There is a reason why I take a while before posting a match report. It certainly is belated as I am sure, by now, reams of papers might have been written discussing the happenings on the pitch yesterday in the top of the table clash.
It’s all simple, really. Had I written this yesterday I might have said tons of things that I might regret sometime in the future. It is alright to rant your mouths off. But a little restraint always helps, doesn’t it? Although I wonder if I would have ever managed to write anything yesterday given the mood I was in. But I digress. So where was I? Ah yes!
Football Manager 2008 The match report!
The game dubbed as a classic didn’t quite live up to its billing in the purest sense of the term classic. It wasn’t as eventful as the ones of the past. Sure, the scoreline suggested that four goals were scored and surely it was much better than the snorefests that were Chelsea United or Liverpool United encounters of late. But the free flowing nature came about in spurts and there was enough action to give a sense of satisfaction to the neutral.
To make this longish report readable, I will split this into sections.
I wondered prior to the game whether Fergie would go conservative on this one. It did seem logical given it was an away fixture against a team playing good football. But thankfully he persisted with his trusted 4-4-2 with Anderson in the centre along with Hargreaves. Giggs came in the place of Nani, while Evra came back from injury. The move was brave and was a statement of intent. Arsenal went with their customary 4-4-1-1 where Hleb played behind Adebayor.
The tactics were spot on to start with but I was really impressed with Anderson. Sure the histrionics part was deplorable and disgraceful — Fabregas mimicking was one of the funniest moments of the game. But he stood up and wanted to prove that he could mix it with Wenger’s young men. He demanded the ball with his tackles and the moment I heard boos coming out from the crowd whenever he had the ball I knew that we have a new hate figure in our midst. And I just felt myself liking him more.
What I don’t get is the double standards and the fuss made out of Anderson asking the referee to give a yellow card. Just because he wasn’t all too fluent in English and in order to overcome the communication gap he was forced into gesturing for a yellow card. Gerrard did that a few weeks ago against Everton, when Tony Hibbert’s supposed yellow got magically upgraded to a red card with some kind words to the ref from the redoubtable Liverpool captain. John Terry and his merry band of Blue bullies subjected referees to their choicest words in cajoling them into making decisions during the Mourinho days.
But if a foreigner ever was to gesture for a yellow (in the case of Anderson) or red (as in the case of Ronaldo in the world cup) they suddenly become villains. While I don’t condone players influencing referees I can’t stand double standards as far as judging players for these kind of actions goes.
While we maintained our focus in defence we were sloppy at times and had to finally pay for our mistakes. Arsenal’s first goal was a product of giving away possession too easily. The fact that it was off a throw-in in their half that ultimately led to their goal itself was hard to take. Plus, by allowing them to score so early in the second half after having scored in the death of the first, we only squandered our initiative.
Their second goal was more about allowing Clichy to ghost past players with the ball and send in the cross. There wasn’t really much that could be done about that apart from maintaining concentration in the dying minutes. But there were other glaring errors in defending that were left unpunished. John O’Shea missing a header leaving Eduardo blasting over was just one of them.
We had two genuine gilt-edged chances that went begging; Rooney’s header, when he thought the goal was a several hundred miles to the right of where it actually was and Ryan Giggs who went extremely close to goal to a Ronaldo cross but failed to get it on target as well as a shot from the edge of the box that wasn’t hit on target, as he himself admitted in the post-match interview.
I thought Howard Webb had a very good game. Vidic’s shirt pulling aside, Rosicky fell too easily. Rosicky again fell easily to Brown’s push in the build up to our first goal. There wasn’t much of a foul when Arsenal scored too. Plus, Hargreaves’ handball was too much to expect from the ref who actually had a good look at the incident. And of course, the linesman, who did an excellent job of spotting the goal. It would be unfair if the goal was not given as then we would have had to put up with tiring accusations from bitter Gooners about how we paid off the linesman or such like.
I found Fergie’s moan a little funny. It was unfair of him to criticise the referee for actually doing a decent job. The bit about swearing from fans was a little too much, wasn’t it? I mean, don’t fans do that usually in away games? I understand that he might have felt gutted at the manner of the result, but a little restraint might have helped, wouldn’t it? See what I mean when I say I restrain myself a bit to collect my thoughts before blurting out crap that I would regret saying? No? Nevermind.
And saying that they lumped the ball up to get the goal was a little hollow too. When something is wrong, you must call it. And I had to disagree with all that he said today.
I felt Tevez, for all his work, was mostly kept quiet. Rooney was in and out and made good runs. Ronaldo, despite his assist and goal, was found wanting in the big games and Anderson has continued to be a revelation in the side. While he didn’t make too many of the killer passes that he made in the earlier games he showed enough courage while tracking back and making those tackles. Hargreaves was average, but again, he is still far from full fitness. Giggs scuffed up two efforts and wasn’t spectacular despite doing reasonably well.
There has been much made about in various United message boards about the manner of the celebrations and how disgraceful it might feel to celebrate a draw at home against a fellow title contender. I beg to disagree on this. I really don’t see why there is so much that’s being made out of this. Arsenal scored a goal to save them from defeat in the last minute. Wouldn’t the adrenaline flow at that moment? Wouldn’t the players feel chuffed to hell with their comeback from certain defeat? The celebrations were spur of the moment stuff. That is all.
It was a game that we threw away. More than that, a victory would have severely dented their confidence. Them scoring a late goal ensured that they felt like they had won it. The sense of euphoria would send their confidence sky high. I wouldn’t be too worried about the result, although with the draw we had just given fresh hope to Chelski who are now snapping at our heels being three points behind. There were positives, of course. Us coming so close to getting three points at the Emirates itself was a major psychological boost whether the Gooners spot that or not. Although it might be terribly deflating to see the ball cross the line at the 92nd minute.
Blackburn, next week, beckons. They have nicked points off three of the top four and they look threatening. It is essential that we manage to beat them. Speaking of which, the most satisfying result of the day was Liverpool drawing, again. So what are the odds that Rafa gets the sack? I honestly hope they persist with him… for obvious reasons, of course!
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