1. There’s No Business Like Show Business – If I told you I had just watched a 5 goal thriller between two of the world’s most famous and prestigious clubs in which 3 of the most talented players of the last 10 years had scored, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d just been watching a sumptuous feast of footballing brilliance to make the Gods themselves weep in euphoria. I would however, have to forgive you quite humbly because what I actually witnessed was one of the most bizarre games of top-level football I’ve seen in a long long time. For the first half AC Milan seemed to be pioneering a new brand of tactical football, one which involved having all their players in either the first or final third of the pitch and none what so ever in the middle. Manchester United obviously felt a bit bad about this and so helpfully acted as the Rossoneri’s creative midfield themselves and passed it to ‘not so little anymore’ Ronaldo and co at every available opportunity. Jonny Evans in particular seemed to be struggling quite hard with the concept of playing against a team in red but thankfully for him Milan seemed to be struggling with the onset of aged dementia and forgot where the goal was. With United given the entire midfield area to play badly in on their own and Milan given the freedom of United’s penalty box to not score in, it somehow conspired to end 1-1 at half time and then the second half was completely different.
2. And Which Is More, You’ll Be a Man, My Son – If “stepping up” could be measured tangibly, and not just in the opinionated minds of self important pundits, fans and blog writers, scoring two goals in a European Cup knock out victory against AC Milan at the San Siro would probably be as close as you could get. The amount of times I’ve watched Manchester United labor in attack this season and thought “Ronaldo would’ve done that” is quite embarrassingly often. However Wayne Rooney continued his ascent into greatness by doing what truly world class players (or worldies, as Graeme Souness imitating a 6 year old called them on Sky) do. He’s scored twice against Milan before, but this was a different occasion. This was an occasion when he was the main man leading the charge away from home, and behaved like it. Ballon D’or’s and the like are won on the back of things like this. It’s all steps in the right direction for the already glittering career of El Blanco Pele.
3. I Want My M(u)TV – One of the interesting things about European football is that you have to rely on television feeds from whatever country is hosting the game. This often provides a fascinating insight into the televisual sporting appetites of the country in question. What I’ve learned from watching Italian football coverage over the years is how much Italians love slow motion. Slow motion of anything at all. A manager’s frustrated gesticulations or a player’s wink to a teammate, nothing is too banal or insignificant to be captured in glorious slow motion and replayed at a gloriously pointless point in the game. Also, this being Italy, lots of slow motion footage of tackles are a necessity.
4. All The Better To See You With – I’ve been to the San Siro and it annoyed me then. And it continues to be one of those niggly annoyances that inexplicably infuriate me to this day every time I watch the Rossoneri or Nerazzurri play. What benefit can there possibly be to having your manager sat in a hole in the ground 3 feet below the pitch? I mean seriously? That can’t help, no matter how comfy a seat you give him. Surely all they can see are ankles running about at various different stages of depth perception. Like watching highlights from Highbury from under your sofa. Surely the better the view of the pitch you get the better? This might help to explain why Leonardo didn’t feel he needed to play a midfield, but I’m not sure how.
5. If You, Just, Smile – I can’t help but like Ronaldinho. He just seems to have the right perspective when it comes to football. It’s a game. He messed about during the line ups, messed about during that weird handshaking bit that always seems a little unnecessary, he messed about on the pitch, and, clearly, didn’t have a care in the world about what was happening on it when it wasn’t his turn to do something. At times he was glorious and at other times he wasn’t, but he always seemed grounded in the notion that he was kicking a rubber balloon around some grass for hundreds of thousands of pounds. If he played on my team it’d be infuriating as “tracking back” seems to have disappeared from his vocabulary along with “no thanks I’m not hungry”, but still, it’s a much more likeable attitude than the “psych yourself up by looking incredibly serious in the tunnel and during the silly handshaking bit” approach. You’re kicking a rubber balloon around some grass for hundreds of thousands of pounds for goodness sake, he’s got the right idea, and he’s much better at it than you.
6. Wolverine – The famous hair of David Beckham seems to have slipped down his face slightly. I know your body’s supposed to succumb to gravity the older you get but I wasn’t aware this applied to hair. But then again, Becks always was an innovator. At least his balls still look good.
7. Great Expectations pt 1 – After an impressive run of recent form Nani returned to his previous incarnation. The one who’s only visibly a talented player once every 38 minutes or so. Since he was substituted on 64 minutes, he only showed this once, but I can’t remember when it was.
8. Great Expectations pt 2 – Poor old Pippo Inzaghi. Another sign of an aging legend creaking out his time at the San Siro. I thought he’d at least give us something, I’d told all my friends he would, the stage seemed to be set for him to bolster his already fearsome reputation, but alas, in the 24 minutes he was on the field of play, he failed to be flagged offside once.
9. Light up, Light up – It could have just been me, in fact it most probably was, but I could have sworn it seemed to get lighter as the game went on. Ronaldinho’s goal seemed to be scored under elaborate floodlighting, yet Rooney’s second at a fairly unremarkable dusk. Maybe I’m going completely mad. I hope not, it wasn’t fun last time.
10. Mad World – The game finished, fittingly for such an odd, topsy turvy contest, in complete mayhem. Milan suddenly decided they were going to start playing again, after disappearing completely during the second half. United suddenly decided to get nervous again despite being in complete control of the match for the previous half an hour, after themselves being mostly woeful during the first half. Clarence Seedorf, the 33 year old stalwart midfielder, scored the goal of the night with a delightful back heel, despite it being a ridiculous time and place to try such a thing and thus trumping his more celebrated fellow goal scorers Rooney, Ronaldinho and Scholes (though if he can manage to persuade anyone he meant to score with his standing leg he’d surely win goal of the season). The referee failed to convey, or even decide how much stoppage time to add, at least not to anyone in charge of an electronic board or television station, so we were left in complete limbo after 90 minutes had elapsed and Michael Carrick got sent off for time wasting despite the referee then blowing his whistle almost immediately after he’d carded him, rendering the purpose of his carding completely useless. None of it made any sense but then again neither did anything in this ridiculously entertaining, ridiculous match.