Pete Sixsmith saw a very good performance, a good point won – again – against top opposition and ended up feeling just a hint of disappointment …
At 5.20pm, as I came out of the East Stand beaming at the excellent performance I had just witnessed, I heard the bloke in front of me say: “If we had put the subs on a bit earlier, we could have beaten that lot.”
My first reaction was to berate him for looking for negatives in a whole load of positives and then poke him in the eye with a sharp stick, but I paused and thought: “You may just have something there, mate.”
We had played very well. We had pushed United deeper than I have ever seen them at the Stadium. We nullified their threat up front – although a pair of 12 year olds could have marked Owen and Macheda, so ineffective were they – and bossed them in midfield.
It was a pleasure to watch at times. Cattermole, Zenden, Henderson, Malbranque were outstanding and made Scholes look old and Fletcher limited.
Turner, Bardsley and Onuoha were excellent and Bramble was imperious. He looks so comfortable and so much in control of what he does. Is this the error ridden clown who played for our Dear Friends on Tyneside?
Bent worked and worked and worked up front. He was isolated at times as the midfield pushed up to help him out, but he showed that he can play the lone forward – just don’t expect him to have the same number of chances as he got last season.
So, amid all this excellence, why is there that nagging doubt that we missed a trick? We haven’t beaten them since 1997 (if you exclude a League Cup tie in 2000) and this was an opportunity to cover them in metaphorical s*** as well as literal.
Had I been in charges (Lord help us!), I would have used the great gift of hindsight to send Gyan on 10 minutes earlier than the Brucester did.
Didn’t he look up for it? What a mountain of a player. Vidic and Ferdinand, who had not really been physically challenged all afternoon, now found themselves being clattered by a man the size of a Rugby League forward, with the pace of a Commonwealth Games sprinter dashing to the nearest Holiday Inn.
Who knows what would have happened if he had replaced a tiring Steed earlier. Would two up front have allowed them to wrest midfield control and play in Berbatov and Hernandez?
Or would we have pushed them further back and elicited a crucial error from the defenders, enabling us to lash in yet another last minute winner?
Like the riddle of the chicken and the egg, we will never know the answer and will debate it until the end of the millennium – or at least until next Monday at Blackburn.
They don’t play football and Gyan’s physical strength will be needed against a side disliked by even their own fans.
I think we played the game the right way. Keep it tight, don’t let them settle. Make your own space. Don’t give the ball away.
All the things that Ruby faced SAF has preached for years, in fact. He has had the advantage of a Rooney, a Ronaldo, a Cantona to add that little bit of quality that we don’t possess – yet..
But as he sat in the away dressing room, admiring the internal plumbing and the loose ceiling tiles, he must have had a little smile at how one of his most important ex players appears to be building a decent side at Sunderland. He must have looked at Henderson and Cattermole and thought, “Mmmm, no Owen Hargreaves, Scholesy is packing in and Carrick is hardly ever fit. I might just have a pitch at those two.”
Of course, he needs to get rid of some of the rubbish he has accumulated since the Americans stopped him spending. Owen was truly awful and should be on his way to Preston in January. Macheda is making noises about going back to his Mamma in Italia (according to the always reliable red tops) and Bebe looked , well, just hopeless.
As for Nani; he is the epitome of the modern footballer. He has pace, wonderful ball control and can glide over the surface with all the panache of Torvill and Dean.
Unfortunately, he is just the biggest baby I have ever seen on a football field. He went down in the first half as if he had been hit by a falling Californian Redwood and not knocked over by Phil Bardsley. I really thought he was crying and that he wanted that nice Mr Foy (who had a good game) to send that nasty, former friend Phil the Thug, off.
He then argued with his team mates and bickered with the linesman and the crowd. A Big Glaxo Baby, as an old friend of mine used to say.
A point is decent and we go into the next group of four against teams either below us or just above us. We now need to convert draws into wins, particularly at St. Rip Off Park and against the self styled next Real Madrid manager. To do that, we will need to be a wee bit more adventurous.
Is it in Steve Bruce’s nature? We shall see.