We'll start with a quick quote from last week:
'Until Chelsea crumbled under the weight of Sunderland, I had intended on including a picture i'd made too but Mourinho is no longer the decisive figure in this championship battle, so it's been canned.'
And in a fashion so very typical of this season, Mourinho's squad members XI suddenly became decisive & so here's the picture (derived from a fun idea from Ted Knutson in which Mourinho is envisaged as an end of Premiership game boss) :
Wahey! Jose Robotnho swung his ball of defensive grip & quelled Brendan the Rodgehog's sonic powered speedy counters with ease, finally delivering a coup de grace in which former Kop hero Torres supplied the final most gut wrenching twist of the knife. It's a hacky storyline, right?
1. The title that defied reach.
But as we're often reminded in low grade writing, the truth can be stranger than fiction.
As each week has passed, the title has seemed within the near grasp of variously Chelsea, Liverpool & Man City & at every point where a decisive move has looked like it could be made, the team with apparently good field position has tossed up a docile interception & fallen back.
Mourinho's second stringers looked OK to me, pre-match. Thanks to a bit of ratings work I've done behind the scenes (one of many articles in a long pipeline) I'm liking Ba's efficiency, (he's never done much ba(r) score), Salah & Schurrle have good offensive numbers, Matic is decent & Mikel isn't anywhere near as ineffective as you might think. Even Frankie Lampardu is a friend of statistics; he always has been.
So the only query was 'Some Kid' at centre back & he did just fine.
But this mattered not a jot, for Mourinho took centre stage & all the praise for his anti-football tactical masterclass. And why not? Liverpool have regularly shredded everyone at Anfield and i'm sure Abramovich wants this kind of football from his team. Arf.
What was revealed today was the paucity of depth in Liverpool's squad, a deficiency that they have kept well concealed until now. The loss of Henderson & partial fitness of Sturridge lead to Aspas (!?) as a go-to bench option in their most crucial fixture of the season? Not good enough.
I seriously fear that this is the only time Liverpool are going to be able to challenge for the league in the near future. With Champions League commitments forthcoming, they probably need 4/5/6 players of good standard in the summer to maintain their level & there will be some serious regrets if they can't make this run stick.
To Selhurst Park! Where little Pulis/Palace came up against a City in pragmatic mode. 2-0 and only 3 shots all afternoon for Palace is exactly what a team trying to win a title needs to do at the 'business end' of things.
THE FUN CONTINUES.
- You're threatened by relegation. You have a huge fixture against a key rival. You lose 4-0. You deserve to be relegated. Ole Dunna Fjuckall.
- Back in ancient history, Jay-Jay Okocha, Fernando Hierro, Ivan Campo and suchlike enlivened the experience of watching a Sam Allardyce team. This is no longer the case.
- Villa might be lucky that the season is about to end, cos they've completely run out of anything resembling quality & that bizarre win against Chelsea aeons ago might be the result that kept them up.
- You're 2-0 up with a few minutes to go. The opposition score. They hit the woodwork not once, but twice. You think you've ridden your luck & it's your day. The opposition score. It's 2-2. This is what happens to teams that get relegated.
- Gerrard had 9 shots, a Barcelona-esque 148 touches, played 26 long balls, made 7 clearances, put in 3 tackles & 8 unmet crosses. He tried to do it all himself. It wasn't to be. Poor Steven.
3. I suppose I've got to write about bloody Giggs.
In a wonderous reinvigoration full of verve and passion, Manchester United regained the speed, panache & killer instinct they had sprinkled so very liberally & very regularly over the last 20 years. The Good Reverend Giggs, flanked by the able lieutenants so intrinsically educated & steeped in the magical ways of Zen Master Ferguson, set out a team of hungry, viciously ruthless uber-players to destroy the canary yellow warriors of Norfolk. And they did.
The Mountain of Eternal Glory sits sternly in front of them:
'Why will you climb the mountain, Esteemed Brother Giggs?' asked a wide-eyed tabloid reporter. 'Because it's there, son.' replied the Exalted Giggs King, '...and for a club like Manchester United, there is only one destination: the top.'
4. Alright, i'll do it properly...
If you pick up a half-baked book of business maxims, you'll find daft sayings like 'success breeds success' next to a picture of a guy who may or may not look like a Glazer family member. Of course it is, at best, a partial truth, and at worst, downright lies but something else success can breed is the idea that because you have been part of a successful organisation, then you know how to create success yourself. This is a dangerous & naive assumption. Particularly for a massive sports club facing a crisis.
Ryan Giggs' belief that he knows what success looks like has carried him, full of assurance & a smattering of conceit, into the Man. Utd hotseat. His unerring belief that a 'club like Manchester United' should do things a certain way will colour his every move.
And in his first match, up against a team faced with a miserable destiny of relegation by repeated hammerings, a second half onslaught gave out the right message.
Mata, immediately benched despite good form, looked at severe risk of being marginalised by a stubborn manager once again. Thankfully he took it upon himself to raise two fingers to that notion with a virtuoso substitute performance, something that poor Fellaini wasn't able to do having been left on the team bus. For 40 minutes though they weren't good. They did run around more, as befits a team coached by novice staff, but didn't really get behind a Norwich team that has offered plenty of shooting practice this season.
Still, as the goals finally did come, everyone forgot that Moyes had managed them to 4-0 and 4-1 wins recently, enjoyed the score running up and felt good again. I personally view Giggs in the Shearer mould of appointments rather than say Pep or Dalglish. I can't accept that a man who has failed to foresee life outside the Manchester United changing room & been so stubborn in retaining his playing career far beyond it's useful life is a born leader or even a learnt one. I noticed that the players have seemed a little too happy in interviews, which suggests that Ryan's giving out extra days off already & may well be organising a golf trip. Also, the blurry manager search that appears to be going on gives me genuine suspicions that the power brokers are ill-equipped to carry out an adequate recruitment process and that maybe, just maybe, giving Moyes Year 2 (or at least until Christmas with new players) would have been the shrewd move. It's all reminiscent of Villas Boas at Chelsea for now & it's taken Chelsea two more managers, a Champions League win, a Europa League win & a retro appointment to climb out of that mess.
But of course this is football & sense rarely prevails.
That's it for now!
I take it you read: Man Utd under Moyes: Under-performance & blame culture ?
and: Arsenal's midfield strength AKA How injuries wreck a season.
Unlikely to be getting another piece out this week but the Tottenham Statistical season review is coming along: well, i've written nothing but the data is practically compiled.
Ideas around types of midfielder or potential elite players in the league are a possible but either way, articles will continue through the summer. Much to be done! Either way: check back for next week's review next Sunday/Monday