Manchester United’s December delight


Manchester United have taken full advantage of Manchester City dropping points recently by clawing back towards the apex of the English Premier League. The defending champions have the same tally of points as their neighbours, with only goal difference separating the two rivals. And considering the fact that United’s last two opponents were spanked for a total of 10 goals, the goal-difference bridge has been considerably reduced as well.
Granted, beating the likes of Villa, Wolves, QPR, Fulham and Wigan, isn’t exactly a groundbreaking achievement. However, as the cliché goes, you can only beat what is put before you; and United have done that resoundingly. The fact that we’re approaching the halfway stage connotes that both City and United – like the rest of the teams – have played almost every team once. And the fact that the two teams find themselves neck and neck means that the competition is as stiff as it gets at the summit.
Another point worth considering is that even though United have faced everyone in the league, they have played all of the usual suspects – barring Liverpool – at home. Therefore, the sternest away tests still await the defending champions in the second half off the season. All the same, United’s away form this year has been considerably better than their mediocre displays last year. And all things considered, the top of league table is intriguingly poised, and United might need to pull out their ever dependable card in the coming run-in – their title winning knowhow.
Welsh wizard
There is a new Welsh wizard on the EPL bloc; he’s the current holder of the PFA Player of the Year award; he goes by the name of Gareth Bale. Last season’s PFA award was won by Bale courtesy his exploits on the European front – most notably the Milanese expeditions. Of course this was bizarre, and the corollary of the press relentlessly waxing lyrical over Bale’s displays on the left wing. What was even more bizarre was the fact that in terms of end-product Bale was no way near the top of the pile of impacting players – he conjured up as many assists as Ali Al-Habsi for example; Wigan’s goalkeeper. Bale flaunted a monotonous kick-and-run ploy throughout the course of the season, and while that was hard to deal with for most opponents it curtailed his decisive contributions and limited the Welshman’s ability to enhance his all round influence over games – you know, something one associates with the ‘PFA Player of the Year.’
This year has been a different tale altogether. While the media hasn’t been getting carried away as much as last year – possibly due to the absence of Champions Lack football for Spurs – Bale’s impact and his overall play is prodigiously more effectual than last year. Even though his solitary trick was too good for most defenders, Bale can no longer be classified as a one-trick pony. He has curbed his inconsistency, enhanced his repertoire and has beefed himself up with muscle to add further strength to his blistering speed. His ball control is top notch and he is scoring some pivotal goals for his side. All in all, Bale now possesses more of an all-round game this year, which in turn has meant that he – along with the catalyst of Spurs renaissance; Emmanuel Adebayor – is now the vanguard of Spurs aspirations and indubitably one of the best players in the league.
FA’s hypocrisy
As FA’s final verdict on Luis Suarez’s eight match ban continues to linger on after Liverpool decided to contest the ban, the English FA has decided to play another little game to pass the time by banning Suarez for a game along with a 20,000 pound fine for a hand gesture towards the crowd. Again, like last week’s column suggested, FA’s desire of purging out the unwanted actions from the game is noble; there inconsistency is not.
English players have been found guilty of explicit gestures in the not-so-distant past as well. There was Ashley Cole’s confrontation with Arsenal fans in December 2007, Gary Neville’s gesture to Tevez in 2010 and a multitude of other such examples when English players have dodged the bullet for considerably bigger offences than that of Suarez. Yes, Rooney was banned for a couple of games for swearing into the camera last season; but you don’t need this writer to grasp the massive disparity between being audible on camera and giving a silent hand gesture. And yes, while the vulgar gesticulation is definitely not a leaf out of the social service manual, one should have the same yardstick to gauge the actions of every player – without any discrimination whatsoever. Much like the refereeing, all an average fan wants is consistency from the FA. Judging foreign players differently and condemning their acts, while using rose-tinted glasses to perceive their own crop is hypocrisy manifestation of the lowliest kind.
Henry’s loan deal
At the time of writing, the rumours recently broke about Thierry Henry being offered a two-month loan deal for a nostalgic return to Arsenal. There is nothing concrete as yet, but if the British press is to be believed, the deal is on the horizon. The talk of Henry returning to Arsenal had gathered momentum even before this rumour flashed all over the globe, and even Wenger hasn’t exactly downplayed the possibility of the deal materialising.
Considering the fact that Chamakh and Gervinho would be off for the African Cup of Nations, it would leave the Gunners short of striking options as matches come thick and fast. While bolstering their attacking repertoire was a no-brainer, going for Thierry Henry to fill the gap is fascinating – if nothing else. Some writers have touted the move as Wenger “gambling on sentimentality” and that Henry would not be the same player that left the club. There is a three letter word that Generation-Z uses in response to such a scenario that involves a ‘D’ a ‘U’ and an ‘H’.
Obviously Henry would be light years away from the player that used to set the league ablaze week in week out, but what Henry’s return to Arsenal has the potential of doing is that it can absolutely blow the lid off the place with the sheer inspiration that the Frenchman would bring back to Arsenal. Back in 2006-2007 when United were vying to win back the league title after Chelsea’s dominance it was the three month loan deal of a certain Henrik Larrson that proved to be the catalyst for United’s success; not only in 2007 but for years to come. Arsenal need a similar figure in this transitory phase to ensure that the club finally manages to turn the elongated corner. The fact that he is a club legend and the greatest striker to play for the side wouldn’t hamper that effect the slightest.