trooper, and it is a game that we indeed won but importantly one that we must learn from, please, this time.
If our minds and bodies can take it, or even if they can’t we have Albion in town today. In something of a Christmas Miracle, Shinji Kagawa might well sit on the bench to prove to us he wasn’t a figment of our imagination all those months ago.
In a bit –