A start similar to last season, only improved by the fact that this was a score draw unlike the 0-0 start against Reading.
On a day when Chelsea thumped a piss poor Pompey, it’s sad when the only good thing one can report was Aston Villa’s dismantling of City. Personally the day was made worse when I found, to my horror, that I am #121 out of the #173 members that had signed up for the RR Fantasy League.
Many United fans have been quick to laugh off claims that Chelsea are among the favourites for the title this season. It would be foolish to write off the Blues, but not because they are playing earth shattering football, but because we lack some key components that will make a big difference to our side.
Ronaldo is not the key component, though. He is an important player, without doubt, but we are more than that. It would be cowardly to hide behind the oft stated injury excuse too. But any team, shorn of so many players will struggle. And a poor pre-season, where we couldn’t play with anything approaching our preferred starting XI partly exposed some obvious flaws in our preparation for the new season. The absence of Carlos Tevez (who had to leave due to a family bereavement) exposed those flaws.
The team started off brightly with neat and crisp passing, and had Rooney’s pin point cross with the outside of his foot (that Campbell met with his head) gone in, then we’d have been in a different mood today. But it hit the head of Shay Given rather than the ‘keeper attempting to stop it, and instead, it was the Barcodes that took the lead off a corner. Again the corner, prior to Newcastle’s goal, was not dealt with properly, with EVDS looking suspect dealing with a high ball.
To be really honest, United’s goal appeared out of the blue because, for all our superior possession, I couldn’t really see where we were going to get a goal. Steve Taylor was off the pitch briefly and we took advantage of the centre back’s absence (and a brief period of indecision in the Newcastle box) to sneak in a goal through Fletcher.
The second half saw an even more dire performance. True, Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs — who were among the better performers on the day — limped off and the enforced substitutes were either incompetent (John O’Shea) or were too inexperienced (Possebon and da Silva) and too late to make any sort of an impression to affect the proceedings. But the team seemed incapable of moving the ball even into the box leave alone creating chances. Rafael da Silva was brought on far too late and saw too little of the ball. Although his run did see him get felled on the edge of the area. But it was a case of too little too late.
We were poor, and we hardly gave the visitors’ defence anything to worry about. And considering they had they 5974th defensive pairing in the last couple of years, they should have been tested more than they actually were. Rooney picked up a needless yellow card and he’ll have to rein in some of that temper if he plans to avoid early showers in this new Respect-themed Premier League season.
So are there positives to take from today? Well, thanks to the seven subs rule we could blood some youngsters into the team. Rodrigo Possebon looked very good technically. He looks like a Paul Scholes of the good old days. But yesterday he played like a Carrick of his early United days — more sideway passes than forward. But I will put that down to the fact that it was his Premiership debut and he’s just 19. Decision making will improve with games. Rafael da Silva looked lively on the few seconds that he actually got the ball. But bringing him on in the 85th minute was always going to be asking too much of the lad.
I wasn’t pleased with the way we played yesterday, but if Tevez returns we could certainly win against Portsmouth, who have looked wank the two times we played them in pre-season and against Chelsea. We’d however, have to hope that we sign Berbatov this week and hope he gels in instantly in time for Anfield and Stamford Bridge.
We are definitely title contenders, but we need someone like Berbatov if we have to mount a sustained challenge on all fronts. Let’s not make any pretence about it.
* * *
In other news, speaking of Berbatov, he likened himself to Cantona yesterday as he broke his silence on his intent to ‘follow his dream’.
“I’m now at Tottenham but no one can disagree with me wanting to follow my dream. I’m not angry about the decision of Juande Ramos to name me as a subsitute. I’m not crying. I only show my emotions to my close friends and family. If I had been laughing when I was on the bench, people would say I was an idiot. Eric Cantona never smiled, but I don’t know if anyone ever asked him why he didn’t look happier.”
The Cantona comparison is extremely teasing, not to mention what club is in the back of his mind. The dreams part though, was straight out of the Ronaldo book, don’t you think?
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