It was an extraordinary game in which Sunderland defied the might of Old Trafford for nearly 91 minutes until a lucky deflection, followed by the kindest of rebounds, gave Man United their winner. Forget Setanta, this is the Salut! Sunderland analysis: forget Craig Burley’s hard-of-thinking bombast, trust Pete Sixsmith to do the story justice…..
We nearly got away with it. For 90 minutes, the alleged giants of world football had huffed and puffed and threatened to blow our house down. Just when we thought we had seen off the big bad wolf, they had one last blow and with the help of a friendly post they got the winner that they probably deserved on the balance of play.
But didn’t we do well? The game plan was dead simple: stop them scoring by getting all 10 outfield players behind the ball and then if we get it, kick it away as far as we can.
It reminded me of games of Attack and Defence we played as kids, where the object of the game was to prevent a score. After a period of being a defender and hoofing the ball on to the Black Path, you would then become attackers and try to score a goal past Dennis Robinson or John Taylor – or in my case, hoof the ball into the adjacent tennis courts. It was a “skill” that United’s attackers replicated perfectly.
The team selection was right, and I think all those there and watching on TV would have agreed with it. Tainio for Yorke was a possible quibble, but if Yorkey is picking the team, he can demand his place. I bet each of the triumvirate had one cast iron pick: Sbragia goes for Ferdinand, Bailey goes for Malbranque and Dwight picks himself. Sounds like Sunday mornings in the Wear Valley League.
I thought they were a real disappointment. When the PA man read the team out, you quaked in your boots to hear names like Rooney, Berbatov, Vidic, Ronaldo with the likes of Tevez and Giggs on the bench. Maybe they had an off day. Maybe they felt sorry for us. Maybe (and this is much more likely) they are not as good as they think they are. What they produced was a stuttering, uncoordinated performance that had the hordes from Kent, Korea and Kentucky falling asleep in their seats, wrapped up in their hats, scarves and Santa suits.
Berbatov did not make any effort at all. Rooney ran around a lot but created nothing. Ronaldo did his step overs, fall overs and then shuffled off on his terms, showing a lack of respect to his manager and the hordes from Surrey, Singapore and Seattle who had come to “worship” him.
Their best player was the young full back, Rafael, who ran at Bardsley for all of the first half, until he eventually tired himself out. Bardsley showed enormous tenacity in sticking with him for that first 45. Diouf had been told to put a double cover on and help out at the back, but I don’t think he really understood that once you got the ball, it was OK to give it back to them, but first you had to kick it 60 yards up the field rather than keep losing it in the corner. Anyway, he got better as the game went on and did well in the second half.
The goal was a sickener, particularly after we had almost embarrassed them by nearly scoring ourselves. We have not had a lot of luck this season; think disallowed goals at Fulham and at home to Bolton and no penalty awards against West Ham. On another day, the ball may well have taken a deflection and gone round the post or the rebound might have fallen to Berbatov, who would almost certainly have put it into the crowd – or the tennis courts.
While we are on about the crowd, what a miserable bunch they are. They sit there showing as much passion for the game as a bunch of termazepan filled psychiatric patients on a day out. No encouragement for their players, no atmosphere created, just orchestrated singing. They play a version of Country Roads and they all join in with the asinine words and clap along with it. Pathetic.
So, a victory for football? The likes of Craig Burley seem to think that all opponents have to do is to lie down and let these wretched big four clubs roll over them. Let them join a European League or whatever, but get them and their pathetic, arrogant, whingeing “fans” away from the real football clubs that exist to give their communities something to be proud of.
They were barely good enough to scrape a win, so what does that say about the Premier League? United lacked pace, showed precious little imagination and were unable to shoot straight. Apart from that, they looked like worthy Premier League Champions.
Next week is a much harder game. West Brom may well be bottom but picking a team to win a game is always a lot harder than picking a team to stifle the opposition. We have to win it to begin our push up the league. So, no pressure on Ricky, Neil and Dwight then!