That’s what Sir Alex famously called it back in 2003 as the title race hotted up. As this season reaches its climax in an enthralling manner, I feel we’re deep into what is now internationally recognised as ‘squeaky bum time’.
The game itself was billed as the biggest of the season, the build up was magnificent and the tension surrounding the game was tangible. It even attracted the biggest crowd of the season as supporters from far and wide travelled to see the plot unravel in front of them.
Personally, although Wigan v Newcastle was a big fixture, I thought all that build up was a little unnecessary, didn’t you?
I mean, Newcastle were (and still are) close to qualifying for the Champions League unbelievably and were in great form leading up to the match, yet Pardew’s comments were a little uncalled for.
To request more tickets is puzzling to say the least. The away section at the DW of nearly 5,000 in capacity is easily the largest in the top flight, meaning that home fans only outnumber away fans three to one when the likes of United, Liverpool and Arsenal are in town. So why did Pardew feel the need to complain about the amount allocated?
I’m sure a more easily offended Wiganer would feel rather belittled by Pardew’s comments. Surely he wouldn’t have asked Man United to do the same if they were playing away at Old Trafford. Just because it was little Wigan, a club with no fans in a ‘rugby league town’, did he expect us to surrender our home advantage by offering the Geordies almost half the seats available? No chance.
Having mentioned that once I don’t want to dwell on what’s a rather insignificant and petulant topic which would deter praise from the Barcelona-esque performance that followed.
Unexpectedly, the Toon Army side full of in form flair players such as Ben Arfa, Cisse and the little maestro Cabaye were felled by a Latics team fuelled on energy, belief and a strong tika-taka philosophy.
Having lost their La Liga title and chance to defend their European crown, Messi and Co may want to review a video of this game and watch the players in blue closely for tips on how they can find their form again (a tongue in cheek comment if I’ve ever written one).
The game was effectively won at half time after Victor Moses had twice capitalised on slack defending with close range finishes in quick succession. Shaun Maloney’s third helped accumulate the shock factor before Di Santo provided the tonic with an outrageous lob over Tim Krul.
I remember asking a mate to check on his phone what the score was, I just remember his facial expression when he first read the scoreline. Obviously, he was seriously considering getting his eyes testing as he could barely believe what they were telling him. I simply glanced at the screen and said “only four? I expected more than that.”
To be honest, I haven’t been the bastion of positivity this season when writing my updates, but I’ve never thrown any abuse at Martinez, it’s the players I’ve questioned. (Does that qualify me as a half lightsider?) I’ve always been a fan of Martinez’s philosophy as I value an aesthetic beauty in the way my team plays, although there’s the cliché about us being ‘not good enough to play’, Wigan’s current form shows playing attractive football needn’t come with an opportunity cost.
What I admire about Martinez is that he’s got courage. He’s a man of his principles and although that could have been interpreted as being stubborn, he was just being faithful to his methods in the belief they would eventually bear fruition. It would have been easy to sack off the tika-taka and submit to the traditionalism of 4-4-2, but Roberto didn’t stick, he twisted and went to three at the back.
No other team in the league has been adventurous enough to play such a system on a regular basis this season, so for Martinez to do so in such adverse circumstances is remarkable and accentuates his strength of character and self belief.
It would seem that now, three at the back is the new trend. Napoli have done it for a few seasons (and I suspect our system is based on theirs), whilst the likes of Barcelona are experimenting with the three centre halves, and you can’t pay the formation a greater compliment than that. Now I’m not claiming for a second Martinez influenced the tactical decisions of Pep Guardiola in any way, but he’s certainly shown you don’t need to be as big, prestigious or technically gifted as a team to succeed with attractive football.
I for one am very excited to see how this tactic develops next season, and hopefully we can see it happen in the Premier League, which I have great faith in. My only concern is the summer transfer market and the annual tendency to have our best players nabbed by those with greater ambitions and wage budgets (especially in the case of Charles N’Zogbia).
I couldn’t end this article without giving the title decider a mention, it was built up to be the biggest game in Premier League history and whilst we weren’t treated to a Kevin Keegan style 4-3 thriller, and the anxiety was certainly sky high. Even for a ‘neutral’ such as myself.
That term is in inverted commas because I wasn’t a neutral at all, I was desperate for a City win due to the fact that I couldn’t stand the idea of Man United winning another title and their arrogant fans’ tedious reactions.
The game itself was as many expected, it was cagey in periods as both teams showed an edginess and slight fear of losing. This was evident in United’s team selection, playing Park in midfield and having a lone striker shows how concerned Ferguson was of City’s threat. I don’t want to accuse him of playing for a draw, but he certainly would have taken one.
The plot didn’t unravel with a Carlos Tevez last minute winner or the unlikely events of both managers behaving in a professional manner, but the 1-0 home win will definitely do for me. It means that after the title decider, the title is still, well, undecided.
So, after clawing back an eight point deficit to lead on goal difference, City only have one person to thank.
And that’s Roberto Martinez and his team of Man United slayers.
Goal of the Week: Whilst Luis Suarez’s long range lob wasn’t bad, he still has a lot to do before he’s in Maynor Figueroa’s league. Keep practising Luis.
Alan Mahon of the Week: To think, I’ve almost got to the end without mentioning Roy Hodgson and England. Whilst Roy is the latest to take the poisoned chalice, the enigma surrounding Redknapp’s non-appointment is rife. Clearly, it was a matter of expenditure and not suitability for the job. Well done Roy for getting the big chance at the Euros though.
Alan Shearer of the Week: After seeing rivals pick up points, Steve Kean knew he needed a result at Spurs. The response? A 2-0 defeat where his team failed to have a single shot, it sets it all up nicely for a must win encounter against the English Barcelona next Monday.
Quote of the Week: “That’s a great finish, not something he’s renowned for.” Mark Lawrenson cheekily questions Kevin Davies’ goalscoring capabilities.
Boselli Watch: Apparently, Mauro’s new sponsors Oxo have decided to use him as celebrity endorsement to promote their latest product, the Laughing Stock.