United Shot Themselves In The Foot
I was a bit worried when asking fellow fans' opinions because I felt they would be harsh on the team after a disappointing cup results. However, I needn't have worried.
Everyone agreed that though United have lost 1-0 in the FA Cup quarter-finals to Portsmouth, at Old Trafford, it wasn't because we were bad or that there are fundamental problems. It was only because we could not convert our massive superiority into the comfortable win our football deserved.
I do not say that our profligate finishing is not a cause for concern. But honestly, can you imagine us having another such game? Everything that could possibly go wrong did so. It started before the game: Saha, displaying his remarkable knack of getting injured at any given time, did his knee in the warm-up despite being pencilled in to start.
On the pitch, it got only worse. The obvious and quite cynical foul on Ronaldo in the box was somehow deemed to be fair by Martin Atkinson. Then Tevez and Rooney combined to miss an unmissable chance. Van der Sar got injured and got replaced by Kuszczak. Kuszczak, for heaven's sake... but I must restrain myself as he did well when he was called upon earlier in the season.
The second half, with all due respect to Pompey who deserved credit for defending with great effort, was a joke. We looked like scoring from every attack, every single attack yet were thwarted by unlikely blocks, David James' miraculous saves or just simply bad luck (like when Tevez blocked a goalbound header inadvertently...).
It was all too predictable that Pompey would score from their early attack. It was frustrating: James' hopeful punt after catching a free-kick found Kranjcar who went out wide and the two men who were left behind as safety measure, Rooney and Anderson, both ran towards him and forgot to close down Baros in the middle. The Croatian duly played in the striker who went round Kuszczak then fell over the advancing keeper.
Now I'd say the penalty decision was more or less correct, he blocked the striker en route to goal without playing the ball. But it was not an unintenional, not a professional foul and he wasn't the last man either as Rooney and Anderson raced back to try and defend the goal as Johnson did early in the first half when headed out Tevez's effort. So the red card was very, very harsh. And with Van der Sar injured and Foster only half-fit it could be of huge importance that the Pole will serve a three-match ban.
Rio Ferdinand did very well with the penalty but Muntari struck it superbly and Pompey closed the rest of the game out easily. I was disappointed, yes, because it looked like an easy draw, especially after knocking out Spurs and demolishing Arsenal.
But despite Saha's and Edwin's injury, it wasn't all doom and gloom. In the second half, we carved open a stubborn, tough, well-organised defence at will. Such a terribly unfortunate match is rare even at Old Trafford though United often treat their faithful fans to chance-missing exhibitions. Let's hope that next time the ball will be deflected in from the post, that Carrick will bundle it over the line somehow, that Rooney will blast it into the net rather than rounding the keeper or that Tevez will not hit the only remaining defender with his shot...
And at least the purists will rejoice and not curse the Big Four as it was a thoroughly romantic quarter-final with minnows in with a real chance of winning the thing. I will become a Barnsley fan in the Cup from now (easy to guess why), hope they beat the Redknapp guys.
And let me add that Arsenal's 0-0 draw at Wigan cheered me up considerably. A win at Derby and against Bolton and we'll be on top again folks!