THANKS to the intrusion of international commitments, the new Premier League season has been a while ‘kick-starting’ but it came fully alive for me at Goodison Park on Saturday with a wonderful game between Everton and Manchester United.
Usually, I have a grudging admiration for the way Alex Ferguson goes about his business. For example, I wasn’t at all surprised at the attacking stance he adopted towards journalists trying to question him about Wayne Rooney in Friday’s pre-match press conference.
However, the manager could easily have gotten away with explaining Rooney’s subsequent absence from the game by ‘inventing’ a minor injury (not a groin strain). It isn’t as if Ferguson has any hesitation misleading journalists on other occasions. He certainly led most to think Rio Ferdinand would be back from injury.
To say that he left Rooney out because of the abuse the player gets at his former club may be the truth but it’s surely an invitation to every opposing fan to hurl vitriol at the player for the rest of the season. Whatever I think about Rooney’s morals and the personal problems his actions have brought upon himself, I can’t imagine he wanted to be taken out of the firing line.
It did mean though we could concentrate on the quality of the game that unfolded without distraction. Both teams deserve praise. I saw Everton at Villa the other Sunday and it was ridiculous that they left the Midlands without at least a point. Two points from four games doesn’t bode well but all Everton lack currently is a cutting edge. They’ll find it.
What is indisputable is the remarkable team spirit that pertains at Goodison Park. They simply don’t give up whatever the situation. To pull two goals back in stoppage time against a team such as United speaks volumes. However, it also tells us something about Ferguson’s team.
It seemed a rare lapse in concentration to miss a penalty and then concede a late equaliser at Fulham. Fergie was furious. He must have been apoplectic on Merseyside.
At 3-1, United would not have been flattered by another three or four goals advantage. They were that superior. Goodness, Tim Howard was a shoo-in as Man of the Match.
I’d heard rave reports about the start to the season made by Paul Scholes. Now I saw the evidence with my own eyes. The player was absolutely right to avoid an international return. Used sparingly, I can see Fergie coaxing another year or two of brilliance from him: likewise with Ryan Giggs. Why would he or his club remotely contemplate a switch to become manager of Wales?
So, given that so much looks so good about United at the moment, they can only hope the dropping of four points from two away games, points that should never have been conceded, won’t prove costly.
Chelsea and, to only a slightly lesser degree, Arsenal have begun so well. United mustn’t allow that points gap to grow.
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