This is it…

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Latics 0-5 Manchester United
Saturday 22nd August 2009

Is that it?  Is it time to sack the manager, bin the game plan get back to lumping long balls and running around in circles?   If you were even thinking of thinking yes to any of those questions then you’ve obviously forgotten what happened the last time Arsenal came to town.  Regardless of what your views on United’s team and their chances you didn’t really think that Latics were going to end up on top in this one did you?

Starting with United, I heard some ridiculous statements before during and after this game.  I heard people talk about them as if they were Portsmouth, in crisis and slowly losing their way.  Getting beat by Burnley clearly meant that Latics should win here and with only that Berbatov and Owen to partner Rooney upfront, they were never going to score.

After the game you’d have thought that losing to United was worse than defeat on Tuesday, in fact we might as well as pack up and move back to the second division right now.

Hopefully, now that the dust has settled I hope that the mood has calmed down and people are realising that there was more to yesterday’s game than a 5 goal capitulation in the last half hour.  I’m not going to get over excited, but for a lot of this game, Latics gave the visitors a game and could have had a goal or two of their own. 

Ok so they missed a bit of experience, a bit of cleverness and a whole lot of leadership but they are still a side finding its way in the world and trying something very new for a side of our stature.  There was more cause for United to celebrate come the final whistle than there was for Latics to cry in their beer and for that we should be thankful.

At least we’re not Portsmouth.

It’s hard to report on such a one sided result that was so even for so long, so lets get straight into your issues to talk about (or crib-sheet for the 7,000 who couldn’t be bothered turning up).

He didn’t have the best of games, he might have tried to get Figueroa booked but in the final reckoning he can chalk an assist and a victory onto his slate.  I’ve said all along that I didn’t think he was United class, but it’s still early day for the lad and he didn’t look as out of his league as reports from United’s first two games have suggested.

The Crowd
Rubbish, weren’t it?  Anyone want to bet against there being as many Latics fans there today as there have been at all the other United games?  For long periods it was the quietest United following that I can remember (a big clue to how Latics did in the first hour) and the red shirts in the home end were conspicuous by their absence.

If they don’t respond to the visit of the champions then I really don’t know what will get the floating voters through the gates.  As things stand, I doubt that we’d get a full crowd if they opened the gates and let people in for nothing.

It was a bummer to see him in the starting line-up but even more so to see him finish the game.  It was hard to tell exactly what had happened but it was clear that something had.  Rodallega could be accused of over egging it, but the delayed and emotional reaction suggests that he really was hurt more than he was pretending. 

The cameras made it clear that Vidic threw a hand into the Columbian’s face very deliberately.  It can only be seen as retribution for Rodallega’s earlier challenge on Foster (for which he was harshly booked) and the deliberation alone should be enough to see him punished at some point.

The Referee
For the second game on the bounce the post match debate involved the referee, but this time around there was nothing but phrase for Mr Webb.  The contrast was marked, here was a ref not scared to make decisions, to let the game flow and to actually deal with situations.

His handling of the Rodallega situation was one of the best pieces of refereeing that I’ve seen in the last five years, and it wasn’t the only example of the talk to people and get the captains involved approach that he deployed throughout the game.

Of course he’s now going to give two penalties against us the next time he has us, but until then a big round of applause for the skinheaded Yorkshireman.

The Formation
If another person tells me that 4-5-1 is too defensive then I’ll scream.  I’m not going to burst into another analysis of the style of play here, but the way conversations on this subject are going, it’s obvious that there isn’t only the players who are stuck in a 4-4-2 rut and need time to understand a different way of playing.

If you want to watch two banks of four keeping things tight and leaving it to the stikers to make their own chances then you’re welcome to it.  I’m happy to see something different and am along for the Martinez ride, even if it does end up as a roller coaster.

The crumb of comfort
It’s only that Everton up next, they can’t beat Burnley either.

Until then…

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