I’m going to link a few thoughts below so try to stick with me.
The Tottenham revival
I wouldn’t say Spurs revival (which has seen them jump a mighty one point clear of the relegation zone – but then again eighth place Portsmouth are only five points clear of it themselves) has seen them outplay and dominate many teams. Some cold analysis will suggest that since ‘Arry Redknapp has come in they have convincingly beat just Bolton and West Ham, lose poorly to Fulham and Everton and pick up fortunate results against Liverpool and Arsenal.
But with few points between 8th and 18th after almost half the season this is a Premier League that looks set to twist and turn. Yesterday Tottenham took on European Champions Manchester United and fully deserved their point in a 0-0 draw.
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said:
“We dominated the game for the most part and their goalkeeper has made two fantastic saves near the end. We just needed that bit of luck or a break close to goal but we didn’t get it.”
It was a typically disingenuous statement from the man who doesn’t look anywhere near as hungry as he has done in the past. It’s all very well pointing out Gomes’ two fine saves (in what was a brilliant performance from the recently-maligned Dutch Clanger Magnet) but his own keeper had to make top class saves from Aaron Lennon and twice from David Bentely, watch helplessly as Luka Modric missed a relative sitter and then see a deflected shot spin inches over the crossbar.
It was an excellent performance from a Tottenham team who competed well and created chances despite not passing fluently or dominating possession at any point in the match.
But, as I’ve said before, any top four team should be able to go out with seven players wearing snorkeling gear and beat most Premier League teams. They have the riches, the crowds and the means to attract the best players who would not consider moving to Tottenham or Newcastle or West Ham. And every time they do find themselves a gem the top four teams buy them and widen the gap even further.
I heard Craig Burley, while commentating on the Man U/Sunderland game last week, say that United’s fortunate late winner was “a victory for football”. What he means is that a club like Sunderland, who have to pay over the odds for average players, are not deserving of anything from a game unless they go out and attack world class players. Sunderland did this against Chelsea and lost 0-5.
I think what Burley really meant is that it was a “brave performance from a team who should have been beaten out of sight but a mixture of tactics, effort and luck almost saw them get a famous result”. Cock.
I watched ESPN Classics last week and saw two games from 1981: Tottenham v Man U and Birmingham v Wolves. Aside from the competitive football, muddy pitches, caged-in supporters and brilliant old-school TV production, the one thing that struck me was the on-pitch attitude.
A scything tackle wasn’t met with a multiple forward-roll or a handful of players berating the referee. The recipient felt his ankle for a second, realised it wasn’t broken and jogged off.
Compare this to the recent behaviour of the best player in the world, the loathsome Ronaldo. Last week against Sunderland, in a move of stunning arrogance, he substituted himself, wincing in pain as he pointed to the tunnel.
This weekend an incidental clash with a Spurs player left him pulling up short, wincing again as he felt his wrist, desperately trying to ensure the focus was once again on him. And at the end of a rather poor performance (against a makeshift right-back in Didier Zokora) he aimed a sly kick at Michael Dawson a couple of seconds after the center-back had fairly tackled him. David Beckham did the same thing 10 years ago, received a red card and was national person non grata for about 6 months.
Ronaldo in the eighties
On the subject of Ronaldo and the self-substitution, Ferguson said it was the “sensible thing to do”. This brings me back to my point about Ferguson, a man who has shipped more assets than DHL. Why in the name of Jaap Stam is he putting up with this self-serving tyke? It’s not a problem that Ronaldo’s performances are sub-par this year – that can happen to anyone. But it is clear that his egotistical and megalomaniac behaviour have spiralled out of control.
His half-mock statements about how great he is are, in his own head, no joke at all. He knows no humility as was shown by his disgraceful attempts to orchestrate a move away from Old Trafford last summer. Does Ferguson think his team cannot win the league without Ronaldo? Why does he pander so much to a player who threatens to become a virus?
I actually think Ronaldo would have been better served by being born thirty years earlier. In 1981, a time where the best players were truly world class (Bryan Robson, Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen), Ronaldo would have got the message pretty quick that ego had no currency.