Manchester United managed something quite remarkable yesterday evening. With their remarkable 4-3 victory at the Madjeski Stadium, they simultaneously fired a title warning and showed exactly why they won’t win a league. It started like a game of ProEvo. By the 35th minute, all seven goals had been scored and were it not for more Mr. Magoo-ing from a Premier League official, it should have been eight first half goals.
It was hugely entertaining, but it wasn’t one for the technical purists and even Sir Alex Ferguson spoke of his displeasure at what his team had provided. “It was the worst we’ve defended this season. The way we were defending I thought it would be a miracle if we won,” said Fergie, going a rare three sentences without insulting a match official by adding, “We made so many mistakes it had to be a rescue job by the forwards that saved us.”
It was another commendable performance with no reward for Reading, but Brian McDermott was willing to ignore the obvious warning signs and focus on the positives. “I can’t fault my players at all,” he lied.
Thanks to Everton’s bogey-teaming of Manchester City at the Etihad, it leaves the 19 times champions three points clear at the top of the league. Manchester United are now 5/6 favourites at the top of the Premier League betting, with their crosstown rivals and the defending champions, 13/10 to retain the trophy.
Elsewhere, David Beckham said goodbye to Major League Soccer with victory in the MLS Cup Final – the confusingly named climax of the major league. LA Galaxy went 1-0 down to the Houston Dynamo thanks to some pretty crap goalkeeping, but they owned the second half, scoring three goals.
Robbie Keane displayed an impressive ruthlessness towards the end. Having been taken down by Dynamo keeper, Tally Hall, he opted against offering the stoppage time penalty to Becks and providing the fairy-tale farewell, instead padding his own already good stats. The fact that David Beckham was wheezing his way towards a rare 94 minute outing may also have coloured his decision.
The LA Galaxy fans paid tribute to Becks, albeit with probably the lamest and nicest chant every heard at a football ground. ‘Thank you, David’ they sang as Goldenballs made his way to the bench, which was admittedly better than about 99 per cent of the songs he has had aimed at him.
The next question is ‘where will he turn up next?’. Reports suggest a deal with Monaco might be close, but then you have to ask yourself ‘why would he be tempted to move to the glamourous tax haven?’ No need to answer that.
Well, well, well. England gave everybody one in the eye with one of the most amazing performances in the team’s history. They were expected to be polite little whipping boys as the rampant world champions ran roughshod all over them, but inside, they produced a display of intensity and ruthlessness to claim a famous win.
Owen Farrell was superb from the kicking tee, but all across the pitch, players in white bulldozed the All Blacks around the place. The Twickenham faithful played their part with a rousing 80 minutes of support and in the end, the 38-21 scoreline wasn’t even flattering.
This being an England team enjoying success, thoughts immediately turned to world-domination. That will have to wait until 2015, but coming sooner is the Six Nations Championship. After beating New Zealand, England are now the 2/1 favourites to win with France being eased to 21/10. After going 0-4 in their autumn internationals, the defending champions, Wales are 16/5 to defend their title.
Bob’s Worth won the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury yesterday and, after being cut to 7/2, jumped to the head of the betting for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Tidal Bay managed to get within three and a quarter lengths of him, but there was an authority about Nicky Henderson’s charge that suggested victory was never in doubt.
Elsewhere, Big Buck’s strolled to his 18th successive victory, this time claiming the Long Distance Hurdle on the same card. He’s in to evens to win his fifth World Hurdle at the 2013 Festival.
Racing at Fairyhouse goes ahead today, which is a good thing because there’s a good card on offer and it’s previewed here. It’s quality over quantity in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle as Voler la Vedette does battle with young upstarts, Zaidpour, Monksland and So Young.