All’s Well That Ends Well

Manchester United’s last game of the 2010/11 Barclays Premier League season ended with a bang and relegated Blackpool by trouncing them 4-2 at Old Trafford. They say that winning isn’t everything. True, but winning that match against Blackpool officially announced to the whole world that our 19th English title was something we absobloodylutely deserved.

Victory aside, I will definitely miss Edwin Van der Sar, who was given the honor of skippering Manchester United in his final Premier League appearance, because we all know that he is and will always be one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Whoever will replace him, whoever will succeed his throne, must be able to fill his shoes or do better than him. Is it Atlético Madrid goalkeeper David de Gea? Is it Ajax goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg? Or is it our very own Anders Lindegaard who will take over the #1 jersey? Nonetheless, Sir Alex Ferguson always knows what’s best for the team.

After finding and signing a proper goalkeeper, it’s pretty apparent that a midfield player is next on SAF’s to-do list. With over 650 appearances for Manchester United and being the third most booked player in Premier League history, Paul Scholes has done and played his part adeptly, but it’s about time to retire (breaking news: Paul Scholes has retired). He’s not getting any younger. Don’t get me wrong; of course, I will always be proud of his achievements and for being a one-club man. Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Daniel Henry, Xavi, Bobby Charlton, and Wayne Rooney have also expressed their admiration towards Scholes. Even Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola has acknowledged him: “Out of everyone at Manchester United, I would pick out Scholes—he is the best midfielder of his generation. I would have loved to have played alongside him.” Do you agree? I wholeheartedly do. (More quotes about Paul Scholes here or here.)

I’m stressing the importance of a midfielder’s role because, as the 2010/11 season showed us, there has been a lack of consistency, coherence, and fluidity. Winning doesn’t always mean that the team’s performance had been flawless all throughout the season. There were some obvious blunders, mistakes—lots of them, actually!—and one of  the problems was right in the middle: the lack of a channel between defense and offense. That wasn’t always the case, but I know that the Manchester United midfield department has been on the receiving end of much of the criticism. Fans have a tendency to make a big fuss over the midfield players’ peformance sometimes. Have they forgotten that these players successfully created goalscoring opportunities in the just ended 2010/11 Barclays Premier League season? Michael Carrick has received his fair share of flak and people have even questioned SAF’s decision to renew his contract. Well, honestly, from where I’m standing, even though he hasn’t always been a fans’ favorite, he is a good passer. I guess it’s safe to say (for all the fans to be happy) that we need to bring in a new playmaker next season. A goalkeeper is by default on the list, but SAF unquestionably needs to add a playmaker to the lineup.

Football transfer rumors, as usual, have been spreading like wildfire. For example, Alexis Sanchez’s deal with Manchester United is said to be 99% complete; however, word on the street is that he isn’t the best fit for the club. According to Rob Blanchette, it’s all a bit Juan Sebastián Verón. So who is this Argentine midfielder? Argie Silvestre, a savant for anything Manchester United and the Manchester United Wiki, said that Verón was an expensive Manchester United flop who didn’t fit the club’s system. If Sanchez is indeed Verón in disguise, then this is like déjà vu all over again. In other news, we also have the Luka Modrić, Ashley Young, and Wesley Sneijder transfer rumors circulating on the Internet. Manchester United fans have shared their different views and opinions. For instance, Rob tweeted, “As I tweeted b4 as much as I love Sanchez..Young is a better fit for our squad. He would compliment what we have. Evolution not revolution.” On the other hand, the official Twitter of tweeted, “I’d prefer to see money spent wisely on someone like Modric or Sneijder instead of Young.” Then we have Charles Kein who insightfully tweeted, “Modric and Young seem to fit better into what we do, while Sanchez and Sneijder may be better overall footballers in a vacuum.” Similarly, Argie thinks that Modrić may be better since he is used to playing for an English club, but prefers Sneijder because of the Dutch footballer’s presence and leadership qualities. How about you?

I have to admit that I don’t have any preferred midfielder anymore. I realized that I don’t want these unverified transfer deals to disappoint me one day. What I have maintained, however, is my perception of what a midfielder should be: an intelligent footballer. This intelligence transcends the functions of athleticism. In Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby said, “Of course, intelligence in a footballer is no bad thing, particularly in a midfield player, a playmaker, although this intelligence is not the same intelligence as that required to enjoy, say, a ‘difficult’ European novel.”

Moreover, the famous author and Arsenal fan since birth explained this accurately by describing Liam Brady: “He was intelligent. This intelligence manifested itself primarily in his passing, which was incisive and imaginative and constantly surprising. But it showed off the pitch too: he was articulate, and drily funny, and engaged; as I progressed through the academic strata, and more and more people seemed to make a distinction between football on the one hand and life of the mind on the other, Brady seemed to provide a bridge between the two.” He didn’t end there; he continued to give descriptions such as “dazzling intelligence, involving, among other skills, astonishing coordination and a lightning-fast exploitation of the situation that will change within a couple of seconds.” The adjectives that he used hit the nail on the head, and surprisingly—because I’m against favoritism—the intelligent player that came to my mind was Azkals (Philippine national football team) midfielder Christopher Greatwich.

OK, people, relax. I’m in no way being disloyal to Manchester United because the two teams do not dwell in the same realm. Everybody knows that I’m a fan of both teams. Anyway, the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup paved the way for my appreciation for Chris Greatwich. His intelligence not only manifested in his goalscoring exploits and overall performance, but also in his tweets. Believe me, a tweet isn’t a shallow criterion of intelligence these days. It’s true when they say that you are what you tweet. You have to follow him on Twitter to understand what I’m trying to say here. I bet his followers already know by now what I’m talking about. His everyday tweets have given me the opportunity to know him better (without his consent) and conclude that he is, in fact, intelligent. FYI, his absence during the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup sort of affected me. To be frank, I sorely miss him, but the point is, we all have an ideal midfielder, and I want mine to be an intelligent one.

Blimey, looks like my time is up!

Gentlemen and ladies, if you don’t mind, this season has just ended so allow me to savor Manchester United’s victory. Come along!

“Football fans talk like that: our years, our units of time, run from August to May (June and July don’t really happen, especially in years which end with an odd number and which therefore contain no World Cup or European Championship).”

Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch