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Customs and Exorcise

By | 9th November 2009

Terry deals with his demons as Chelsea get lucky. Things you should have noticed from Sunday’s big encounter:

Ain’t that just the way that life goes down down down

Well, it was bound to happen. As sure as eggs is eggs, the sky is blue and that Mrs. Marlon King will be enjoying a nice relaxing few months, John Terry was bound to score the winner against Man Utd sooner or later. From the second John ‘Big Man’ Terry ‘did a Baggio’ in Moscow, it was a shoe in that he’d get that cathartic moment to exorcise some demons somewhere along the line.

Football loves that sort of thing. Baggio himself took and scored a penalty for Italy at Euro 96, as did Italia 90 fluffer Start Pearce, causing a riotous outbreak of primal screaming (which is, incidentally, also the mating call of the Pearce family) while David Beckham’s penalty against Argentina in 2002 brought similar closure to the biggest ordeal in the icon’s career.

I could fill this column ten times over with examples of this kind of ‘footballing fate’, and not all of them international tournament penalties! Michael Owen, for example, is bound to score against Liverpool at some stage in his Manchester United career, and would have surely fulfilled this prophecy at Anfield had Jamie Carragher not played Dawkins to my believer and hauled him back like a child being dropped off by his mother at a party for someone he doesn’t know. He will score at Old Trafford, though. Of that I am sure… well, fairly sure. Roughly certainly. I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe in football.

One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small…

But whichever pill you take, it’s going to be a very bitter one to swallow if you’re a Manchester United fan. After comprehensively outplaying the league leaders and in-form side at their own ground, United inexplicably came away with nothing more than a simmering sense of injustice. Some Chelsea fans will tell you they were robbed in the Champions League final (which, if you have a selective memory which starts around the 45 minute mark, is probably true), but whatever feeling of justice/injustice you take from this game, the fact remains that United have now lost two games in the 3 they’ve played against their ‘Big 4’ rivals.

And both have been facilitated by controversial refereeing decisions. While defeat at Anfield could be taken with good graces after a performance that hardly merited reward, United fans can rightly feel hard done by here. They simply didn’t get the calls…

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

…Except one. Didier Drogba is an enigma of a player. On occasion the best practitioner of his art in the world, and on occasion a hindrance to his teammates. On occasion he is a seemingly gracious and decent man. Anyone who has seen him interviewed will testify that he comes across far better than expected, because on occasion he comes across as a complete and utter… well, you know.

It probably doesn’t help his likability that he has the mean angry face of a warlord. Or more accurately, someone playing a warlord in a film about African warlords… Or pirates, yes! pirates. He has his hair done like Johnny Depp doing Captain Jack Sparrow, so pirate is a better one. A pirate warlord…Or an actor playing a pirate war lord. Yes, that sounds right.

And for someone who looks like an actor playing a pirate war lord in a film about angry African pirate war lords, (someone should write that, El Hadji Diouf could be a mischievous cabin boy) he acts like a ridiculous prima donna at times. The footage of him and Jens Lehman playing a sort of narcoleptic game of tag, most likely viewed by every referee in the country a hundred times, makes it hard for any of them to take him seriously when he genuinely is hurt.

It didn’t really help that he decided the best way to draw attention to his plight was to spasm rather unsubtly like he was being electrocuted in particularly surreal version of the board game ‘Operation’, but I think we can assume that he genuinely was hurt after being fly kicked in the chest by Johnny Evans. Quite clearly it was foul, possibly a penalty to Chelsea and probably a red card for Evans, but with Drogba, much like Ronaldo before him, reputation is everything… and if you cry wolf enough times…


One man who certainly had no sympathy with him was Nemanja Vidic. The man whom he’d attempted to slap in Moscow two years ago, an act which many Chelsea fans thought merited his sale from the club at the time, seemed to find the whole business terribly amusing. As Drogba lay twitching ridiculously on the deck, the camera cut to Vidic on the near side touchline looking on and grinning like a Cheshire cat who’d just got the cream, and then realized it was self replenishing and everlasting and could also turn into string whenever he wanted… or something like that. Whatever cats like, I hate cats personally.

Good eeeevening… Mr. Anderson

One of the odd things about football (as opposed to more stat/point based games like tennis or baseball) is that different people can have wildly varying opinions on player’s performances. Everyone seems to think that Wayne Rooney was exceptional yesterday, whilst I thought he was very poor in the first half, sloppy in possession and bad at decision making, only rising to ‘very good’ in the second.

Anderson, on the other hand, was commanding, rarely if ever caught in possession, was never out muscled and, along with the  ever impressive Darren Fletcher, controlled the game in midfield for United, leaving the ‘big name’ trio of Ballack, Deco and Lampard second best on their own pitch. He also kept running into brilliant goal scoring positions in the first half only to not be picked out by his teammates, presumably because they thought there was very little point.

Yet, strangely, most of the papers seem to have him down as a standard 6 or 7 and all the Chelsea fans I’ve talked to seem to think he was ‘nullified’. Ey? Whilst still ‘promising’ and not there yet, those who doubt that he can become a world class central midfielder should remember that although he may have been outclassed against Barcelona in Rome (along with the rest of the team) he has still managed to best Gerrard, Fabregas, and Lampard on their own turf in his two and a bit seasons in England. Not many 21 year olds can say they’ve done that (except for maybe Fabregas himself!).

I’ll be missing you

One of the reasons Rooney may have seemed off the pace in the first half for people like me who “obviously don’t understand football” (or something like that), is that without Ronaldo to finish off his hard work, it’s often left unrewarded. While it is an obvious and boring cliché to say ‘United miss Ronaldo’ whenever they lose a game, that conclusion is hard to ignore in a match such as this which they dominated without ever finding, or even really look like finding, the cutting edge. That performance, with Ronaldo on the pitch, would have yielded a 2-0 victory for United in my book.

LloydDa Da Da Dum… Click Click

Ray ‘Butch’ Wilkins now looks exactly like Uncle Fester from the Addams Family as played by Christopher Lloyd. Exactly. He’s only going to get fatter and his eyes are only going to get more deep set in his old age, so we might as well just put him in a brown monks smock and wheel him out only for Halloween parties. He really does… look.

The long and the short of it

Is that while Chelsea march on relentlessly, United can take great solace from their performance. So far against the Big 4 they’ve won without deserving to (Arsenal), lost without deserving to (Chelsea), and messed it up good and proper (Liverpool), but now seem to have found a rhythm and cohesion to their play which all but overwhelmed the best team in the country judging by league standings. This can only bode well for them, and as for Chelsea… well, they just push on regardless, with ‘big man’ leading the way…

Reader Comments

The below views are those of our readers and do not reflect the opinions of Premiership Talk or its employees.
  1. Oscar Pye-Jeary says:

    This new scratch and sniff monitor I've got is great…I could swear I can smell Zain's pint of bitter…oh and I think he's sucking a lemon as well, though I'm not sure?

    Oh Zain, bless.

    Anderson outplayed Gerrard at Anfield in 07/08 when United won 1-0.

    He outplayed Fabregas at The Emirates during the 3-1 Champions League Semi Final and the 2-2 draw in the League the year before

    He outplayed Lampard on Sunday.

    So that's how it's measured. Backed up by the ratings he received in various newspapers and the general consensus at the time. I never said he was better than the names mentioned, merely that he has the potential, as demonstrated by his performances. How is your assesment of Fletcher measured? Other than a slavish devotion to the gospel according to Arsene?..

  2. Thomas O'Loughl says:

    Anderson may not be at the same level as Fabregas, Lampard or Gerrard but he probably has more silverware than the whole Arsenal team put together so he deserves some respect. Fletcher is a far better player than you think. Every team apart from Arsenal has a tough tackling midfielder, has every tackle Essien or Gerrard made been perflectly timed?

  3. Zain Alvi says:

    I was actually very glad that United didn't get the "calls". They have escaped playing dirty for quite a while and yesterday's defeat was the minimum they deserved. And how can anyone refer to Darren Fletcher as "ever-impressive"? Arsene Wenger was spot on in his analysis of this overrated player who only knows how to tackle mindlessly without even playing for the ball on most occasions. He got away with too much against us Gunners back in Old Trafford so it was good to see him concede the freekick that brought United down yesterday. Maybe it's time Ferguson also learns how to behave himself. And oh, how rubbish is it to say that Anderson outperformed Cesc, Lamps, and Stevie G on their own turfs? How was that measured? Must have been a pure fantasy because Anderson ain't even coming close to those world class players anytime soon.

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