Date:Thursday September 18 2008
There are many inexplicable things about football. Why anyone supports Liverpool, for example. To the list of these mysteries now we can add Villarreal's performance at Old Trafford yesterday.
The cold, hard fact is that they got a point. But how, I think even they are wondering about that. Villarreal had one well-built, concerted attack and that, it must be said, almost brought a goal. But apart from that they hung on grimly to that 0-0 draw they came for.
Before the match I claimed they might try to attack as they have nothing to lose - obviously I couldn't have been more wrong. United's line-up was strange at first - Gary Neville starting again, Evans in the starting line-up, a midfield of Park, Hargreaves, Fletcher and Nani - but tihs unfamiliar line-up worked very well.
Rio Ferdinand should have put us ahead early on after a corner but he miskicked the ball, causing him to scream in frustration. Park had two stonewall penalty claims turned down - questions should be asked from the German referee as in both instances the Korean was obviously fouled in the area.
Tevez had a brilliant shot saved by Diego Lopez and Park hit a defender after he had been put through by Fletcher. And this all was only the first half.
The second half saw some temporary spark in Villarreal after the introduction of Cazorla and they almost scored with a brilliant attack but Guillermo Franco who was previously very occupied with diving and complaining to the referee backheeled the ball onto the inside of the post from where it bounced back to Van der Sar.
Apart from this piece of luck United can count themselves very unfortunate. Fergie introduced Ronaldo - the majority at Old Trafford proved me wrong by singing Viva Ronaldo - in the 61st minute and the pressure became relentless.
Ronaldo was the architect of our best move of the game: he released Rooney on the left and the English striker left his defender stranded then inside the area he squared the ball to Tevez. Carlos, instead of ramming it home right away, controlled it a bit awkwardly then squeezed the ball past Diego Lopez but a defender cleared it off the line.
In the 82nd minute Gary Neville laid the ball down to Ronaldo on the right and the Portuguese's corner found Evans at the far post but his diving header struck the post and bounced out. Earlier Ronaldo himself also came close: he headed wide from 5 yards out after Nani's cross.
And that was it. We pressed and pressed and created chances, dominated throughout but could not deliver the killer blow. It's not a major setback, especially with Celtic drawing at home to Aalborg and the performance was more than encouraging. If we carry on playing like that we should have no problems this season.
Date:Thursday September 18 2008
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