Monday, 1 March 2010

Carling Cup Final

Yesterday's Carling Cup Final between Manchester United & Aston Villa was surprisingly a good game. The match had goals, plenty of incidents & drama right to the end. And ignoring the major talking point United were worthy winners. Here are some more thoughts on the match:

  • Its hard to work out how good this United team is. They can put in some devestating performances followed by an equally limp one. This match showed they are class above Villa & they did enough to win. The question remains whether they can raise their level against the very best opposition. 
  • Though Villa were well beaten in the end they can justifiably point to Phil Dowd's decision no to send off Nemaja Vidic as they key incident in the game. According to the laws of the game it was clear Vidic had to go, he was the last man & had brought down Agbonlahor as he was through on goal. Only Phil Dowd will know why he didn't dismiss Vidic but it can't be a coincidence that like the incident in midweek the decision came early. A sending off would have changed the game completely. In contrast Mike Dean in a near identical situation to the one at the San Siro blew for the penalty as well as dismissing the offending player, which in this case was Belletti. Looking at this second incident their is no doubt in my mind that Barry went down on his own volition. There was minimal contact but he knew after the midweek decision the referee would more than likely produce a red card for Belletti & give a penalty that would seal the game for City. All three incidents I think clearly call for a re-evaluation of the last man rule, which I wrote about at length in this post.
  • Antonio Valencia can be a bit hit & miss as his contribution yesterday showed. Poor for the first hour or so he then delivered a couple of super crosses one of which settled the game for United. He has contributed 11 assists & 7 goals in all competitions this season. That's nowhere near Ronaldo's regular tally but two thirds of the way through his debut season it's a pretty decent total and one I'm sure his manager is happy with.
  • Wayne Rooney will undoubtedly get all the headlines once again. His performance was good but Rooney doesn't have to do much to generate the kind of fawning from the national press that is usually the reserve of schoolgirls in awe of the latest boy band. Having said that the winning goal was a superb header & not something you would usually associate with him.
  • For all Rooney's headlines the best player on the pitch was James Milner. Composed on the ball, skillful, hard working & tactically aware, the boy really does have it all. Milner seems destined for the World Cup but the problem he'll have is that his flexibility means that it's hard to pinpoint his best position.
  • While Milner looks a good bet for the England squad the same cannot be said for Michael Owen. If there were still people out there who thought that he could be going to the World Cup yesterday should have settled any doubts that barring an injury crisis of epic proportions Owen will have the summer off.
  • Talking of England hopefuls if Stephen Warnock is the best left back in the country then we're in trouble. Competent more than anything else, Warnock was exposed several times by Valencia when the United winger finally got into the game. Not blessed with great pace the worry & expectation is that at international level he will prove to be a liability.
  • Villa have improved enormously under Martin O'Neill but they still lack a creative spark to take on the best teams. Built on the blistering pace of Agbonlahor & Young they are devstating on the counter but don't have enough strings to their bow to be regularly successful on these types of occasions. A midfield playmaker is an obvious area for improvement but that will mean a significant change to their usual style of play.
  • The Wembley pitch was once again pretty poor. With all the millions spent on the ground you would assume the playing surface would be excellent. I can't remember the last time I actually saw an excellent pitch there. As much as the old Wembley had a reputation for the best playing surface in the land the current one is up there with the worst. Though obviously not rock bottom thanks to Wigan's DW stadium or whatever else it's called these days.
  • The last year has not been kind to Ben Foster. Hailed a hero after last years penaty shoot out victory these days he's having to settle for being the clubs third choice. In normal circumstances he'd have no chance of making the World Cup squad but given the poor offerings in that department he still has a chance. Provided of course if he can play a few games for his club between now & the end of the season.

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