Some Turkish delight, please
Reality check for Manchester United’s opponents; three pretenders hoping to emulate the Red Devils’ domestic and European success. Spurs downed in pretty emphatic fashion, next up the Turkish champions Besiktas, followed by the small matter of the Manchester derby next weekend.
United’s magnificent performance saw Spurs’ bubble burst and the home side’s long-suffering fans silenced . White Hart Lane’s faithful thought Harry Redknapp could bring them Champions League football. Saturday’s match served to highlight the gap that Spurs must bridge.
United, on the other hand, showed precisely what’s required by Spurs to gatecrash the elite of English football. The never-say-die attitude to come from a goal down, the ‘grab-any-opportunity’ mentality to score a goal and even the let-them-think-they-have-a-chance sucker-punch when having a man sent off.
There were some outstanding individual performances on Saturday. Patrice Evra stood out for an excellent man-marking job on the in-form Aaron Lennon. The Frenchman won the battle of the midgets, by showing Lennon onto his left foot, and reducing the Spurs’ winger to launching aimless crosses with his weaker foot.
Ryan Giggs was impeccable and tireless, as was Anderson, whose dynamic play was finally rewarded with a goal. The Brazilian must push on from here and cement a place in the middle of the park alongside Darren Fletcher, who needs to share his vitamin pills with Michael Carrick. The former Spurs man has looked out of sorts so far this season, and on this form he’ll be sitting on the bench more often.
Rio Ferdinand’s return could not have been better-timed with a packed fixture list to come. Led by the England defender, United’s back four dealt well with Spurs’ tactic of launching the ball towards the freak Peter Crouch.
Don’t forget Ben Foster, whose fingertip save from Jermaine Jenas’ shot was the second time in as many matches that the ‘keeper has pulled off a stop Peter Schmeichel would have been proud of.
The pairing of Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov caused plenty of problems for the Spurs defence. The Bulgarian dropped deep, which gave him plenty of time and space to dictate play. Ledley “jelly legs” King just couldn’t keep up with Berbatov’s off-the-ball movement. It was another understated display from Berbatov, who does not get the recognition he deserves simply because he is expected to bang in goals for fun.
Best of all, the way Rooney took his goal was pure quality. You can’t teach people to play football like that. Either you’re born with a football brain, or you’re not – like Emile Heskey.
Sir Alex has options in midfield, which not only keeps his opponents guessing but heats up the competition for places. That’s what it takes to get Anderson and Nani performing week in, week out.
If United was good against Tottenham, then a stellar performance is required against Besiktas on Tuesday night. It’s no easy task.
Fans at the BJK İnönü Stadium, which has the most beautiful view of any stadium in the world according to the legend Pelé, make English hooligans look like kindergarten kids. Not that United players should plan any sightseeing, with bottles and stones thrown raining down from the stands. Apparently it’s a customary request for an autograph! United can expect to face a welcome about as warm as Emmanuel Adebayor at an Arsenal supporters’ fan club night.
Despite winning a domestic league and cup double last season, Besiktas has started the season poorly, with only one win in five matches. Galatasaray thumped Mustafa Denizli’s men 3-0 over the weekend. Besiktas will surely be looking to salvage some pride against the Red Devils.
The Black Eagles’ forward line, led by Nihat Kahveci the former Villarreal striker – whose injury proneness rivals Louis Saha – and the Brazilian Bobo has found goals hard to come by so far this season. However, the ridiculously named Bobo has an impressive record since joining the club in 2006, scoring 74 goals in roughly twice as many matches.
On the United side, Antonio Valencia will hope to make his European debut, in what will be a good test of the Ecuadorian’s ability to step up to the next level.
United must seize the impetus with an early goal, which would silence the mad-men in the stands and calm the players’ nerves. The Turks are likely to adopt a counter-attacking 4-5-1 formation, aiming to overload the midfield and play a pressing game. This is where Rooney and Berbatov need to produce that extra bit of magic to find space in the final third.
In a tense affair, United will clip the Black Eagles’ wings by the odd goal or two. Then, it’s time for Sir Alex’s men to focus on bringing Manchester City back down to Earth with the mother of all reality checks!