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.

And when your team lets you down…

throw a coin at the opposing team… ?!  Okay, we’ll come back to that.

Sunday was derby day in Manchester: United vs. City.  Blue hosting Red.  2nd against 1st in the early league standings.  So, pretty much epic on all fronts. 

Last year City won both derby matches, including a victory of monumental proportions away to United at Old Trafford that could be argued handed them the league, since they ended level on points but ahead on goal difference at the end of the season.  (My heart still hurts a little thinking about that game.)

To continue on my theme of not really doing a full review of anything, here are my comments on the game:

Wayne Rooney was immense.  Showing up at the right time for the second goal.  Creating good space for himself on the first goal.  His vision, his tracking back, and every other aspect of his game were spot on (except for a few passes that didn’t come off quite as he (and the rest of us) had hoped they would.)  He was the man of the match, without a doubt.  His 10 derby goals are a testament for what he has meant to United and what he will continue to mean for the Red Devils.

That’s kind of all I want to say… but, since that doesn’t seem like enough, here are some extra tidbits:

It was good to have Valencia back on the right side, and I hope with some more game time he’ll get in a few better crosses in the coming games.  Ashley Young had a great game and it’s not often I find myself saying that.  I have a bit of a man crush on Robin van Persie.  And, if it wasn’t him, then it would probably be Rafael.  It’s too bad that someone didn’t step in front of Yaya Toure’s shot because if that hadn’t resulted in a goal, David De Gea’s two saves right before that would have been contenders for save of the year.  Zaboleta’s goal was fantastic.  There isn’t much I like about Samir Nasri, but I find myself strangely fond of his right foot this morning.

Okay, that pretty much wraps that up.

What?  Really?  Okay fine…  The officiating:  Yes, Smalling handled the ball.  Yes, Evra should have been awarded a PK.  I still think Young was offside.  Yes, the ref should have given Toure the advantage when he was on a breakaway rather than halting the play to hand Rooney a yellow card.  It pretty much all evened out.  Pretty sure the game would have ended with the 3 points going to United even if all of the above had been called “correctly.”  Argue with me if you want.

Okay, now, that pretty much wraps it up.

Wait, what?  Oh, yeah, I guess I should explain the title of this post.  You are correct, my team didn’t let me down.  So, what am I talking about?  In the 92nd minute, after Robin van Persie had scored the winner for United, a City fan threw a coin out of the stands that struck Rio Ferdinand in the face, opening a gash that forced him to come off the pitch to get the blood cleaned up.

I’m fairly passionate when it comes to football (soccer).  I will readily admit that I am a fan in the true sense of the word (fanatic) when it comes to my two teams: Los Angeles Galaxy and Manchester United.  But never at any point when I’ve experienced a frustrating and demoralizing loss (including a certain derby last season already mentioned above) did I think, “Hey, I’m very upset and I just happen to have this coin in my pocket, maybe I should throw it.”

Who does that?

another victory

This was not Wayne Rooney’s best game… and I really hate to say that as he is one of my favorite players.  He did curl a perfect cross into the box for Evra to head home for what turned out to be the winner, but that was about all he did during the game.

I’m going to add to my argument from https://thematticuskingdom.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/what-ever-happened-to-just-smashing-it-into-the-net/, to say that it helps to put the shot on target.  I hang my head in shame.

Great take on the goal by Van Persie to get the game going early… and then things went failry flat for the rest of the 90 minutes.  That’s not entirely fair as United had the game well and fully under control, but “yawn,” it wasn’t very exciting.  I got the sense that United could have kicked it into a higher gear if they’d needed to.  If the game hadn’t ended directly after Calorza’s goal I wouldn’t have been surprised if United restored the two goal gap almost immediately.

In any case, it was 3 more points and sent United top of the table.  With Chelsea and Manchester City both only managing draws we will end the weekend top too.  Glory, glory.

Now I just need the Los Angeles Galaxy to manage a victory in tomorrow’s game against the San Jose Earthquakes in the first of a home and away playoff series and it will end up being a near perfect weekend.

I just love this game.

Down to 9

I don’t even know what to say, or write as the case may be, in regards to the Manchester United and Chelsea match yesterday at Stamford Bridge.  There were goals, and hard tackles, and slick passes, and yellow cards and red cards and good calls and bad calls.  I guess when I break it down like that all that is left to say is that it was a football (soccer) match.

United got off to a flying start.  Unlike the previous games where they’ve allowed the other team to score first, this time the first goal was an own goal.  So, the other team still scored first, just the column the point showed up in was different: for United, rather than against.  Then United pulled ahead with a beautiful goal from Robin Van Persie after an end line run by Antonio Valencia where he drilled a cut back to the penalty spot for the waiting striker to sweep home.

I was off my couch, fists pumping the air, and cheering in whispers.  (As excited as I was I didn’t want to risk waking my sleeping wife on her one day of the week to sleep in.)  Joy.  Pure joy.  Two goals up in 15 minutes away to Chelsea.  This was the United I knew we could be.

Then it all fell apart.  Chelsea found their passing game and camped out in the United half for a very long stretch.  David DeGea made some saves.  United went on the odd forray forward on counter attacks.  Chelsea looked dangerous, and after a foul by Wayne Rooney in a dangerous position, Juan Mata curled home the free kick superbly passed the outstretched fingertips of DeGea to finish off the first half.

Some of my previous elation had subsided.  But, my beloved Red Devils were still a goal to the good and though we’ve had some hard luck at The Bridge before, perhaps we could hang on to that for the next 45.  Perhaps we’d come away with the 3 points and close the gap at the top of the standings.  I still had hope.

The second started much as the first half had ended and Juan Mata, Oskar, and Ramires combined well to slot home the equalizer.  Mata and Oskar showed impressive ball control to keep a dying play alive and then pass in an exquisite ball for Ramires to head home.

Looking for the silver lining I at least noted that DeGea wasn’t at fault for either of the goals scored against him.  He has improved in his time with United and hopefully he will continue to do so.  But, I found myself hoping for us to just hang on.  I’d settle for splitting the points. 

Then everything completely fell apart.  Ivanovic was sent off with a straight red for tackling Ashley Young from behind as the last defender – thus taking away a clear goal scoring opportunity.  This temporarily brought Chelsea down to 10 men.  Yes, temporarily.  Very temporarily as less than five minutes later Fernando Torres was sent off for receiving a second yellow for simulation.  That was a harsh call as it appeared that Johnny Evans may have clipped him or if Evans didn’t clip him than Torres was just trying to avoid getting his legs broken and had gone to ground in the process.  He didn’t dive.  But that’s not how the ref saw it and off he went.  Chelsea was down to 9.

At this point I was very conflicted.  I thought we might have a chance to snatch the winner but a referee had once again ruined a football match.  Then it got worse.  I know what you are thinking, “How could it have gotten worse?”  Right? 

Well, super sub Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scored the winner for United.  In all fairness to the assistant referee and the main referee the play happened, bam, bam, bam, but he was offsides when the ball was played to him and the goal shouldn’t have counted.  That’s not what I wanted.

I’m happy with got the 3 points and are now a single point behind Chelsea.  I’m glad United got their first victory at Stamford Bridge in a decade.  I’m happy with how the team played.  But, I wanted us to win on our own merits.  I’m tired of the stories claiming we have the referees in our pockets.  I’m tired of the great plays from either team on the pitch being pushed aside so the talking heads and other pundits can berate the performance of another referee.

But, in the end, it was a football match: there were goals, and tackles, and cards, and saves, and slick passes.  The ref got some calls right and the ref got some calls wrong, and despite it all, I was still entertained.  I guess I can’t ask for more than that, can I?