Memories Of A Day On Which A 3 Decade Old Score Was Settled

raam shankerContributor IAugust 21, 2009

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19:   Burnley Manager Owen Coyle screams instructions from the sidelines during the Barclays Premier League match between Burnley and Manchester United at Turf Moor on August 19, 2009 in Burnley, England.  (Photoby Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

As Usain Bolt bolted his way into the 200 metres finals (which he has now won in record time), I was fighting what appeared to be a losing battle against the cross-trainer.

However as Eric Lidle says in Chariots of Fire, “the strength comes from within”. Just as I was thinking about it I felt he surge of adrenaline as if someone had connected me to Manchester’s main power supply system.

Then it dawned on me. The feeling of an impending obliteration that had been flying high was the reason. The Champions were in unfamiliar territory, Turf Moor at Burnley, around thirty-five miles north. Now that would explain why they got lost.

Time for a little history. The last time Burnley were in top flight was way back in 1976, when I was not even conceived. They lost at home by a goal to nil to Manchester United and eventually got relegated, never to see the light of day again.

Then a new day dawned on them at Wembley, when they beat Sheffield United in the playoffs to come back to top flight. Tonight was their biggest night by far in a long time.

Last season, Arsenal and Liverpool lost to Burnley at Turf Moor. So does it have something to do with the place, the atmosphere and the local crowd support? Maybe, maybe not, but we shall see.

Now coming back to the night, it was only 1-0 to Burnley, but come to think of it, last season ten out of 28 wins were 1-0 for United, which adds up to around 35 percent. They also have started this season on the same score line at home against Birmingham City.

The way I saw it, Giggs was the star for United. On the other end it was Jensen. A flurry of missed opportunities summed United’s night up. They now sit in 10th spot behind Birmingham City. The only reassurance, if any is that they’ve been in a similar situation before.

Last season they did not move up to the top of the table till January.  It is still early days and there is a lot more to come. However the form of close competition is a definite worry.

This brings me to Liverpool and Ra-fail.


Rafa Silenced His Critics

His entry into England could not have been scripted better. Comes in, sells Owen and wins Champions’ League ten months down the line. A dream start and maybe the resurgence of the old war horse. I was so overcome by joy that despite being a United fan, I committed sacrilege by buying a Liverpool jersey when I was visiting family back in New Delhi, India.

Anyways from there it all went downhill, for Rafa, I mean. Somewhere down the line he lost the script, then lost the plot and I suppose slowly it got to him. Then he could take it no more and had a dig at Sir Alex Ferguson midway last season.

It was a good laugh, but when the day came, he had the last laugh. Liverpool defeated United twice in the season only to lose the title race by four points, despite scoring nine more goals.

Now Rafa did it again. After the opening day loss to Spurs in sunny London, he unleashed his venom at the referee. Then what happened? A 4-0 drubbing of Stoke followed earlier today. By the looks of it, Liverpool seem to have found a new hope in the form of Glen Johnson.

Gerrard was not on the score sheet but did enough damage to set goals up. If you’re wondering it was only Stoke City, just a reminder that last season, this fixture ended 0-0. Rafa believes that this was a big reason that cost Liverpool the title.

Just like I am looking forward to how United cope without Ronaldo and Tevez, I want to see how Alonso’s void is dealt with in Merseyside. Now, the opening day loss to Spurs may sound like a minor pothole on their motorway to the title, until we see what happened at Kingston-Upon-Hull.


Defoe was The Foe for Hull City

Harry Redknapp signalled his arrival at White Hart Lane with a 4-4 against Arsenal. He took an ailing Spurs team to the top half of the table last season. Now he is out to prove a point, maybe. Top half to the very top. If Arsenal had a dream start, this is a dreamier start.

I am wondering how it makes Phil Brown feel after a great start last season. They got the better of Arsenal at The Emirates and were also the only other team to score three or more goals against United—Am I glad I included Jermaine Defoe in my Fantasy League team! A hat-trick, the first by anyone this season did me a lot of good.

The highly one sided game also saw goals from Palacios and Robbie Keane, but the real star of the night was Defoe. With the World Cup just a few months away and with limited places in Capello’s line up, Defoe’s performance was definitely a signal of intent. It maybe a bit too early to say, he is one to watch out for this season.

Hull City had a better start last season compared to what would have been expected of them. But then they started to slide and somehow managed to stay afloat at the cost of Newcastle and Middlesbrough. Again, this season they got the lead against Chelsea but the Londoners left it till very late to claim all three points.

Hull are now up against Bolton and Wolves in the league. They lost to Bolton last year by a goal to nil. Wolves were still down in the Championship. Phil Brown cannot afford four defeats out of four and needs to step his game up. I still remember the half time lecture he gave the team on the pitch last season when they got battered by Manchester City.