It’s been a while, a long while, but due to work hecticness and assorted insanity, I was out of blogging commission for the better part of the season. Truth be told, I find that during the middle of the English Premier League season, there is such a saturation of coverage that it almost isn’t worth it to blog about all the highlights and details. However, after this past weekend, the horse race is definitely on- this could be the most exciting three months that United, the Premier League and quite possibly the Champions League have seen in ages.
Anyways, things are starting to heat up, since the last post (which was early September, I believe) United have come a long way, to say the least. In my opinion, the two key factors that have thus far defined United’s season are a) the early season injuries to Giggs, Scholes and Neville, b) Ronaldo and Rooney redefining their positions.
Early on, none of us expected Anderson and Nani to have much to do this season except possibly a loan deal to a continental side or a few substitution appearances interspersed with reserve team duty. Speaking from late March you can only say two words: fuck that. Giggsy and Scholesy have seen themselves upstaged and replaced by the pace, vision and trickery of Nani combined with the raw talent and guile exhibited by Olivera Anderson. While both youngsters are far from the finished product, they have shown themselves able deputies for the two aging superstars, who are enduring the final few days of their playing careers. While both Giggs and Scholes have contributed much to United’s success this season, the torch was passed earlier than expected with the two Portuguese speaking players coping much better than we all expected.
Anderson specifically should be singled out for praise, and while I admit he can sometimes be wasteful, he shows a steely resolve and an ability to read the game that you’d normally see in a player more than a decade his senior. I expected Anderson to be a creative attacking player, but perhaps that particular part of his game only worked in Portugal. His approach to the Premier League has been that of a box-to-box midfielder- able to break down opposing attacks (Anderson is so adept at harassing the other team’s central midfielders) and then play wicked through balls to release Rooney, Ronaldo, or Tevez in the blink of an eye. Anderson needs to stop shooting on the volley and start keeping the ball on the ground, I would personally like to see him run at players more, but if he seems himself developing in the mode of a Keane or a Gattuso- I say good on him.
Nani as a much more attack-minded player and the old adage definitely applies that while he isn’t necessarily a great goal-scorer, he is a scorer of great goals. Witness the one he banged in against Liverpool over the weekend and you’ll know what I mean. He’s only gotten four on the season, but they’ve all been hum-fucking-dingers.
The absence of Gary Neville has also been telling, as Wesley Brown finally came into his own and proved that he was a quality player able to run with the big dogs. Now he just needs to sign his goddamn contract and we’ll be good.
The second part of my season in review is to address the explosive play of Cristiano Ronaldo. Everybody agrees that Ronaldo is redefining the role of a winger and I personally think its short-sighted to mention that and not mention Rooney in the same sentence. A lot of people have said Rooney’s lack of goals this year prove that he is an average player similar to somebody like Dirk Kuyt. Nothing could be further from the truth. What is happening here is something that would only come out of a system run by Alex Ferguson. Ronaldo is doing so well because he is a midfielder in the process of becoming a forward, while Rooney is playing well because he is a forward in the process of becoming a midfielder.
Look at Rooney’s performance in the match up against Liverpool this weekend, he set up both goals that weren’t from a corner with excellent off-the ball running and a creative range of passing. These are the characteristics of a world class midfielder. Rooney has always been a short battering-ram of a striker, and it worked very well for him in his early days because players simply didn’t know how to play against him. As opposition defences figured out Rooney’s style and learned how to stifle him, Rooney has upped the ante. This is how he differs from a player like Kuyt. Kuyt has gone from being mediocre up front to being mediocre on the left wing. Rooney has adapted to dropping deeper or leading the line and playing the role of provider instead of the finisher of attacking moves.
There have been many cases this season when Rooney would, in previous years, have fired a hopeful long shot at the keeper but instead he is now opting to play incredible passes into the direction of Tevez or Ronaldo and allow them to share in the spoils. Ronaldo would not have 34 goals this season if Rooney weren’t playing Cash to Ronaldo’s Tango.
And let’s face it, Ronaldo is a one-man gang sometimes. He is a proven match-winner and I can’t believe some people still slate him as over-rated. For my money, Ronaldo is the most exciting footballer in world and is the best attacking player in the Premier League. He will not be leaving United for some time as he is realizing that he won’t get more play or promotion anywhere else in the world. He is simply that good.
I also have to give hats off to the defensive duo of Ferdinand and Vidic, who have both remained healthy all year and I would genuinely put them up as the best central defensive pairing in the world. I firmly believe that the understanding between the two is something special with both players possessing power, pace and precision in abundance. Evra has been his fleet-footed self all season and he adds so much to our attack on the overlap. I think that over the course of his career, many people will see Evra as the natural successor to Roberto Carlos, except for one thing- Evra can actually defend.
If you were to ask me who should be sold this summer, I would have to give you two or three candidates right off the bat. While there is still time in the season and I could very well be eating my words later, I would say that Louis Saha and Michael Carrick should probably be off-loaded while we can still get a decent price for them. Saha is too injury prone and just looks off the pace right now. His first touch is gone and the runs he used to make are now easily picked off by opposing defenders or the keeper. He can’t cut it at this level and he has to go. Carrick on the other hand hasn’t played particularly terribly, he just doesn’t really get the job done for me. He really has only had one outstanding game for us (second game against Roma) and his range of passing just doesn’t hold up when you compare him to the quality of Nani, Anderson and Hargreaves. I think Fergie has given Carrick too much of a chance at Hargreaves expense, but I think that Fergie is trying to keep Owen fresh for a long Champions League campaign.
That is definitely one thing that we owe Fergie for. Our team has probably been the luckiest big four club thus far in terms of injuries. Whereas in other seasons long term injuries to Neville, Giggs and Scholes would have proved disastrous, Fergie’s summer spending spree has proved fruitful. I think Darren Fletcher and John O’Shea have long term futures at the club. I am on the fence about Park Ji-Sung, but at the end of the day, he’s a solid guy and always gives 110%. He looks really stoked when he scores too. I say keep him.
From now on, I’ll be blogging the England and Man U games for the rest of the season. I’ll be back with a new video format and who knows, you might even see some of my other projects starting to show up around here. Rumor has it that there is an andrewisahater English cricket blog coming up.
Until then, it’s good to be back. Make sure to check back on the regular as I’m going balls out on the blogging again. Congratulations go out to Rio Ferdinand for being awarded the England captaincy. Should be worth watching. What happens if we hammer France? Something to chew on.