Premiership Talk’s Oscar Pye-Jeary reflects on the latest Premier League epic.
It’s always this way, isn’t it? You wait forever for one bus and then four
or five come along at once. After a fairly drab season by Premier League
standards, it’s all gone frigging loopy as the fight for European and domestic
dominance reaches its final stretch. A month ago we (well mainly I, but I’m sure you, too) were bemoaning the lack of
really exciting games from the 08-09 Premier League season. The only real stand
out effort was the 3-2 between Aston Villa and Everton back in December.
All of a sudden the top four have sprung into action with a veritable feast
of football over the last month. 3-2s, 4-4s & 5-2s. Comebacks, drama,
intrigue. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and United have all been involved in
dramatic and exciting games and it may not be over yet. Best league in the
world?… Pah! Did you ever doubt it?
Hollywood has nothing on football, which is generally why all attempts to
make ‘soccer’ films have failed so miserably. It’s not that they’re
unrealistic. It’s that they’re too realistic. Oh – so the poor young teenage
nobody with a checkered past and a dying crippled black lesbian midget mother
comes on and scores the winning goal in the last minute does he? Pah! Seen it a
million times. The best thing Hollywood could do is take their scripts from
real classic football matches. But then there’s a fair chance people wouldn’t
For their part, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur did their best to
remake an old classic this weekend. If Spurs had got their act together and
scored a third in the first half it would have been a pretty faithful rendition
of the classic 5-3 encounter between these two at White Hart Lane in 2001.
But as with all remakes, the director had to mess around and add his own
little stamp on it. I’d be tempted to say that Sir Alex Ferguson was the
director in this particular analogy, and the introduction of Carlos Tevez,
shuffling onto the pitch at half time like a leprechaun who’d fallen into a
deep fat fryer, was certainly an important scene. However, the truth is that
the real director, the man pulling all the strings in this match, and indeed
the title race itself was a Scouser. And unfortunately for Liverpool, not of
the red variety.
Spurs’ part in this match will probably be relegated to the wicker waste
basket of history, but in the first half they had the better of United. I don’t
know what it is about the effeminate duck footed road-runner that is Aaron
Lennon, but whatever it is seems to strike terror into the heart of Patrice
Evra. Maybe it’s the go faster stripes on his eyebrow? Maybe its the fact that
he looks like he’s carrying a handbag or pretending to be a glider whenever he
runs? Evra was murdered by him in the first half, and even at times in the
And this is a common theme when these teams play. With this happening out
wide, United’s Terrible Twosome of Rio and Vidic looked around whenever the
ball flew over their heads, and Rafael played so high up the pitch he had to
stop and sort out his nosebleed whenever he was forced to get back (or simply
foul the person he was tracking). There was a genuine feeling Spurs would score
every time they attacked. Their first goal was a bit fortunate with Darren Bent
(played on this occasion by man attending a fancy dress party as Mr. T) taking
advantage of a mix up, but their second was woeful from United’s perspective in
its complete lack of marking or closing down. Lennon and Corluka were running
riot on the right and putting in some sumptuous balls that a defense who looked
as solid as they come for the first third of the season couldn’t seem to cope
That said, they weren’t without their fortunate moments. With all the talk
likely to be about the controversial penalty decision (no, it wasn’t one in my book) it’s worth noting that Howard Webb
let Spurs off big time midway through the first half. Wilson Palacios lunged
wildly at Ronaldo, with both feet off the ground in the sort of action a break
dancer uses, and would’ve sent him flying if he hadn’t done a Georgie Best and
skipped the challenge. He may not have made contact but the intent was there –
it was a clear red.
Then the penalty happened. It wasn’t a penalty, no, but I don’t agree that
Spurs would have won had it not been given as (un) ‘Appy ‘Arry does. The real
turning point in this game came with the introduction of Carlos Tevez and the
freedom it gave Wayne Rooney. Within two minutes of being on the pitch he had
chased down five different Spurs players like a demented puppy forever chasing
that elusive stick, and with him doing that Rooney was free to concentrate on
the angelic side of his game rather than the demonic.
There are times when all the rhetoric and nostalgia that surrounds the
(original and only real) Holy Trinity would lead you to believe that every
Manchester United scoresheet in the 60s and 70s had only three names on it.
This is what happens when history is written and time passes, and it’s what
will happen when people now in their 20s and 30s are telling their grand kids
about the United team of the late noughties (maybe they’ll be called the
naughty reds…or maybe not).
Every era has it’s heroes from the Preston Team of Tom Finney and the
Blackpool Team of Stanley Mathews through the Dutch & Argentinian teams of
Cruyff and Maradona to the United team of Cantona. It’s completely unfair and
inaccurate to discard the contributions of all the other vitally important
players of these eras, but legends are legends and are remembered with a
certain rose tinted degree of awe that sets them apart. They are the ones that
stood up in big matches and the ones that seemed to have that extra bit of class
when their team needed it most.
Right now, this particular United era is being shaped by two young men whose
future sprawls further out in front of them than their pasts do behind them.
One of them isn’t even particularly liked by a section of his own supporters
and the other hasn’t yet reached the heights he was always prophesized to. The
only decent comparison I can think of is the Madrid team of Di Stefano and
Puskas, because when the history books are written, despite the invaluable
contributions of Vidic, Ferdinand, Giggs, Carrick, Tevez, Evra et al., this
Manchester United team of 06-09 will be remembered as the Rooney and Ronaldo
team. The penalty helped, Tevez helped, even Berbatov helped, but this game was
rescued and won by the same two players who seem to rescue or win every game
United really need them to. World class players do as World class players do.
I’d like to end today’s lecture on an unusual note. There’s something I’ve
noticed over the course of the season and it’s something that I think requires
deeper investigation. Hull City have had, to put it mildly, an interesting
first season in top flight football. However, their manager, Phil Brown, has
managed to stay cool, and more importantly, suspiciously brown, throughout.
At the beginning of the season I assumed, as we all probably did, that he
was simply enjoying the glow of a summer holiday abroad. But as the season has
gone on, Hull have risen, fallen, risen again sightly, fallen again, stayed
still for a bit, and Phil Brown has remained the same odd Ronseal Quick Dry and
wood stain colour. The whole issue is pointless, however, because no matter how
cool he looks with a bottle tan it’s all undone by the fact that he insists on
wearing a head mic, thus permanently looking like an embarrassing dad trying
desperately to be cool at his teenage daughters birthday party. Oh Phil, when
will you learn.