Is it just me or are we experiencing the most pulsating season ever? Midway through January often you look for an eye-catching transfer to spark interest but, with the market predictably quiet, there’s certainly no shortage of talking points.
For anyone that’s blinked, Manchester United find themselves over £700 million in debt while their rivals across the road appear to have more money than they know what to do with. They’ve also got Carlos Tevez, of course. Burnley’s shock stint in the Premier league will be shirt lived I fear, having last week lost the catalyst for their success when Owen Coyle joined North West rivals Bolton. Portsmouth are still struggling to pay their players, while previous manager Harry Redknapp has been charged for tax evasion during his second spell at Fratton Park. West Ham have been taken over by the former Birmingham City owners, who themselves admit to having little money to fund the club. More money than Liverpool mind, as their ownership troubles wrangle on. Arsenal have signed a centre back. Remember Sol Campbell? And they sit top of the tree… there’s just a few of the issues brewing.
Maybe I’m just overexcited in a World Cup year as football goes into overdrive. However, as I struggle to keep up with off the field developments, let’s look at what has been an incredible mid-week on the pitch- and the Champions League is still yet to return!
The adverse weather conditions have provided many teams with an unexpected winter break and so we were treated to a feast of football during the week, a feast that only served to further wet the appetite for the rest of the season. The Carling Cup semi finals took place and provided intense viewing as two classic cup ties were played out. With the first leg between Aston Villa and Blackburn seeing Villa leave Ewood Park with a 0-1 lead, the tie was nicely poised for the second leg. Blackburn had nothing to lose; they had to attack. For Villa it was a difficult one; in front of their home fans they are expected to attack, and yet must have been focused on protecting their slender lead. In the end, no one expected what was to come and the two teams played out a ten goal thriller which eventually saw Villa through to their first Wembley final for 10 years. Having started the brighter, Blackburn took a deserved two goal lead. However, the lead came too early and Villa’s resurgence culminated in a 6-4 win on the night. The sending off of Chris Samba just before the half did change the game, as I’m sure Big Sam will concur, although no arguments about the decision.
With the Carling Cup’s credibility ever increasing (Chelsea and United have won it 4 out of the last 5 years) Martin O’Neill can now dream of ending Villa’s wait for another major trophy, and continue the credible job he’s done since arriving at Villa Park. Awaiting him and his Villa team will be a team from Manchester. With the first leg of this Manchester derby taking place on Tuesday night, an electric atmosphere was expected and it didn’t disappoint. A typical cup tie and a derby full of spite, resentment and rivalry. Just what you want. Anyone who didn’t see Carlos Tevez’ goals coming doesn’t know football. United took an early lead through the evergreen Giggs but the in form Tevez stole the headlines again with a double that sunk his former employers. Gary Neville, whose career has been over for a while decided to milk it by making obscene gestures (that he has no right to make) from the side line. Tevez today described him as ‘moron’; personally I don’t think that does Neville’s behaviour justice. However, it’s still very much in the balance at half time and we can look forward to further fireworks at Old Trafford on Wednesday night in the return leg.
In the Premier league, Liverpool won a crucial game in the battle for 4th spot with a 2-0 win over contenders Spurs, while Arsenal showed their resilience by coming from 2 down to beat Bolton and move top of the league for the first time since August. All in all, a great mid week for football with goals galore and the usual controversy that comes with it. And just think, in 2 weeks time we’ll have Beckham and Mourihno’s return to England to look forward to on a Wednesday night; now that’s worth waking up for!