Wait until next year

Putting off what could be done tomorrow, today

Tag: manchester united

Liverpool’s season: A post-mortem

Premier League trophyI was just listening to some of tonight’s Manchester City/Tottenham Hotspur game, where both sides are fighting for the fourth spot in the Premier League and the place in next season’s Champions League that comes with it. As a Liverpool supporter facing a Champions League-free 2010/11 season, I began to think that should be us.

Then I realised that no, it really shouldn’t be us. Read the rest of this entry »

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The modern football schedule is spoiling my season

I really should be enjoying this Premier League season. However, I’m finding it harder to keep up, keep interested and truly stay excited. But why?

I guess the easiest answer would be my own team, Liverpool. Yet another year of promise and expectation has been dashed. They have put in good performances (against Manchester United, Everton), but have put in far more bad ones (too many to mention).

But that would be too easy an explanation. There is still so much to potentially enjoy about this season. There are three teams still realistically in contention to win the thing. At least four sides are battling for the last Champions League spot. Relegation is not a foregone conclusion for anyone, yet. This season, every single game has had the potential to be competitive. On their day, any team can beat any other. Burnley beat Manchester United, Portsmouth beat Liverpool. This is surely progress, and sign of a season to savour, at least from a neutral’s perspective?

Then why my apathy?

I think it’s down to the scheduling of the modern game. It’s not a new argument, but I think it is still a valid one.

No longer do all games kick off at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. Last week, only a minority did, while several games were played on Sunday. Match of the Day is no longer the complete record of the league’s progress that week. It’s merely a snapshot. With games strewn across the week, it’s hard to get a true feeling of the chase developing, especially with a multitude of games in hand to take into account.

In a broader sense, modern football is pretty disorienting now. 6pm? Thursday? Well, that must be Europa League time. 5.30? Sunday? FA Cup, of course! There may now be a game to watch every day of the week, but that, for me, dilutes the impact of football.

The many international breaks we have seems to stall the momentum further. It can seem like the season is restarting every six to eight weeks. The story of the season is continually being put on ‘pause’.

Well, enough of my moaning (for now). Do you find the modern schedule baffling? Do you yearn for everyone playing at 3pm on a Saturday? Or do you love being able to watch game after game, day-after day?

Gary Neville is a boot-licking moron

…or so says his old team-mate Carlos Tevez, who made quite the attack on him via a radio interview for ESPN Argentina. Gary Neville had stated that Tevez wasn’t worth the money, following his move from Manchester United to Manchester City.

In Tuesday night’s Carling Cup semi-final, first leg, Tevez gestured to Neville, after scoring his first goal. Neville wittily responded by raising his middle finger. In a radio interview Tevez explained:

“My celebration was directed at Gary Neville. He acted like a complete sock-sucker [boot-licker] when he said I wasn’t worth £25m, just to suck up to the manager. I don’t know what the hell that idiot is talking about me for. I never said anything about him.”

Well, I think Tevez will have won himself a fair few new fans for sticking it to Gary Neville, not one of the most popular players in the UK. He may well have some unexpected fans in the red half of Merseyside, who have been known to call Gary Neville far worse things than a ‘sock-sucker’.

While this is a case of ‘handbags at dawn’, it is good to see a little bit of proper antagonism between the two sides. It certainly sets things up for a lively return leg at Old Trafford next week.

In the meantime, let’s hope ‘sock sucker’ enters common use. It’s handy as it sounds like something else that is quite a bit ruder. Just like when they dubbed a TV version of Beverly Hills Cop, so that ‘motherf***er’ became ‘melon farmer’. Great stuff.

Carlos Tevez – Anatomy of a goal (Manchester City 2 Manchester United 1)

Generally football is a fluid game, continually in motion. It does not pause for any length of time. It is also a team activity. There are, of course, moments of individual skill, but rarely do we see a one against one situation, like we might see between a batsman and bowler in cricket.

But here is the waiting. That rare, dramatic waiting. Here is that one-on-one.

A penalty has been given. Manchester City can equalise. Carlos Tevez stands passively. And waits.

His former Manchester United team-mates argue with the referee, but as always with these matters, the decision stands. Tevez’s soon-to-be-opponent, Edwin van der Sar, slowly takes a drink and deliberately wipes his gloves, anything to stall proceedings. Anything to knock Tevez’s concentration, or nerve. The referee waves a yellow card in the goalkeeper’s direction.

The referee signals – let battle commence. City’s new hero against his old colleagues. The spurned sportsman with a chance to show United what they are missing. To bring one side of the city joy, the other agony.

Van der Sar stands tall. A lot less of the target is visible. He stretches his arms out, much more a crucifix pose than an open welcome to shoot.

Tevez stands passively. He then hears the referee’s whistle.

A hop, skip, shuffle to the side. Wayne Rooney, his old striking partner, speaks, another attempt at distraction. Tevez refuses to listen. He begins his run-up, an arch towards the ball. Not too fast, but steady, determined.

And then.

THWACK.

Straight down the middle. Straight past van der Sar. Never stood a chance. Never any doubt. Emphatic.

Tevez reels away. His clenched fists reveal only controlled emotion – not release, not relief. Not yet.

One apiece. Manchester City are back in the game.

Sporting Schadenfreude

Sunday was a good day for me.

Not because my team had won. They weren’t even playing, and probably wouldn’t have won even if they had been.

No, Sunday was a good day as Manchester United were knocked out of the FA Cup, 1-0 to Leeds United. This was a result to savour. Manchester United losing, not only to a team two divisions beneath them, but to one of their great historical and geographical rivals too. Wonderful.

Petty? Maybe, but then isn’t most sport pretty petty anyway?

This form of sporting Schadenfreude is not unusual. I’m sure many of us delight in the sporting misfortune of others. I have known football supporters who cannot just revel in their own team’s victory – for it to be a perfect day, all their rivals need to have lost too. Bizarrely, perhaps, there can be just as much joy in seeing another team’s failure as there is in seeing your own team’s success.

As a Liverpool supporter enduring a torrid season, I’m not proud, I’ll take what enjoyment I can get. As trophy after trophy slips away, I end up focusing more on hoping certain teams, such as the aforementioned Manchester United, will start to struggle too. As this season has seen all the ‘bigger’ sides be pretty inconsistent there has been more opportunities than normal for some Schadenfreude. Last season the top four sides lost 17 games in total between them. This season those same teams have already lost 19, with half a season still to go.

Sunday’s result saw yet another Alex Ferguson gripe about injury time, with him labelling the five minutes given as an ‘insult’. I’d suggest that was insulting itself, to the referee and to Leeds United. The arrogance is beyond belief, to essentially suggest that if one or two more minutes had been played Manchester United would have probably equalised. Ferguson should really look closer to home for the reason behind the defeat. His team lost because he picked the wrong side, not because the referee didn’t play a game of ‘next goal wins’. Yet, no sanctions will follow. Respect campaign? What Respect campaign?

Still, Ferguson’s rants do have one upside. Each time he complains about a lack of injury time, or indeed benefits from injury time given, more people visit here, and my post from earlier this year. So, thank you Alex, and thank you Google, for bringing me those people googling “fergusons injury time bitching” and “ferguson complains about injury time”. Much appreciated!