The king is dead. Long live the king.
This is how you do it. Even the great man himself, Eric Cantona, would’ve been proud; heck, he’d have been jealous. Having not scored for two months, this is how you do it. With your future deemed uncertain by the press, this is how you do it.
Poor Blackburn. Poor Paul Robinson, for he’ll have nightmares spanning an eternity. But Berbatov loved it. Five goals and, to be brutally honest, he could have had a couple more. And in doing so, Berbatov becomes only the 4th player in Premier League history to net 5 goals in match after Andy Cole, Alan Shearer and Jermain Defoe. Those three were goalscorers; Berbatov isn’t – he’s more.
His first touch was magnificent. His second even better. His third – back of the net. Well, maybe that isn’t exactly accurate and exaggerated a tad, but it goes far enough to say how well the Bulgarian performed. Actually, his goals came in a true forward fashion. Some were ugly, others beautiful. The third was immaculate, involving some lovely interchange with Nani and Patrice Evra and perhaps, more impressively, he ran the length of the field which puts paid to all the ‘lazy’ jibes.
And it was the re-emergence of his favourite strike partner, Wayne Rooney, that brought him unimaginable happiness. Rooney was spectacular, as was Nani, Anderson, heck…the whole team. But today was about one man. It was a pleasure to watch. That’s eleven goals and counting. And you feel there is more to come. Much more.
Sir Alex Ferguson does things his own way. You can’t fault the man who taps at his wristwatch furiously or chews him gum incessantly, because, at the end of the day (or season), he has a tendency to bring the desired silverware; all thanks largely to his policy of blooding players into future stars. Take the picture above for example; both Chicharito and Bebe had joined the club as relative unknowns, and while the latter has much work to do, Javier Hernandez looks every bit a United player. Chris Smalling was on the map having made a couple of appearances for Fulham last season – yet premier central defender he was not. He may be in a few years to come, however. The point is that Fergie doesn’t want to sign stars, he wants to create them, apparently without the use of the CERN Hadron Collider.
His decision not to spend in January isn’t much of a surprise; he’s not the ‘wheeler dealer’ sort, and he’s more than happy using the resources he already has, developing his players almost to the point that signing anyone would only cause damage to the team chemistry. Wayne Rooney might not agree, but Manchester United are more than capable with what they have, and Sir Alex knows it. He’s done it many times before, and although this side have a long way to go before they’re up there with the European Cup winning sides of 98/99 and 07/08, he’s an expert in building teams and striving to reach those lofty heights again.
Barring a disaster, United can manage. For this season, they are set at the back – the goalkeeper position is no problem because we know Edwin van der Sar will play on until the end of the season. Furthermore, United have plenty of strength in-depth so the once problem position that was defence isn’t so with the numerous options Fergie has. It is debatable whether they’re good enough, because what might concern a few is the tendency to leak a few needless goals. Fingers crossed, injuries and suspension are at a minimum or else the cheque book may have to be considered in those circumstances.
Like Fergie also points, Antonio Valencia is on course for a February return. For the moment, United have cover and should aim to fill the void. Nani is doing that perfectly, with eight assists to his name already. Valencia was excellent last year – he created many goalscoring opportunities and was the main reason behind Rooney’s emergence as a goalscorer. Never fear United fans – Sir Alex knows best.
‘Anderson reveals Porto wish‘. I could think of thousands of other headlines I’d rather appear on my screen than that one. For example, ’Steven Gerrard slips on bar of soap’ or ‘Kieran Gibbs reveals all – the mystery behind his large cranium’. Anyway, Anderson apparently said the following: ”I am good in Manchester but I’d like to return to Portugal and my preference would be Porto. I love the country.” Good - he’s “happy” at Old Trafford, however…you must feel a tad concerned at the “preference” and “I’d like to return” part.
The article points out that Anderson has only made four appearances this season, but considering that he’s just recovered from a lengthy lay-off you could only dismiss that with the over-dramatic, dismissive tutting that I tend to do when I read the usual rubbish the web has to offer when it comes to football news.
Surely this isn’t his last season in a red shirt? His somewhat short career has been plagued injury, made more difficult by the fierce competition for a place in a starting line up yet it is obvious that Anderson is a talented individual and someone who can further develop his all-round game. He’s powerful and aggressive as opposed to pacy, and although he’s not the next Ronaldinho as some had said before signing for the club, he brings an extra, useful option to the side.
He can play anywhere in the centre; be it as a holding midfielder or even behind the forward. I personally think his best position is as the defensive midfielder, a position in which he found relative success in his first season at the club. Like Paul Scholes did many moons ago, he can become the perfect box-to-box midfielder, whilst also pulling the strings from a deep position. On the other hand, he’s no mug further up the field. Against Valencia a few weeks previous, he was excellent in holding the up the ball, making darting runs in the centre and good at linking up play. This was also his default when at FC Porto.
Obviously, he needs to address his inconsistencies, but I feel that’s largely down to him not having a position. He played on the left against Sunderland a fortnight ago, where United created next to nothing. Playing out wide is way out of his comfort zone – thankfully, it doesn’t happen often. There’s no doubting Anderson can improve and I think he will; it’ll require patience and most importantly, finding out Anderson’s favoured position. Actually, news just in, Anderson has explained his comments (phew): ”What I said was, later in my career, I’d happily return to Porto or Gremio, my old clubs.” Cheers. His future may come into question, and it will do again sometime – but, for the moment, Old Trafford is his home.
Ah, the undisputed League classic. Manchester United versus Arsenal – the scrap between two of the country’s footballing heavyweights, a match never short of thrills, spills and clichés galore. While admittedly things have changed and Arsenal are no longer the dominant force as once before, the fixture is still regarded as special and it truly is an undying rivalry.
However, even as broadcasters Sky are making life all that easier by beaming more games than ever to British homes, they have bizarrely opted to show the match on a Monday night, hardly a good time for such a special occasion for a game with so much meaning. It shouldn’t be that much of a problem, but you feel it does dampen the fixture somewhat. The Premier League is best suited to its afternoon kick off’s on a weekend, and Monday is hardly ’weekend’. The ranting could go on, and on, and on..
The Arsenal game is sandwiched between what is potentially the most testing fortnight of football for Manchester United this season (although the week previous sees United host Blackpool). On the 7th of December, they take on Valencia in what is likely to be the decider in who wins the group. With that in mind, maybe the Monday fixture isn’t that bad. Having hopefully recovered from the European hangover to beat on Arsenal on the 13th, they are given their toughest task yet six days later. A daunting trip to Chelsea. Now, Manchester United’s away form hasn’t been up to scratch so far – but that should improve and it must when they take on the Blues at the Bridge.
This being an international week, I think it’s worth writing about other issues while the news day remains slow – and looking ahead to the near future. Federico Macheda was originally under criticism yesterday for calling Wayne Rooney “vulgar” and “working class”, although those comments were later found to be ‘lost in translation’. Seems, I’m not the only one experiencing a slow news day, then! Anyway, to wrap it up, I think September’s Player of the Month should go to Dimitar Berbatov. Six goals in seven isn’t half-bad, you know?
Tomasz Kuszczak is a misunderstood little fellow. That may be because his name is rather difficult to spell and is worth plenty of points on Scrabble, but after an admittedly dodgy performance against Scunthorpe last night, his United career looks ever so unlikely to stretch another season.
Some United fans have lost faith in the Polish stopper, not surprisingly seeing as, just recently, he told of his desire to find a fresh start elsewhere. Fair enough, a goalkeeper of his age (29, if you’re wondering) and his quality must feel they should be playing most games.
Unfortunately, and although he boasts good shot-stopping abilities, he can only really offer the services as a no.2 at a club like Manchester United. That may sound like a criticism, but it’s not, as he would still easily fit into half of the Premier League sides today. He’s a fantastic backup, too! I honestly hope he doesn’t leave; but I can have no complaints shall he decide otherwise.
His weaknesses lie in decision making; Kuszczak tends to struggle in the air. Often he is lambasted for his bravery, or the lack of it, something that ties in with the ‘struggling in air’ part. Concentration and composure are also problems, thus leading to mistakes, thus leading to (sometimes justified) criticism.
Yet, the man they call PIG, is no mug between the sticks. What he lacks in discipline that is usually on show at The Emirates, he makes up for with some very quick reflexes and most importantly, his ability to shot stop. He does that so well and is definitely not the player made out to be. There is a reason why Sir Alex held him in higher regard than Ben Foster during his equally unfortunate spell at the club.
Kuszczak, for all the weaknesses he possesses, must be perceived differently; because he’s a better player than some think, a reason as to why his comments about him finding a new club is something I feel needs no justification or retraction.
Wide-men have the chance to show they have the wind beneath their wings
So often the creative force down the flanks, Antonio Valencia will be sorely missed during what looks to be a lengthy absence on the sidelines, nursing his horrid ankle injury suffered against Rangers on Tuesday night. His will be a huge void to fill; but it is key, in order for United’s quest for silverware this season to go right, that someone steps up to the plate and fills that void left by the Ecuadorian.
Valencia was United’s catalyst last season, creating chances and, then of course, goals. He also created a formidable partnership with Wayne Rooney, and quite a few of the forward’s 32 goals in the 09/10 campaign came from those trademark skiddy crosses from the right wing. Indeed ‘Tony’, as he is often called nowadays, was undoubtedly United’s better and consistent performers last season although, tragically, it looks unlikely that the second chapter will involve as much success on the pitch, such is the seriousness of this injury, that he certainly will spend the duration on the treatment time.
It is important, for the likes of Park, Gabriel Obertan and even Bebe, that they sense the opportunity of having to play more regularly in Valencia’s absence and grab it with both hands. It also means that Nani has to be at the top of his game this campaign, with the feeling that he now has an extra workload put onto him but, in order to be an established member of the squad, he has to overcome such pressure. Plenty depends on him.
In Park, United have a rather frustratingly brilliant winger. Inconsistency has crept into his game of late, but as so happens when a team lose a key player, he must produce far more regularly. There’s no doubting his talent and Sir Alex will surely rotate between him and Ryan Giggs on the left-hand side. Giggs won’t play every game – another reason why these wingers need to submit their intent on the field in order to become a first team player rather than fringe.As for Obertan and Bebe, well time will only tell. Obertan has looked promising for a while now; he was fantastic for the reserves and in the few senior games he played last year and could be ready to make the step up. Having played at Bordeaux with Laurent Blanc, we must not underrate the player. He was fantastic for the French side although his transfer did come as a surprise to a few. His pace and technical abilities means he should be able to ‘handle’ the English game, as well as being suited to the European style of play.
As for Bebe, the jury is very much out for whatever reason. He’s played very little, so early (and frankly, blind) judgements are harsh – again, we must wait a little while and learn more about him. We never know – it could be a huge season for the Portuguese youngster, and chances may come on a regular basis. Sir Alex has been hit with a monumental blow, and now he must attempt to cope with what he has. Can these wide-men grab their opportunity and show that they do, as a matter of fact, have the winds beneath their wings?