Twenty times, twenty times, Man.United, twenty times, twenty times I say…
I was going to apologise by starting this week’s post with a bit of a song, but I’m sure most of us are still singing even if it’s already been a few days since United put another excellent performance on, this time against our eternal rivals L’pool.
For once, the starting line-up was unchanged from the previous game, and it was only right to start the same eleven that had played in the team’s win against Tottenham. United showed their intent straight from the kick-off, and Juan Mata showed how valuable he can be to this side by running onto a Herrera pass and finishing expertly in front of the Kop, silencing the thousands behind that goal. Apart from a Lallana shot that went wide, the home side were by far second best to everything in the first half, as United outfought and outplayed a side that hadn’t lost for thirteen league games in a row (their last defeat was against United when they lost 3-0 at Old Trafford in a game ‘between two pub teams’).
At half-time, it was obvious that L’pool needed someone with experience in these kind of games to bring them back into it. Enter Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard. 38 seconds later, it was exit Steven Gerrard, after a terrible stamp on Ander Herrera. His last ever game against the club that knocked his own off their perch, and he lasted less than a minute. On the hour mark, Angel di Maria, on the pitch for less than five minutes, played a beauty of a ball over the defence to Mata. The Spanish marvel didn’t think twice before hitting a wonderful scissor kick past Mignolet to make it 2-0 to United.
After that, the ten men of L’pool rallied and seemed better at times, and when Sturridge pulled one back with twenty minutes to go, we were worried that they might save a point. In honesty, they hardly threatened again. In fact it was United who had a chance to extend the lead when they got a penalty, but Captain Rooney made sure this will be a game to forget for him as Mignolet saved his effort. After that, there was only enough time left for Skrtel to show the kind of thug he can be by copying his captain and stamping on David de Gea when challenging for the ball. It looked quite deliberate, though L’pool are denying he did it on purpose.
As the final whistle went, we could all breathe again, knowing that last season’s Easter Champions were put in their place, meaning that United moved five points ahead of the same L’pool in the table.
Most of the players will remember this game for a long time as they played brilliantly, except for Rooney, who had his annual below par performance at Anfield, and Di Maria, who apart from the goal assist and the ball to Blind from which the penalty was won, seemed like a player who’s lacking confidence.
After the game, Gerrard came out quickly to apologise for that stamp. He mentioned how sorry he was for the manager, the team and their fans. Pity he didn’t say sorry to the player he so blatantly stamped on. Straight away, most of the English media were jumping on the ‘Gerrard love-in’ bandwagon and actually praising him for coming out to say sorry! Imagine if someone like Diego Costa or Wayne Rooney had done the same thing. Mario Balotelli even. The media were on his back a couple of weeks ago for taking and scoring a penalty. They’d hound him out of England if he had stamped on a player like Gerrard did, even if he came out to say sorry afterwards. Pity the ‘journalists’ when their Captain Fantastic goes to play in MLS, he might be too far away for them to reach out and kiss his behind.
As for Martin Skrtel, he plays a dirty game most times and gets away with it, and though he denied any wrongdoing, the FA thought otherwise and he got suspended for three games, same as his captain.
Looking elsewhere in the league, leaders Chelsea beat Hull 3-2 after a first-half scare to maintain their lead at the top of the table; City beat West Brom 3-0 after the referee made sure he makes the headlines by sending off the wrong West Brom player; Arsenal beat Newcastle 2-1 to stay in third place, a point ahead of United; Spurs and Harry Kane beat Leicester 4-2 to climb up to just a point behind L’pool; and Southampton did the same by winning 2-0 at home to Burnley.
In other news, former United chief-executive David Gill has become Britain’s FIFA vice-president. Here’s hoping he can still be handy when/if United are back in Europe next season, making sure the ABUs have something else to get their blood boiling.
Michel Platini has been re-elected as UEFA president to continue being the Blatter of European football, probably waiting until Sepp Blatter calls it a day to then become FIFA president and make even more money than he is now.
In Italy, the nine-year old Calciopoli investigation has ended without any decisions being made. Luciano Moggi, the ‘leader of the gang’, avoids going to jail as the statute of limitations had expired. With the amount of stuff that Italians seem to sweep under the carpet, it’s surprising that it hasn’t touched the ceiling yet.
Back to United, thirteen players have now joined their countries’ squads to hopefully feature in upcoming friendlies and Euro 2016 qualifiers during the next week. After that, they’ll be back at Carrington to get ready for the next league game, at home to Aston Villa. Here’s hoping that all of them will be back fit and raring to go for the last eight games of the season. Until then… COME ON UNITED!!!