This was the one we’d all been waiting for. In a seemingly endless week, perked and peaked by the increasing Media hype, what we got was “one hell of a Football match.” “Sir Alex Ferguson, Matt Busby, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane, Wilf McGuiness, Eamonn Holmes, Terry Christian, Angus Deayton, Lady Diana ………..your bhoys took one hell of a beating”….as a Norwegian Commentator once (almost) memorably said.
Or not quite, as the case turned out to be.
At Swansea’s slick Liberty Stadium,following a brilliantly sunny afternoon, the Prem League’s champions came to town. I’d spent much of the week thinking “..what if?” and “….but then” and a million other things. Here was the reality.The sides lined up as follows…….
01 Vorm, 02 Williams, 03 Taylor, 16 Monk, 22 Rangel, 07 Britton, 11 Sinclair, 12 Dyer, 15 Routledge, (Allen 46) 27 Gower, (Dobbie 79), 10 Graham
Substitutes- 25 Tremmel, 44 Moras, 24 Allen, 29 Richards, 14 Dobbie, 18 Lita, 19 Moore
01 De Gea, 03 Evra, (yellow card) (Fabio Da Silva 51), 04 Jones, 05 Ferdinand, 15 Vidic, 11 Giggs, (Fletcher 76) ,13 Park Ji-Sung, 16 Carrick, 17 Nani, 10 Rooney, 14 Hernandez (Valencia 84)
Substitutes -34 Lindegaard,06 Evans,20 Fabio Da Silva,18 Young,24 Fletcher,25 Valencia,09 Berbatov
……..which only went to confirm Utd’s strength in depth and our stability. Joe Allen, subject of an injury scare midweek was replaced by Wayne Routledge with Scott Sinclair going wide.
We were the feature game on ESPN in the 5.30 teatime slot; Utd TV’s in house cameras were also in attendance, and the Press and Media generally were ALL there for the Liberty’s first live broadcast of the season, and the house was in good voice. It buzzed, hummed, rocked……(please insert your own appropriate word). Even Only Men Aloud, throats duly lozenged, regaled the crowd pre game from a West Stand touchline spot.
Ah, the Media.It has been a pleasure this year for many of us Swans to have at last some of the Media recognise us for what we are – a decent football team operating on a realistic budget in the madhouse of modern football.It’s good to be praised for playing the game in a style that’s more recognisable as coming from the Barcelona rather than Stoke model. Unfortunately, it also means we get to suffer from lazy journalism of the “just like Blackpool” type. Condescending,insulting even, and just plain wrong. I’ll come back to this later, it’ll help explain the subheading at the start.
Swansea began, as Brendan rodgers pointed out later, a litlle muted, almost “in respect” of their lofty opponents.
Pressed high up the field by SAF’s use of Hernandez and Rooney particularly to close down and harry our construction from the back, the tactic led to what turned out to be the game’s only goal.
After 11 minutes, Rangel’s inside ball was intercepted just outside the area and the rapid Giggs made good progress to the byline to cross into the six yard box and see Hernandez, tigerishly quick, turn it in. From collection of ball to back of net took less than 10secs. That’s the harsh truth that we are learning. Mistakes are more often than not, are inevitably punished more harshly at this level.
To be fair to Brendan, his after match interview confirmed for me the measure of the man where he said if there was any blame, it was to be directed at HIM because he’s the one who asks the players to play it this way, to play out from the back.Thank goodness there are enlightened people of his ilk in football, rather than the dross I heard later from supposed “expert pundits” who talked of “putting it in Row Z”.
NO, Hansen (for it’s you)- maybe you should be sitting there instead of on your fat arse on that plush MOTD sofa with the King of Saying Nothing, Alan Shearer, with the discussion led by Gary “I do Crisps and Golf too” Lineker.So that’s where the License Fee goes!
Back to the game.
After conceding, Swansea began to get to terms with the game, and as the half wore on, visibly grew in confidence – so much so that when Routledge crossed/shot from the right Scott Sinclair had only to sidefoot into a gaping net only to stumble his contact and almost air-shot the chance.
That United kept the lead owed much to decent Swansea competition and our failure to get Routledge fully functional as the furthest forward midfielder and the subsequent weakish link to the hard working Danny Graham.
For the second half, BR replaced Routledge with Joey Allen, and the Welshman began to make the Swans tick properly.
Far more competitive and constructive now, Swansea created several decent opportunities throughout the half. Nathan Dyer continued to test Evra, to the extent that the already booked French International was subbed faily early in the half by Fabio de Silva. Sinclair’s shot had been well saved by De Gea and now Vidic was forced to make several blocks and headers in clearance of danger. Carrick made an equally important block from DG but the game had a compelling ebb and flow from two teams showing excellent ball control, adventurous and classy tempo and a willingness to play modern, open football. And it’s this that the more enlightened commentators and pundits have highlighted.
United’s only clearcut opportunities came in the last 10mins. – Phil Jones’ cross shot from the right was feathered onto the far post by Vorm and Luis Nani, similarly denied from the left with a curler again, left handedly this time, fingertipped wide. On neither occasion did the Ref award a corner,which tells you as much about the pace of the game as anything. United held their lead to the end, but Swansea had given them a genuine football test, as
several of their players have commented.
So, in summary, what did the game tell us?
A great deal, once again.
This division continues to provide the ultimate test. Our start maybe reveals that we can be guilty of paying “big” opponents too much early respect. That mistakes, at both ends of the pitch, can be seemingly dispropoptionately disastrous.That we have the ability to compete at the highest level because SAF’s team more resembled one he would send out in Wolfsburg rather than Wigan. And, most importantly, we are in for an exciting, hopefully rewarding year.
As for the Broadcasters, well, here’s a few observations.
Since it was the ESPN game, I’ve been unable to watch it on a Football First basis (ie a more than decent chunk of highlights). I am, however, reliably informed that Chris Waddle was in his full spoonerish (pelanty=penalty) form,confirming the TOWIG image he’s capable of.
I intend to write to MOTD, not that it’s likely to achieve anything other than make me feel better.
I realise on a highlights show we’re never gonna’ get a truly accurate reflection of a full game but when you consider that for lots of people nationwide it’ll be their only view of us this week it surely deserves better than we’re getting.
It’s available on the BBC iPlayer from tonight. Watch it and weep.
Limited time I accept. Ignorant, bombastic and lazy punditry I do NOT. We all HATE the “just like ‘ickle Blackpool” comments dropped into the discourse. WE ARE NOT. WE ARE DIFFERENT. And as for Alan Hansen’s troglodyte “can’t play out from the back- put it in Row Z”, surely his Editor can sit him down and demand that for £40,000 per week he could do some research. Like WATCHING us , for a start.
Time for a MOTD cull, methinks. How about putting the Sunday sister-show on Saturday and employing some decent journalists. Try the Monday Night Club football team from Radio5 7pm.
I’ve just watched the Goals on Sunday crew and at least Ben Shepherd, Kammy and guest Teddy Sheringham know what they’re talking about. Realistic, intelligent analysis from the very same highlights.
I look forward to MOTD2 tonight. C’mon Lee Dixon, don’t let me down. And Colin Murray – more highlights on the screen rather than your hair, please.
This article was written by Peter Thomas