Carling Cup? Never rated it anyway. Mickey Mouse competition.
So here we are, the day after a cup final defeat. Feels a little bit shitty, doesn't it? I despise penalty shoot-outs. Damn you Champions League and the death of cup replays. I guess technically speaking we didn't actually lose (DVD release imminent?). The 'reserve' edition of the best club in the world couldn't beat us in open play. Rejoice!
As for those pesky pens. Not sure why O'Hara took the first one. He got it on target at least. Foster and his ipod will haunt him for a while yet I'm sure. He wears his heart on his sleeve does Jamie, so no doubting the reception he'll get on Wednesday will lift him. As for David Bentley, his scoffed shot sums up his season perfectly. An embarrassment of a mis-hit. But top drawer players as well as the ones lacking form are equally likely to miss or score on such an occasion. Well, discounting the ones in red. It's just so bloody typical a player with a decent shot on him completely mis-kicks the ball in the manner he did. And doubly typical that given a chance for a little redemption he cocks it up. I blame those star jumps. Penalty aside, he made little impact on the pitch when he did come on.
Think it was pretty obvious we'd lose this after extra-time ended. Pessimism gave me a tap on the shoulder and wink of despair. Shame though, because on the day neither side deserved to go home empty handed based on effort and opportunities. Someone obviously does. Obviously. And alas it was us.
Never thought the game would go the full distance based on the opening 15 minutes. United took us apart, but we got into the game and after that possession was shared fairly equally with both sides creating chances. Not the best Cup final, but it gave us plenty of gasps.
United might have launched one or two screamers towards goal, but we had our moments too. Mostly from the lickle boy Lennon who had an outstanding day out. Yes, the end product isn't perfect, but the mazzy runs are. Modric also superb - and both players could have had a Wembley moment to saviour. Shame we had to sub Aaron. Adel would have had a lot of fun out there with his tricks and clever feet and it's a shame he didn't get a cameo.
Ronaldo entertained with his usual dramatics, falling over whenever he was 'touched' by a Lilywhite. Chris Foy, our esteemed referee, made up for various inconsistencies by yellow-carding the winker. Penalty? Nope. Was already heading for the ground when King clipped him. Talking of cards, O'Shea should have walked but Mr Foy decided otherwise. Seems certain fouls at certain points in the game are worthy of a yellow but punishment for a similar foul to a player already on a yellow - wearing red - is not. Bah, who cares. Happens all the time. Fergie was obviously worried thus replacing him for Vidic. Who was superb. Talking of defenders, so was King and Ferdinand. And Dawson who has made a miraculous return to consistent form (his distribution is crap but I still love him).
Neither side had that cutting edge or bit of luck to claim glory inside 120 minutes. Anyone surprised that Utd won the toss to have the pens in front of their own fans? And the toss to select who takes the first pen? Footballing Gods, damn you.
Get the pen on target and you can't really complain that much if it fails to go in. If the keeper guesses right, he has a chance of saving it. If the pen taker strikes it with power or places it, then the keeper has no chance. I guess, if you practise them and have the confidence (and don't lose your bottle) you have a chance. More than a chance. At the purest simplistic level, penalty taking should be easy. Aim for the part of the goal that the keeper has no chance of getting to. If only it was that simple. It's 99% about mentality. That's where it's won.
Don't think we stood a chance to be perfectly honest. Don't quite grasp why Bent wasn't taking the first kick. I guess it's fairly evident we don't have many penalty takers in the side. Bentley continues to scapegoat himself towards public enemy number one. Take a bow son. Jenas must be smiling. Although no frowning for JJ yesterday. He too impressed making it a WTF double with him and Didier doing the biz. Although one or two fans in the stands seemed to nitpick a little too much on Jenas. I thought he showed spirit, if lacking in box-2-box creative enterprise.
Oh well, there is always next season. We gave it some. Played like a team, some decent approach play and some almost moments that had my heart sat firmly in my mouth.
Other random highlights:
- Man Utd fans leaving after the winning penalty. I find that quite hilarious. Witnessing the lifting of a two-bob cup not as vital as that train back to Surrey, hey?
- Had a conversation with a police officer inside the stadium prior to the game. Pleasant chap, not into football. He usually has to settle for Millwall home games every other week the poor sod. "Nice to see some proper fans" he said to me. I told him that's not usually what others would call us, but I accepted the compliment.
- The Fanometer. Football dies a little more.
Onwards we go to our third successive Cup final, following on from yesterday and the Hull win the week before.
Boro at home. My knees and Harry's face still trembling.