Monday, October 24, 2011

Madchester - Rave On

The late 80s saw Manchester synonymous with the rise of acid house that would lead to the wider rave and house music phenomenon that would so define British dance music for over a decade.

Yesterday, football fans over all the world must have wondered if someone had dropped an LSD tab in their beer yesterday when seeing the scoreline from Old Trafford. The Theatre of Dreams served up a very real nightmare for all the season ticket holders that had made the long journey North from Surrey.

Sir Alex Ferguson looked aghast in the post match interviews and his face would have surely been ashen were it not for all the vin rouge he has consumed throughout his long years. Indeed, he described it as the worst day in his entire football career. It had been a true horror show, they were beaten by only one goal less than they had beaten Arsenal at the same ground a few weeks ago.

That all being said, no one should be overly carried away or talking too much of power shifts, it is only three points after all - or is it? Ferguson has received hidings at several points in his career. There was a 4-0 hammering in the Nou Camp back in the early nineties that prompted him to change his approach to European football.

The writer of this blog was fortunate enough to witness Chelsea beat ManYoo 5-0 at Stamford Bridge over a decade ago which was simply a bad day at the office for his side. Most recently at Wembley, they were played off the park by Barcelona, again prompting Ferguson to make huge changes to his team.

None of these three examples however came at Old Trafford and none were against their noisy neighbours who have just turned the volume up by several decibels. What is important now is how both managers galvanise their teams and harness the result.

Ferguson remains the motivator supreme and he will surely be able to use this result - as bad as it is - to his advantage by being able to serve out one almighty kick up the backside. Hindsight is always 20:20 but a defeat to a good side was coming, so open has their play been.

Against Chelsea, ManYoo were 3-0 up at half time yet should have been pegged back to 3-2 in the second half with most pundits agreeing the scoreline could have been anything. Even Ferguson described it as like watching basketball. A mediocre Basle team managed to put three past them also in a game they were coasting in, the signals have been there.

There are huge questions about the United defence, Jonny Evans is receiving the cat calls today for his sending off and general level of mediocrity with Ferguson being chastised for not selecting Phil Jones. More interestingly is why the fit club captain, Nemanda Vidic was not even in the squad for such a huge game, he was available for selection.

There have been huge plaudits this season for the likes of Jones and Smalling but for all the cavalier swashbuckling runs, there needs to be solid defence. A wider problem for ManYoo is a central midfield that is simply not offering enough cover in front of the back four. David De Gea has made an extraordinary amount of saves statistically this season and there is a reason for that, the back four is simply too exposed.

Come the latter stages of the Champions League, the likes of Madrid and Barcelona will rip them apart unless someone is going to provide that cover. Turning Phil Jones into a true defensive midfielder may just be the answer.

For Mancini, he has the task of ensuring that the team grows in confidence from being five points ahead and having handed out a monumental hiding to their neighbours and biggest rivals but at the same time keeping their feat on the ground. He was keen to play down the significance after the final whistle other than in terms of the three points and that is as it should be.

Mancini tweaked his tactics yesterday with the selection of Milner ahead of Nasri. It proved to be an excellent choice as Milner played a good match and Silva looked to have more room without Nasri in proximity to him. Balotelli ahead of Dzeko was a bold selection, but again neither Italian disappointed yesterday with both sharing centre stage in one of the finest days of both their careers.

The other big winners yesterday should have been Chelsea but they imploded at Loftus Road losing 1-0 whilst going down to nine men in the first half.

AVB was scathing of the referee and whilst in some respects he was correct, in others he was entirely wrong. David Luiz is a rough diamond and needs to learn the art of defending. His barge for the penalty was a challenge that simply did not need to be made. Drogba's challenge was two footed and by the letter of the law you must go.

Bosingwa however was involved in a 50/50 situation that would have been given his way every alternate time. By sending off two players early in the match, the referee sets a tone that he must then continue with and Chelsea should unquestionably have had a penalty in the second half.

Whilst Chelsea's spirit must be commended in the second half, a lack of professionalism has cost them dearly yesterday. You cannot afford to slip up when your rivals are playing each other if you wish to win the league and again whilst it is only three points that were lost, it is a signal that this team isn't quite at the same level of the two clubs from Manchester this season - No Nonsense.