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United’s Cardiff Comedy Capers

 Posted by on November 25, 2013 at 10:19 am  Blogs/Media
Nov 252013

Cardiff City 2-2 Manchester United
1467403 545986098821761 835272647 n Uniteds Cardiff Comedy CapersYou know it was bad, really bad when even Paddy Crerand could find nothing better to say than that United had extended their unbeaten record to ten games. After finally seeing the team play like a team in a sumptuous display of unselfish camaraderie and pure will over Arsenal, it all came to nought as they returned to the fugue state of dogged mediocrity which has enabled them thus far after a disastrous break for internationals.

There are always absurdities in football and everybody likes a good David and Goliath story, but this one was a shrugger as such stories go. Yes, Cardiff showed spunk and fortitude in twice fighting back to equalize against the champions, but, yes, United were also relentlessly awful, especially in midfield. Just how a converted center-back, Gary Medel, and the decidedly ordinary pairing of Peter Wittingham and Jordan Mutch managed to wipe the floor with Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley is embarrassing to contemplate. Injuries are worthwhile using as an a excuse. but the brazen defeatism Cleverley works hard at indoctrinating into the rest of the team is clearly showing. It is no exaggeration to say that neither one of the pair is capable of stringing together a sequence of passes beyond one. Their broadcasting every short square pass they attempted made Medel look like Franz Beckenbauer reincarnated into the body of a Chilean dwarf.

Attacking Cleverley is easy, of course; understanding why his teammates give him the ball in the first place is impossible. I’m not usually one for throwing out statistics, but these are stultifying. Fellaini contributed defensively by easily winning six headed duels and three tackles, but neither player covered themselves in glory going forward as they failed to make a single key pass between them. Cleverley was particularly poor, making 11 passes fewer than Fellaini and failing to make a single tackle or win a header. Fellaini is much harder to figure out, though. As big and awkward as he is–especially in the eyes of pundits like Gary Neville–Fellaini was an inspirational leader for his old club Everton but seems to have lost his confidence now. Brought in to theoretically protect Cleverley and the injured Carrick, Fellaini seems lost in trying to be both an enforcer and a rival to the likes of Yaya Touré and Mohammed Díamé. This seems to be where David Moyes ought to be taking over. Even if injury problems are considered, just how the team can tactically degenerate so precipitously between matches beggars belief. United’s repeated sloppiness was also typified by the number of failed take-ons they made when they should have been slowing the game down.  Moyes’s side attempted 16 take-ons, but only completed three– a success rate of just 18.75%. Just how an eighth-placed red devils side goes up against a club who look already mired in and resigned to being relegation bait, and loses the plot is difficult to understand.

Wayne Rooney was definitely a conundrum. Perhaps he was distracted by thoughts of his pair of awful performances against Chile and Germany for England. Or, perhaps an amped-up rival, Jordan Mutch, said or did something off the ball which wound Rooney up. Either way, he really should have been sent off in the seventh minute when he blatantly kicked Mutch hard from behind and, after arguing with the referee Neil Swarbrick, was very fortunate to escape with only a yellow card.
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United were intense at the beginning of the match, their energy righteously rewarded in the 15th minute when the Cardiff center-back Ben Turner passed the ball straight to Antonio Valencia. The Ecuadorian winger scooped up the the mistake and put in a nice cross, which went to Javier Hernández and then Rooney, whose swiveling shot from 12 yards was inadvertently helped in by a clumsy Gary Medel attempt at intervention.

Cardiff looked good and ripe to concede more goals, but a slipshod United let a team with an average of less than one goal per game sucker-punch them in the 33rd minute. Having relieved a constantly jittery Adnan Januzaj of the ball, Mutch’s seeing-eye through pass enabled a sprinting Campbell to evade a sleepwalking Johnny Evans before firing a beauty past an advancing De Gea. Minus the presence of their only defender with a true football brain in Nemanja Vidic, Evans and Smalling are repeatedly clueless. It was a career moment for Campbell, who had been a star during his academy years at United and still feels umbrage over being let go.

Back in it for a while, Cardiff took advantage of Cleverley’s constant incompetence and Fellaini’s inability to throw his body about after being yellow-carded and repeatedly reprimanded by the referee. Yet right after Campbell blasted the ball over the bar, United suddenly rocked their world, temporarily silencing their noisy fans after Don Cowie gave up an unnecessary corner in the 45th minute and Rooney’s inswinger from the left was headed home from close in at the near post by an unmarked Evra.

Having brought on Ryan Giggs(a Cardiff Home Boy about to celebrate his 40th birthday!)for an ineffective Javíer Hernandez, United’s passing game definitely improved. It took a superb save from Cardiff’s veteran Scottish keeper David Marshall to keep out a back-header from Marouane Fellaini and gob-smacking, gaping, easy-peasy sitters were missed by both Rooney and substitute Danny Welbeck.

Against the run of play Campbell came close in the 54th minute when Campbell was desperately unlucky that his cheeky chip easily beat David De Gea, but hit the right corner crossbar. Cardiff’s under fire boss Malky Mackay brought on a debutante winger, Craig Noone for Peter Odemwingie, and he proceeded in repeatedly embarrassing both Evra and Smalling.
Still, with the clock ticking down and United inexplicably incapable of holding onto the ball and running the clock down, a looming equalizer looked inevitable. After a grinning Welbeck made light out of missing his sitter, Kim Bo-Kyung was on the spot to head down a Whittingham free-kick after Cleverley botched an unnecessary tackle a yard away from the box during injury-time.

“I am disappointed,” David Moyes said afterwards. “Like Southampton, we had it under control with a minute to go but we conceded from a set piece and it cost us. We have been on a pretty good run, but that is a blow. We cannot keep dropping two points with where we are.”

One final comment. I was truly shocked to hear Cardiff City fans boo Ryan Giggs when he took the field at his home-town stadium. For them to boo the British and Welsh institution is up there in the ignorance stakes with those who believe in the viability of getting pregnant off a toilet seat. You can take the fan out of the Championship Division, but you can’t take the Championship Division out of the fan!!!
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Ivor Irwin

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