If you’re one of those people who believe the media has an active predisposition to back Manchester United, then last night must have sent you into conspiracy overdrive. Nani was sent off after flying studs up to pick a ball out of the air at shoulder height, he smashed into Arbeloa and the ref whacked out the red card. To me it was harsh, but it wasn’t spectacularly harsh. You can’t claim you didn’t mean something as a defence for wreckless play. As Roy Keane rightly pointed out on the box… did he really think he’d have a 20 yard free run at the ball in a Champions League match? ITV sent viewers into the ad break like we’d just witnessed the second coming of the hand of god… except Maradona hadn’t just touched the ball… he’d caught it… bounced it three times and rolled it into the net unquestioned.
Onto the game, it was interesting that pre-game, Ferguson had declared he had no game plan for Ronaldo. The big difference here? He’s demonstrated year after year that he’s a smart cookie when it comes to dealing with opposition threats whether that be in Europe or domestically. He doesn’t win every trophy, but he’s won enough to know the chances of him ignoring the second best player on the planet were low. So, as it turns out, he wasn’t bluffing. Ferguson set out his team with discipline in mind. Rooney cast away to the bench after a bad game in the previous Madrid game. United set out Rapheal to track him from wide… when he moved into the middle, the experience of Vidic and Rio took care of him. They also ensured that they always had someoene just in front of the back four to stop him letting off his bulldozer shots. United also made sure they stifled Madrid’s creative output by setting Danny Wellbeck on Alonso.
Nothing genius in that set up… but it allowed a team far weaker than Madrid to keep them in check… until Nani picked up a red… then Alonso could do his thing… then it was game over. Not that they rolled over. United were excellent in the last ten minutes and had to curse their luck that the Madrid back up keeper was in the form of his life.
So what have we learned here? Well, in football, things don’t always go your way. A game plan doesn’t ensure victory. The main point is this… you can out think outrageous talent. So many people leveled the Bayern loss them simply having better players. Sure, that’s always an issue, but how often does the best pound for pound team win the Champions League? You can always topple better teams with better ideas. If you don’t have the best team in the competition, you can’t not have a strategy these days.
I think that’s the other thing people are getting confused by… tactics and a game plan. Arsenal have tactics. We have a some sort of iteration on an offside trap. We’ll play a highline. Our goalkeeper will distribute the ball faster than most. What we don’t have is a game plan geared around what is put in front of us. Essentially, Wenger believes that if you’re on you game, you don’t need to worry about opposition. Which in the old days, when you had a team that were head and shoulders above the rest, worked fine… the game has moved on now. There are lots of good teams with technically sound players, who are equally as fit… but have the added bonus of being drilled.
Anyway, the outcome is that as it stands, we’re the last team in the Champions League. Can we expect a miracle? Maybe. Highly doubtful though. I’m not even sure beating Bayern would be good for us. We need 100% focus on the job in hand. Away days in Italy might not be the best for keeping the focus going.
News on the transfer front has us in for Swansea captain Ashley Williams this summer for around £8m. The Guardian reports Wenger has lost faith in Mertesacker and Vermalen. Isn’t it amazing how these stories drip out of the club after a few bad performances? The story is in keeping with us keeping a British core… however, I can’t help but think it doesn’t matter who we bring into that back four, if it’s not trained properly or given guidance and support from those in front… then it really doesn’t matter who comes in. Vermalen needs to be coached. Mertesacker needs to play as part of a unit. We don’t have either at the moment which is why we’re a shambles.
Nik Bendtner continued to enamour himself with Europe’s elite clubs by landing himself with a monster drink driving ban and fine. The Danes whacked him with a three year ban and fined him £100k. What an absolute idiot. His ego was blown up from a young age and he’s never been able to match what he does on the pitch with what he says with his mouth. A mega disappointment whose career is free falling in a big way.
The other news story of note this morning is from the Daily Mail. If Ivan gets the boot courtesy of a takeover, he lands himself 3 years pay… about £5m. Nice eh? My pal just got the boot from a management role at a London bar he’s worked in for 7 years and only managed 3 months pay. The difference from the haves and the have nots eh? I think this article was supposed to fire the hopes that the bid is going to happen. I have my doubts. It’d be nice if cash rich Alisher Usmanov would make a serious move for the club. I heard some very interesting things about the types of footballing people he’s been meeting outside Thierry the other day. Needless to say, he’s desperate to turn the club around and would do anything for the chance. Which is why I don’t think there’s a chance any takeover bid would be successful. Can you imagine trying to buy out the 28th richest man in the world who has had his heart set on Arsenal for years?
Does Stan really want to hold onto an asset he has no passion for? Does he really want to have to invest his own money into making us great again? Doubtful. Which is why Usmanov might get his chance one day.