Manchester Untied 3
Brown 34, Ronaldo 79, Nani 81.
Apologies for lateness of this piece. I want to shoot Tiscali!
Ho hum, another defeat to the Mancs. Every game there’s hope but it’s always been the same thing recently. Form doesn’t count one jot. We always seem to press the self destruct button and on Sunday we did it again, spectacularly! We took a while to roll over and play our usual subservient selves but it was only delaying the evitable?
Many have concentrated on the sending off and see it as part of the sanctimonious debate that has taken place over the last few days about respect for referees. Rather than turn it into general witch hunt about footballers being overpaid spoilt and beastly to referees, the majority are not, perhaps we should concentrate on the fact that it is simply to do with two high profile players, Ashley Cole and now Mascherano, losing it. It was simply down to their behaviour on the day. I doubt whether this debate would had arisen someone other than Ashley Cole (ie, a player not recently in the headlines for other issues) made that tackle. Now the Mascherano incident, in a high profile match, adds to an age old debate about respect for referees..
The truth is that referees like bosses at work, or politicians, judges or even the royal family, especially the royal family, do not command respect because of who they are. Respect needs to be earned usually by good dead or example or by treating others fairly and with respect. Mascherano was wrong in what he did but Steve Bennett’s performance on Sunday and some of his previous ones did not met this deal.
Perhaps if referees were more consistent in applying the rules and, the authorities helped them more to achieve this goal, they might get more respect? Perhaps they might get more respect if they were more honest and open in explaining their decisions? Mascherano got his second yellow asking Bennett to be precisely that. It seemed to be a fairly reasonable question as Torres was harshly booked for complaining after being crudely hacked at by Scholes and then Ferdinand.
Mascherano’s first yellow card, a late effort on Scholes, was deserved. After that it was clear he was going “walkabout” seemingly questioning every decision Bennett made. This is where the debate gets tricky. Should Bennett have taken Mascherano aside and warned him that he was in danger of going if he continued in this way? As far as I could see he didn’t. Others will say the player should have showed more responsibility and self control or that his fellow players should have helped him, not easily done when you are caught in the passion of the game. He needed a helping hand, help to help himself? A friendly word, or a firm warning, either would have done. Bennett was in a position to give it but chose to do nothing. Does that action deserve respect? Surely preventing indiscipline, as well as dishing discipline out, is part of the referees responsibilities? All to often referees seem to have their own agenda, trying to please assessors, being seen to hold up recent initiatives even though it might go against plain common sense and narcissistically wanting a piece of the glamour themselves, rather staying in the background and trying to give the game every chance to flow and entertain.
That said, I can’t be an apologist for Mascherano. He has been around long enough to know the rules and the way referees of Bennett’s ilk are likely to behave. To nag away at him in the way he did was asking for trouble. After the incident it looked like Bennett lost his nerve. Had he applied the laws consistently then we would have been down to nine men, Torres’ foul on Vidic was worthy of a second yellow, but he bottled it.
Mascherano is not a dirty player nor is he a spoilt brat. There have been other players who behaved just as “ridiculously” and other referees who have had bad days. It will also happen in the future on both accounts. Two incidents in five days do not constitute a crisis and the debate is simply out of all proportion. The issue is far more complex and deeper that just players “dising” referees. Finally hats off to Rafa for having the courage to question the sending off even though it has meant he was slaughtered by the press yesterday who clearly choose to see the whole thing in black and white.
And the game? I thought we had periods where we looked balanced and lively, our build up play in midfield was good and we had a number of chances, mainly from Gerrard. However there were also periods, and more of them, where we simply awful, passes going astray, slack marking and poor decision making.
Sadly it was a combination of individual errors, for the first two goals, and a piece of brilliance from the opposition, for the third, that cost us the game. We also in fairness rode our luck a few times. The incident early on when Rooney commendably opted to ride Carragher’s late lunge and shoot rather than go down for a certain penalty and then later on when Ronaldo, in an easy goal scoring position, incorrectly thought he was offside.
The individual errors concerned Reina. I suspect he could have flown home to Merseyside such was the amount of flapping he did on Sunday! The first at Rooney’s cross allowing Brown to bundle the ball over the line off his back. Skrtel must also take some of the blame for allowing Brown to rise unchallenged. He and Carragher were given a torrid time by Rooney. Why were they paired together in the centre for the first time for a match like this?
The second was another fresh air punch allowing Ronaldo in after Alonso simply left him. Prior to that we had showed good signs of rallying after the sending off and even looked like we might equalise. We can have no complaint about the third which was simply an excellent move involving Rooney and Nani that carved open our defence and underlined why the Mancs are where they are.
As a keeper Reina’s mistakes are always going to stand out. Sunday was a rarity, one of those days. One only has to look at his previous displays to realise that. He remains a key player and prized asset. S**t happens, it’s finished, it’s gone, move on.
So where do we go from here? Sunday was almost a “free go” thanks to Everton’s draw on Saturday so no real damage done. However, The Derby is still important. Win and we go five clear, lose and it’s back in the mix. Mascherano’s absence won’t help but we have to believe and a win would clear away the fallout. Whatever happens we cannot afford to dwell on it. Perhaps Sunday will stiffen the resolve and bring us close together? We could do with that as the important matches are coming think and fast!
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Scholes, Carrick, Anderson (Tevez 73), Giggs (Nani 73), Rooney.
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Hargreaves, O’Shea.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio, Mascherano, Alonso, Kuyt, Gerrard, Babel (Benayoun 66), Torres (Riise 82).
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Hyypia, Crouch.