Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “It’s been unusual for us to accept that they [City] are top dogs in terms of media attention but, you know, sometimes you have a noisy neighbour and you have to live with it. You can’t do anything about them if they keep on making noise but what you can do, as we showed today, is get on with your life, put your television on and turn it up a bit louder. As far as the players are concerned, they showed their playing power today and that’s the best answer of all… I mean, really, what could the score really have been? We made three horrendous mistakes which you don’t even half associate with our team and it kept them in the game. We could have scored six or seven. The fact we made the mistakes probably made it the best derby game of all time, so you’re left wondering, would you rather have won 6-0 or won the greatest derby game of all time? I would rather have won 6-0.” – Sir Alex Ferguson
Runner-up: “I saw Gary Neville running off like a lunatic. What I saw reminded me of Sir Alex and Brian Kidd [against Sheffield Wednesday] in 1993. It shows what it meant to them. It shows we can compete…. I tried to get an explanation [for the added time] from the fourth official but it didn’t sit comfortably with me… I am not questioning the referee’s integrity. I just don’t know where he has got seven minutes [added time] from… The guy should not have been on the pitch, that’s not acceptable. I recall Brian Clough clipping someone round the ear for coming on the pitch at Nottingham Forest.” – Mark Hughes.
Today’s overview: The thrilling Manchester derby focuses attention this Monday with a wealth of talking-points keeping the fourth estate busy.
Oliver Kay praised both United and City in drawing his conclusions from the epic derby. “City might be aware that it will take more than a staggering outlay in the transfer market and a provocative city-centre poster campaign to bridge the class divide. However, if Ferguson had regarded Cityâ€™s new-found confidence as the cocky crowing of a deluded underclass – ‘noisy neighbours,’ he called them afterwards – it was an afternoon on which oil, rather than cold water, was poured on the flames of revolution.” Less congratulatory was Alan Hansen, who notes that City are still a work in progress. “There is no question that City will challenge for a place in the top four and they are certainly going to be a serious threat with the money they are blessed with. But while they look to have got it right in midfield and up front, the true strength of a team is measured by its defence and each one of City’s back four had a shocker.”
Martin Samuel goes a step further in his analysis of City’s performance. “When the dust has settled, City can look back on September 20, 2009, as a milestone in their modern evolution. It was the day they successfully insisted on being taken seriously by the club who have set the benchmark in English football since the formation of the Premier League. Beating Arsenal last week was significant, but Arsenal have not won the League in five seasons... On Sunday they lost, but as equals.”
On the star players Kevin McCarra lavishes praise on United’s Welsh wizard. “It was an occasion of delirious, thrilling mayhem but one man enjoyed the greatest impact of all by remaining studied. Giggs had a cameo in the opener and took a key role in the other three goals for United.” Mike Norrish was equally compliamentary towards Giggs. “Ryan Giggs is in 19th season at Old Trafford, but he has never been more important. Giggs had a hand in all four goals yesterday and was the difference between the sides. His was a performance to cherish in a game to savour.”
Also coming in for praise was Darren Fletcher, with Sam Wallace commenting “Fletcher scored twice himself and he performed like a latter-day Bryan Robson, ubiquitous in midfield, rousing the crowd with every crunching challenge.”
After netting the 95th minute winner, Michael Owen demanded headlines this morning.
Richard Williams duly responded, calling Owen’s goal “the most dramatic goal [he] has scored since the summer night in 1998” while adding that “the goal ensured that however long the striker’s time at Old Trafford lasts, it will not go unremembered.” Henry Winter was next to salute Little Mickey. “Always a thoroughbred poacher of goals, Owenâ€™s usefulness to Manchester United and England was thrillingly displayed here. Super-sub, super finish.” Shaun Custis happily goes over the top by announcing “England boss Fabio Capello might have to reconsider Owen’s claims for a World Cup ticket next summer.”
Noting how Owen was brought into Old Trafford to replace Carlos Tevez, Daniel Taylor observed “here was the man who had been brought in to replace TÃ©vez and, with his first chance, his finish was unerring. Some of the City players sunk to the ground in despair. TÃ©vez simply stood and stared. It was a moment of classic United.” Michael Owen in, Carlos TÃ©vez out. Managerial genius… City had paid Â£47 million for the striker who missed his one great chance; Unitedâ€™s free transfer had struck for the winner, one so late that they were about to start rearranging the Sunday night television schedules.”
Sunday’s Premier League action failed to pass without a couple of unsavoury incidents.
Daniel Taylor and Andy Hunter join forces to report on the Bellamy-Manchester United fan confrontation and the accusations of racism aginst Blackburn’s El-Hadji Diouf. “The Senegal international is alleged to have said ‘fuck off white boy’ when the ball boy rolled the ball past Diouf and not to him as he went to take a throw-in early in Rovers’ 3-0 defeat.”
Turning to Sunday’s London derby, while Spurs cried wolf over Robbie Keane’s non-penalty Dominic Fifield was left in awe by Drogba’s performance. “By the end they had been buried as Didier Drogba, liberated from his marker’s shackles, bulldozed them into submission. The Ivorian still tumbles to the ground too easily, but he is simply devastating when he builds up a head of steam and stays on his feet.”
Identifying the Blues’ strengths this season, Matt Hughes tips his hat towards some of Chelsea’s unsung heroes. “Didier Drogba remains as menacing as ever, as he demonstrated by creating goals for Ashley Cole and Michael Ballack before scoring the third, and the midfield diamond contains an impressive blend of adventure and security. But the attacking threat of the full backs is the real revelation.”
Patrick Barclay makes a bold prediction this Monday. “If Chelsea can sustain this form until Drogba, Michael Essien and possibly John Obi Mikel return from the African Cup of Nations early in the new year, they should regain the title that United have taken for the past three years.”
David Hytner picked holes in Tottenham’s defence. “The list of the culpable began with Cudicini and also took in Vedran Corluka and the substitute Alan Hutton… Tottenham’s early-season euphoria has been diluted; Chelsea simply march on.”
In other news, more dodgy deals could yet be exposed as Oliver Kay reports that “Fifa is conducting an investigation into 30 international transfers involving English clubs after the FA passed on concerns of irregularities or incomplete information regarding the use of agents.” Staying in the corridors of power, If it feels as if he has been around for longer, itâ€™s probably because he has attempted to do more in less than three years than his predecessor, Lennart Johansson, achieved in 17 years at the helm… Platini has made mistakes and will likely make more. But in a role too often populated by lazy, self-congratulatory empty blazers, he is putting his shoulder to the wheel.”
With a bee in his bonnet, Martin Samuel chooses to blast the Champions League group phase. “The seeding system has to be adjusted so that league performance, not size and ancient history, decides who goes where. It is ridiculous that the next round of games pits the champions of England, Manchester United, against the champions of Germany, Wolfsburg, because the Bundesliga winners came out of left field and, therefore, have few coefficient points. It will now be very tough for Wolfsburg to get out of the group, which is just the way the established order likes it… This is what makes the early Champions League rounds such a bore: the way the biggest clubs are kept safe from harm.”
Onto the transfers, where the Daily Mail stick the knife into Pompey by reporting how the South Coasters are fighting it out with Notts County for teh signature of Michael Ball. The Mail also report that “Newcastle are set to sign Aston Villa striker Marlon Harewood on a three-month loan,” while also printing that “Coventry are lining up a loan move for out-of-favour Sunderland striker David Healy.”