First things first – in the sprit of Mark Clattenberg’s fairly liberal definition of the term “advantage” I thought it apt to mislead the public by using the phrase “In Defence of Mark Clattenberg” when really there is no such thing. Should anyone look towards me for clarification I shall merely shrug, in an exasperating and ever so slightly arrogant manner, which really clarifies nothing for anyone. Play on!The Preceding 83 Minutes
Rather a shame that our lot collectively drifted off for the free-kick that brought about the opening goal, for that aside we traded blows fairly evenly – no mean feat at Old Trafford. Various theories have been bandied around regarding whether the blame lay with Kaboul or BAE, or whether we marked zonally or man-for-man. Whatever the conclusions, this moment, rather than the Clattenberg farce, was the crucial moment.
The Van Der Vaart Conundrum
In the first half in particular Modders and VDV were afforded more space than was entirely wise by the United mob, who came within a post’s width of paying, but life became a darned sight trickier in the second as United tightened up. The disappointing truth is that when we needed to increase our urgency levels we were simply unable to, and while we defended well enough on the whole it is difficult to remember our forward line ever actually penetrating the sacred environs of the United penalty area. The deployment of VDV in a 4-5-1 certainly gives our midfield a healthy glow, but brings with it the problem of a lack of presence in attack, and it hardly a personal criticism of Robbie Keane to note that he is not the man for a 4-5-1.
Elsewhere On The Pitch
Lennon started fairly brightly, but diligently pinged his final ball straight into the first man in red time and time again, and retreated back into his shell thereafter. Out on the left Bale was shackled fairly effectively, although a frisson of excitement did work its magic on yours truly when the Welsh demi-god went storming forward on his right foot rather than his left, in the second half. If it turns out that the lad is actually two-footed I may just pop from the sheer excitement of it all. The counter-balance to any excitement engendered by Bale is the feeling somewhere in between apathy and rage generated by Jenas, who seemingly deployed in a holding role, was his usual fairly anonymous self.
It was of course all overshadowed by the farce of the final few minutes, but for all the incredulity and expletives I would much rather we receive that sort of decision away to Man Utd, in a fixture from which we never really expect much anyway, than from a fixture against rivals for fourth spot.