I would’ve never thought that there is such a thing as too much football. But between being in a timezone where matchdays start at 6.45 AM, and being in a country where the festival period usually involves a lot of travel and generally being indisposed, there were times when I wished that United wouldn’t play. Just so that it would be one less game to miss. Thanks to a combination of dedicated ‘soccer’ channels that re-telecast whole games and the really helpful people on the internet that make glorious MOTDs available, I’m totally caught up on the 400 games that we played over the last two weeks. And there’s some pretty evident themes that quickly emerge.
Who are you? And what have you done with Jonny?
That’s it, I officially give up. Jonny Evans has arrived and the Mayans were right. I cannot trash him anymore (which I know will feel like the Shawshank Redemption for at least one reader of this blog. Maybe the only reader, I don’t know). It has now got to the point where he is the constant feature in our central defensive partnership, and Vidic and Rio compete to get the chance to play with him. Rio and Vidic! What an Ugly Betty-finale transformation for dear old Jonny since his rock bottom moment during that nauseating 1-6 last season. The greatest trick Jonny seems to have pulled is to convince everyone that he doesn’t exist. He cannot be Vidic, getting into all possible 50-50s and most 20-80s, imposing his physicality on the game. He cannot be Rio, with his exceptional reading of the game allowing him to glide across the pitch for the most part. So he has picked doing it by the book and doing it right – hold the line, stay a yard ahead of your man, add a yard of pace and just be a good old fashioned center half. Lo and behold, it’s working! He doesn’t cause as many heart attacks whenever the ball goes in his general direction anymore, and how about all that desire at the other end of the pitch eh? Always helps when you can cancel out your own goals at the other end (alright, last back-handed compliment that. I promise.)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being Carrick
The most important thing that has happened to Carrick this season is Scholes’ near-retirement. You can see how playing with Scholes can be an exercise in existential angst. You know you’re No. 2 in that pairing, and No.1 is not going to help you along. Scholes just seems like that kind of a player who expects everyone around him will be equally competent, so he’s just going to go ahead, do his thing and expect you to keep up. Unfortunately Carrick couldn’t, and that wasn’t either player’s fault. Now that he’s finally become the senior partner, he has found his sweet spot on the game-pace scale. And that’s got his entire passing repertoire out in full, glorious display. The Cleverley goal against Sunderland was a teaser of what he could do, but the entire Newcastle game was all Carrick. Before that pass which led to Chicharito’s winner, Carrick had played that ball over the top about 4 times before, and hit his man every time. They just didn’t have the finish they deserved. It’s not without reason that he’s the only person who has started all our League games this season.
Are we starting to plug the dyke?
That we have scored 54 goals already this season is not even funny. It really isn’t, that’s more than three goals per game through the season! But the whole plan of not losing the title on goal difference wasn’t quite working when the 3 goals we scored was always offset by the two we conceded… till a bit recently. Now two games is no indication of any sort of ‘run’, especially when the second game is against a team where the aggregate score is 54-5 or something equally ridiculous over all our games. But De Gea looks like he’s finally dodged all bullets in the ‘No. 1 Goalkeeper Russian Roulette’, and is trying his best to not be the gangly awkward kid that he really is when coming for crosses. And of course, our great new defensive rock of Jonny E and whoever else is lucky enough to play with him seem much more settled too. We are not going to go on a run of clean sheets like we did in the glory days of Rio-Vida, the game itself seems to have become a mad rush towards scoring as much as you can, but if all those 3-2s could at least become 3-1s, that will certainly be welcome.
Because of course, we are going to score 3 no matter what. But that’s for another post. No seriously, that’s for Part II.