In what Andy Gray described as possibly the most significant weekend of the season, two derbies helped to keep alive the prospect of it going into the final day with something to play for in every position, and fittingly ensure that a season characterized by everything being a little bit mad, got just a little bit madder.
Man City vs Man Utd
1. Man in the Moon – Wayne Rooney being fit to start was the pre-match headline news at Eastlands, whilst I – and presumably many other people of supreme intelligence – tried desperately to work out just what the hell the Manchester City mascot is supposed to be, or why it has any significance to anything even passably related to Manchester City. It looks like the kind of thing that should be advertising cereal to children or possibly some kind of poisonous sweety chewy thing pretending to be from space called Zapows! …or something. Despite this baffling me for a good 5 minutes to such an extent I was compelled to google it – He’s called Moonchester and occasionally comes complete with an oversized lazer gun made of foam (which I very much doubt works) – I eventually started to get excited about the prospect of Rooney playing.
2. Aint what they used to be – That was of course until Rooney started playing, by which time it became painfully obviously that he wasn’t actually match fit, or in any kind of form. He did his usual best to get about people, but not to any real success and even seemed a little reluctant at times with the specter of injury always hanging over him. Apart from occasionally finding someone in space, and shouting at people, his main contribution was missing the best chance of the first half by dragging wide from 8 yards with the goal at his mercy. In the second half it became very obvious he was tiring, or unable to play on to any degree of helpfulness, and so he was withdrawn to be replaced by Dimitar Berbatov. Why Sir Alex Ferguson thought this would improve anything though, I’m not particularly sure, but Rooney’s non impact didn’t stop the Sky cameramen from following him round triumphantly during the post match celebrations, as if it was he who’d decided the spoils.
3. No Business like Show Business – The whole feeling of this match was very much like that of a Cup Final. Sky had obviously done their best to ramp things up to ludicrous proportions, and so had City, letting off some confetti canons before kick off, seemingly under the impression they were about to host the Super Bowl, or possibly the extravagant final of celebrity Gladiators. The entire first half was played with a high tempo and excitable attitude but also under the impression that – much like a Cup Final – the desire not to lose outweighed the desire to win. At one point in the hot midday sun the players took stock and instructions from their benches whilst someone went down injured which also made it look a little like a Cup Final as you so often see that kind of thing late in the day after a tense and grueling end of season show piece. This little break also allowed Emmanuel Adebayor to make sure his shirtsleeves were still rolled up, despite the fact he was already wearing a short sleeve shirt.
4. The Future’s Bright, the Future’s Orange – The winner, and stand out performance of the day came from Paul Scholes, a player who at times has seemed so past his prime his ginger hair is half way to becoming blonde. On Saturday he put in an absolute master class of midfield control, aided and abetted by City, who just really didn’t feel like closing him down all that much. Latching onto a last second cross from Paddy Evra, he nodded United firmly back into the title race with a pin point perfect header, only to be rewarded with a full on snog from Gary Neville, something that no man, woman or child should ever have to endure. When asked post match if it made it especially nice to grab the winner against City away from home he replied, “Not really, Its nice to win any game against City away from home.” Perfectly clear and yet incredibly complex in it’s simplicity, much like the man himself.
5. Three, that’s the magic number – If winning a game with a last minute winner and getting one over on your nearest rivals are the interchangeable first and second most satisfying things in football, then doing both three times in a season must be close to pant wetting euphoria for United fans and head in the oven misery for City ones. After Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney had snatched away parity in two previous meetings this term, the ginger prince slapped down the Blues again to give them just that in a season that was supposed to be the one they announced themselves as a match, if not a better than their more famous neighbours. Being so close to earning something all three times and even getting a win in the Carling Cup semi first leg should be looked on as great achievement really, but I doubt you’ll find any City fans comforted by that this morning.
Other Things I noticed:
ETIHAD got a shed load of advertising, having seemingly taken over all the ad hoardings for the afternoon, yet I still don’t know who or what they are. Franny Lee’s little Leprechaun giggle did nothing to dampen the fact he looked exactly like a garden gnome. Darron Gibson has no function other than shooting from stupid places. Gary Neville over hits all his crosses, Gareth Barry can’t dive properly and that Sun advert with Terry Venables singing is incredibly nauseating. I think it’s his beard.
Spurs vs Chelsea
6. I want my DVD – As Harry Redknapp prepared to repay the favor his old mate Fergie had just done him – and to presumably get out of having to buy the wine this time – the second big game derby of the day was gearing up to begin under the watchful eyes of Fabio Capello, who had someone made it down from Manchester in under 3 hours, presumably dodging the evil Finnish ash cloud in the FA’s special Capellicopter. Spurs were hoping to record their second monumentous scalp of the week and after the club shop had already started selling DVDs of the Arsenal game, cover printers and blurb writers were at the ready for the visit of Chelsea. (Note: If you should ever find yourself in the situation of trying to find a funny picture to represent “small time” on an internet forum, make sure you get the spelling of “tiny clocks” absolutely correct. The consequences can be alarming – pun intended.)
7. What goes around comes around – The game started at a good pace and with the White Hart Lane faithful still drunk on the power of their previous conquest, looked like it was going to be feisty one. After 50s matinee idol David Bentley had attempted to shoot on site from an array of inappropriate positions, the ever excellent Gareth Bale had a soft penalty appeal turned down as he burst into the box. With Chelsea’s recent record of having glaringly obvious decisions go their way against both United and Bolton, things were eventually karmicaly corrected when Spurs were awarded an even softer one a few minutes later after John Terry had attempted to head butt his own arm whilst doing the Skinhead Moonstomp. Jermain Defoe spanked it in for surprisingly the first time this season, and we were off into another rollercoaster game at the Lane.
8. Epic Bale – The game was put to bed just before half time – with the benefit of hindsight – courtesy of the brilliant Bale. Galloping down the left he cut in on is weaker right to rifle in the second with a low drive as everyone within the confines of the English border lamented how unfair it is that Wales always produce the best left footed players. The lad was superb all day, as he was against Arsenal and as he’s been for most of this half of the season. Every decent Spurs attack went through him and if it wasn’t for the valiant attempts of Roman Pavlyuchenko to ensure that Chelsea remained in the game, he could’ve had a gaggle of assists and even a hat trick himself to add to his solitary goal.
9. Another one bites the dust – As the second half started, and with Carlo Ancelotti and Ray Wilkins looking disturbingly like a Mafia don and his loyal but violent consigliere, a bizarre situation almost occurred. With Chelsea using all of their subs before the kick off, Didier Drogba seemed to pull up in the center circle and retired from the action as the game resumed. For a short while it looked as though the Blues would have to play out the entire second half with only 10 men, but as it happened Drogba ran it off, and they only had to play out half of the half with 10 after everyone’s favorite player John Terry got himself sent off, argued with anyone in his eyeline, and then seemed to walk into a cupboard just inside the tunnel.
10. It (only) takes two baby – With Chelsea now getting incredibly wound up, and after a big girly pushing fight involving Deco and the entire cast of West Side Story, Chelsea hung on as Spurs eased their way through a 3 man defence at will in what looked like a light extra training session for all those in white with scoring problems. Spurs missed chance upon chance upon chance to put it to bed before Fwank “I’m a footbler” Lampard got one back and it all got very nervy in the whole of North London, and Manchester for the final few minutes. Even in these few minutes though, Spurs had yet more chances to score, but Roman Pavlyuchenko kindly decided that 2-1 would be easier for the DVD sleeve manufacturers to deal with, as they could possibly release it as a box set, or simply just change the name of the opposing side rather than go to all the trouble of manufacturing a brand new one.
Other Things I noticed:
David Pleat cannot be trusted any longer to commentate on anything. Telling us that Luka Modric’s hairdresser thinks he’s a “super guy” doesn’t constitute an anecdote David.
You can follow Oscar on Twitter here; http://twitter.com/oscarpyejeary, where you can join him in his campaign to rid the world of whomever commissions prime time comedies for BBC1