November 12, 2013

United they stand

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

It wasn’t the prettiest victory, but even the ugly ones count for three points.

Manchester United’s fortunes seem to have turned for the better have some early season growing pains. After defeating league-toppers Arsenal 1-0 at Old Trafford.

While the defeat still leaves Arsenal up by two points on Liverpool, United – previously in utter peril if you believe the tabloids – in fifth and just five points back.

This paints quite the different picture of the Red Devils than we had held even just two weeks ago. It ssems that David Moyes and his club have found their footing, the defence is now holding steady – despite losing captain Nemanja Vidic to a concussion during the game – and the tandem of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney look every bit as dangerous as it should.

It was RvP, the former Gunners talisman, who headed home the game’s only goal. The weird thing I found was that he celebrated like a mad man. I understand being happy, but how about keeping it civil against your former mates? His exit from the North London club wasn’t acrimonious, so why the theatrics?

Either way, it seems that teams may no longer go into Old Trafford with the hope of taking points again. It seems unlikely that a result like Manchester United 1, West Bromwich Albion 2 could happen now.

And how about the stat that Manchester United has never lost at home after leading going into the half in Premier League history. Now that’s how you make your home pitch a fortress.


It’s not even that surprising, really. Well, I wasn’t surprised at least. Yes, Chelsea was saved from defeat by a dubious call from an official.

Late into injury time and trailing visiting West Brom 2-1, midfielder Ramires burst in the box with the ball, had a the slightest contact from a defender and hit the floor – then the ref pointed to the spot.

It was one of the weakest penalty calls I’ve ever seen and, of course, it benefited the more well-off home side.

Eden Hazard – who had some midweek passport troubles – stepped up and slotted it home to salvage the draw. That means that under Jose Mourinho, the Blues have not lost at home since 2004.

While it should go without saying based on the game’s end, West Brom deserved the three points. They were the better side throughout and should have humbled the stumbling Blues.

Instead, we’re left with controversy and a sour taste in our mouths.


After being shutout last week in its big match against Arsenal, Liverpool rebounded to crush lowly Fulham 4-0.

Daniel Sturridge wasn’t able to get on the scoresheet, but new SAS mate Luis Suarez did what he usually does and potted two beauties.

But seeing those guys score is par for the course now.

The man who really impressed, turning back the clock a couple years, was Steven Gerrard. His excellent passing and work on set pieces made the Reds look as dangerous as ever. There was no defending his cutting throughballs that Suarez latched on to.

Also, with Glen Johnson fit, the team started a back four and kept a clean sheet for the first time in months. If the back line can hold – like I’ve said before – this team will be a title contender.


Manchester City is in desperate need of creativity without David Silva. The fact that they couldn’t break down Sunderland was really telling … That was the fourth straight 1-0 win for Sunderland at home against City too. They have that tough fixture dialed it seems … Congrats to the three Southampton players (Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana) that were called up for England’s coming friendlies. It’s a testament to how strong that side is playing and also how it is built around home-grown players. And that crew didn’t disappoint this weekend either … Which Saint did disappoint? Goalkeeper Artur Boruc. That was a terrible idea to throw the ball out to a well-covered Victor Wanyama. It cost Boruc the clean sheet and I’m sure angered many fantasy players … Aston Villa broke its 415-minute scoreless run. It’ll need to stay away from streaks like that to stay up this season … How about that performance by Newcastle’s Tim Krul? 14 saves against Tottenham in a 1-0 win is everything you want from your keeper and more.


I sure hope you started Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley against Manchester City. OK, we know that you didn’t given the opponent and the fact that the Black Cats defending has been pretty bad this season. But if you had, what a reward! 15 points for a goal, a clean sheet, 90 minutes and a three-point bonus. I wouldn’t expect that sort of return again.


It looks like the Europa League curse has struck again. Swansea was only able to draw against Stoke City after a midweek trip to Russia and looked terrible to start the game, going down 2-0. Tottenham were able to take a massive amount of shots against Newcastle, but fell short of a result. The evidence is really adding up that maybe Europe’s second-tier championship isn’t worth the hassle for teams also striving to do well domestically. This could be something that Southampton will have to think about if it can keep up the pace and fight for a top-six spot.

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