Old Futbol Buffet–Vacation from my Vacation

Manchester United Mid-season Thoughts

Let’s face it.  United are lucky this season and one of two things is going to happen—they will ride their luck to regain their title and maybe win the FA cup (no way they win the CL) or the luck abandons them and they crash, ending the season trophyless again.

I watched all four matches of the holiday program, during which they earned 10 out of a possible 12 points.  Quick thoughts: Swansea they could have won but for some poor finishing; against Newcastle the Reds were fortunate to win; on a different day points could have been dropped against WBA; away at Wigan the Red Devils were the better side but the goals scored were somewhat fortunate.

A strong rugged forward is causing United problems.  Vidic has yet to return to form, so this type of player will be dangerous against the Reds.   As for the rest of the defense, I’m not sold on Rio/Evans at the highest level and Evra is just a mistake to happen.  Rafael has been a nice addition, giving pace and drive down the right hand channel but I fear for him against CR7 in the Champions League.

The midfield is another weak link.  Currently Sir Alex is using three players to man the outside positions—Giggs, Valencia and Young.  Giggs will suffice against lesser teams and Young always gives a good effort despite the lack of end product.  Valencia is the one that is troubling.  Lack of wide service has been an issue and will need to be improved on as the season progresses.  Surely Nani has been frozen out, so United might have to move Kagawa back outside to provide depth at the position.  Cleverly and Carrick seem to be central midfield pairing for now, with Scholes providing relief.  Down the stretch this will be a big ask and will probably cost United both cups.

Up top, the Red Devils have a wealth of option. Barring injury or a colossal loss of form, the attacking group will score goals.  Hernandez’s movement has been excellent; RvP has been economical in his chances; Welbeck provides a change of pace; and then there is Rooney.  If he could get hot, then the league is surely coming back to the red side of Manchester.

As for the cups, I think Real Madrid’s pace and movement will undo United in the Champions League.  Los Blancos midfield will tip the scales in this match, along with the club’s desire to win their tenth European Cup and Mourinho’s quest to add to his legacy.  The Reds will probably score but don’t think they will score enough to progress.  And I can’t see United winning the FA Cup because eventually they are going to run into a team that scores first and stays in front.  The late late show will be undone in a cup competition which will prevent another domestic double for Sir Alex.

I’m interested to see if City can close the gap between now and the end of the season.  The opportunity will be there as United will drop points during the second half of the season.  Do the Citizens have a run in them or will they just fade away, conceding the title and content to keep the chasing pack at bay?

(Note: I missed the FA Cup match away to West Ham.  Looks like I missed quite the match.  United’s first goal was a team goal of the highest order while RvP’s equalizer was exactly what I spoke of in terms of economy of effort.  Trouble is, there will be added fixture to an already congested calendar.)

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Articles, podcasts and videos

The Men in Blazers recapped a hectic holiday period and examined the teams at the top in their last podcast offering.  Davo figures what we will know a lot by the end of the month as the top teams face critical fixtures.  Definitely worth a listen instead of watching dire FA Cup matches.  (Oops, looks like I posted a little too late for that comment.)

In the wake of Theo’s performance against Newcastle, Gabriele Marcotti used the Arsenal player as the template for the modern player.  Long gone are the days of one player, one club, and now every contract signed starts the clock for the next step—renegotiation with two years remaining and sale of the player to recoup, minimize or profit the club.  Arsenal and Theo couldn’t come to an agreement and now the leverage has shifted to the young attacker and the Gunners may lose yet another rising star (see Nasri, Song, Fabregas), only this time they may get nothing in return.

As for things in the colonies, Grant Wahl interviewed MLS Commissioner Don Garber in light of FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s comments on soccer in the US.  One comment from Blatter was particularly strange: The league should have been recognized by the American society.  It’s been 18 years, it should have been done now, he said. But they are still struggling.  To be fair, the installation of soccer as the #1 sport in a country is a struggle where, as Garber rightly points out, We have sports in the U.S. that are as powerful here as football is in Europe or South America, and we have at least four that have been around for over 100 years. And all have had the benefit of building a fan base over many generations.

Garber and Wahl make several strong points for the status of US Soccer:

  • 19 teams (growth after a period of contraction)
  • 13 teams playing in soccer specific stadiums (as opposed to tarped off American football stadiums)
  • Relationships with local governments
  • Strong corporate support
  • In 2012 MLS did set its all-time average attendance record of 18,807, making it the seventh-highest attended league in the world.

Grant Wahl expanded on his Garber interview on the latest SI Soccer Roundtable.   He said the commissioner gave a very measured response to comments made by Blatter regarding the leagues in America and China. Wahl went as far as to call the FIFA chief a complete buffoon before moving to pushing the issue of why USSF supports Blatter in the first place.

Brandon Chiarmonte looked at the differences between a fan and a supporter in sports culture, focusing  on how American supporters have absorbed bits from all over the world to create die hard, fan driven groups across this country.  This short post does a great job isolating the differences and the importance of the supporter in the fabric of the game.

Along those lines, Pure Detroit wrote a piece on Detroit City Football Club, reviewing an amazing inaugural season and efforts being made for the upcoming campaign. Vive La Rouge!!

Moving on to kits, Football Fashion posted the Top 10 Selling Jerseys from World Soccer Shop:

1. FC Barcelona 2012/13 Nike home jersey

2. Manchester United 2012/13 Nike home jersey

3. Chelsea FC 2012/13 adidas home jersey

4. Spain 2011/13 adidas home jersey

5. Germany 2011/13 adidas home jersey

6. Real Madrid 2012/13 adidas home jersey

7. USA 2012/13 Nike home jersey

8. Italy 2011/12 PUMA home jersey

9. Mexico 2011/12 adidas home jersey

10. Liverpool FC 2012/13 Warrior home jersey

Surprised that Chelsea was so far in front of Liverpool, but the people at adidas have to be happy.  Five teams in the top 10.

Another Top 10 was the top 10 goals of 2012 from Fox Soccer.  Aguero’s goal was well taken and was monumental in terms of history but not sure it was the#1 goal of year.  While amazing, Cisse’s was quite lucky.  Have to say HBA’s was definitely up there.

Continuing with the year end stuff, A Football Report released their best of football writing of 2012, broken into the following categories: Most Compelling, Most Creative, Best Research, and Best Storytelling.  The list is overwhelming and I’m not sure when I’ll find time to go through it, but I clicked on Brian Phillips’ Soccer’s Heavy Boredom, which tries to describe to the non soccer watching person why crazy nutters all over the world stare at 22 guys running around some grass with very little results.

Finally, with a little extra free time due to some holiday vacation time, I found this top 25 Champions League Goals compilation from 2008 to 2012.  Sit back and enjoy.

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