I envy those who make a living writing about football. Just imagine the landlord paying you to utter football nonsense when you’re drunk in a pub and you have a rough idea of what it’s like to be a football journo.
In the space of eight days we went from being world beaters (Saturday 26th September at 2.59pm) to rubbish (Saturday 26th September 4.55pm) to utter rubbish (Wednesday 30th September 9.45pm) back to world beaters (Sunday 4th October 5.55pm). The imaginary Phileas Fogg went around the world in eighty days and had a book written about him. We did the footballing equivalent in eight days and one hour and attracted something similar in column inches.
It has now reached the stage where I am seriously considering reporting some of the journos to the authorities to have them sectioned off under the Mental Health Act. Christ Almighty, we lost one match against a bloody good Wigan team who played at 150% of their ability and Carlo Ancelotti is Scolari in disguise. United were one minute away from losing to Sunderland at home on Saturday night and Sky, in their euphoria to big up Super Duper, Crunch Time, Judgement Day Sunday forgot to talk about it.
For the first time since September 2007 (Hiddink’s brief tenure excepted) we have a real manager in charge and that for starters puts us on par with other teams fighting for the league this year. The more perceptive of you lot will rightly say I should have been writing this after the Wigan or APOEL games but I confess to being a superstitious creature and did not want to tempt fate.
Comparing Scolari to Ancelotti is like comparing Javier Mascherano to Michael Essien. They both played in the same role last Sunday but the results were completely different. Scolari had never managed a club side in Europe and had been out of club football for about fifty years. Carlo came fresh from his experience with a top European club run, albeit not always well, in a similar fashion to Chelsea.
To be honest I cannot even start to understand where the comparisons to last season start. Last year we drew away to Cluj, this year we beat APOEL. Yes it wasn’t pretty but it was an away win in Europe, something we haven’t found easy for a long time. And please do bear in mind that a fortnight earlier the same APOEL team had drawn away to Atletico Madrid, a result I am sure we will all be happy to emulate when we go to Madrid. Just because we knew so little about them doesn’t make them rubbish.
Same goes for the Wigan game. We weren’t good but basically we had our keeper sent off early in the second half which changed the face of the game. Was it a sending off offence? Difficult to say because the rules about sendings off seem to change every five minutes. The last I heard was that a red card should be shown when a player is through on goal without covering defenders. Replays showed that Ashley Cole was well placed to cover any shot had the Wigan fellow not gone over. So there you have it. We lost to a team that played out of its skin and we were with a man less for about 35 minutes.
It’s Villa away next and the people who really have their wits about them where football is concerned, the bookies, have us odds on to win. Villa, who currently lie seventh in the table, just three points from third and with a game in hand over Liverpool and Spurs above them. We’re favourites to win the Premiership too in case you’re interested.
I said before that I didn’t want to tempt fate by writing this piece before the Liverpool game. But I am going to have a go now. I will not do so by saying we will win the league, but rather by saying that there is no reason why we shouldn’t. We have the best squad of players in the Premiership, we have a manager that knows how to use his squad, and most important of all the players are responding to him. (CFC Quote of the Century – Drogba and Anelka cannot play together – L.P. Scolari 2008). And we still have possibly our two most creative players, Coley and Zhirkov, to come. I’m keeping my fingers crossed now.
I end on a sour note. What the hell is going on at the Academy. I read in Philip Rolfe’s piece that the Arsenal Reserves stuffed our lot. I didn’t watch the game but according to Phil we didn’t get a look in. Our team was made up of Joe Cole, Ross Turnbull, Matic and boys who came up through the academy and we came out decidedly second best. Why was it that we nicked Arnesen for Spurs when we could have got the Arsenal bloke at a fraction of the five million Roman paid for him? Just a thought.