Well that’s torn it. The only good thing to come out of last week’s OAP Milan’s visit to Old Trafford was Beckham’s ten minutes of pinpoint crossing and miracle volley that not only put him on the plane to South Africa but booked him as supersub numero uno well ahead of Aaron Lennon and Sean Wright Phillips. And now even that’s been taken away from us.
As is the case before any major tournament we are currently experiencing the ‘uh-oh zone’, that weird time when any threatening tackle on an England player results in the whole stadium sucking air in through their teeth and tutting “I say hang on a minute old chap, no disrespect to your team’s battle for eleventh place but there’s a world cup coming up don’t you know?” Or words to that effect.
Rooney’s current form is the single solitary thing that puts us in any contention for the World Cup in South Africa. Take that away and we’ve got ‘also ran’ written all over us. No goalkeeper, no left back, a shaky right back, a captain with barely any practice and a first choice striker who’s scored five times in thirty seven league appearances. And now we don’t even have international man of glitz Beckham to schmooze the opposition into letting a few crosses by in exchange for his shirt at the end of the game.
Don’t get me wrong, Lampard and Terry are integral to England success and the loss of Ashley Cole would hurt any nation, but they are not by themselves match changers, and the truth is we don’t stand a chance without Rooney. Hey, I’m not trying to start fights here, I’m just thinking about my summer drinking, okay? Maybe I’m alone in this, but now when I hear news of a Rooney brace and a Man U win I am automatically put in two minds. On the one hand I’m cheesed off because it’s a Man U win which (is intrinsically annoying and) makes our title run-in unnecessarily nerve-wracking. But on the other hand, I think well at least Rooney’s on form for the World Cup. So how do we cope with this dichotomy of thought? I want Man U to lose, but I don’t want Rooney injured. I tell you what, if this were horse racing we’d be able to sort it out no problems. Hang around the changing room, wait for Rooney to trot down the tunnel, spray a little diuretic into his nostril when the cameras are turned and he’ll be pissing so much he’s not even coming in for a place, I don’t care what the going is. That’s how we did it in the old days. On the plus side, at least with three months left on the clock we’ve got plenty of time for Brazil, Spain and Italy to self-destruct too. (Although hats off to Argentina who have stolen a match on us all in that respect).
World Cup woes aside, tonight is Chelsea’s acid test, not least for Ross ‘Prime Cow’ Turnbull. (I don’t know… ‘Grab Horns’? ‘Open China Shop Door’?) He put in a solid performance on Saturday, keeping vocal with his back four and spending a lot of time high fiving an impressive Paulo Ferreira. Perhaps he didn’t have too many saves to make, but I see that as a good thing, indicating good communication in defence. Much as I recognise the hard work Hilario has put in for us over the last two years, I just don’t like the way our defence plays in front of him. He’s brave and he’ll put his beautiful face in the way of a fast moving object with applaudable disregard for his beautiful face, but he just never inspires confidence in the back four, and most of all he doesn’t have Cech’s vision to ping out a counter attack before the opposition know what’s hit them. After his performance against West Ham, many will say Malouda holds the key, but Inter are a different proposition altogether and knowing Jose as we do I think we can expect a closed shop at the Bridge. If this is the case it looks like being a nervous night where the final result may boil down to a bit of muscle up front and most critically, behind the solid pairing of Terry and Alex, the rise of the Turnbullator.