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Smalling & Jones Step into the Light!

 Posted by on November 12, 2013 at 11:19 am  Blogs/Media
Nov 122013

Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal
Robin van Persie Wayne Ro 011 Smalling & Jones Step into the Light!Beyond all the embarrassing braggadocio set forth by Arsenal’s players, managers, fans, pundits and the eternally biased London media which was the usual usual, there was the seed of doubt we knew was there at Manchester United F.C. The difficulties for a new manager and his coaches taking over from a dynasty of relentless success, two or three players kept at the club past their sell-by dates, a new chief executive and owners who know as much about football as they do about brain surgery, an unfathomable lack of passion, the Wayne Rooney soap opera, the Tiago Alcantara/Cesc Fabregas circus; and, worst of all, the recent unfathomable failure to cope of so many of our young players. Well, yesterday, over 94 minutes at Old Trafford, United’s problems did not get sorted out, per sé, but they were put in sensible perspective. Maybe nothing was ever really as bad as it had seemed. Maybe this instant gratification thing we’re addicted to is the real problem!

Yes. Perspective-wise, I always love playing Arsenal. I always make money. Their fans are so spoiled and bitter, so easy to wind up, so lacking in integrity or any kind of moral fiber: They remind me of their team. Just as I have seen and read about Dubya declaring victory in Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s line in the sand and Hitler’s Thousand Year Reich, Arsenal fans win the Premier League and the European Champions Cup every November. Aren’t they fantastic? And a betting man’s dream sucker bait!

Anyway, save for the very end of the match, during a final twenty minute stretch where a Red D team which had worked its socks off throughout began to look tired, Manchester United dominated the game. Ticky-tacky Arsenal huffed and puffed but they couldn’t blow down Old Trafford and were incapable of building up into their usual quick-tempo tsunami-style. United simply wouldn’t let them play! Then, 27 minutes in, when Rooney executed a rarity for him, a perfectly taken corner, Les Gooners were stunned. Arsene Wenger’s addiction to a policy of zonal marking meant Van Persie could make a long leaping sprint for the ball completely unimpeded. Seeing it all too late, the Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud attempted to block his path, but Van Persie was already high above him, his header zipping past Szczesny into the net.

71028979 71028978 Smalling & Jones Step into the Light!What followed–which I assume was a reaction to Arsène Wenger’s prematch assertion to the gathered ghouls of Fleet Street that RVP is still, deep down, an Arse man–saw the Dutch striker run to the touchline to embrace Wayne Rooney and his teammates before charging, arms aloft, to greet the faithful of the Stretford End. Not really a United player deep down, hunh, Arsene? You could have fooled me!71030210 71030671 Smalling & Jones Step into the Light!

The kudos and post-match awards may have deservedly gone to Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie and David Moyes, but for me it was truly the night of the water-carriers. David De Gea finally put the pundit quacks who have accused him of being a pussy in the box in their place. Not only was he up there in the air laying out some muscle and brawn and punching away the ball almost as hard as he kicks, the warrior Spaniard was so totally amped and in the zone that he ruthlessly (albeit unintentionally)laid out his center-back hard man Nemanja Vidic because he was in the way of the ball. Even more impressive, however, were Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. Both have talent to burn, but have also been repeatedly guilty of lacking in concentration. energy and desire the last two seasons. This was not the case against Arsenal. Last week, it seems, some kind of epiphany took place in both of them because, in their case, ‘potential’ is no longer a valid concept. Something wonderful happened to Phil and Chris and a thousand flowers bloomed!

Interestingly, earlier in the day, the players Smalling and Jones have ostensibly replaced in the squad, John O’Shea and Wes Brown(back from almost two years on the sidelines), both had fantastic matches in Sunderland’s shock home win over Manchester City. Meanwhile Chris Smalling played his best game ever for Manchester United. Confident and brave, he committed himself totally to making tackles in the box. It’s a risky business being responsible, but Smalling had his war face on and made a number of crisp, surgically precise tackles that reminded me of a certain Bryan Robson in his pomp. Very vocal, despite owning an even tinier set of vocal cords than David Beckham, Smalling has repeatedly begged off from playing at right back previously. I’m guessing here but having disappointed rather repeatedly this season as a center-back, Smalling may well have been told by the new Gaffer that he was definitely standing in vicinity of the last-chance saloon. Whatever the reason, Smalling was brilliant against Arsenal. Indeed, beyond a number of brave, superbly timed tackles in the penalty box, Smalling made a number of fine quick runs down the right flank, Smalling even came close to firing the coup-de-grace and scoring a second goal when, left unmarked in front of Arsenal’s goalmouth, he narrowly missed making an easy-peasy header at the other end from a Patrice Evra free-kick.

How fantastic that, on exactly the same day, Phil Jones stepped forward and finally became one of United’s most important players. His versatility made him look to be of the same worth as a Touré or a Mascharano. Assigned the mission impossible task of standing mobile watch in front of his back four and smothering the probings of Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and the Premier League’s flavor-of-the-month, Aaron Ramsey, Jones was the one on fire. The rubber-faced, stout-hearted big man not only accomplished his mission, but executed it impressively. Again and again, his intuitive tackling, quick ball recoveries and instinct for covering up for out-of-position team-mates repeatedly choked off Arsenal’s speedy but predictable moves before they could fully develop, making life a lot easier for his defenders. Like Johnny O’Shea, Jones can do any job he is asked to do in games. Unfortunately, until this Sunday he has never been quite up to doing it consistently and in a fully concentrated manner. After being superb in the first half, he was then required to change positions in the second half and fill in for the injured Vidic alongside Jonny Evans. Evans, who is never up to it in games where he has to take charge of the back line, was wise enough to let Jones give orders along with De Gea and came off all the better for it.

Indeed, Les Gooners only managed to get any traction on the game at all after the break due to Jones’ absence in central midfield and the substituted Cleverley’s inability to withstand any kind of sustained physical contact. As well as being great defensively, Jones made a number of powerful runs with the ball in the first half, and the biggest conundrum facing both Moyes and England’s manager Roy Hodgson from now on is just where to place the lad to receive maximum potential. The answer may actually be simple. Against lightning-quick small teams like Chelsea he needs a more stationery role. The question in fact seems to be whether, game by game, is he better assigned particular opponents to mark or in a less specific role.

A last bit of kudos for Rooney. The cliché about Wayne Rooney is that he covers every blade of grass. And as capricious as he’s capable of being, there can be no denial of just how much desire and sense of will he utilized in the little masterpiece he made of this game. Twice before the half, Rooney made decisive tackles on the cusp of his own box before galloping 75 yards into the Arsenal six yard box. Then, a few minutes later, sprinting back 70 yards to chase down a long, dropping ball, punted out of defense by Arteta. His feelings about David Moyes may be ambivalent, but the dour Scot has the Scouser playing at a level of fitness and confidence which is off the charts.

During injury time Old Trafford had a bit of bum-squeak as the pony-tail-bunned Arsenal substitute Nicklas Bendtner–looking like a refugee hit-man from an 80s Steven Seagal movie–tried in vain to connect with an exquisite Bacary Sagna cross. It was as close as they ever got on the night. Asked about it by the press, Wenger said his team was “inhibited by nervousness.” Butterflies in the 92nd minute? Pretty unforgivable, it seems to me, especially if you keep up the talk about winning the championship. To be sure, Arsenal’s five-point lead still needs to be whittled down further. United now sit fifth, after a hop, skip and a jump over Everton, Spurs and Manchester City to bring themselves within a point of Chelsea. United have not lost for six weeks now and the blogs will surely ease off on their personal attacks on Our Dour Davey.
Manchester Uniteds Vidic 012 Smalling & Jones Step into the Light!

Sep 012012

Note: All terms are reported. Also, not all of these deals came on the deadline day. Many (such as Luka Modric) come from as far back as Monday. I ordered them in terms of player profile rather than chronology. 

Luka Modric

The deal everyone saw coming: Luka Modric transfers from Tottenham to Real Madrid for 33 million Pounds ($52.2 million). He signed a five year deal.

Clint Dempsey

It came down to the wire but in the end the American forward got his wish and moves on to Tottenham Hotspur.

Nicklas Bendtner

The, shall we say, polarizing Danish striker will join Juventus for a season long loan from Arsenal.

Hugo Lloris

The French goalkeeper completed a deadline move to Tottenham for 10 million Euros ($15.9 million). He’ll be expected to compete with American veteran Brad Friedel for the starting spot.

Javi Martinez

The Athletic Bilbao midfielder joins Bayern Munich for the next five years for a reported Bundesliga record fee of 40 million Euros ($50 million).

Julio Cesar

The Brazilian goalkeeper completed a move to Queens Park Rangers. Much more to come from the London side!

Rafael van der Vaart

The Tottenham midfielder completed a three year move to Hamburg SV in Germany on Deadline Day.


The Brazilian defender moves from Inter Milan to Manchester City for 3 million Pounds ($4.75 million). Not so long ago you could’ve added a zero to that figure and it would not have shocked anyone.

Nigel de Jong

The fierce Dutch midfielder moves from Manchester City to AC Milan for three years.

Gregory van der Wiel

The Ajax fullback joins Paris-Saint Germain for a “meager” 4.5 million Pounds ($7.1 million). PSG made headlines earlier this summer for signing the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Thiago Silva.

Ibrahim Afellay

The Dutch winger joins Schalke from Barcelona on a season long loan. Afellay will not have to worry about missing any Champions League action as the German side qualified for the group stage as well.

Bojan Krkic

After spending last season on loan with Roma, Krkic moves to AC Milan from the Italian capital on a season long loan.

Javi Garcia

The Benfica midfielder completed a deadline move to Manchester City for 16 million Pounds ($25.4 million).

Javier Saviola

Another Benfica player was on the move this week as the Argentine striker completed a move to Malaga in Spain. Malaga qualified for the group stages of the Champions League after a massive spending spree last summer that may or may not have come back to haunt them.

Alberto Gilardino

Once a desirable transfer target for all of Europe, the Italian forward seems to be waning in terms of performance. He completed a low profile move from Bologna to Genoa.

Alessandro del Piero

And speaking of Italian strikers, the legendary Juventus captain has completed a move to, of all places, Sydney FC in the Australian A-League. Del Piero had long been a target of the Montreal Impact and New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer.


The out of favor Real Madrid midfielder moved to Queens Park Rangers and signed a four year deal.

Giovanni dos Santos

The Mexican international completed a move from Tottenham to Real Mallorca for four years. Dos Santos never could find a regular spot in the First XI under former manager Harry Redknapp.

Andy Carroll

The English striker will join West Ham United on a season long loan from Liverpool. The Hammers failed to convince Carroll to join them permanently after making a club record bid for him several weeks earlier.

Jermaine Defoe

The English striker signed a new three year deal to remain at White Hart Lane with Tottenham.

Dimitar Berbatov

The moody Bulgarian forward completed a deadline move from Manchester United to Fulham after many reports that he was headed to Italy with either Fiorentina or Juventus.

Michael Essien

The Ghanaian midfielder will join Real Madrid on loan from Chelsea. Essien has struggled ever since returning from a horrific knee injury several seasons ago.

Alvaro Pereira

The Porto left sided player completed a four year move to Inter Milan this week.

Moussa Dembele

Fulham sold another up and coming star across London as Dembele joins Clint Dempsey at Tottenham for a 15 million Pound ($23.8 million) fee.

Simon Poulsen

The Danish defender signed a three year deal with Sampdoria after his current deal with AZ Alkmaar expired this summer.

Stephane Sessegnon

The Benin international signed a new deal to remain at Sunderland this week after much speculation throughout the summer that he was headed for a high profile move.

Gaston Ramirez

The Uruguay international was highly sought after all summer long by many high profile clubs, but he ultimately signed with English Premier League newcomers Southampton for a fee of approximately 12 million Pounds ($19 million). That would be by far the highest fee ever paid by Southampton.

Stephane M’Bia

The Cameroon international moved from Marseille to Queens Park Rangers.

Joey Barton

And while it wasn’t a swap deal, the QPR midfielder completed a season long loan to Marseille.

Danny Rose

The Tottenham starlet who played well for Team Great Britain at the London Olympics will join Sunderland for the 2012/13 season.

M’Baye Niang

The 17 year old French striker joins AC Milan from Caen on a three year deal.

Petr Jiracek

The Czech midfielder signs a four year deal with Hamburg after departing Wolfsburg.

Matija Nastajic

The Fiorentina center back will join Manchester City in exchange for 12 million Pounds ($19 million) plus defender Stefan Savic.

Park Chou Young

After being signed by Arsenal last summer, the Korean striker will join Spain’s Celta Vigo on loan for the upcoming season.

Scott Sinclair

The Swansea City winger joins Manchester City for an undisclosed fee on a long term deal.

Pablo Hernandez

Swansea did, however, bring in Valencia winger Pablo Hernandez on a three year deal for 5.5 million Euros ($6.9 million) in order to replace the departing Sinclair.

Ryan Babel

The Dutch winger came to a mutual decision with Hoffenheim to terminate his contract and then proceeded to sign a one year deal with Ajax.

Kieran Richardson

The Sunderland standout joins Fulham on a three year deal with an option for a fourth.

Ahmed El Mohamady

Another Sunderland player on the move, but this was just a season long loan to Hull City. El Mohamady joined the Black Cats last summer.

Charlie Adam

The Scottish master of the “Hollywood Pass” will leave Liverpool and join Stoke City for 4 million Pounds ($6.3 million).

Jay Spearing

Liverpool also chose to loan out their young central midfielder to Bolton for the upcoming season.

Samed Yesil

And in a rather underwhelming move, Liverpool signed Bayer Leverkusen/Germany U-18 standout Samed Yesil.

Carlos Bocanegra

The American defender will leave Rangers and joins Spanish second division side Racing Santandor.

Maurice Edu

Another American departs fallen Scottish giants Rangers. Edu completed a move to Stoke City early in the week.

Zeki Fyers

The Manchester United/England youth defender signed a two year deal with Standard Liege in Belgium.

Thorgan Hazard

Just weeks after being signed, the younger brother of Chelsea star Eden Hazard has been loaned out to Belgium’s Zelte Waregam by the Blues.

Maya Yushida

The Japanese center back signed a three year deal with Southampton.

Richard Wright

The (at times) comically bad goalkeeper signed with Manchester City on a free move.

Bakary Sako

The St. Etienne midfielder completed a move to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Wolves were relegated to the Championship this past season.

Steed Malbranque

The Lyon midfielder signed a new deal to remain with the French giants.

Fabian Monzon

Lyon also beefed up its defense with the signing of Nice left back Fabian Monzon.

Razak Boukari

The 25 year old Rennes winger joins Wolverhampton on a four year deal for an undisclosed fee.

Jordan Bowery

The former Chesterfield striker signed a three year deal with Aston Villa.

Bryan Oviedo

The Costa Rica international signed with Everton in a deadline deal.

Theo Janssen

The midfielder has come full circle and signed a three year deal with Vitesse Arnhem after leaving Vitesse to play for Ajax.

Damien Perquis

The Sochaux defender signs a three year deal with Real Betis with an option for a fourth.

Massimo Volta

The Sampdoria defender will join Levante on loan for the 2012-13 campaign.

Federico Casarini

The Bologna midfielder will play on loan with Cagliari for the upcoming season.

Mo Bangura

The Celtic/Sierra Leone striker will play for his former club AIK Stockholm on loan until January.

Domingo Cisma

The left back completes a free move to Atletico Madrid from Racing Santandor.

Michael Ciani

The former Bordeaux defender signed a deal with Lazio in Italy.

Michael Rensing

The former Cologne goalkeeper signed a one year deal with Bayer Leverkusen.

Mark Bunn

The Blackburn goalkeeper signed a two year deal with Norwich City where he will be expected to back up John Ruddy.

Mohammed Abu

The Manchester City/Ghana midfielder will join Spain’s Rayo Vallecano on loan this season. Abu is just 20 years of age.

Anestis Argyriou

The 24 year old Greek defender was released by AEK Athens and signed a two year deal with Rangers.

Dane Richards

Just seven games after being traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps, MLS/Jamaica winger Dane Richards found out he will join Burnley during the January transfer window on a free move after his current deal with MLS expired.

Marco Pappa

Originally believed to be leaving in January, it came as quite a shock when it was announced the Chicago Fire midfielder will immediately join Heerenveen in Holland.


Phew! Glad that’s over with! See you again in January!