I’ll be crying tomorrow

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about football (soccer) here on the matticus kingdom.  I know that is partly due to my general absence for a couple of months at the end of March to the beginning of May.  However, it had been awhile since I’d written anything footy related before I disappeared too so that isn’t all of it.

I guess, I’m not really going to talk about football today either.  Instead, this is more of a testament to a legend, to the greatest Manager to ever pace the sideline of any court or field, to Sir Alex Ferguson.

Tomorrow he will be stepping out on the pitch for the final time.  He has been at the helm for Manchester United for 26 years…  Tomorrow will be his 1500th game in charge…  He’s won 13 league titles in his time in charge, turning Manchester United into a struggling middle of the table club into the force they have become.  They didn’t always win with style under him, they didn’t always play up to their potential, but more often than not they have been exciting to watch and have done their fans proud.

I was planning on posting a bunch of stats about how succesful he has been, to back up my claim of “greatest manager ever,” but if you are interested you can find all of that on the Sir Alex Ferguson Wiki.

When he first announced his retirement I was a bit shell-shocked.  He has been the only manager I have known while I’ve been a Manchester United supporter.  What will my club be without him in charge?  Will we continue our winning  ways?  Will we be like the other “top” clubs and start shuffling managers every year (or less)?  Will our key players jump ship?  I was sad, concerned, lost…

It only took a day for them to announce that they has signed David Moyes from Everton on a six-year contract.  I was pleased that they at least on paper are giving him the time to settle into an impossible role.  Who has the pedigree to follow Sir Alex Ferguson?  Nobody.  I think he will be a good fit for my beloved Red Devils.  I see us continuing our recent run of success.

However, that may not keep a few tears from being shed tomorrow as the final whistle is blown, and Sir Alex disappears for the last time down the tunnel…  I’m going to miss seeing him furiously chewing his gum.  I’m going to miss his half jump arms raised goal celebration (I’d like to see you do better at 71).  I’m going to miss his mind game news conferences, his double speak, his joking, his team selection, his tactics, his never, ever, ever give up attitude, his ability to have team after team come up with last gasp equalizers and winners (Fergie Time!)

His achievements will never be rivaled.  The game will be poorer without him.

And that is why, in all likelihood, I will shed a few tears tomorrow morning after the Manchester United vs. West Bromwich Albion game.  I know it’s just a silly sport.  I know it is kind of ridiculous for me to feel this way.  But…  it is what it is, and I am who I am.  Football (soccer) pulls at my soul.

Thank you Sir Alex for the years of glory.  I hope you get all the time you want with your children and grandchildren.  I hope the club can continue to give you brilliant goals and dramatic victories to cheer on for many years to come.

10 points

Step up Wayne Rooney and show your class, thank you very much.  With Rooney slotting home the winner as the end of the Manchester United away match against Fulham at Craven Cottage loomed menacingly, the Red Devils opened up a 10 point lead over their closest chasers: Manchester City.

And, Chelsea lost, so it’s going to be a good day today.

Tomorrow morning (7:30AM my time here in California) I’ll wake up and watch the “game before the game” as the networks are billing it: Manchester City against Liverpool.  “The game” is, of course, the Super Bowl.  Which I will only be watching if I have nothing better to do, though I do always feel some pull to watch it because it is such an expectation, a social norm – it is just what is supposed to be done.  But, I don’t really care about the outcome… perhaps I will root for the 49ers because they are from California.

In the game before the game, I do care about the outcome.  Will City win and reduce that gap back to 7 points, will Liverpool win and keep City pointless, will the two sides draw?  I don’t really want either team to win… but since there will be points awarded at the end no matter what, I think I’m leaning towards a City loss or a draw.

That is a testament to viewing City as more of a threat and definitely as the only team out of the two who has a chance of giving us any trouble on the run in this season.  Gone are the days when Liverpool was challenging.  I think they will turn things around in another season or two, but will they ever reclaim their past glory?  Will they ever go on a run of succesful seasons like United has put together in the last 20 years?  I doubt it.

But, those are thoughts for a different day.  Today I’m going to bask in the glory at the top of the Premier League knowing our competition is falling away behind us.  I’m going to revel in the fact that at the end of the game we had four strikers on the pitch: Rooney, Van Persie, Welbeck, and Chicharito (Javier Hernandez).  I’m going to be smiling about the great saves that DeGea came up with in goal for us today and the clean sheet he was able to keep.

Yep, it’s going to be a good day.

and it was snowing

Manchester United went to 3 point *ahem* White Hart Lane and came with all three… oh wait, nevermind.

Clint Dempsey has broken my heart for the second time this season.  Really, I have no problem rooting for him the rest of the year through.  I want to see him do well and succeed at Tottenham and then carry that success over to the US Men’s National Team in their quest to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.  But, is it too much to ask that he stop scoring against my favorite team?!  I certainly don’t think so.

So, before his late late (Fergie time) equalizer, I was going to write about how Tottenham had done very well throughout the game, organized and solid at defense, good possession and passing, and they looked our best opponents in some time.  I was even going to say that United had some calls go their way that they may not have in other games.  But, now I don’t want to say any of that so forget I said anything.

I’m just going to sit here and mope about 2 lost points.  Wah.

But, we are still 5 points clear at the top, and Tottenham were always going to be one of our toughest games on the run in so I’m happy with the point.

Robin VanPersie seemed to be offsides more in this game than normally.  Did any one else notice that?  Wayne Rooney didn’t seem very effective in his cameo.  Valencia didn’t seem to add any pace on the right and I would have prefered to see Cleverely get the run out.  DeGea’s brace of leg saves doesn’t redeem him for only punching the ball away (weakly) at the end of the game instead of claiming it. If he had held it (or even punched it more solidly) Spurs wouldn’t have gotten the equalizer.  Jones and Carrick looked good in the center of the midfield.  Vidic and Ferdinand had good games in the center of defence.  The Red Devils will come out of this tie a force to reckon with in the next several games.  I feel a bit sorry for Fulham.

Oh, and it was snowing the whole game.  Just can’t beat a bit of footie on a Sunday afternoon in the snow.

3 points the (extra) hard way

As the game started I found myself thinking, “We are going to give up an early goal…”

And for the 8th time this season (in 12 matches) we did.  90 seconds into yesterday’s Champions League group stage contest between Manchester United (England) and Braga (Portugal), the Red Devils’ defense was caught flat (again) and Braga took the lead.  This left United needing to get the 3 points the hard way.

But their play didn’t immediately improve.  Within 20 minutes Braga had scored again and the Red Devils found themselves two goals down; needing to get the 3 points the extra hard way.

As has been the case so far this season the offense came to the rescue of the defense (good interplay between Rooney and Van Persie and Kagawa) and a lucky goal by Chicharito and we were back in the game.  It’s not entirely fair to say that it was a lucky goal: Hernandez got into a good position, it was a fantastic cross, and the striker rose well to meet it and head it back across the frame.  But it was lucky because it went in off the body of the keeper who had done well to cover the space.

Then (another) lucky goal, this time from Johnny Evans, and the Red Devils were back on level terms.  Again it was a fantastic cross into a dangerous area and our defender found himself in a good position but a swing and a miss later and the chance seemed to have been lost.  A luck bounce of a Braga player found the ball back at Evans’ feet who had the presence of mind to prod it towards goal where the goal keeper saw it late and had no chance of stopping it from crossing the line.

Finally, the winner, was a deserved goal.  Another brilliant cross and Chicharito was on cue again to head it powerfully past the outstretched reach of Braga’s keeper.  It was the goal the Red Devil’s deserved based on their possession and attacking threat the entire second half of the game.

So, 3 points in the bag and 9 points out of 3 games so far in this year’s Champions League; leaving United in prime position.  That’s fantastic.  But questions are being asked of our defense, by an admittedly weak group, and so far we don’t seem to have the answers other than starting 3 strikers and hoping they can keep on form…

Will that continue to work in the remaining group stage games?  Will that work when we face stiffer competition in the knockout rounds?