The weekend is almost over, so for the working crowd, collective groans will be heard throughout the night. Not for me though. Newly unemployed and loving it, I spent the weekend hanging out with friends and watching some good old sports on TV. While some may brand me as stubborn, I assure you that I have indeed learned some valuable lessons from this weekend’s round of matches and web-surfing =)
1) United must play their own game
Surely Ferguson didn’t think a midfield with Phil Jones and Darren Fletcher in the centre and a team deprived of Wayne Rooney and Nani would offer his side any attacking impetus at Anfield? On the back of last season’s comprehensive 3-1 away defeat by Kenny Dalglish’s men, the Manchester United manager’s team selection pointed to a strategy where containment was the name of the game. Park Ji-Sung was chosen ahead of Nani to offer Chris Smalling protection against the marauding runs of Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique on Liverpool’s left whilst Jones and Fletcher were instructed to stifle the creativity of Charlie Adam and returning captain Steven Gerrard in the middle of the pitch. Luis Suarez, United’s chief tormentor last season, was kept under wraps by an impressive centre defensive tandem of Johnny Evans and Rio Ferdinand, while Dirk Kuyt was never in danger of repeating his hattrick heroics.
That tactic nearly worked, until Ryan Giggs, a veteran of countless North West derbies, expertly ducked aside in the wall to allow a Gerrard freekick to beat an otherwise excellent David de Gea in the second half. Cue a change in personnel. Nani, Rooney and Hernandez were introduced in quick succession following Gerrard’s goal, and United started to play like, well, United. The Mexican striker equalised with a close range header late on, but fans, who are not used to a negative United, must be concerned with United’s inability to grab three points away from home after last month’s scrappy draw at Stoke City.
A point at the venue where United have previously tasted three straight defeats must be seen as a positive result, but with Manchester City, whose weakened team swatted aside previously undefeated Aston Villa to claim the lead in the Premier League, to come at Old Trafford next weekend, Ferguson would know better than anyone that any tinkering to his side’s swashbuckling style could mean a first defeat of the season at the hands of their bitter rivals.
2) New Zealand don’t really miss Daniel Carter
Missing arguably one of the world’s best ever fly-halves would be a setback to any rugby team, but New Zealand have shrugged off the loss of Daniel Carter to storm into the Rugby World Cup final next weekend following a dominant 20-6 victory over Tri-Nation rivals Australia. Led by the immaculate Cory Jane who was aptly named man of the match in the semi-final at Eden Park, the All Blacks will face France, whom they beat easily in pool play, in a repeat of the 1987 World Cup final where the hosts were victorious.
The Wallabies, dogged by a Jekyll and Hyde performance from Quade Cooper, were no match for the sheer commitment and all-action display from the All Blacks, who should have won by a bigger margin after a slew of wayward penalty kicks by the normally reliable Pipi Weepu. Aaron Cruden, who took over Carter number 10 jersey, looked more like a seasoned campaigner rather than a late replacement who only started following first reserve Colin Slade’s injury in the quarterfinal win over the Argentinian Pumas. The 21 year-old’s passing and penetrating runs were a plus for the rampant All Blacks, who gave the Kurtly Beale-less Aussies no chance.
With captain Richie McCaw in imperious form and Israel Dagg having a devastating tournament so far, New Zealand will start as favourites against the French next Sunday as no team has ever been beaten on the way to lifting the Webb Ellis Cup. A player of Carter’s calibre would certainly have added something special to next weekend’s spectacle, but as things stand, Graham Henry’s men look a good bet for the title even without their virtuoso playmaker.
3) Andy Murray deserves to be World Number Three
After a 15 match winning streak and a third straight title in as many weeks, Andy Murray must not be looking forward to the end of the year. The Brit successfully defended his Shanghai Masters title with a classy defeat of David Ferrer, whom he beat en route to last week’s Japan Open win, and in the process, ensured that he will leapfrog Roger Federer into the number three spot in the ATP rankings next week.
The latest turn of events caps a dismal season for the Swiss maestro, who will be ranked outside the top three for the first time since June 2003. To put this into perspective, that was before Federer won his first ever Grand Slam title in Wimbledon that year when Andy Roddick, yes the same A Rod who is no longer the highest ranked American on tour (yay Mardy Fish), was still world number one.
However, Federer’s poor form this year should not detract from the fact that Murray’s new accolade is thoroughly deserved. The 24 year-old has choked in the latter stages of Grand Slams before, but his performances on tour, especially in Masters events where he is absolutely lethal, is nothing short of phenomenal. With Rafa Nadal looking a shadow of his all-conquering self and Novak Djokovic realistically unable to maintain his sublime level of play beyond this season, 2012 could well be the year Murray captures his first Grand Slam title.
Beyond that, who knows what the talented albeit erratic Murray can achieve?
4) I really want the new Polaroid
A digital Polaroid camera that has the retro stylings of the One? I has to gets it!
The stumbling block? The insane price of nearly 300 pounds! Well, it certainly makes spending nearly RM90 on a film roll sound less ludicrous.