Soapbox: title busters? Not us


Maybe we were as bad as some Sunderland fans are saying. Maybe Bardsley, despite early blocks that at the time looked crucial, was run ragged by Giggs as I have seen suggested elsewhere. Perhaps our expectations were pitched too high. Pete Sixsmith detected positive signals, but found it all an anti-climax …

So, we failed to hand the Premier title to Chelsea and some of us will take some satisfaction from that.

United will go into the final week of the season with faint hopes of preventing the arrivistes from The King’s Road celebrating their fourth league title, while we trudge off to an overpriced Molineux to renew acquaintances with MickMac, Jody Craddock and Greg Halford.

I really believed that we could beat United on Sunday. They are on the wane, we have been playing reasonably well and there was the possibility of a famous victory or at least an honourable draw. We came away with a reasonably honourable defeat, but it was a wee bit of an anti climax, on what was an afternoon of anti climaxes.

United left the field knowing that they had done their job; we left the field not knowing whether to do a lap of the stadium or not. Some of the players were so cold (or in need of a Gauloise) that they shot off down the tunnel and had to be brought back.

The crowd were equally unsure of what to do. We are used to celebrating promotions or avoiding relegations and are not really used to a mid table finish. Do we clap? Do we rejoice at no last game heroics or disasters? Do we just go home?

I can understand people complaining that this was a performance that was a wee bit short on passion. I thought that Bruce had decided to go for a thoughtful game where we attempted to match United for footballing and tactical skills, rather than just getting “stuck into them” and it almost came off, but they proved yet again that they are too good for us.

Twelve months ago, we got stuck into them and lost by the odd goal in three in our successful fight against relegation. The season before, we stood aside and let them walk all over us and in the past they have beaten us quite easily.

We did make them work for this one though. Henderson had an excellent game in midfield, Campbell worked hard, Malbranque beavered away, Turner and Kilgallon looked sound and Cana may well have gone the entire game without committing a foul. Wow!!

On the other hand, Richardson will never make a full back (look at where he was for the goal), Bent did little to convince Baldini that Capello should be calling him up, Mensah showed that he is a fine player but a liability and Bardsley spoiled a solid game by making a fool of himself in the United penalty box.

In the first half, we put a number of decent moves and one very good one together, when Malbranque forced a good save from Van der Saar. But Bent, despite working his socks off, never threatened, partly due to being up there on his own.

I thought Jones should have come on 10 minutes before he did. Some would make a very good case for having him on from the start and I can understand that, but Bruce is a cautious manager and a five man midfield was always likely for a game where he had to show his integrity in team selection and motivation.

In the end, we were beaten by a good strike from a player who likes to fall over. We gave the ball away in midfield, failed to clear it and left a United player unmarked with a clear shot. Unfortunately for us it was not Berbatov; had it been, Chelsea would have been celebrating a fourth league title on Sunday night. The Bulgarian had a wretched game, reminiscent of Tom Ritchie at his mind boggling worst, and looks destined for a return to the Bundesliga. Paul Scholes was outstanding for United; he never wasted a pace and his positioning was outstanding. A fine player.

Another compliment to Steve Bennett, who had a brilliant game. He is by no means my favourite whistler, but he was outstanding yesterday and got every decision right and showed that he is a top class referee.

All in all, a slightly disappointing end to what has been a decent season at the Stadium. On the final whistle, hands were shaken and acquaintanceships were pledged to be renewed in August, when no doubt there will be some old faces gone and some new ones to contemplate. I think I preferred the final home game of last season; now that was most certainly not an anti climax!!!

3 thoughts on “Soapbox: title busters? Not us”

  1. At the start I noticed Johnny Evans seemed a bit shocked he didn’t know anybody in our team and that shows how far we have moved on. A solid performance without the willing to die for the cause attitude we were promised. I think Bruce knows the weaknesses and I wouldn’t expect to see Ferdinand or McCartney next year. Jones could move on and Bardsley is already looking for a club, but we need to strengthen and not just replace. Bentley, a top class centr half and another striker and keeper. All in all a good season and something to build on

  2. Going in to the game, I probably expected to much and I honestly think everyone did. The reason I am saying this is that overall the performance lacked a bit of a spark, if any of our players (lord Gordon appart) looked like having a bit of a flair it was Mallbranque, Cana and yes.. Ricco. They had that bit of drive and passion expected from a team going in to a big game, though anyone will agree that Kieran is no full back, he worked a lot and tried to get forward.
    The reason I m not to downhearted is relatively simple, it didnt seem much of a surprise. The Totenham match apart we haven’t looked that easy over the last few weeks. The renaissance that came after the winter slump could only have a small effect. The injuries and the fact that there is never an unchanged starting eleven is taking it’s toll on the squad. We didn’t look wonderful against Burnley or Hull to be true, we just had what was needed to get the job done against lesser foes.. and that is no small accomplishment.
    Is there a reason to stand up and chear the team in the end? Deffinately yes, in a weeks time our team is going into a well deserved break after all. We ve been out of the relegation fight for weeks – which coincidentally doesnt relly help motivation – and ended a hugely unlucky season in what would be relative success in my eyes.
    As far as the starting line-up yesterday is concerned I ll just make 2-3 comments. It looked like we had a technical side (left) and a passionate side (right). Though I rate young Henderson as a good stand in for now and a player of much promise, his duet with bardsley was never going to be really productive. Second, wasnt Kenwyne worth a slot in the team? He is a handful for everybody and could have done a job on the day, it seemed so in the last 20 minutes when he came on… if you ‘re just going to wack the ball forward you might aswell have someone to win a header now and then. That substitution should have been made at halftime.. but can you actually blame Brucie for fearing a ten man end to the match for SAFC?
    Haway the lads then, i hope all traveeling fans have a nice weekend at wolves and i think we can get something out of there, it will be a honest unpressurized match for everyone to enjoy.
    Although i dont really rate or like Greg Halford, everyone should have a soft spot for MMc and Jody Craddock… even if not deemed enough by some, they gave everything they could as they served this club.

  3. Some valid points, some not so valid ones.

    Bring Jones on sooner? I am sure he would have done that, if we hadnt already used up 2 subs due to Mensah (who shouldnt be played – too much of a liability) and Meyler.
    Calling SB cautious is a bit OTT imo, as SB was the manager who saw us go out and play 4-4-2 at OT…….

    We missed Hutton, as all our other “wide” players like to cut into the middle. We need someone to cross from the corner flag. Man U CBs were rocks and absorbed all our attacks down the middle. (how i wish Evans could of signed for us!!!)

    I think expectations were set too high for this game. We played better than Liverpool did, and provided a much more entertaining game for neutrals than that Chelsea vs Liverpool dross.

    one big positive for me was the fact Cana and Cattermole looked like a decent CM pairing again.

    one negative – Meyler’s injury, and the fact that I am now sure we will see some bids come in for our young players. can we fend them off? I hope so (the new contracts give me hope).

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