Sunday, March 12, 2006

Ramage does the damage

Man Utd 2 - 0 Newcastle

The problem with being on a good run prior to a trip to Old Trafford was that we went there more in expectation than hope, which just made the inevitable defeat all the more disappointing. Man Utd put that run of form firmly into perspective (decent victories, but against very average opposition), and could have reached double figures in the process.

An unchanged Toon side took to the pitch to face a Red Devils XI once again minus Ruud van Nistelrooy. Taggart, in his infinite wisdom, had decided that Ol' Horseface's record of eleven goals in nine games against us wasn't good enough to merit a place in the team.

Of course, that didn't stop the players that the fish-eyed one did pick from putting us to the sword in spectacularly gruesome fashion. The moderately promising opening exchanges were soon a distant memory once granny-loving Scouse striker Shrek had pounced upon an awful Ramage backpass to expertly lob the ball over a stranded Given.

Ramage has been one of this season's success stories, giving us a measure of solidity and stability on the right-hand side of the defence in Carr's absence, and so it's a bit harsh to point the finger - but this was by far his worst display for the first team. It was disappointing not to see one of the senior players offering the youngster a consolatory word after his gaffe, and his performance subsequently suggested the error was playing on his mind. Four minutes after gifting Man Utd the opener, Ramage was culpable in allowing Shrek to run onto a John O'Shea pass, outmuscle him and bury the ball in the net.

It was nice to see that after going 2-0 down we decided to get much tighter to the jug-eared boy wonder - so tight, in fact, that he was only allowed thirteen or fourteen other opportunities to claim the match ball... Elliott's lack of pace was exposed time and again, while Boumsong was doing his familiar impression of a drunk in a Laurel & Hardy film.

The chances flowed so thick and fast that I've lost track of which half they took place in. Given made two excellent stops from Ronaldo (the show pony to van Nistelrooy's thoroughbred stallion) and Shrek hit the post when it looked impossible to miss, but most of the opportunities we presented them with were blazed high or wide. The commentator suggested it was like shooting practice - well, it was, but on this evidence Taggart will have them in for an extra-long session tomorrow. If the Champions League places come down to goal difference, then the Reds could well be left kicking themselves.

By contrast, our strikers didn't have a sniff. Both Shearer and Ameobi were anonymous, and the closest we came to fashioning a decent chance was when Solano found himself in a good position on the right of the box but couldn't pick out an onrushing forward.

Ameobi made way for Bowyer at half-time, and his presence helped our midfield get some kind of foothold in the game after the break. Parker was quietly effective, Emre busy and N'Zogbia lively, but there was no cutting edge or end product, Bowyer coming closest to scoring with a shot that Edwin van der Sar pushed round the post. Dyer and Luque came on to minimal effect. Meanwhile, Horseface appeared off the bench for them and the chances continued to flow at our end with such regularity that we can consider ourselves very fortunate to have escaped without a hiding.

Despite it all the Toon fans remained in good voice and good humour, responding to the inevitable chant of "Shearer, Shearer, what's the score?" (still harping on about that - they don't handle rejection very well, do they?) with one of our own: "USA, USA, USA"...

The result means that we have still only collected four points on our visits to Old Trafford since promotion in 1993. It's now 35 years since we last beat the bastards on their home turf, I think.

One final observation, regarding Roeder's post-match comments about the goalscorer: "Together with Thierry Henry, he is my favourite Premiership striker". Wonder what Al and Mickey will make of that, Glenn?

A Man Utd fan's perspective: United Rant

Other reports: BBC


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