Ah, it’s good to be back, right? Well yes and no. As I sat twitching with nerves at 3:50pm yesterday (“it’s only the first game Howard, get a grip, doesn’t really matter”) I recalled that by May 2014, with a title in the bag, I was ready for a break. Ready to enjoy the World Cup without the stress usually associated with watching a match. Ready to do other things like, erm…well anyway, I was ready for a break.
But by the time the full-time whistle went at St. James Park, I also realised that I had missed the feeling of a City win, the happiness, the camaraderie with those around you and the relief as your team secures a hard-fought three points away from home. I’d missed the feeling, the wave of happiness that rushes over you, a wave not felt by me since I heard that Burtons were bringing back Fish & Chips crisps. I mean, I’d heard the rumours, but…
The important thing was the three points, especially with City’s tricky start to the season, as City secured their 11th successive win over Newcastle. The performances do not matter at this point. The performances tell us nothing about how a team will do in the rest of the season. City had two central defenders with no match practice, a left-back at right back, and their star striker on the bench, and he was joined by a stellar cast. Mangala was no where near ready to feature.
The only thing to note is that with the excellent performance of Fernando, perhaps it’s best not to judge new signings after 30 minutes of a pre-season. friendly, as it makes you look like a bit of a ****. As was mentioned on Match of the Day, Fernando loves to defend, and he was full of energy and lived up to his octopus nickname, wrapping his long legs around the ball on many occasions. He will probably feature more away from home as a screen for the back four.
As a whole, the players performed well. There was rustiness, there was sloppiness, but there were also sporadic spells of exquisite passing and interplay, none more so than for the first goal, which began when Yaya Toure played what the Match Of The Day commentator called a “lazy pass forward”. City didn’t create much but did a job, and will improve with time.
Dzeko had a great game, leading the line well, setting up the opening goal with an exquisite back-heel and generally working hard. He should have opened the scoring after just a few minutes after a great lobbed pass from Jovetic. Nothing compares though to seeing Sergio back on the pitch, as typified by the speed at which he sprang back to his feet to score the second goal.
It was great to see David Silva on the score sheet. Loathe as I am to criticise my favourite ever player, the man I would renounce friends, family and even my HTC One phone for, but if he has one weakness it is shooting as he seems to lose confidence with the goal in sight, happier to set others up instead. If he can chip in this season with a few goals (and get into double figures) then the team will be an irresistible force going forward (if it isn’t already).
Inevitably there were cries that Newcastle were unlucky not to get something from the game, but the fact is that a team with no shots on target cannot be deemed unlucky to lose. They had a few good sights at goal but they messed up the opportunities so they got what they deserved – nothing.
On the plus side for the home team, Pardew didn’t head-butt anyone, push any officials or insult the opposition manager, so in that respect the day was a success.
As for the referee, he generally had a good game, but the game also highlighted something that could make me fall out of love with the game. In a game with no flashpoints and that was never dirty, City received five yellow cards (they made eleven fouls). Kompany was booked for not jumping out of the way of a player who simply ran into him. A Newcastle player was similarly booked when a player collided with him, but the Newcastle player made no attempt to tackle/foul the City player. The modern game is a joke when handing out yellow cards and plenty of games will turn on stupid cautions like this. It’s turning matches into lotteries.
Paranoia! Liverpool on Match of the Day first! Bias! Prejudice!
Dear Points of View…
Across the city, the summer-long love-in for all-things United came crashing down to the ground in spectacular fashion (such a shame that there isn’t a banner for the fans to fight over this time).
The team Van Gaal put out against Swansea is a pale imitation of the side City put out, and no amount of inspired substitutions, maverick formations (you’d think Van Gaal invented 3-5-2 reading some of the papers), exposing his genitals to players or shouting at journalists will change that. United will spend big on someone in the next fortnight, though probably not on the players they really want, but they need reinforcing in so many areas that it will not be enough. They will be back though, they are a cash cow, so enjoy it whilst it lasts. Funny though that United fans have slowly realised that spending money is the route to success after all – it’s only taken two decades for it to dawn on them, bless.
What’s more, Van Gal’s arrogance/confidence, like Mancini’s confrontational style, only works when things are going well. If things aren’t going well, and if he doesn’t get the players he wants, then it could be divisive. It’s an important fortnight ahead for them.
And so onto Liverpool – get making those tin-foil Premier League trophies. If I was on Room 101, the first thing I’d put in there (after yellow cars, low-hanging pants on youths and Piers Morgan, so the fourth thing really) is Monday Night Football. A blank weekend for City just as the season gets going – it’s not fair.
Top of the league!!