It’s been quite a week – if anyone had told you back in May that in December you would be celebrating a Michael Owen hat-trick in Germany for the club and that Sir Alex Ferguson would describe the possibility of playing Michael Carrick at centre back against Villa as “good news” you would have either carted them off to the loony bin or checked their pockets for a copy of Grays Sports Almanac.
Indeed, the worst revelation over the last week where United have had 8 defenders missing was the worrying sign that Owen Hargreaves didn’t even make the bench in Wolfsburg when it seemed assured he would be ready for at least one of the group games. The week started with one disgruntled Serb winger angry at United but the one we did sign, Tosic, will have every right to feel aggrieved – after all, it was at his cost that Hargreaves was named in the Champions League squad.
This is on the back of one of those bizarre fortnights that began with United’s kids being tore a new one by the media, a home defeat against Besiktas was tangible proof we struggled to score without Ronaldo and Chelsea as the only contender in a one horse race for the Premier League.
As things stand, United are back in the hunt for a fourth successive league championship after two consecutive four goal shows away from home – we are the only side of the “big 4″ left in the Carling Cup and topped our Champions League group winning all of our away games. On top of that, we’ve been linked with Sol Campbell. Crazy world.
Chelsea, meanwhile, continue to show that they are not quite the impenetrable, flawless outfit the media are trying to build them up to be, Arsenal’s kids get shown up as not quite good as the media build them up to be with Arsene Wenger’s continued pattern of raping his clubs history for a series of contemporary gimmicks, devaluing competitions that he has never won (yet somehow escaping a press backlash – strange how United’s youngsters can have over 20 shots against Besiktas and be labelled flops, and Arsenal’s get called “the Pride of Britain” – draw your own conclusions there boys and girls), while Liverpool..? No, that’s too easy.
Now, just to elaborate on my little bugbear with Arsenal – I quote from the Sun (I know..) who I were expecting to really rip into those underperforming little scrotes.
With five teenagers in the line-up Arsenal had an average age of just 21 years and 215 days beating the record set by Ajax six years ago against Club Brugges by 140 days
Well done, Arsene. Your team lose again but you have a shiny new “record” that will deflect any criticism. Indeed, he had his excuses ready made.
“These youngsters play exactly like the first team, and they represented Arsenal well tonight, despite the fact that they are the youngest team to have played in the Champions League.”
Yes, Arsene, when you’re picking players solely for that purpose, that’s what will happen. Before any Arsenal fans start whining about injuries, United had them, and no-one could have blamed Fergie for naming a side with an average age of under 21 years and 215 days, but he didn’t, he chose to protect the integrity of the club even if by doing that it meant playing Michael Carrick at centre half. Having said that, I’m sure they would have had a go at Fergie.
You may ask why I, a United fan, am concentrating on Arsenal. The simple fact of the matter is we all like to read about football – that’s why you’re here, probably, not because of any particular love of my blogging, but you just like reading opinions. I’m the same. You’ll also then be aware that much of what is reported in the tabloid media gets repeated verbatim by Joe Public. Somewhere between the garbage being printed and a debate over a pint, this kind of idiocy becomes gospel.
I’m running a feature in our forum that is noting all of the Sun’s “player ratings” and on Saturday, Antonio Valencia had an absolute stormer at West Ham, scoring one, making another, in probably his most assured performance yet. He got a 6 out of 10.
It’s enough to baffle the mind on any ordinary day but consider this. I had a squizz at how Arsenal “rated” last night - and I watched the game, so I believe I’m entitled to scoff a little. For those who don’t want to click the link, here are some highlights. Walcott, Wilshere, Merida, all 7/10, Song, 8/10, and Ramsey, get this, 9 out of 10. This is in a 1-0 turnover in GREECE, my friends.
I know what you’re thinking – well, you’re probably not, because you’re not as anal as I am, but just for the fun of comparison, Darron Gibson scored two stonkers against Spurs last week. How did he fare? You won’t be surprised to hear he got a majestic 8. Well done, Darron, but not quite reaching the lofty achievements set by Ramsey just yet.
In fact, going by the Sun’s opinion, the mighty Ramsey put in a shift last night that is better than any United player all season. Rooney at Wigan? Giggs at Spurs? Giggs against City? Giggs at Pompey? (Giggs anywhere this season come to that) Fletcher against City? Even Owen’s hattrick performance, getting him a 9 – think of that, he had to score a hat-trick against the German Champions to even COMPARE with the apparent masterclass put on by Ramsey last night.
“Well done, Yolkie, you’ve pointed out the Sun’s opinion on football is worthless”. Quite.
But it’s not just the Red Tops.The Independent lead the match report with “Ramsey shines while young Gunners lose with honour“. He had a good game (9 out of 10 if you believe the Sun) but the crux of the matter was he individually and the team collectively were not good enough to beat a Greek team. Lose with honour? Did I fall asleep and miss something? They had 9 shots, that’s less than their opponents, and around a third of the opportunities created by United against Besiktas when we were apparently so disgraceful.
Perhaps you’re beginning to see how annoying it is, the myth perpetuated by all corners of the media is okay to laugh at but it’s not so funny when the quality of our own players gets understated while those of rivals is overplayed, to the extent where one is hyped up because his parents chose to name him after the short bloke from Top Gun. Yeah, he’s bound to make it then..
I’m sure Darron Gibson earns enough money for the media reflection not to lose him any sleep but as a professional it should annoy him – as it does me, and should annoy you, as a supporter – that he can run a game against an experienced Spurs side and score two belting goals yet his performance still apparently pales in comparison to someone who for all the huffing and puffing scored nothing and created nothing against a Greek side who beat them. This sounds like Ramsey bashing, it’s not, I actually like the kid (but soon enough he will be lauded to high heavens to the point where I won’t be able to stand him, he’ll be spitting at or slagging off legends who have won more trophies than he could ever dream of, believing his own hype).
Look at the media perception of Anderson and Fabregas. Fabregas is now just casually mentioned as “one of the best” while Anderson is woefully underrated. I’ll get panned for saying it but as things are I would rather have Anderson. The Brazilian has played a big part in our trophy rich recent history and after some criticism last season, has really started to kick on this year. Fabregas? Well, he’s been given the captaincy to stop him leaving to sit on Barcelona’s bench. He’s had the team built around him and regularly has two other midfielders doing the donkey work to help his statistics look favourable with notable dips in form when he doesn’t have two alongside him. And he’s won a total of, well, let me see. He was a substitute in the Arsenal team that won us on pens after getting battered in the FA Cup Final 2005.
Football365.com does a weekly stat run of each team with Fabregas’ assist tally given a new hyperbole alongside it each week. No mention of Giggs who has more assists in all competitions – although he was mentioned this week, who “only has one less assist than Fabregas”. That may be Premier League only but no mention of the fact that Giggs has started three league games fewer in that competition, either.
Now, though, I’m just descending in the intricate details of it all and I could go on forever. But maybe that’s the point, the fact that I could go on forever with more than just a valid argument to deconstruct the media perception that somehow failing to win has become a better achievement than winning. Of course it’s only a couple of months ago since there was a deluded Scouser claiming he had “irrefutable proof” that Torres was better than Rooney on the back of a hat-trick against Hull. He went onto claim that Kuyt was a more effective winger than Valencia. Those articles seem to have dried up, eh la?
And, to throw a cherry on top, all I’ve heard for the last two weeks is how solid Chelsea are and how they don’t look like getting beat or throwing the title away (this is even after two defeats) and how United still haven’t played well this season, this after two brilliant away performances that have been better than any performance by any other team in the league this season (bar the Spurs battering of Wigan of course).
But it’s getting to something when an Arsenal team with 3 defeats in 4 has had more praise over the last few days than our side that are playing some brilliant football in the very pits of footballing adversity.
I’ll end this rant/article/blog with a bit of perspective that maybe just sums up the entire piece in a nutshell. This week Paul Scholes was the latest to say that Ryan Giggs is the best player in the history of the club. By somewhat awkward reasoning, placing him ahead of the wonderful Best in the clubs ranking, this automatically creates a growing argument (one to which I subscribe and have done for well over a year) that he is the best player in the history of the game.
At 36, probably still the best and most natural dribbler of the ball in the domestic game, possibly the most intelligent player in the league, and on his day – thankfully, his day is still quite often – he is the most unplayable player in the league. All this in a career where he has avoided the media limelight and therefore his career began and will end encompassing the top level careers of the likes of Del Piero, Rivaldo, Beckham, Figo, Zidane, Ronaldo and Scholes of course, all of these at some point or other considered better than Giggs despite most of them themselves saying Giggs was the best.
It’s somewhat a reflection of the way that football and the general opinions about the game have been dominated and clouded by an agenda driven, negative media that backs the wrong horse for success time and time again and then refuses to truly appreciate the fact that right now we are still experiencing the best manager and the best player in the history of the game.
Of course it’s more important to win trophies than have people write nice things, and of course there’s always the thing of knocking down a winner, but it would be nice to think that somewhere, achievement equals respect. What kind of message are we as followers of the sport sending out when we are saying if you win you will not get any notable recognition but if you dive, spit and show disrespect in finishing as also rans you will be hyped as the best?
The financial riches in the game have never been greater; however, football was far richer back in the day when the proper greats were applauded by all and not subjected to derision because of jealousy.