There are some sporting moments that are for the ages. Moments that, years down the line, one would sit under a chestnut tree and recount with glee; a glint in the eye will betray the nostalgia that, quite obviously, has overcome the storyteller.
Yesterday was one such moment.
As a matter of fact, we’ve had a rather strange season this year. We’ve had an impervious defence, which got replaced by a conference side defence, in addition to occasionally being awesome offensively, and then being completely impotent.
In addition to that up and down road, we’ve had at least two games where we got out of jail in by coming from two goals down. Both these games will, unmistakably, take us two years back to 2007 at Goodison Park. 2009’s version of that Everton game would be the 3-2 against Villa, and the 5-2 against Spurs yesterday.
We haven’t sealed the title yet. But we are digging ourselves out of holes (self-imposed ones, arguably) in games which are bound to be tricky. We still have the Manchester derby, a trip to Riverside, and a home game vs Arsenal that are all tricky fixtures. But one would hope the lift this win gives the team could plausibly take the team through City and Boro unscathed. If we do manage to not drop points until the Arsenal game, then a win over Hull in the last game of the season should see us through the season, assuming Liverpool don’t drop any points.
But what makes this game quite encouraging is the will shown by the players following the break to make something out of this. One always felt we needed a goal for us to gain the momentum, but that came courtesy of a major talking point of the match. Howard Webb’s penalty was a point of concern for Spurs fans, the press and, presumably, Liverpool fans to. The common line trotted out, almost disturbingly in unison, was it was an appalling decision by Howard Webb, and there was no way in the world that it was a penalty. Scott made a compelling argument about it and I am in agreement with it.
From video evidence it is at best inconclusive over whether Gomes got fingers to it or Carrick kicked it away; actually from the replay it was quite clear that Carrick kicked it away from Gomes, but until one has the benefit of an ultra slow motion camera that doesn’t cause blurring of the screen or missing frames, it is impossible to say, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was quite obviously not a penalty. Notice the emphasis added to the phrase ‘quite obviously’. No, it was not painfully obvious even in action replays. So in full speed, the fairest thing to say was this could go either way. The press prattling about it endlessly on how United benefited from an appalling decision is unfortunate, and mildly disturbing.
The other important game changer was Tevez’s substitution at half time. It had to be done. Nani, who hasn’t found favour with Fergie this season, was the sacrificial lamb; it was unfortunate for the Portuguese winger, who was actually quite decent; his delivery on occasion was inch perfect and begged to be headed. But a change had to be made and Fergie decided it had to be, shall we say, his least preferred son who’d go out.
Tevez’s burst onto the half and the rest was a blitz which now seems like a blur. But more than words, I think it’s worth watching this video analysis from MotD (Match of the Day) that accurately describes the contribution of the big four. Watch this first, if you haven’t already:
Now this may be rather premature but, from the looks of it, Ferguson may have stumbled upon United’s most potent and dynamic formation, given the current squad. On paper, it looks a no brainer: Rooney, Tevez, Ronaldo and Berbatov playing together as a front four would be a Football Manager gamer’s wet dream. But doubts were cast from the very beginning on them working together as a quartet. And owing to a heady cocktail of injuries, and bizarre team selections, they’ve very rarely been played together. It’s also quite possible this system worked because one of our central midfielders decided to take control of midfield and move forward more often. That man yesterday was Michael Carrick. It mystifies many why he doesn’t do that more consistently. When he does it, we almost always do well.
But as much as we comment on the excellence of our attack in the second half, the less could be said about our defending in the first. I will continue with the refrain on Patrice Evra letting himself get skinned quite easily on several occasions by Aaron Lennon. When you see someone like Lennon getting so much time to deliver accurate crosses you can see why we have a bit of a problem in left back. His prolonged lack of form is puzzling. Rafael offered a lot going forward although did look out of position in defence. Personally, I think bringing on O’Shea for Evra might have been a better decision than pulling off Rafael.
All in all, a win that was an affirmation of the old United; a we’ll outscore you mentality, that may have restored some faith in the side’s attacking end. Ronaldo’s attitude was another welcome plus point — that celebration was something I never expected from the lad. So credit where it’s due, despite my bitterness towards him in the past. And Rooney turned in a performance that should turn heads. There is always the belief that if he stayed injury free for a season he could do wonders. Yesterday was a reminder of it, but we hope it’s not a false dawn.
Onwards and upwards from now on, hopefully. Were you watching, Merseyside?
EDIT: Right. I’m already seeing a flood of Liverpool fans swarming into this site to comment. I’d wager a large number of those will be cretinous bile. So if you Liverpool fans can’t offer anything constructive your comment will be summarily deleted. Save your energy and relax. It’s a Sunday.