T o t t e n h a m H o t s p u r
My mate Jonesy put it in his usual direct way: “How many high balls do u put in the box before some c*#t realizes we aren’t winning any of these balls?” We were both still shaking our heads in utter bamboozled amazement when the final whistle blew and their ferrety little ginger manager Andres Villas-Boas celebrated as if it was May and he’d just won the Premier League. To be sure, I like Spurs fans my own age because they can still remember winning trophies with panache and they’re not a pack of crybabies like Arsenal fans. Spurs ended their 23-year wait for a win at the Theater of Dreams after a thriller of two halves. Another crazy encounter for our red lads, to be sure, as what were once bad habits have become outright vices.
Oh ye of little faith. Be patient! Fergie’s new tar baby tactics will take time! Sure, Spurs looked to be in complete control in the first half after picking up a pair of first half goals from Jan Vertonghen and Gareth Bale. Sure, we looked awful as Rio Ferdinand huffed and puffed and Jonny Evans simply stayed square next to him, perplexed, his head moving like radar. The pathetic gormless pair of them like a couple of politicians who’ve had their teleprompters turned off. Anyway, all that running the Spudsies did in the first half, meant they were close to knackered in the second and, but for a bit of bad luck, we would have beaten them decisively. Jammy, Spurs were, sort of like we’ve been thus far. How else can you explain the fantastic goal scored by Nani, only to be followed by a counterattacking goal from the Texan Clint Dempsey which really woke United up. And minutes later Shinji Kagawa made it 3-2., detonating the Stretford End into its first bit of choirly true abandon since the season began. It takes a lot to set the Stretford End’s engine off thses days, but the sheer adrenaline of it all pulled the switch!
It was United’s second defeat in six games, yet our beloved Gaffer, having been hit repeatedly with injury blows to the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Nemanja Vidic–who clearly hasn’t recovered properly from his cruciate ligament injury of last season–an exhausted Rio Ferdinand, who clearly wasn’t meant or expected at the beginning of the season to play so often, has refused to take drastic measures. Having spent all his toy money on Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa this Summer, Fergie rolled the dice again and decided the same batch of oft-injured professionals surely couldn’t be hurt so often again and that the burnt-out case which is Patrice Evra would surely return to his best. Wrong on both counts to be sure was our dark Lord Ferg, but there it is….Last but not least, when Jonny Evans limped off the field on Saturday night there was a peculiar look of resignation on his face, which simply reiterated to me that he does not own the talent to ever be a true Manchester United player and that Fergie made possibly the most grievous error of his long, fantastic career when he decided to keep the Belfast native and sell Gerard Pique back to Barcelona for far less than he was worth. Indeed, although he may risk playing Scott Wootton and Michael Keane against Cluj in the Tuesday E.C.C. game, the veteran campaigner will surely surely hang tough and play his veterans next week,, hurt or not. The Tar- Baby method, a/k/a the Muhammed Aliesque ‘Rope-A-Dope’ says that, sooner or later, our four fabulous strikers Rooney, Van Persie, Hernandez and Welbeck will score most of the time and thus we will win most of our games 4-3, 3-2, 5-4, etc. It’s not exactly tactical genius, to be sure, but minus Carlos Queiroz, or even Steve McLaren or Kiddo when you’ve got Mike Phelan, beggars cannot be choosers!
Always at our best when we begin a match at breakneck speed, dictating the match’s tempo, United were beaten to the punch by Andres Villas-Boas. 75, 566 fans were stunned in only the second minute as United were backed into the box, yet chose to mark no one as Jan Vertonghen and Gareth Bale executed a double one-two around the flat-footed Ferdinand and Evans before Vertonghen pushed a soft touch toward goal which Evans accidentally deflected past a frozen Anders Lindegaard.
Having always dominated Gareth Bale previously, Evra simply did not have anything beyond desire to beat the muscular, hard sprinting Bale or his wing partner Aaron Lennon. They switched a lot and United, who had no answer to Moussa Dembele, the hard-tackling Alex or a crafty Clint Dempster in the middle, as Carrick, Giggs and Scholes rarely saw the ball and with Nani, Van Persie and Kagawa all meandering aimlessly, only able to pick up a rare diet of long passes from Rafael and Carrick, United ways looked ready to slip on a banana skin and allow another goal.
The second, when it came, seemed predictable to the whole crowd, everybody except United that is. As Dembele picked up the ball by the center spot, he muscled off weak attempts by Giggs and Carrick to intercept him before cleverly slipping a slide rule pass to Bale, who casually slalomed his way through United’s molasses-slow defense before firing past a flat-footed Lindergaard. And although Lndegaard could hardly be accused of ‘choking’ or some such, it’s pretty clear to me that De Gea has far superior reflexes to the Danish goalie.
Once Wayne Rooney was on the field for the second half, United became a different team. Much stronger than Giggs, who he replaced, Rooney sat back and held his own against Dembele. Faster and more confident. with Rooney as playmaker, Carrick, Scholes and Kagawa could all go to work in earnest as the game exploded and three goals hit the net in 139 crazy seconds.
The first one, in the 51st minute, came as Rooney left Jan Vertonghen for dead on the left wing and fired a perfect pass to Nani, who fired home from six yards out. But then, shock of shocks, Spurs’ got their two lead goal back, as Carrick backed off from Bale and the Welsh star fired a rocket straight at Lindegaard which the 6’5” Dane couldn’t hold and Dempsey was Johnny-on-the spot to tap in.
Then a fifth and final goal went to United as a suddenly fluid United began outplaying the Spurs midfield as Evra fed Nani, before Schcles flicked the ball to the speedy Van Persie, who wriggled this way before setting up Kagawa, who fired a beauty home to make it 3-2.. From then on United dominated as Rooney, Welbeck and Van Persie came close. In the end, Spurs were hanging on for dear life as United ran out of good look and jam. An overt Alex hand ball should have given United a penalty and at least a tie, but the referee Chris Foy wouldn’t have it. And then Welbeck had another shot saved by the under appreciated Brad Friedel, before a last Carrick header hit the bar.
Now while there is clearly no point in pushing any kind of panic button, it seems like a common sense move for Ferguson to keep putting the likes of Büttner, Wootton, Keane and Brady out there to avoid running out of whatever energy Scholes, Giggs, Evra, Ferdinand and the ever-present Carrick have at least in European and League Cup matches. Additionally, as abysmal as United often were in the match’s first half, the ridiculous stance of the pundits , Danny Levy and AVB, insinuating that there’s a new sheriff in town , is ridiculous. With a few breaks, United could easily have won 6-3 and, though I’d still be saying the same things, any idea that United are collectively a spent force is ridiculous.