A refreshing game in a number of ways. Obviously Manchester United will be the happier team as their bizarre unbeaten record remains in tact. Not for the first time this season, their fans left an away ground relieved with a point. United’s saving grace once again was that whilst they lack the panache of a champion they undeniably have the spirit of one.
On the face of it this is a disappointing draw. The third team out of the current top four leaves the Lane with a point. As they did last season, United went a man down against us but showed character. Everyone around us won this weekend and we have failed in my pre-Everton challenge to press home the advantage of fourth place. Instead we’re back where we so often are. One point off 4th and in a tit-for-tat race for the final Champion’s League spot. It’s looking like it will go all the way to the wire again.
But – this was the kind of nil-nil you just have to accept. I say it was refreshing because we took the game to a tough, world-class opponent. We never stopped looking for the win, kept a high tempo and other than the usual criticism – we could have won with a better strike force – I’m not sure there’s a great deal more you can ask. Refreshing too because the referee was strong and accepted no crap off a United team that have long been the worst at crowding the officials every time a decision goes against them. It was good to see Rooney booked for pant-hooting away about Rafael’s red card – although I understand it was harsh according to Harry. No matter – well done Mike Dean. Rafael really does look like the replacement for Gary Neville United have been waiting for, by the way. Take that how you will.
Why can’t you do it? Why can’t you set your monkey free? Always giving in to it. Do you love the monkey or do you love me?
Fair question, George. Although you’re one to ask. Yes, we failed to get the monkey of not having beaten United in years off our back. But we used to have a whole troop of Martin Keowns on our back. Never beat Chelsea. Never beat Arsenal. Never win away to the big four. We’ve got rid of so many monkeys off our back that I think we can live with just the one. The big monkey on our back was that we couldn’t get rid of any of the monkeys on our back. Now that we’ve got rid of lots of them, I’m not so bothered because I know we’ll get rid of this one at some point.
Wilson had one of his better games and whilst I think Harry could have stuck Jenas on once United went a man down, he chose to stick Defoe up with Crouch and fvondefvoort dropped deep instead. In fact, Rafa dropped a little too deep, at times picking the ball up in back four territory. I love his will to win and to get on with things, but perhaps he could have been a bit more trusting of the deeper lying players. They know what they are doing and at times in the second half our shape was a little distorted.
I’m sure a lot of people were surprised that Crouch got the nod ahead of Defoe. I’m neutral about it. Hindsight suggests Harry got it wrong – Crouch had a bit of a stinker and his many critics will feel they have been proved right once again. He’s the new Jenas. My ambivalence is more because I think Harry could have chosen either of the other two strikers and they could also have been equally ineffectual. You might as well toss a coin when it comes to which one to pick. Perhaps he should have stuck Defoe and Pav on at the same time and given them both a chance. They couldn’t have done any worse, and you can never tell which out of the three is going to do better. This needs rectifying. Splash twenty million on an improvement and we will make it back if it gets us fourth. If we don’t buy this window, it could be the difference between seeing off the Chelsea pensioners or making our debut in the Europa Cup next season.
All in all, then, a missed opportunity but if you look at it in isolation, ignoring other results, ten years of not beating United and that ultimately we didn’t break them down – I can’t get too upset! Next week we travel up to St James’ Park, and your humble correspondent will be there, sampling the local culture and trying to spike Andy Carroll’s drink if I see him out in the Bigg Market the night before. Three points there and the draw today will seem useful.
Tick tick tick. He makes us do it. Tick tick tick. It’s what he keeps us doing. Man of the match – Modric.
Woman of the match?* I don’t know her name but the one who climbed up the gantry and stood silently with the ‘Say no to Stratford’ banner stretched across the Sky Sports studio window at half time. Like the lone protestor with the shopping bags in front of the tanks in Tianenmen Square, a noble and non-violent protest expressed more than a thousand blogs ever could about the strength of feeling over this whole issue. Powerful though tank man’s gesture was, it falls down for me because it didn’t slightly non-plus Richard Keys. There really is a simian theme to this post. Anyway – 1-0 to the Stratford one.
*Dave corner. If this protestor was actually a man, blame Dave, who claims not only that she was a woman but a “really attractive model”.
Unfortunately, the other difference with this protest compared to Tianenmen Square is that I don’t think the world’s media has quite cottoned on to it. Did they show it on the telly at all?
Having avoided this topic for so long, I’m feeling something of a political awakening stirring within. If you read my last post you’ll know I feel less strongly about this than many of my fellow supporters. But I feel strongly about my fellow supporters, so in the parlance of our times I stand shoulder to shoulder with the majority.
I will be investigating what happened to her – not sure whether the stewards threw her out or if she will now face a life ban etc – but if the club want to avoid a cause célèbre to aid the “no” campaign they would be well advised to accept this protest as inevitable and acceptable rather than making an example of her. Things have gone so well on and off the pitch over the last couple of years. It would be crushing if the stadium issue drove a wedge between club and supporter.