Posts Tagged ‘ Mid Michigan United ’

Top Ten Posts of 2014

top 10

2014 was a great year for the SoccerNomad blog.  Visitors from all over the world read about kits, memories and more.  Here are the ten most read posts from 2014. Thanks to everyone for visiting, sharing and commenting on the blog and it’s on to 2015.

10   1988/89 English First Division

9     Trip to FC Dallas Game

8     From my Year in Soccer 1974 Series, Johan Cruyff’s impact at FC Barcelona

7     Memorial Day Weekend in Detroit

6     Lansing Kit Nerd (September 2014)

5     World Cup 2014 Kit Preview Part 1

4     Germany Euro 2000 Away shirt

3     2014/15 Kit Preview

2     World Cup 2014 Kit Preview Part 2

1     Going Hollywood (Soccer Player Look-a-likes)

Thanks to everyone for visiting, sharing and commenting on the blog and it’s on to 2015.  Follow me on twitter @austinlong1974 and don’t forget to visit my podcast or subscribe via iTunes.

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Lansing Kit Nerd September 2014

Mid-Michigan United recently got together to watch Major League Soccer (MLS).  The Watch Party also served as another Kit Nerd gathering (previous event found here).  With the game between the Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls delayed by almost 90 minutes due to rain, it gave everyone a chance to chat a little more plus catch the end of the Madrid Derby.  Here are some of the pictures from our afternoon at Peppino’s.

Austin Long (FCB Centenary Kit) and Shawna Henderson (Real Madrid Home 03/04)

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Dan Zolkowski (Manchester United Home 13/14)

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Cedrick Heraux (Ebbsfleet United Home 08/09?)

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Paul Morley (Tottenham Hotspur 3rd 12/13)

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Matt Schartow (Club Cienciano Home Year Unknown)

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A great afternoon of drinks, footy and college football.  Hoping to bring Kit Nerd to Atlanta in the coming months.

Lansing Kit Nerd

Mid-Michigan United has planted the flag for Kit Nerd.  Not a mind blowing turnout but you have to start somewhere.  The MSU basketball game cut into our numbers, plus the major games—UEFA World Cup Qualifiers and other friendlies, including the drab 0-0 draw between the United States and Scotland—were earlier in the day.

The Black Rose has become the gathering place for MMU Watch Parties so we headed there for the 1st ever Lansing Kit Nerd Gathering.  We put Argentina v Ecuador in the background and settled in.

 

Alex

Hertha Berlin Home

2012/13

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Austin

Croatia Home

1996

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Erin (my lovely wife)

Chicago Fire Training Top

2013

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Donnie came over from Detroit and joined us for a beverage.  Unfortunately he didn’t have a jersey with him.

Thanks to Michael Orr and everyone on the Kit Nerd facebook page for their support.

MatchDay Memory–America’s Next Top Soccer Fan

Men in Blazers is currently running a competition to determine “America’s Next Top Fan”. Here is my submission:

Once I heard about the Savile Rogue competition, I immediately stopped checking Europa League scores and started scribbling down all the reasons why I am America’s Next Top Fan. Me I’m just a guy, struggling to balance work, family and the beautiful game.  Over the years it has slowly overtaken my life to the point I’ve had to enter couples’ therapy with my wife in an attempt to save my family rather than descend into a state reminiscent of Fever Pitch narrated by David Peace’s Brian Clough.  In the beginning I would just watch an occasional game, play once in a while, pick up a copy of Four Four Two and search the burgeoning internet for info and a crappy game feed.  That routine evolved into playing almost every night, coaching several teams, spending money on PPV games and going to MLS games in the formative years of the league.  

Then I got married and my wife and I had a child.  An equilibrium was maintained until a wedding anniversary weekend when I watched Arsenal v Manchester United on my computer while my wife waited for us to go to breakfast.  Or the time I missed my son’s floor hockey game to rush to the bar to drink in another match and a couple of pints.

The game has consumed my life.  Like any good American I eventually started a blog with the simplest of intentions—write a couple of thoughts on what happened over the weekend.  That lasted a couple of weeks until I started blogging three to four times a week, including writing for sites that found my work and asked me to contribute for them.  Watching a game or two on the weekend became a half dozen games, catching up on highlights of the games I missed, listening to dozens of podcasts, reading every single soccer article on the internet, and constantly writing to keep up with my commitments.  After my wife and I started counseling, I finally caved and gave up the blog and after like three days without my fingers hitting the keyboard, I started a podcast, which I now spend any free moment editing and planning.

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The pod is a change for me as I don’t talk that much in day to day life but nearly got punched out in a men’s room in a Florida bar because I told a stranger that Gareth Southgate was a twat for missing a penalty at Euro 96.  (Turns out the English stranger was a big Southgate fan.) And put a couple of beers in me and a dose of tension, and I become another person—screaming, pacing, even more anti-social.

Plus I help run a local supporters group: setting up watch parties, including the dreaded 7:45am Saturday kickoff or the 8:30 Sunday morning games; planning pick up games at crappy parks; talking trash on facebook and twitter with other supporters throughout the week; developing a new logo for the group; and working on possible road trips for the future.

As for work, HA!  I have a pirated ESPN3 feed and illegal internet windows going so that I can watch games while “working”.  Great plan except when FCB mounted a stirring comeback only to nearly throw it away in the last 10 minutes, with me pacing my office, willing the ball to stay out of Valdes’ net and screaming and slamming my desk when Alba ran the length of the field to score the fourth and send Milan packing.  And don’t tell my boss about the inordinate amount of time I spend on twitter and facebook interacting, reading, and learning.  I would say in a given week, I do about 15 minutes of real, actual work.  I bank all of my personal and vacation days. Why?  So I can go on a relaxing trip with the fam?  Hell no.  So I can watch Champions League all spring and take MLS trips.  Last summer I took a week off to go to the Pacific Northwest to see the amazing supporters in Portland and Seattle.  By myself.  No wife, no kid.  Best vacation ever.

manchester united

I have a drawer full of kits.  Even after several purgings, I could wear a different kit every day for a month without repeating.  And I wear them all the time.  If I am not constrained by work or socially accepted norms—weddings, funerals, or jacket required restaurants—it’s what I wear.

The game makes me nuts.  During United v Real Madrid, I turned red, not with devilish pride but with murderous rage when Nani got sent off.  In a surprising moment of self-control, I removed myself from the group at the bar and put myself in time out, finding a TV off in the corner so that I could die a slow, painful death without raging against friends, acquaintances and strangers or throwing my glass at the TV.

time out corner

And why?  Why risk everything on men I will never meet, on results I cannot control no matter how many kit variations I try or seats I switch or Jedi exercises I do.  Why?  Because of Iniesta’s moment of brilliance against Chelsea, Donovan’s goal against Algeria, Cantona against Liverpool in 1996, Zakuani’s return, the current generation of La Furia Roja, Del Piero against Madrid, and that glorious spring of 1999.

After going through an entire pen’s worth of ink and all the napkins at the coffee bar, I took a breath and realized that I am not even the biggest fan in my city—Lansing, MI.  Just over a year ago, I joined forces with Aaron Passman, who started Mid-Michigan United, the supporters group I mentioned.  We have John who has a mancave in his basement with flags and banners from around the world, complete with a mankini that makes an appearance from time to time; then there’s Cedrick who takes over the bar screaming obscenities at the TV in several languages while amassing a list of soccer players he wants to die in a bus crash.  I’Shawnna who supports several clubs based on a mix of charitable contributions, talent, and injustice in an equation that makes your head spin trying to unravel it.

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But back to me, a topic I’m very fond of, if I could take one thing from Manchester City, it wouldn’t be Ya Ya or Kompany or the petro dollars, it would be Mancini’s scarf style.  If the Italian manager put a video on YouTube about how to properly tie and wear a scarf I would study it like the Zapruder film.  But alas, I’m stuck with acrylic scarves in a culture that doesn’t quite get why a grown man has something tied around his neck while wearing a full strip during matches.  But if I had a Savile Rogue scarf, made of the finest cashmere, I think I could turn things around.

Old Futbol Buffet–Every Day is Like Sunday

Title of this post is not my favorite Morrissey song (much prefer Glamorous Glue) but does the trick for this post.

Saturday was blocked off with stuff to do.  Worked around the house, made an appearance at the gym, and went to the circus with the family.  Sunday was for watching footy as I watched three and a half matches (United/Liverpool, Arsenal/City, second half of Atleti/Zaragoza, and FCB/Malaga), all with goals and varying amounts of quality and drama.  Spent the morning at Buffalo Wild Wings with Mid-Michigan United and we had a great turnout.  Probably 20-25 at its peak, but with Arsenal down a man and two goals, the place cleared out pretty quick.  Then I headed over to the Claddagh for some La Liga action as Barcelona continued their amazing run finishing the first half of the season with 18 wins, 1 draw and 0 losses.

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Manchester United 2  Liverpool 1

A tense beginning to the match but eventually MUFC put some passes together with Evra finding RvP just outside the six yard box to fire home on 19 minutes.  From there Liverpool offered very little but the Red Devils could not find the second.  Young’s injury, the results of another heavy touch, will cause Sir Alex problems over the coming weeks but could open the door for Nani.

Tangent: Let me just say I was wrong.  When the signing of RvP was announced this summer, I was like that’s great but who’s going to give him the ball from the center of midfield and who is going to defend when the Dutchman eventually loses it?  Turns out Sir Alex has fashioned a team that simply outscores their opponent.  Maybe he will address the other areas this summer but for the time being it looks like United have one hand back on the Premier League trophy and will provide a stern test for Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Credit to Rodgers for the second half set up and substitutions.  Sturridge’s introduction provided a partner for Suarez and the new man created plenty of chances.  Borini’s entrance was questioned by me but that front three caused the United rearguard all sorts of problems.  Add to that more energy and drive from the visitors and the game grew as a contest.

Could argue that a draw would have been the fair result as the hosts lost the plot in the second stanza. Sturridge wasted a couple of decent chances and Suarez could never quite free himself to create the decisive moment. Thought Wisdom has a decent match defensively, but his one scoring opportunity went horribly wrong.  As for United, Kagawa didn’t make much impact on the left, while Welbeck worked hard but squandered several goal scoring opportunities.  Felt that Carrick was particularly poor, with several passes put teammates in tough positions and leading to turnovers.

Cannot let my game notes go by with mentioning the appearance of Darth Mou/Emperor Palpatine at the proceedings.  Looking extraordinarily evil in his hooded jacket, perhaps he really has gone to the dark side as he tries to build his legacy at Real Madrid.

Bit colder than Madrid, Jose? Mourinho seemed to be struggling to reacclimatise during the first half

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Arsenal 0  Manchester City 2

The second game of the game had to be painful for the each team’s fans.  The Gunners got a man sent off early, managed to raise their game to compensate and then completely fell asleep to give up the first goal, a blast from Milner.  From there it was damage control and very little of the slick passing and movement was evident.  Every ball predictable and wasted, and a second goal from Dzeko put the game to bed.

For City, they should have scored more in this match.  Too many chances went begging and felt the blue side lacked energy for most of the match.  Kompany’s sending off (harsh in my opinion) leveled the game in terms of numbers but Arsenal were second best.

Really not much to say about this match, other than the appearance of Balotelli, reprising Wesley Snipes’ role from Demolition Man.  This guy can’t help himself can he?

Mario Balotelli

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Articles

Last week the Ballon D’Or was handed out and Gabriele Marcotti examined some of the quirks of the voting for ESPN FC, noting that not all countries voted, there are various criteria for voters, and not all voters watch the same amount of footy.  He acknowledged that the award is not scientific but felt that the Argentinian “deserved to be saluted.”

Jonathan Wilson called the individual awards such as the Ballon D’Or “insidious” at SI.com and wants readers to remember that soccer is a team game.  He does not deny Messi’s greatness but states

It is part of Messi’s greatness that he so regularly chooses the action with the lowest tariff of difficulty to complete any given task. He is capable of the flashy and technically complex, but if something simple will suffice he does that. He can be jaw-droppingly brilliant but is essentially efficient. Paradoxically, it’s because he is so undemonstrative, such a team player, that he is such a great individual.

Wilson was also on Off the Ball last week making his case and I agree with him in that the results in leagues and cups are what matters.

In the wake of poor seasons from Sporting and AEK Athens in Portugal and Greece respectively, UEFA.com profiled big names that have been relegated in the past—Atletico Madrid, Manchester United, AC Milan and Marseille.  I remember when Sampdoria went down just after challenging for the European Cup in 1992.  Recently Leeds United have fallen on hard times, going from domestic and continental challenger to plummeting down the divisions, currently playing in the Championship.

Returning to Marcotti, he suggested in the Wall Street Journal that a Jorge Mendes United team might be a future possibility, with the super agent representing Mourinho and a stable of top talent—CR7, Falcao, Pepe and di Maria.  Soccer works differently than most American sports, so Mendes’ influence is unusual and with Real Madrid, there is an alarming amount of power.

Old Futbol Buffet–Super Sunday

I spent the last nice fall day of 2012 sitting on a barstool.  Forget fresh air. Back to back EPL games followed by the Big 10 Championship game, fueled by beer and wings.  Wouldn’t have it any other way.  None of the games were high on quality, but the fellowship was top notch, full of banter and awkwardness.

The morning started with Manchester City hosting Tottenham Hotspur.   I should have stayed in bed.  Same storyline—City’s opponents score early, City eventually wake up, Lamppost for the win.  (I called it as soon as he came on.)  I still don’t know if City are playing with three or four at the back but whatever the system, they look disjointed.  (Zonal Marking saw a back four morph into a back three with the introduction of Maicon.)  I rarely see fluidity in their play yet props for overwhelming an opponent and securing three points.  As for Spurs, imagine if they had a little more soccer IQ.  They are a glorified high school team, full of athletes and effort, but have almost nothing in terms of gamesmanship, like how to close out a match or turn things around when plan A isn’t working.  Lennon needs to go.  His lack of a finished product is holding this team back.  If you can’t cross, can’t score and only sometimes come back defensively, then you’re just another Nani.  As people noted several times throughout the game, I didn’t even know Dempsey was out there.  It was his turn to wear the invisibility cloak and, with two out and out wingers, he rarely saw the ball.  On the positive side, Adebayor was a real presence up top and nearly got Zabaleta sent off.  (Spooky at Dear Mr Levy gave a comprehensive breakdown of the past, present and future of the club.  Well worth the read.)

One thing that did bother me was Mancini’s slump pout in the first half.   Really?  You are going to be a big baby when you have a ridiculous amount of talent at your disposal and you can’t figure out how to win?  What do the pre-Mourhino Inter and the current City have in common?  Struggled to win the league despite a vastly superior team and were underwhelming in Europe.  And the same manager.

Another side note.  The commentators mentioned that Huddlestone was growing out his hair for a charity, in effect not cutting it until he scores.  So. . . you’re a rare scoring (eight goals in 210 career club appearances) central midfield player who has a hard time getting a consistent run of games (less than a dozen appearances for the club in the last two seasons).  Nice gesture, but you might want to rethink the terms of your contribution.

Next up was Chelsea against Liverpool.  If I had written the storyline before the game, you would not have believed me.  Blue Racist scores.  Red Racist takes out Blue Racist.  Red Racist equalizes.  The Reds came out in a 3-5-2 with Carragher anchoring the middle.  I’m pretty sure he was supposed to be put out to pasture a while ago.  As someone tweeted at halftime, LFC had 63% of the possession and were not even in the match.  (Chris at Famous CFC bemoaned the missed chances that should have killed off the game.)  Maybe a little more even in the second half as Liverpool outworked Chelsea and confused them by lacking any coherent shape.  (Ed at the Liverpool Offside blog saw Rogers tweak his first half lineup to generate a little more offensive punch.)  Johnson and Enrique were all over the place, with Sterling moving side to side.  And Suso just found the ball and promptly turned it back over.  The Blues in the last week have drawn with Swansea, eked out a win against Shaktar and shared points with Liverpool.  Is another November tailspin upon us?

Finally, Michigan State and Michigan battled for the BIG 10 Men’s Soccer Championship.  The conditions in Evanston were comical, with 35 mph winds causing any ball moving left to right on the TV screen to hang in the air and any free kick needing a place holder to keep it from rolling.  MSU used the wind to their advantage in the first half, pinning back the Wolverines and getting a screamer from Adam Montague.  The tide predictably turned in the second half, but the Wolverines weren’t too dangerous.  As time ticked down, UM threw more and more forward and were lucky to not be caught on the break.  Eventually a throw in was flicked on twice and T.J. Roehn scored on a lovely touch past MSU goalkeeper Zach Bennett.  At the end of regulation I had to go, so I missed Sean Doherty’s blast in minutes in to OT that won the tournament title (all goals here) for the Spartans and qualified them for the NCAA Tournament.  Congrats to Damon, Kylie and the squad.

Not a day high on sexy futbol but through the roof in the terms good natured chitchat, zingers and interesting talking points.  Besides the post election break down, time was given to racism in sports, upcoming hot yoga classes, how long Brad Friedel will actually play, the baldness trend in US goalkeeping, Cedrick’s Hope Solo interview, and how to wear a scarf like Roberto Mancini.  But nothing could top I’shawna’s declaration that she would happily be a baby mama for a professional athlete.  Direct quote: I got bills to pay.  So Raheem Sterling, if Liverpool comes to the US next summer for their pre-season tour . . .  (Note:  I’shawna wants it be clear that she will be the baby mama for Micah Richards.  This needed to be clarified.)

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Articles

I mentioned Nani earlier, and Mark Payne commented on his long term future at Manchester United for ESPN FC.  Diminishing returns and stalled contract talks could see the Portuguese winger at a new club in January or next summer, with Juventus a possibility.  I have never really liked him, constantly claiming that he is another CR7 . . . without the goals.  Doesn’t play defense, dives, takes ridiculous shots and turns the ball over a lot.  I am personally willing to drive him to the airport and hope that day comes soon.

Speaking of the Red Devils, Scott the Red saw United come back for the eighth time this season.  Smalling and Young had disappointing first halves, but Chicharito saved the day and De Gea made his presence felt.  Now if they could just stop leaking goals.

Received a little US soccer history over the weekend.  Found the article Homeless at 100 from David Wangerin for Howler Magazine via the Original Winger, which gave a quick overview of the associations that existed shortly before the American Amateur Football Association established itself in 1913.  The title of the article comes from the fact that the US Soccer Hall of Fame exhibits and materials are being stored at a warehouse for the time being, a sad commentary on the sport’s history in this country.  Hopefully one day it will find a permanent home so that everything—great players, accomplishments, keepsakes and the Association’s dirty laundry—can have a home.

Old Futbol Buffet–Food Coma

My Saturday began with a dodgeball tournament, and for some reason I blocked off several hours in my calendar.  Turns out it doesn’t take that long, especially when you’re not very good.  Started the competition at 11am, eliminated by 11:45 and off to the bar for the 12:30 kickoff of Manchester City v Swansea City.

The match wasn’t that great.  Swansea barely saw the ball, although when they did in the first half, they were quite dangerous with Luke Skywalker (I mean Michu) leading the line and Ashley Williams causing problems on the left hand side for the Swans.  Second half, not so much, and I never felt they were getting back in to the game.

The Citizens won the game on the moment of brilliance from Tevez.  Simple as that.  The hosts had very limited moments of fluidity and by the end I was trying to figure what Mancini was trying to accomplish with Tevez, Aguero and Balotelli upfront.  Felt Kolarov (substituted at halftime) was completely nondescript, which is fine, but you are playing with 11 players not 10.

Taking the big picture, Simon Curtis wrote this on the Manchester City blog for ESPN FC:

Mancini’s insistence on result over performance is logical, especially during a phase where performance is not up to last season’s high standards. There have been very few sightings of the slick, incessant passing, the overwhelming possession, the lung-busting powerplay that marked so many of City’s games during 2011-12. As in Amsterdam, it was again conspicuous by its absence, but the sight of City in second place in the table with nine games played, despite not yet having hit anything approaching their stride must be a sobering one for the rest of the top six.

After watching the longest game in Premier League history, we switched to the second half of Nancy v PSG.  The game was disconcerting on several levels.  Couldn’t tell if Nancy’s field was the latest in artificial grass technology or the finest pitch every created.  (Confirmed the former by Cedrick Heraux, renowned Ligue Un expert living in Lansing, MI.)  The lighting was weird, creating an unnatural sheen on the grass and every close up showed a perfectly level surface with no cut ups.  Then there was PSG wearing the short sleeves with gloves.  Not a big fan.  Either go long sleeve or lose the mittens.  The quality of the game was AWFUL.  Menez was a turnover machine. He would not pass, would not shoot, would not do anything until he gave the other team the ball.  Pastore was barely involved and Ibra was Ibra.  Like the City game, one player won the match with a sick finish, stunning in its power and accuracy to take PSG to the top of the table.  Jonathon Johnson on the PSG blog for ESPN FC heaped praise on Blaise Matuidi for his performance for the visitors.  Didn’t pick up on it at all, probably because I don’t know very much about PSG and I was too distracted by the loose passes and crunching tackles.

The last game of the day for me was Rayo Vallecano v FCB.  David Villa opened the scoring for the visitors and after a tightly contest affair of about an hour, the Blaugrana took absolute control, eventually winning 5-0.  The hosts went down and responded by pushing forward which left them more and more exposed.  Have to admire the fact that they did go for it but it was all for naught.  Leo Baptistao was starved of service and I didn’t see much in the attack.  As for FCB, I am really starting to wonder about Song and Sanchez.  Song was moved into central midfield to support Cesc and Xavi and seemed to be well placed but I don’t know.  Something is still missing.  As for Sanchez, he is channeling his inner Bojan and trying so hard and not getting the results.  On as a sub to grab an easy goal or two and build his confidence, he went the other direction, making things worse, constantly straying offside needlessly and usually picking the wrong pass or not delivering the correct one.  Aggravating to watch.

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Sunday I headed to the bar to meet with up the guys from Mid-Michigan United not knowing what awaited me over the next four hours—nine goals (that counted), too many talking points to mention, and unbelievable drama.

Everton 2  Liverpool 2

Suarez was immense.  An absolute terror for the Toffees in the first half, he was, in the modern parlance, unplayable.  Everton got back in the game and managed to equalize before halftime, which brought a sensational first period in the pouring rain to a close.  End to end, tons of chances, and meaty challenges.  Fantastic atmosphere.

What Liverpool did tactically in the second is beyond me.  I’m thinking Coates for Sahin with Sterling an advanced forward, was part of a 3-5-2.  The youngster was able to stretch the hosts’ rearguard with Suarez active underneath.  Johnjo was brought in to for bite, but it almost seemed there were too many cooks in the Liverpool midfield kitchen.

The game could only end one way: Suarez, the current villain, for the win. As the headline and journalists were about to hit enter, the AR raised his flag.  At first we thought it was for offside but there were some reports on twitter that the infringement was on Coates for climbing up the back of his marker.  Regardless, the goal was chalked off, and the two city rivals shared the points.

Chelsea 2  Manchester United 3

Having seen the Reds and Blues of Liverpool put on a show, the Reds of Manchester and the Blues of London saw the controversy, comebacks and goals of the Merseyside Derby and raised it.  United, similar to their explosive start against Newcastle, overran Chelsea in the opening 20 minutes or so, went 2-0 up and looked set to blow the title race wide open.  And then the new Chelsea took over, aided by United’s lack of drive.

RvP had the goals but it was Mata that was on fire in the match.  His free kick was truly special and it gave the Blues the platform from which to salvage something in the second half.  Truth be told, once Ramires nodded home from close range there was only one team winning the game.  Until Clattenberg intervened.  Young’s run on Ivanovic was clever and put the Serbian defender under pressure.  The Chelsea defender did nick him and deserved a card but not to be sent off.  United still could not break down the Blues and Mata continued to look dangerous.  And then Torres saw red.  I felt it was a dive from the off.  I guess Evans claimed later that he did touch him but I don’t know.  As one of the fans at the game said afterwards, the ref has got to realize the context of the game.  You can’t send Torres off there.

Chelsea down to nine men hung on bravely before conceding the winner in debatable circumstances.  Cech took the sting out of RvP’s shot and then a gang of Chelsea defenders beat Chicharito to the goal line to clear.  Rafael instantly fired back into the goal box and the Little Pea was first to react.  Cries of offside are still being claimed, and based on the replay maybe he was.  Here’s my take.  Complete pandemonium, players reacting in split seconds, the critical moment, all lead to the time for a decision.  How is a human supposed to keep track of all that?  On another day he’s offside and each side leaves with a point.

My biggest concern is that United has already used up a ton of luck, karma, and get out of jail cards.  Comebacks against Southampton and Stoke; absolute screw jobs against Liverpool and Chelsea.  We are only a quarter of the way through the season, and the Red Devils may lack the rub of the green later in the season when the title hangs in the balance.

Chelsea are the real deal.  I fear them above City because once they started moving through the gears, the results were stunning.  There is a concern that they may fade after the break, which RdM needs to start addressing.  More Sturridge.  More Betrand.  More guy with the unpronounceable name.  He knows his best eleven and has a group that can bring the title back to London, but he needs to save it for the key games and not burn it out in November.  A three horse race in May?  Could happen in the season of the weird.

Scott the Red tried to keep things in perspective after United’s controversial win at Stamford Bridge.  Any of the calls could have gone a different way, but the Reds got the breaks and broke a 10 year streak without a win at Chelsea.  While Rooney dominated the first half hour, RvP was called out for special praise and De Gea is his #1 choice in goal.  United are back in the hunt and there is still a lot of the season ahead of us.

Karan at the Chelsea SB Nation blog took the long view in his post, noting that Chelsea are actually surpassing expectations this season and have now been given chip on their shoulder for the upcoming fixtures.  I have watched the Blues twice this season, away at Arsenal and at home against Manchester United.  The match against the Gunners was a classic counterpuncher’s effort while the United game saw them lose the opening rounds, completely take over the fight, only to have the judges steal it from them at the end.  This team can win the league.  There’s not doubt in my mind now.

Zonal Marking analyzed the match on his website.  He saw United’s 4-4-2 morph into a 4-1-4-1 once the lead had been established while Chelsea came back into the game but were not able to unlock United from open play.  I agree with him that it would have been interested to see how the game would have played out at 10 v 11.  I imagine it would have been similar to the Chelsea/FCB Champions League semi.

All in all, a fantastic weekend of footy.  This weekend was a glimpse into what life would be like without a wife and kid, sitting on barstools, drinking, yelling, absorbed by men kicking a ball made of space age polymers.