Everton a good move for unlucky Darron Gibson
In sport, reputation can be crystallised or destroyed in one match. Claudio Gentile was unfairly recognised as a hard-man outside Italy for his savage treatment of Diego Maradona (and then Zico in the next game) in the 1982 World Cup but here was a player who was fantastically more all-rounded than that one game made him. On the other hand, and more debatable, was the reputation Owen Hargreaves forged in World Cup 2006 after his lung-busting display against Portugal, rocketing his value sky-high to earn a £18milion move to Manchester United. Before that, he was a much maligned player in Sven Goran-Eriksson’s England squad. In cricket, Dimitri Mascarenhas is often viewed as a big-hitter after once scoring five sixes in an over but his record as a batsman previously showed him horribly out-of-his depth. However, for Darron Gibson and his Manchester United career, he has suffered the misfortune of having his star rise and shot back down, in one match.
That game was against Bayern Munich in the Quarter-Finals of the Champions League in 2010. Manchester United were already trailing, having been defeated 2-1 in the first-leg away but raced into a 3-0 lead before half-time with Gibson opening the scoring. However, the game turned on its head just before half-time as Ivica Olic pulled one back for Bayern before Rafael inexplicably got himself sent-off for over-zealousness as the Germans then scored the goal they needed to send them through. The defeat left Sir Alex Ferguson bitter and in a way, the team involved paid the price for their carefree manner. It might be notable, although personal issues and injury problems had contributed, Wayne Rooney has rarely figured as a lone-striker since then despite the goals he scored; Fabio usurped Rafael in the right-back position for the calmness he exudes while Gibson hasn’t been given the same run in the side that he did in the lead-up to that game.
Perhaps, the Bayern game was irrelevant – United could have emerged victorious and all that Gibson may have gained from it was short-lived hero status – and, maybe, we’re just being kind. Perhaps, he was just a frighteningly average player; one who fades in and out of games and one whose impact can only be felt when he plays lucky dip with the goalkeeper and takes a shot. But let’s be honest, here (and put your Gibson effigy down/stop your party) – that would be harsh.
It became most obvious at the start of the 2010/11 season that Gibson was not what many call ‘United quality’ – a term all-too-often bandied around for every other player, but, when talking about Gibson, it seemed a fair description. However, that didn’t mean he was a bad player. What it meant was that he deserved to somewhere else; best-case scenario, a mid-table club where his efforts would be appreciated. Somewhere where the services of a good player, nothing more was required.
What Everton are getting is a player who can do more than just hit a ball really hard – contrary to popular opinion – but someone who can spot a pass, who can read the situation, who recognises the importance in ball retention and who was fairly robust in the challenge. But that just wasn’t enough, not when you consider his flaws to go with it. Of course not. Not at United.
But the Bayern Munich game is still important in this story (a rather drab one, to be fair). It was quite comfortably his best game in a red shirt and football, as we’ve seen and are still seeing, has had many players, seemingly average, flourish from not only faith shown by the man with power but with the self-confidence of a plucky deer who had just fought off two hungry gazelles (or something). These players have just the right attributes to get around. Gibson could have been that man. A healthy run of games after that fateful night would have been of a great benefit, for sure; because the reason his flaws were so exposed was simply that he just wasn’t able to develop and grow as a player. And in that sense, he was unlucky. Thankfully, Darron Gibson has another chance. At cash-strapped Everton. And best of luck to him, too.