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Thoughts United v. Sunderland 03/10/09

October 4, 2009 2 comments
He's so laid back he's horizontal

He's so laid back he's horizontal

United were lucky indeed yesterday against Sunderland. In England no one is so naive to think that the league is a competition of equals but Saturday evening saw a team “designed to finish first” struggle mightily to match the organization, industry and will of a side who finished only 2 points out of relegation last year.

Sunderland took their chances and were the beneficiaries of poor defending and an unorganized defence. Manchester United who won the title last year on the backs of their iron men in defence, Ferdinand and Vidic, look to have urgent work ahead if they are to continue their challenge for a fourth Premier League title. This year of their eight matches they have conceded first in three of their last five matches.

Ryan Giggs, the recent impetus for United in their more convincing performances, did not even have a place on the bench and another of United’s old guard was given a place at the heart of midfield. Paul Scholes has a special place in my heart not only for his vision for a pass and technical ability but for his off the pitch professionalism. Truly he is a family man who steps into stardom once a week.

That star appears to be fading and given the 45 minutes on show Saturday, its fading quickly. Even in games where Scholes is not given space and time to pick out 30 yard killer passes, one of his enduring qualities has been the ability to retain possession and not waste it under pressure. Sunderland worked their socks off and Scholes could not find a teammate to save his life. His replacement at half-time, Anderson, certainly changed the game and provided much needed energy but United were still poor.

Take nothing away from Sunderland who through Turner at the back, Cana and Cattermole in the centre and Bent and Jones up front have a team who will not struggle this season. Steve Bruce was an astute managerial appointment and he has bought well over the summer bringing vast improvement. Look no further than a svelte looking Andy Reid who’s sumptuous pass to Kenwyne Jones gave the Black Cats a deserved lead for the second time in the match just when you could sense Manchester United building momentum.

Further concern for United is the absence of a second attacking winger. Danny Welbeck is certainly not a winger and despite what we’ve been led to believe about Nani he has not delivered a tenth of the promise thus far. United had no width through Nani or Welbeck and it showed through the frustration from Rooney at the end of the first half. Wayne Rooney cut the shape of a lonely and isolated man and did not have the required impact.

Berbatov provided the highlight of the evening through his outrageous goal in the second half. United were fortunate to equalise at the death and only after 2-2 in the 90th minute did United truly play with any urgency.

On the balance of the full match Sunderland can feel hard done by and United have miles to go if they are to win another Premier League crown.

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Good Sport and Ryan Giggs

It’s strange that a game can impact our lives as much as football does.  The cynic would say that money drives the game which makes it bigger, brighter and more interesting and more appealing to the wider audiences with short attention spans.

I don’t buy it.  Not for a minute.

The good thing about Sport is that it is self-sustaining.  It lives within itself and grows on its own.  The game isn’t fundamentally different from when I saw Dennis Bergkamp take down a lofted Frank de Boer pass to beat Argentina(that includes one of the best pieces of commentary ever) in 1998 and when I saw Manchester United beat Chelsea in Moscow amidst the rain and incessant sparkle of flash bulbs. The game is the same despite being 10 years on.

More than 15 years ago a young Welshman named Ryan Giggs made his debut for Manchester United. Since that time he has provided some of the most electrifying moments in the Premier League’s history. The recent renaissance of his career has been a wonderfully refreshing breeze thus far into the season.

Ryan Giggs has proved one thing: the game does not change, the players within it do. The laws and tactical fundamentals remain the same but its the players who can alter the game, change the game and grab football by the scruff of the neck and drag it into each successive chapter.

I describe the sport as good. Within this good sport players provide great moments. We are lucky to be able to visit this sport every weekend.