Well Chelsea played it exactly as they should have and they should have won this game 2-0. But, that’s what happens when you don’t score the second goal and have to worry about the away goal. It happened to Man U against Porto to launch Mourinho’s career and it happened again today.
Messi and company were choked just as I said they would be. One real shot on goal and they scored in injury time. Doesn’t get closer than that. Chelsea deserved this win. They should have had two penalties. But it was a questionable red card for Abidal. What’s with these referees? They don’t seem to talk things over with their linesmen for very long before handing out red cards. It’s ridiculous.
Anyway, now it’s Man U vs Barca in the final. Messi and Henry. Rooney and Ronaldo. Barca without both wing backs and Marquez, but with Henry probably back. Man U without Fletcher. Should be awesome. More awesome – I will be at the final!
Well can’t say that I was surprised. Arsenal backline was not good and Ronaldo did exploit their lack of understanding and ability. United were great on the counter attack and the pitch was heavier so Arsenal didn’t really get going with their slick passing. I predicted 2-2 and it should have been 4-0. Either way, United is through and its a shame that Fletcher got a red card that wasn’t for a penalty that wasn’t. I don’t know that he would start against Chelsea and probably wouldn’t have done so against Barca either as I believe Giggs and Berbatov would be on for Fletcher and Park from this lineup. Key question is whether Scholes or Anderson starts in the final. However, Fletcher would have been first sub should United have a lead going into the last 25 minutes for either Giggs or Scholes. But that’s for another time.
The things that jumped out to me:
Arsenal managed one real shot on goal in the first leg and had a weak Fabregas header the first half and a straightforward van Persie blast in the second half to show for offense (apart from the non penalty). That is unbelievable. Adebayor didn’t have a real shot on goal! United’s defense is good but that’s not down to the defense.
It was a waste to start van Persie. He was obviously not fit enough. I would have started Bendtner and pounded United with high balls to get an early goal. It’s tough to guard Adebayor when Bendtner is in there. It’s hindsight, but Arsene should have started Eboue instead of Nasri initially to give more cover for Song and Gibbs down the left.
That was about as dominant a two legged semifinal performance over a quality team that I have seen.
Arsene has a problem next season trying to accommodate Fabregas, Nasri and Arshavin. This might be the time to cash in on Cesc. Let Arshavin play his spot. Wilshere will be ready to take over in three years anyway, just when Arshavin is done. If you keep all three, Wilshere’s opportunities to progress faster diminish. Use the money to buy a couple of center backs and a holding midfielder. They will have Eduardo back next season and then the four strikers they have are good enough.
Ronaldo is easily the best player in the world for all the hype about Messi being a genius and the player of a generation. Ronaldo showed that he can be an incredibly effective striker today. The man is two footed, has a rocket of a right foot, takes penalties and free kicks, is lightning quick with great feet, scores in the big games, rarely misses games from injury (the operation this season notwithstanding) and is great in the air. Till Messi shows me he can smoke a left back who is quick and experienced, he’s not the best in the world for me (more on that in my next post).
Part of the reason Arsenal struggled in the first leg and the main reason Messi was a no show in the Chelsea game was that the pitch was waterlogged and heavy. That took away Arsenal’s team speed and slowed their movement. If it rains or the pitch is heavy, Arsenal have no chance.
Walcott has to get in the game else it’s going to be tough for Van Persie and Adebayor to get space. I wouldn’t be surprised if, should Arsenal start 2 strikers, Van Persie drops in the hole to give support to the midfield and help Cesc with a number mismatch should United play 3 in midfield like they did in the first leg.
Ronaldo has to be the man today. He didn’t massacre Santon as he should have, nor did he do the same to Gibbs in the first leg. It’s time he taught these young left backs why he is the best in the world. If Silvestre doesn’t start in the middle, look for Ronaldo to drift in time and again to test Djorou or Song – whoever will start in the center with Toure.
Wonder if Eboue starts.
I debated how to phrase the headline – as a definitive statement on what he should do or as a question. While it looks like a question, it is actually a rhetorical statement. The answer is so obvious that it doesn’t make any sense for me to drag out a pros and cons before coming down on one side. RONALDO – DON’T LISTEN TO YOUR MAMA: STAY WITH MANCHESTER UNITED. She’s right about Real Madrid being a dream – it’s a bad dream otherwise called a nightmare. He looks way better in red, doesn’t he?!
Why you should stay, you ask. Let me expound – in numbered, bulleted fashion no less.
- You are the king at United. This is your team, no matter the love for Rooney or Scholes or Giggs or Rio. Your team. At Real, Raul is king. And after him, it will be Casillas – and he’s only 27 and a goalie, so he will be around a long time. Oh, and he also just captained Spain to their first title in 44 years.
- You can be a United legend. While you didn’t come up the ranks at United like Scholes or Giggs, you came here at 18. That’s almost the same thing. To be a true legend at the club, if you join them early and stay for a long time, you are a legend. It will not be the same if you join Real Madrid. Are Zidane or Figo or Roberto Carlos or any of the other galacticos a legend? Yes, you are younger than they were, but if you think you will play at Real for 10 years, you are crazy. You won’t last long enough there. Why, you ask? Next point…
- You are the flavor of the election. Today, Calderon wants you to win his election. Once you are in the team, don’t you think the next guy contesting election is going to want his own galactico – maybe Bojan Krkic or the next freakishly talented Brazilian? At United, you will always be on a pedestal, much as Giggs and Scholes still are. Real is notoriously unstable because of the shenanigans that go on around the elections (Barca too). That’s why they keep changing coaches as well. Who is going to be your coach once Schuster doesn’t win the Champions League next season?
- You play on the best team in England and in Europe. It is a young team too. Other than Arsenal, there is no other young, world class team like it in the world. And Arsenal hasn’t won squat in four years. This team is the best team in the best league in the world. So, you are the player of the year in the best team in the world (and United will prove that by winning the World Club Cup later this year – BTW, you won’t play in that or the European Super Cup this year if you leave United) in the best league in the world – and a team that is poised to challenge (if not dominate) for a few years to come. And you want to trade that for a dream? Talk to Kobe for some pointers, son.
- Let’s talk about the platform a bit. First, the club. At United, Rooney and Tevez and the rest of the guys will do the tracking back that you don’t always have to do. You take the penalties and free kicks. No egos from guys like Rooney or Tevez or Rio or whoever. You really think that happens at Real? From players like Raul and Guti and Ruud and Robben? Forget what they say now. Wait till you are there. Ruud is going to take penalty kicks (especially after your recent two high profile misses, it is not a foregone conclusion that you get to push him aside for those) and Wesley Sneijder is going to take a fair number of free kicks. Then, the same thing will happen to you that happened to Torres. Defenders will not let you beat them with your pace as they won’t play up as much, won’t give you as much space and the midfield will be more compact as well so it is going to be harder for you to do your usual damage. The leagues are just different. The slower pace of La Liga is going to be to your disadvantage. Also, at United, you interchange with total freedom. Rooney, Tevez and whoever is playing attacking mid or opposite wing (Giggs or Nani) move around freely and let you move around freely. You come inside, switch wings, go crossfield, drop back, whatever. At Real, you will play like you do at Portugal. Except Real have players with even more ego and reputation. You will play more on the wing and have to serve balls to Ruud and Raul. Your goals will drop and so will your reputation. Trust me – we got a precursor at Euro 2008.
- The fans love you at United. Yes, they will love you at Real as long as you are doing well. Can you imagine white hankies waving at United? United fans embraced you after World Cup 2006 even though you were mischievous in your contribution to getting Rooney and England booted. The country even forgave you – somehow I don’t see that happening with a Portugese man in Spain.
- The blame will be on you if Real don’t win the Champions League within the next two years.
- Messi plays in La Liga. You don’t want to play in the same league as him since he will now be the showpiece at Barca and will come out of it as the player of the year in La Liga. Stop with the “I am a competitor; that’s a challenge I would relish” line. I am not saying he is better than you – just that he will come off better given his team situation relative to yours.
- Quieroz is at United and will probably be the next coach of United.
- Spain has just won Euro 2008. Casillas, Xavi, Cesc and Torres are going to be ahead of you in Spanish minds for a while – and God help you if they win the World Cup too. It’s more likely they win than England.
- You signed a contract. You are just one year in. I bet you United gives you more money, but at the level you are, does some more money mean more than winning and being the best?
- Karma is a mother. Loyalty seems to be an ugly word and yes, United and Fergie have thrown players out (see Becks and Ruud) after they were loyal to him and the club. However, this is ridiculous. The man protected you. The club and the fans embraced you. And you repay them like this?
- You are 23 years old. In two or three years you will enter your prime. Most United fans will not begrudge you your desire to move if you do so at that point. It would also be perfect reasoning as you can say it is contemporaneous with Fergie leaving. IF, that is, you decide it makes sense to move then. It makes no sense to do so now. Can you imagine how much of a bigger deal you would get if you solidified your United fan base and then moved after you had won a couple of World Player of the Year awards. It would be a much bigger move than doing so now.
- You will be joining a league where the rest of the teams have no real stars. Even Barca would have lost Ronaldinho, Deco, Eto’o and Gio Dos Santos. Contrast that with all the good players coming to the Premier League at Spurs, Everton, Portsmouth, Liverpool and Arsenal.
To be fair, let’s talk about some reasons to go:
The weather is better. Your girlfriend is Spanish. Playing for Los Blancos is a bit mythical. Fergie’s going to quit soon. It’s not going to be easy to top, let alone match, this season – on a personal and team level. The competition in England for the Premier League is going to be even more fierce. You will probably make more money from the image rights deal in Spain. You probably speak Spanish better than English. It’s your dream. Your mama wants you to go there.
The only thing that I have left to say is – if it’s your dream that’s great. Who says you have to wake up today to realize it – “wait a couple of years and then figure out if you want to live the dream or simply dream the dream while living the life you already have” CH12, July 1, 2008…