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Lyon Tamers

articlePaul looks at the Lyon game mid-week and then ahead to the Newcastle game, concluding that he'd "love it if we beat them"

So I’m out and sipping a drink trying to look just as cool as is possible when you’re 17 and not supposed to be in a bar, the bouncers suitably duped to let me go swaggering by them into the bacchanal (i.e. Lloyds bar). Then in strolls your mate to join the hormonally saturated group, that girly mate of yours that is like one of the lads but, heart thumping, she’s brought along that gorgeous friend of hers; this is the perfect set-piece, the friend of a friend you vaguely know. I play it cool, and pretty soon as we’re moving from bar to bar things are getting warm, lots of giggling and flirty smiles, our heads very close together when talking, it’s going good. Yet there is that feeling, like an invisible block, a solid miasma between us two that can’t be breached. You’re controlling the game, everything’s seems to be fine, but you can’t find that breakthrough, no matter how hard you try. Out of nothing, some huge Frenchman steps in and whisks her away out of sight, ruining everything; dread sets in.

At the end of this tortuous introductory analogy is our performance in the city of Lyon during the week, one punctuated by a 90’s themed techno laser show on the face and body of Cristiano Ronaldo. Funnily enough, Interpol is situated there and if Manchester United had taken nothing from the game I would have been among the first jamming their switchboard with claims of a robbery. It was a typical United European performance, all poise and overwrought concentration, which seemed to stifle rather than inspire the men in red. I am aware that Ferguson adjusts his side for Europe, where retention of the ball and patience are virtues coveted, unlike the hurly burly directness of the Premiership, but United seemed to try too hard at points. There is something to be said for Ferguson starting with this mindset in European ties, but at certain times in the game upping the tempo, as there are few teams that can handle us when we go into full flight.

Nevertheless, the man who is becoming quite the talisman this year poached himself another priceless goal. Carlos Tevez has been the source of much of my delirious idiocy regarding United this year, my dog rugby tackling me as I danced about after his (O so sweet) winner at Anfield and me breaking my bed when he scored against Tottenham**. Here once again he lurked, and when an opportune moment came his way he grasped it, putting us into pole position for the return leg. This wasn’t the only positive, Anderson was once again busily buzzing in midfield and handling his chances to shine at the highest level with the aplomb and ebullience you would expect from a young Brazilian. Nani too, has shown himself to be coming along leaps and bounds, his delivery from wide positions causing havoc against Arsenal and again against Lyon. Rio looked a tad shaky at times but even he is allowed an off-night here and there, and all in all it was a satisfactory night’s work.

We could not really mention Lyon or burly Frenchmen (see first paragraph) without saying something about one Karim Benzema. His goal on Wednesday was undoubtedly superb, and his movement, strength and running augur well for his future development. For our part, Ferguson has done little short of applying make-up and a cheeky dress and blowing kisses at the forward. I have never seen Ferguson quite so animated about a future signing, and although the price will be high, astronomical even, there is no doubting the talent the boy is imbued with. Obviously, he will only improve, and I would very much like to see him in a red shirt come August, if only to stop Ferguson sneaking off flirty texts to him whilst he is supposed to be working.

This weekend we return to the, for me, most important trophy of the season with a game at Newcastle. Newcastle are a ‘big’ club because they have a big stadium. Ah right. The fact they are one team in a big city seems to pass them by and regardless of what they say they are distinctly second-rate, third-rate even. The way the, ahem, “Geordie Nation” champion their team reeks of rather naive expectation rather than hope and, for any sociologists reading, this could be one of the main reasons it’s so grim up north. It’s worth thinking about; if you believed you were going to get Scarlett Johansson (you can’t, she’s with me) and yet you still didn’t, would you not maybe start aiming lower? Hmm, one to ponder… greatly amuse me, such is their attitude toward how they see themselves in the world.

Also worth thinking about is the fact that we could be eight points adrift by the time of the first whistle in our game. It really is becoming high pressure stuff, and in Arsenal we have a very worthy opponent. I don’t see the race as anywhere near lost, as points will be dropped here and there and United are never as tenacious as when chasing down top spot. Last time we played Newcastle we humbled them on their knees in much the fashion Mike Tyson might have dealt with Woody Allen if the comedian had commented negatively on his silly facial tattoo. The last time we faced a “Keeganed” Newcastle (I think I just love making words up) we lost 5-0, and given the points situation we may be in come Saturday tea-time I’d take any sort of three points, a three points I am fairly confident we’ll get.

It’s getting tight at the top, and if we don’t get the points on Saturday it could be more Geordie Strife than Jordi Cruyff (God even I realise that’s bad).

Paul M


**: Just wanted to point out that I didn’t break the bed with some joyous act of onanism, I just dived all over it shouting like a trapped banshee…honest…


P.S For those of you who like your analogies fully formed, the girl comes back saying the Frenchman is a creep and nothing happened. I get a snog on the doorstep and the promise of a ‘return leg’ next Friday night, and therefore a chance to ‘finish the tie’. That’s all the loose ends dealt with then…




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