Date: 20th March 2011 at 11:35am
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In the cold light of a Sunday morning, after drinking to remember and then drinking to forget, it is easy to forget that when the fixtures came out on June 17th, the games against Manchester United were not ones that would define our season. And they remain so.

But, when looking at the match yesterday, regardless of the possession that United had, it leaves you with the feeling of disappointment. Not the bitter, bitter, disappointment when David Bellion controlled the ball with his hand to claim a late equaliser at T’Reebok back in 2004. But disappointment none the less.

Bolton didn’t deserve to win, but nor did we deserve to lose. Elmander’s pull back to Muamba came at him too quickly, although a more consistent scorer may have at least tested Van der Sar, and Matty Taylor could have received the keys to the Borough from the town hall further down Warwick Road, the amount of time he had with his header late on, but Bolton’s game cannot be best described by the chances we missed.

It can be best described by the way we hassled and hustled United, putting them off their stride, as they decided that, with a defence of defensive no marks, the best form of defence was attack. The in form Hernandez was so well shackled by our defence, Fergie got on the Bat Phone and replaced him with Berbatov at half time.

And what about the defence. After having a mare against Birmingham last weekend, David Wheater showed what St Owen saw in him. And he wasn’t even the best central defender, Gary Cahill’s run and chase of Berbatov bringing a tackle of such class, if Fabio doesn’t put him in as first choice against Wales, I’m going to stromp down to Cardiff and cut his suits up.

Jussi, too, was excellent, repelling a number of shots. But it is the lot of a goalkeeper that when you make a mistake, you get punished for it more than the rest of the team put together. I got knocked out in a one on one with a striker once, from which the striker scored, and woke up on the sidelines, to be berated by my central defence for not coming out quicker. For the United goal, although someone should have closed down Nani quicker, Jussi didn’t get enough behind the ball, looking to scoop it into his arms rather than lying on it. It bobbled out of his hands and Berbatov was there to score. Even then, Jussi got his hand to it.

At the same time, Paul Robinson, who had played Berbatov onside, waved his arm in the air and then went and got in the face of the assistant referee. So let’s not lay all the blame at the ‘keeper, hmmm?

On Match of the Day last night, on which we appeared first, naturally decided to praise ‘United resilience’ rather than look at the deficiencies they displayed all afternoon, and Bolton got a desultory ‘playing good stuff’. Of the Jonny Evans tackle, there was some disagreement of whether it was worth a red card.

There is no doubt that Evans caught Stuart Holden, the gash in his knee a result of a studs up challenge. Studs up, red card. Jamie Carragher’s tackle on Nani was arguably worse, but you can’t go bleating about this kind of challenge and then not expect your players to fall foul when they do the same thing.

However, an argument exists about Holden’s part in the 50/50, as videos show that his foot was off the floor too. However, he went in with nowhere near the same momentum and his studs weren`t facing forwards. Added on to this, his trailing leg had only just come off the ground. In short, he wasn’t going to hurt anyone the way he went in, whereas Evans could have, and did, do some damage.

So, did Evans deserve his red card? Damn right he did.

One further thing. Johan Elmander on the right is just plain not working. He isn’t a right winger, he’s a striker. He doesn’t have the necessary pace and skill to take on a player, nor the necessary crossing ability to make up for that. If not Lee, why is Rodrigo Moreno sitting on the bench, game after game. In the games he has played, he has caused defences problems. Either play him, or ship him back to Benfica with a note attached to his coat, like Paddington Bear had.

 

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