Around the world in eighty tour buses (Man Utd abroad)By: Ian | March 28th, 2013
I don’t usually have time to do a post aside from match reports, but given the international break seems to have gone on forever, I thought I’d do a bit of mixture: bit of an international round-up, bit of site news, bit of Sunderland build-up etc. First off, site news: I’ve been back since the season start and I’ve learnt it’s hard work reviving a dead blog. Bolting Frankenstein’s monster together and blasting him with electricity was easier to be honest. I’ve had a very poor response from the owners of this site now. I’ve looked into setting up a new writer account so maybe someone else could help, but I’ve got nowhere. I used to get data on readership and page views and the like, all gone now, so now I can only go on comments and social media responses. I’ve grown this site’s Facebook likes by 4 in about 7 months. Record-breaking performance, I’m sure you’ll agree. Moving on….
Internationals: The first set of internationals took place last Friday (22nd March) across Europe, and indeed the wider world. Rooney, Young, Cleverley and Smalling lined up for England as they took on the giants of the European game: namely San-let’s-go-for-goal-difference-and-hope-someone-concedes-more-than-us-Marino. As expected, England routed them, 8-0 in case you missed it. The action started with San Marino scoring, unfortunately for them at the wrong end. Many, many problems then occurred for them, then it was half time. Problems continued. Game ended. Short version of that story. Contributing to those problems was Ashley Young, fairly ineffectual for Utd this season, showing what he can do with a sublime long-range strike that went in just under the bar. San Marino or not, he would have scored with it. Rooney also placed a well-struck free kick, before being replaced before next match. Cleverley also made way, but Young and Smalling played the full game, the latter yawning his way through proceedings. The old argument resumed over whether a completely hopeless team like San Marino should be playing in European qualifying groups straight out, perhaps a smaller tournament should be played first for them first? I disagree, if only because the occasion gave San Marino players an opportunity to generate some useful business: keeper/accountant Simoncini asked if any bank work was required (small country, tax-friendly initiatives, high-interest saving accounts and so on), the Bollini brothers asked if anyone was moving house shortly, and Vannucci handed out pamphlets for his gym’s yoga classes. Now the Euro qualifiers are their only chance to get high level orders, you can’t take that away from them.
Elsewhere, Robin Van Persie had no scoring problems for his country as he notched the second and assisted the third in a 3-0 win over another giant, Estonia. De Gea’s Spain, which he will never be selected for until Casillas, Reina, and Victor Valdes retire/get injured simultaneously such is their team selection, managed a draw with Finland. Clearly, Spain think it an insult they should have to qualify at all, because they are making a general mess of it. Evra’s France leapfrogged them in their group, as France beat Georgia 3-1. Evra didn’t play on that occasion, but had a good view. Kagawa travelled the furthest, to the Middle East no less, to take on Canada in a friendly. Yep, can’t get much more neutral ground than that, can you? Long way from either country. Either way, Japan won 2-1.
Moving into Tuesday (26th), things got more serious for England as they faced group leaders Montenegro. As an individual team, they’ve only existed since 2007, but their run since has seen them rise and rise up the rankings. Nothing special, but they are solid and reliable, like a old family Volvo. England started well, with six Reds in the line-up: Rooney, Welbeck, Carrick, Cleverley, Young and Smalling. Mr Rooney scored from an early Gerrard corner, but England did what England do best and arsed it up before the final whistle and came away with a 1-1 draw, with Montenegro still topping the group. Might have been seven Reds had Ferdinand played, but I’m sure you’ll all aware of the debacle there. Selected, is he going?, he is going, no wait he isn’t. Not going to go into it, I think it was generally badly handled by both parties: Hodgson should have provided greater notice or spoken to Ferdinand prior to squad naming (common knowledge he has a special routine to stop his back seizing up etc) and Utd could have given a straighter answer to his travelling situation. Anyway, my eyes were over at Swansea, watching Wales (a subsidiary of Bale and co.) do what Wales do best, and arse up qualification in general.
Van Persie scored twice more as the Netherlands beat Romania 4-0, in so doing overtaking Cruyff’s goal-haul for the Dutch. Six behind the record, that will surely be broken. Another record will go to Chicharito, I believe, as he scored twice in a qualifier against Honduras on the 22nd March, taking him to 30 from 45 games. The record there is 46 goals, and with no other active competition on the goalscoring list for Mexico, I think that record will fall by some margin.
Away from record-breaking situations, Kagawa scored for Japan as his side lost 2-1 to Jordan. They had the chance to become the first team other than Brazil to qualify, but that quest continues. Spain recovered a bit as they beat France 1-0, Evra playing this time, De Gea making himself warm on the sub bench. Jonny Evans had fun as Israel beat his Northern Ireland 2-0. Evans picked up a yellow for his contribution. Further afield, Valencia got a respite from criticism as Ecuador beat Paraguay 4-1 to maintain their place in South American qualifying. Mexico, and Hernandez, drew against the USA, both teams on track in North America.
So, with all that over, those players will need to be assessed as Utd face a mini-marathon over the Easter weekend. Sunderland will be played on Saturday, and then the FA Cup Replay (yes-that) against Chelsea at MIDDAY on Easter Monday. I expect the Sunderland side to reflect the Monday game obviously. Even with the less-than-ideal situation of playing twice in 48 hours, I expect a much less tired performance than the first meeting in the Cup. I will also be optimistic and say it should produce a win.
So, that’s the state of affairs. Not sure if this post had a point, but we (I mean I of course) shall be back after Sunderland have had their say.
P.S. For all Giggs fans, there is an excellent article on Utd’s website about him, called The Changing Man (or something similar). A good read should you be stuck for something to do for five minutes.