Manchester United 2 – 0 Wigan Athletic: Frankly Vulgar Matchday #2

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There are very few photos in existence that show the new chairman of The Football Association, Greg Dyke, looking this happy.

 

These big showpiece FA events are about as much fun as watching a ‘classic’ (e.g. a repeat) edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and generally about as memorable as the last thing Justin Bieber tweeted (incidentally his last tweet was this: “WE ON A BREAK!! #restandrelaxation – #unlessIhitthestudio” – I’m sure historians everywhere will be scrabbling to note that down for posterity). 

Today’s Community Shield match between Manchester United and Wigan Athletic at Wembley Stadium wasn’t much of an exception. A few old guys (who on this occasion looked a bit like the Chuckle Brothers) shuffle past the players offering weak handshakes, presumably just before being ushered to a euthanasia booth somewhere. Then the national anthem (that po-faced hymnal to our pointless monarchy) is sung, not by the fans, but by some opera singer who thinks she’s at the Super Bowl. If you happen to be on Twitter when one of these things starts brace yourself for the only actual legacy of the Olympics: a barrage of somnolent “jokes” about when Emeli Sandé will turn up to belt out that bloody Professor Green song

The actual match was decided by two goals from Robin Van Persie, underlining just how important he will be to ‘Man Yoo’ as they get ready for a post-Rooney future. The first, a languid header sent past Scott Carson just inside the right-hand post, was a typical example of his superb technical ability and his ghostly accuracy. The second which came just before the hour, was a scrappier affair. After some neat build-up play from United, Van Persie received the ball on the edge of the Wigan area, dropped a shoulder and shrugged the ball past Carson with the help of a deflection off James Perch. 

Looking at the starting teams I had a masochists excitement when I saw that Phil Jones and Grant Holt would be having what can be described as a fugly-off with each other. Such a clash would not be out of place on a mud-sodden battlefield during the Wars of The Roses, given the mutual, lumbering Englishness of their styles. Alas the promised confrontation never really arrived, principally because Wigan (unlike Holt’s former team Norwich) have not yet adjusted their game to get the best out of the big lad. 

New look Wigan are a very different prospect from the silkily doomed side managed by Roberto Martinez last term. Owen Coyle is building a side as British as getting savagely glassed on a freezing August evening in Leeds City Centre after a big night of binge drinking. His approach is typified by summer signings like Holt, Crainey, Perch, Carson and Barnett. Pick of the bunch is young James McClean, freshly arrived from Sunderland,  an Irish pugilist who specializes in running in straight lines and pushing people, qualities which ought to lead to great success for him in English football’s second tier. 

In fact, Wigan’s best chance of the game was created by McClean, who fired the ball dangerously across the six yard box after Smalling misjudged a long pass from Crainey. The cross/shot couldn’t be met by Holt, when only a touch would have plundered a cheap goal for the Latics. Set-pieces, long balls and looping crosses, nothing too fancy for Coyle and Wigan. 

United’s win was merely whelming. 39-year-old Ryan Giggs started here, still astonishingly pert and wiry, still urbane in his passing and movement, still inevitably amongst the best players on the pitch almost every time he plays. Ostensibly this is good for United, but it is also symptomatic of their weaknesses in midfield that their best player in that area (beige pass-o-meter Michael Carrick aside) will be 40 in November. It is actually difficult to imagine United not having a crap midfield, and even more difficult to imagine a player as accomplished as Cesc Fabregas taking touchline orders from new assistant coach Phil Neville. 

These pronounced weaknesses in midfield are a gnawing problem that David Moyes will have thought about long before the short period on either side of half-time when Wigan’s tinpot midfield was on top of United’s.

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David Moyes and Malcolm Tucker (above) have never been pictured together. Coincidence?

 

 

With the amount of opprobrium and obloquy that surely lies in wait for Moyes this season I almost expected his shirt to be blood red, prepared for all the knives and arrows that will be aimed at him, waiting for the first inevitable slip-up. As soon as that first fuck up comes I fully expect some clichéd American army guy (played by Stephan Lang) to appear at any moment just to fatuously utter in Moyes’ ear: “Davey, you ain’t in Kansas anymore.”  

Right now he is the mini-Ferg, the diet-Ferg – same stripey tie, same gum but will there be the same results, the same relentless ability to win that characterized real-Ferg? A look of distinct discomfort was briefly visible on Moyes’ face as he lifted his first trophy, before he returned to looking like a slightly healthier Malcolm Tucker. 

 

2012 in Review: Part 3 – Obama Sleepwalks, Romney Blunders and the BBC explodes

Obama - better than you now, in the past and almost certainly in the future.

Obama – better than you now, in the past and almost certainly in the future.

Enough about Bane, what about Bain? Former CEO of Bain Capital (the kind of organisation that nearly sliced James Bond in half with a lazer) Mitt Romney managed to make people with access to television news in 2012 feel comforted – ‘no, I’m not as stupid as that guy’ people said the world over. Whether he was casually flipping through ‘binders of women’, telling us with a straight face that ‘corporations are people’ or pissing off the whole of Great Britain on a foreign relations tour that was more Peter Griffin than presidential, Romney managed to make even the biggest imbeciles feel smart in 2012.

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The only thing pleasing about Romney’s presence was the obviousness of his ultimate absence from the presidency. The worldview Romney represented is currently flowing down a demographic sinkhole into political irrelevance; old rich white guys won’t be able to get away with telling people to ‘self-deport’ much longer, they can’t even get away with it now anyway. Barack Obama, despite numerous achievements, even the fact that he is President at all (reading ‘Dreams from My Father‘ this year I was struck by just how incredible a man Obama is), has been disappointing – the fact that Guantanamo Bay is still open, Drones still buzz around shredding civilians with about as much discretion as Britney in a hairdressers and a more general malaise in his presidency – a sense that he has allowed the extremist wing of the Republican party to set the political agenda since 2010, all added up to a feeling of impasse around his presidency.  Yet Barry remains the first man to sleepwalk his way to the White House, his lethargic debate performances and the notion that his election was a statistical inevitability rendered the election itself oddly artificial, devoid of real drama.

Great Britain puts its collective ring on it.

Great Britain puts its collective ring on it.

I’m one of those annoying hipster types that was not looking forward to the London Olympic Games in 2012. There was that ugly red squiggle ‘sculpture‘ in the olympic park, the crappy corporate hysteria that surrounds every games and the frankly bizarre science fiction sex toy mascot things. Thus, having spent most of the summer organising  all the sarcastic things I would say about the games in my head for the inevitable Twitter free-for-all that would ensue, I ended up massively disappointed. In the best possible way. Being a Londoner this summer was like being a Bolshevik in October 1917. It was more than ok. It was a dimension away from the London of a year previously, as if the city had demarcated two periods of craziness, one bad (buildings on fire, lots of trainers stolen), one good (slow motion montages of healthy role models, lots of gold medals won). You would walk around and see random people smiling, grinning even. The weather was a delight. We won a silly number of medals. Luis Suarez was booed with delirious abandon in the football tournament but not as much as slimy puss-cheeked Tory Chancellor George Osbourne was whenever he creeped into an Olympic venue.

Jess Ennis - um yes.

Jess Ennis – um yes.

We booed! We cheered! We had debates about the intricacies of sports that we didn’t understand on Twitter. We realised that as well as having much better booty, Jess Ennis was a much better role model than Pippa Middleton. We laughed as jumped up diet-Bieber Tom Daley only managed a bronze after the media had spent four years wanking over pictures of his bronzed torso and TOWIE tooth filled maw. The opening ceremony was a sensational triumph (even though nobody talked about how most of its best imagery was nicked from the film ‘Brazil’). The BBC surpassed itself with glorious seemingly 24 hours a day coverage, whilst avoiding the temptation to roll out the John Barrowman/Tess Daley/Fearne Cotton axis of evil. Outside of expunging the image of Boris and Dave dad-dancing, the legacy of the games so far (writing this in the first week of 2013) seems to consist of this and this. Generation. Inspired.

If you closed your eyes and were asked to draw a pedophile it would probably look a lot like this.

If you closed your eyes and were asked to draw a pedophile it would probably look a lot like this.

What next for the BBC after a year of acclaimed sporting coverage? A massive sex scandal/cover-up involving that dead bloke who dressed like a sweet shop and inspired more nervous laughter (Jimmy Savile) than anybody else in British history? Indeed. The Savile scandal was the most genuinely lurid and disconcerting story of the year. Unlike Joseph Kony, Savile didn’t need to be made famous – he was famous, perhaps the most famous British television/radio personality of the last half-century. His eccentricism:  the manner in which he spoke, dressed; his reclusive personal life, all marked him out as ‘different’. A friend to Prince Charles and Thatcher, the first host of Top of the Pops, a man who raised £40 million for charity. 

Entertainer. Philanthropist. Pedophile.

Entertainer. Philanthropist. Pedophile.

Yet Savile’s sexuality had always been questioned. There have been idle pub jokes: “I wish everyone would stop criticising Jimmy Savile. When I was 8, he fixed it for me to milk a cow blindfolded” and so on. More famously there was the Louis Theroux documentary “When Louis met… Jimmy” in 2000, which painted Savile as a sad man, desperate to remain in the public conciseness but without public intrusion into his public life; a cipher in his own home clinging oedipally to objects that reminded him of his late mother.  In October a storm broke; Savile it appeared was a predatory sex offender and possibly even a necrophiliac. As these allegations broke, day after day, the media – and in particular our dear BBC became a chickenless head that frankly didn’t have a fucking clue what to do. Panorama was investigating Newsnight, and Newsnight was investigating itself and Jeremy Paxman didn’t know who to ask questions of and Esther Ransen wouldn’t shut up about how much she loved kids and ITV was laughing a lot and Philip Schoefield gave David Cameron a list of names (Sorry Lord Mcalpine) and Eamon Holmes and these women presumably felt ashamed. Total chaos then. Personally I would’ve dragged Prince Charles out in front of the flashbulbs and asked him some impertinent questions but he is a prince and we are a bunch of peasants, so that kind of thing doesn’t happen in this country. I was reminded of my old school. The whole affair was succinctly surmised by my mother: “He’s ruined the 70’s for me”. Quite. In related news the Pope got twitter this year, @Pontifex.

Kent Brockman: Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it's time for our viewers to crack each other's heads open and feast on the goo inside? Professor: Yes I would, Kent.

Kent Brockman: Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it’s time for our viewers to crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside?
Professor: Yes I would, Kent.

As a year I think it’s safe to say that 2012 began in January and finished unexpectedly in December. It was a decent enough year, lacking a bit of the sparkle of 2011. The bloke shouting “FENTON” was no Rebecca Black for example. Or maybe it was? That will be for the historians to decide in the years ahead of us. I look forward to 2013; Joseph Kony’s continuing, epic game of hide and seek, the Pope’s first hashtag and best of all a film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.