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All the better to beat you with

By | 10th December 2009

So Michael Owen reinvigorated his World Cup chances and Manchester United cruised into the Champions League knockout stage as top of their group at the expense of poor old Wolfsburg. I noticed several things from this engrossing encounter, chief among them were:

Bangers and smash

It was an odd game for the most part. And all the better for it, really. The first half was basically like a computer game, albeit a new computer game, one which you’re not too sure of the buttons for. Or a bit like playing FIFA 10 when you’re used to Pro Evolution Soccer, and though you’re constantly breaking forward into great positions, at the crucial time you keep forgetting that shoot is cross and cross is shoot in this one.

With that said, Nani seemed to be being controlled by someone whose forward button was inexplicably assigned to the backwards motion. “That way! No, that way! Aarrggh!” The aesthetically good combination of bad marking and pacey front players made for an end to end feel, but with little end product until the person controlling Nani attempted an audacious shot but luckily forgot the buttons again and put in a great cross for Owen to glance on a trademark header.

United basically didn’t really deserve to win this, it was a smash and grab raid, but one they deserved, if that makes any sense whatsoever, which it probably doesn’t.

Defense is the best form of attack

Well it is if all your defenders are attacking players. This is probably why Brazil are so good to watch. While United’s counter attacks were undeniably helped by having some great passers of the ball playing in their own box, the only person who seemed to be doing any actual defending was, unsurprisingly, the only person who was actually a defender. Fletcher and Carrick were great at breaking up the play and feeding it forward and all the things good central midfielders should be good at, but when it came to marking or keeping a line they seemed completely baffled.

Evra, however, was commanding, always there and fittingly given the armband, presumably because he was the only person who knew what they were doing. He was Cafu-like in his captaincy. Even though the rest were competent enough, a better team than Wolfsburg would have scored at least three. United need some defenders back, and fast.

Things can only get better / Good evening, Mr. Anderson

He couldn’t hit a barn door with a heat seeking missile, even if the barn was full of burning radiators, but I’m becoming more and more steadfast in my belief that he will indeed be a world class player within two years, if not one… and a bit. His consistency is improving consistently, helped in part by the fact Paul Scholes has glanced over at Giggs and realized he better start pretending he’s 20 again or someone might notice the difference.

His passing at times is ingenious. On at least two occasions last night he played quite sumptuous passes without even thinking about it, one of which almost led to a goal had Welbeck not been slightly offside. He gets far more stick, and with it far more hype, than the other players of his age in United’s team (he’s younger than Gibson) because not only is more expected of him, but he’s in the team far more often, and for a player of his age and ilk, to slot into a commanding central midfield role expertly in the toughest physical top level league, not even taking into account that he’s Brazilian, takes a lot of class, not to mention discipline.

He really is very good, and I think some people should try and remember that the “already accomplished at 16″ type Fabregases of this world are once in a generation players. For 21, Anderson is well above most of his peers are and should, by the age of 25, be a truly exceptional player. This is, of course, simply my opinion, and I’m sure some disagree, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Strangely, being in and out of the side is helping him. The pressure isn’t on as much, and when it is, he can channel it without getting knackered, because let’s be honest, he looks like he likes his pies.

The revolution will not be televised

But if it was, Andy Gray would probably still feel the need to speak over it: ”Well it’s a revolution, isn’t it? That much we do know, and what it boils down to is this, when you throw a flaming can of petrol at a line of riot police, you’re going to get punished… you just can – not – do that at this level and expect to get away with it, it’s as simple as that.”

And then he’d proceed to demonstrate police tactical strategy with some colored casino chips and computer generated arrows pointing straight forward: “What they’re going to do Richard, right, is walk slowly forward… here… like that, that much we do know.” At one point Tuesday night he described Owen’s second goal as: “See, that’s the difference between picking somebody out and not.” Sorry, what? Yes, that makes sense Andy, but it’s also completely banal and obvious.

Sing when you’re drawing

As is customary at some grounds, Wolfsburg’s goal was greeted by a blast of questionable Germanic Polka-Pop followed by an interactive roll call come yodeling session. It also went on for about five minutes. Sometimes those things strike me as quite fun. At least everyone joins in when the crowd are encouraged to shout back the scorer’s surname. I’d certainly like to see it tried at Hull when Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink scores: “Goal scored by number 29 Jan – … ‘Venennnerrblaaahhhhmrrrrrrr’ “

Young man, there’s no need to feel down

Michael Owen certainly seems to like playing in the Vaterland, and the man who turns 30 this Monday looked every inch (there aren’t a lot of them, though, to be fair) the 20 something man he still is. In fact, Tuesday was pretty much the same Michael Owen of 2001 England hat trick glory.

The Michael Owen I’d constantly spend 70 minutes shouting at from the Wembley stands for doing absolutely nothing until he scored a brilliant goal just as I was telling the person next to me how ridiculously over rated and pointless he is. The hat trick itself was a great microcosm of Owen’s striking talents. Had he had the foresight to tap the 2nd in with his left it would have been a perfect one too. He also just seems like a really nice person, but I still don’t think it will be enough to merit changing Fabio’s mind just yet. Defoe is still the best English striker in the league on merit.

Some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over

Owen’s third was followed by the dullest, laziest, but also most civilized pitch invasion ever as one Wolfsburg fan ambled onto the field and started chatting to the players at the center circle. Presumably he was having a go at them, but it looked more like he was just trying to get them to change their gas company or sell them some atrocious art he’d painted: “It’s in my car, you interested? I’ve made one of you out of rawl plugs and copper wiring… it’s for a good cause… no?”

It took the stewards an age to notice that he’d basically just trotted on, and when they did he just sort of ambled off again in a half hearted attempt to escape them but couldn’t really be bothered.

Who are ya?

The point I usually use to stick up for Nani (that no matter how ineffectual he is most of the time, he’s far more likely to do one thing brilliantly than most wingers) is not only slowly looking ridiculous now, but has also been put into stark perspective by the increasingly impressive unknown quantity that is Garbriel Uber-head, sorry, Obertan.

Only on for a matter of minutes, he still created two goals, yet again displayed his wiser than his years knowledge of when to release the ball, and, for the first time, but possibly not the last, basically won United the match.

His first was Oberskill of the Cruyff variety but his second impressed me more as: a) most wingers would of certainly run with it in that situation and position and b) the weight and direction of the first time through ball for Owen was perfect in every way. Just the right amount of weight to allow Owen to get there first and just the right position to allow him to cut across without breaking his stride.

He’s clearly not going to be the next Henry, but you can’t rule him out being a devastatingly effective player in the future. £3 million (mostly because of apparent psychological problems we aren’t quite aware of) seems like an absolute snip. It’s far too early to be making calls either way just yet, but keep your eye on him… and let’s be honest, it won’t be hard, his head’s difficult to miss to be fair.

Reader Comments

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

    I cannot understand why everyone is blowing up Owen saying get him in England squad because he scored one hat-trick, i would rather take Joe Cole any day of the week. Owen need's to be playing every week and scoring an awful lot more, for me one hat-trick against a German team doesn't give him rights to the WC

  2. Thomas O'Loughl says:

    it is one excellent article though, thouroughly enjoyed reading it.

  3. RedCafe says:

    Don't comment on your own article, Mockney!..

  4. Oscar Pye-Jeary says:

    I like this.

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