Thursday, 3 May 2007

48 sweet hours

Well, well, well
JJ here,

Where do I start, first of all for any Man U fans who think Pool folk are going overboard after last night, I think you should take in just how disappointing a season this has been up until the last two days.

In the first few months of the season some horrendous decisions by Rafa Benitez left Liverpool lying like a dead corpse in the middle of the table, defeated at Old Trafford, Chelsea and even the Emirates by undoubtedly better sides. Whether it was Rio’s swivel and shot for Man U or Drogba’s almost violently good winner for Chelsea, all those teams seemed to have a level that was simply above the Spaniard’s squad.

Then came the cups and at the start of January we had two awful maulings by an Arsenal side that played the best football of the season so far. All this while watching Man United and Chelsea storm off up the league table.

It’s been an unbearably bad season at times with little to celebrate. Gonzalez hasn’t proved anything; Bolo has been overused (ie he’s been used); Aurellio has looked like he’s been on holiday for most of the time; meanwhile Gerrard, Alonso and Riise have all lacked form for extended period of time. The lack of a 25-goal striker doesn’t even need to be analyzed; it’s an obvious issue.

Then came the Barca game with the team supposedly at its lowest ebb, and a victory away that was well deserved. The win over two legs was excellent, even if they were hanging on in the end. This year has seen comfortable league victories over Chelsea and Arsenal, major barriers for Benitez in the recent past. A last-minute loss to United however still showed they had a lot more to learn and that this season may be one of those horrible ‘times of transition’ that managers shite on about.

PSV were swatted aside as any team would do and it was then, I must confess, that the darkness appeared once more. Essien’s late winner for Chelsea against Valencia set up a semi final rematch that I felt the team in blue would surely win. They owed Liverpool one after the last two years; they had to prove they wouldn’t wilt under the Anfield crowd too. Signs were, as they closed in on United in the league, that they were well capable of it.

Last week Chelsea were excellent and the Pool were lucky to get out at only 1-0. Then came Chelsea’s weekend collapse at Bolton while Liverpool fans watched in disgusted horror as a big slice of luck (in the shape of Everton’s keeper) helped out Man United.

Chelsea’s awful style of play at Anfield was unfortunately matched by the home team for much of the game, but there was only one team who were showing any kind of enterprise when that pattern broke and it certainly wasn’t Mourinho’s. Over the two legs, I’ll hand on heart say that Liverpool deserved it. Before that game I didn’t think it would happen but it did, and did so in dramatic, exciting fashion.

Note: I never again want to hear a commentator say ‘we don’t want to see it going to penalties’. Certainly for the neutral after going through the tension (as some non-biased fans I know called it) or the pain (as Mark called it) of the 210 minutes in this tie, penalties were the least they deserved.

For most of the season Liverpool have been rubbish; for most of the season Man United and Chelsea have been quality. But in the last two days Liverpool made it to the Champions League final, John Terry cried and Man United played like girlie men on the big occasion.

Any notion that Liverpool don’t deserve to be there after beating Barcelona and Chelsea over four legs is rubbish as well. The Champions League is a huge trophy and to win it twice in three years would be an achievement that only Real Madrid under Del Bosque (correct me if I’m wrong and I’m sure someone will) could match in the modern era. In fact, during two of Real’s recent triumphs they finished fourth (2000) and fifth (2002) in La Liga, yet there’s no discussion over whether Del Bosque was a great manager, certainly not at Okeydokefootball.

Yes, if there’s no league challenge next year there will be huge questions that may result in Benitez going, but for now I’ll take that minor issue of the Champions League final.

And just in case any Man United fan tries to go on about having little else to play for, United have had plenty of leagues wrapped up while still in European competition over the years. Yet they still falter at the quarters or semis.

Maybe they’ll go back to blaming Queroz for ‘his’ style of play, or perhaps they can look at a manger that has had over ten Champions League campaigns and has time and time again been outwitted on the big stage.

How many injuries came up against Leverkusen, Porto, Dortmund, Lille last year or any of the other exits? Who was the assistant manager who was ‘running’ the team then?

Mark also pointed out to me earlier that United’s star men from last week – Giggs, Rooney and Scholes – were ‘missing’ last night, yet that game was overshadowed as somehow being a personal failure of Ronaldo. It goes a lot deeper than that. Ferguson – undoubtedly the greatest manager in Premiership history – still has some problems outside his league, which, I will admit, his side should deservedly win.

But what do I care, roll on the 23rd. That’s the big one, hehe.


Mal said...

Headline in an Italian paper - 'The big man of English football was first outwitted, then humiliated'

Mark V said...

(through gritted teeth) fair play to Liverpool. yes, United were shite, injuries & tiredness cannot be discounted but as you rightly pointed out, it has happened before to Fergie. The tactics aren't great in europe at times, but last night it was laziness and players not performing well rather than a huge mistake with tactics. Giggs didn't make a pass all night, Scholes was rubbish, Carrick and Flether had no real effect and Ronaldo was poor. Heinze seems to have regressed this season. However, Milan were pure class and may have won even with United at the top of tehir game

Mal said...

Not accusing you of this Mark but a lot of Utd fans seem to blame Calos Q for any poor results, especially in Europe. It's funny that he doesn't get the credit for the good results, like Roma. I think that it's handy to scapegoat him thus avoiding being critical of Fergie. In all fairness though, you would have taken the premiership and nothing else before the start of the season, wouldn't you?

JJ said...

The main problem is that they still can't perform away from Old Trafford and haven't done so for some years in europe.

I like the way that there's a third and fourth place play off for the Chapions League this year though. I hear it's called the FA cup final. Boom boom... apologies for that horrendous, horrendous gag.

Mal said...

Agree about the away form. Don't know why Utd can't perform at the same level as they produce at home.

Mal said...

The lack of a midfielder who can tackle properly didn't help either. Stark contrast between Gatusso v Scholes, Carrick and Fletcher.

JJ said...

Hmmm.. could be problem with the monster mash and xabi if they play too though. Plenty of time to fret over the final line up yet however.

el said...

milan werent at the top of their game Mark, i disagree, united were just pure shite...

why did jose complain that loserpool are only playing for the champions league, one trophy, course they are, its the only one they are in....stupidity....i hate liverpool but come on, course they're guna go for it, its their only hope!