Belfast Telegraph

Alan Green: Manchester United put smile back on the face of English game

I hope this doesn’t come as a shock: though I’m known for having the occasional, dare I admit it, good whinge…I’d far rather be positive about what I see in football.

So I dreaded making the journey to St. James’ Park on Sunday thinking there was no way I could avoid having Chelsea as my lead article today.

About how two players, one in particular, brought shame on the club; about how that club itself hasn’t helped maintain its reputation of standing against racism by forcing the delay to the trial of John Terry; and, too, about the tardiness of the Football Association in getting its act together — a year to sort out what could have taken a fortnight?

Mind you, the captain, leader, legend could have taken the obvious lead from the start and simply apologised to Anton Ferdinand for, wrongly, going way over the top. We’d never have reached this mess, something I’m sick to death of.

So a huge thanks to Manchester United for distracting me by producing an unexpected, but wonderful display. There I was, team sheet in hand, wondering about the capability of their defence minus Vidic, Jones and Smalling: about what seemed to be a lack of width, so surprising in an Alex Ferguson selection; and about the wisdom of choosing De Gea in goal rather than Lindegaard.

Well…wrong, wrong and wrong again — well almost.

I think De Gea WILL become an outstanding goalkeeper but, for the moment, I prefer the Dane since he is far less vulnerable to high balls put into the penalty area. However, that was the only slight blemish in the United performance.

So much for the feared Newcastle strike-force of Ba and Cisse, neither of whom got a kick.

Rio Ferdinand had one of those days in which he might have put his slippers on and relaxed with a brandy and a cigar. Were you watching Roy Hodgson?

Accommodating a formation that included three central midfield players, Rooney was deployed too in a withdrawn role, but was simply magnificent.

I know he can score fantastic goals to balance out some of his, let’s say, rash moments on a football pitch.

However, Wayne unquestionably has the skills and the discipline to forage a la Paul Scholes. If he’s content with such a role, play him there.

As for Tom Cleverley’s goal, I was sorry to hear Sir Alex afterwards wondering out loud if he meant it as a cross rather than a shot.

“I meant it for the far corner,’ said the player and I’ll take his word for it.

That’s how it certainly looked to me and to Pat Nevin sitting alongside me. It’ll be a contender for Goal of the Season.

I hadn’t seen United in the flesh before Sunday which is ridiculous given we’re well into October — I do what my masters tell me.

All I’d heard was that they weren’t playing well, that they were all over the place defensively and they were simply nicking results.

So much for that analysis!

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