Oh Happy Days....


Written on 10/25/2004 02:37:00 am by sikapitan

Do men cry? Definitely.

Why do they cry? Now, that’s a difficult question to answer really because unlike the female species we men generally do not cry when a cat dies or when the new Guess top got burned by the iron. Even the death of a relative does not exactly lead men, or rather me in particular, to “dry my eyes”. We do cry when we discover our beloved car has been spoiled by unwanted “hands”, or when a football hits us straight in the nuts but we usually reserve our tears for things that REALLY matters to us. And these include our beloved sporting affiliation. For me, it has always been Manchester United ever since they lost the F.A Cup Final against Everton in 1995. And admittedly I’ve shed on too many tears over my beloved Red Devils. Whether it’s tears of joy when they clinched the Treble or if it’s tears of sorrow when Cantona called it quits, being a Manchester United fan has been a roller-coaster emotional ride for myself, especially in the past couple of seasons when that thug-team known as ARSEnal began dominating the game, and doing it beautifully too. They have gone on a brilliant 49 game without losing and doing it stylishly too. That’s like having sex with 49 different girls and hearing no complaints. But tonight, this special special night, it has stopped. Suddenly one girl said, “Damn, you’re pretty ugly.” And that special bitch is my beloved Man United.

I’m still drying my tears of joy. I can’t believe it. When the line-up showed the absence of Captain Miracle, Roy Keane, I was pessimistic that we could get away with a draw, let alone a win. But lo and behold, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. If you remember my previous article on Man United (why should you?), you would recall me wondering why Phil Neville hasn’t played a significant part this season. And that question remains on the table, especially after his magnificent all-action display in the centre of the park. He was tenacious, sometimes bordering on over-the-top, but that’s just what the doctor ordered. I do admit though that Man United practically bullied their way in the first half. They had chances, but it was as clear-cut as one might be led to believe. I still find their approach of pumping the ball forward to the wings where one striker HOPEFULLY would hold it up extremely wasteful of possession. There was seldom any play generated from the centre of the park.

Comparatively, Arsenal played the smoother football, as anyone would expect. Their brilliant one-touch, run into space, lateral triangle tactics is extremely effective and beautiful to watch. But like I said, United bullied them in the first half. Most teams try to do the same, but really haven’t got the players to execute it. It is of no coincidence that the highlight of the first half was Rio Ferdinand bumping Ljungberg of his run when he’s through on goal. It is the epitome of United’s tactics that night. Hustle them off the park, bruise them up a bit, leave a trailing leg to catch theirs, winding them up with little pats- the little things which are too frivolous separately to constitute an offence but collectively managed to stifle Arsenal’s creative flow. I might have preferred the old United gung-ho attacking style, but we’ve got to admit that we’ll get slaughtered if we try to take Arsenal to the cleaners. It’s like, “I don’t look like Brad Pitt, but I’ve got a 7 inch dick”. It ain’t pretty, but it’ll definitely be performing.

Phil Neville pushed the boundary on the gamesmanship. I can see him tugging at Bergkamp’s shirt when the Dutchman was trying to run into space, or going across a running midfielder. Not the fairest of plays, but if that’s needed to stop this rampaging Arsenal side then who the bloody hell cares? Ronaldo wasn’t as effective as he usually is, but Giggsy was even more isolated. He was doing a lot more defending, and frankly speaking, the time has come for a suitable replacement to take over his illustrious mantle. Special mention must go to United’s defence, which but for one clear-cut chance, held their own against Arsenal’s famed strike-force. Arsenal’s style of play is based on movement and excellent technique, but when they are forced to move wide they have to resort to crosses, which in my humble opinion they are not really good at. United packed the middle so that the ball gets played to the wide areas. Usually when this happens, Thierry Henry would just glide his way past the defender, but surprisingly he was effectively shackled tonight. I cannot say that Gary Neville had a brilliant game, but does that mean that it’s actually Henry who was having an off-day? But when the crosses do come in, Rio Ferdinand was standing firm, clearing every danger and making at least 3 crucial tackles to save our neck.

United’s own strike-force leaves much to be desired frankly. Rooney, like Alan Smith, is a time bomb waiting to explode. He’s constantly getting involved in unnecessary fracas, even starting one or two melee on his own. He’s a young lad, and hopefully he’ll grow up soon. He might lack discipline, but what he doesn’t lack is quality. And the funny thing about having “quality” is how it sometimes doesn’t show itself throughout an entire game then suddenly it’ll magically appear when you least expect it too. Rooney was having a frustating night, but in one brilliant play he managed to get a penalty. Controlling it on the chest and holding it up before having a one-two with Giggs, he then pushed the ball beyond Soulman Campbell, who sticks out a trailing leg and made minimal contact with our prodigal son who, of course, tumbled. Penalty. Up steps Ruud Econovan Nistelrooy. Now this guy is the perfect example of a “moments” player. He’ll have an absolutely atrocious game, but then he’ll score a simple tap-in. He has “moments” and I wouldn’t mind him sitting on his ass the entire game if he managed to pop up with a goal or two. He was having one of those nights, where the only sniff he got of goal was when his head made contact with the grass.

Considering that last season he bottled it when faced with Jens Lehmann, who coincidentally he has never beaten from the spot, I was dreading the worse. But penalties show you character, and Ruud, petulant and annoying he may be, has character. Or at least ice-cool nerves because he made a fool of Lehmann by coolly placing the ball into the net. You can see the relief on his face. United were then forced back, but as mentioned earlier, Arsenal didn’t manage to create any real danger. Roy Carrol wasn’t forced into a single save the entire second half. Arsenal appeared desperate, and they resorted to crosses, especially from the right wing. When Roy Carroll didn’t capture it out of the air, Ferdinand and co. was there to clear things up. But being United, I was really expecting Arsenal to score. The momentum was clearly on their side. The arrival of Alan Smith shored things up on the right-hand side, and his tackle on Henry showed who wanted it more. It’s not surprising then, on the counter-attack, he managed to find Rooney who slotted in from 6 yards.

It’s the end, and my eyes are welling up. United have looked tight defensively, and tonight their two main strikers managed to find the back of the net, so the prognosis must be positive. I suspect Arsenal will quickly bounce back by trashing sorry Southampton next week while Man United, as always, faced the tricky task of overcoming a much improved Portsmouth team. But who know? This might just be a turning point. It’s lock, stock and loaded. Let the tears flow.

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