Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Game by Game - 2

You may have noticed that we haven't had a report on the Mansfield friendly. Our correspondent messaged me during the match to ask how many words I wanted. Sensing his frustration and boredom I told him single figures weren't acceptable. A dour game by all accounts and one that we were second best in for large spells. On the plus side; Wilder recognised this and pulled no punches in post-match interviews. Some teams celebrate 0-0 away draws, our manager doesn't.

The other positive is we didn't go there and lose 2-1, lose all discipline and turn it into a Royal Rumble. Although there is an argument that did show some team spirit and unity from a Wednesday team that had shown little of it for the previous 90 minutes, or much of last season.

That's the thing with pre-season, you enter it full of hope and one game seems to spell disaster, three days later and the mood can be quite different. If anything that is exacerbated by social media (and blogs!) that allows fans to vent publicly and with such immediacy to a wider audience. It seems that the end of the world is nigh for football fans with increasing frequency, yet rarely does it come. And so after the concerns following a 0-0 draw at League 2 Mansfield, the fourth best side in Italy paid Bramall Lane a visit……………

Pre-Season Friendly: Inter (H), 1-1

Inter at home the kind of friendly you would expect to form part of some major anniversary celebrations, say your club's 150th, and not just a run-of-the-mill pre-season friendly. 4th in Serie A and featuring a number of international players, they provided an enticing prospect for Blades fans, more so than say  the third best team in a one team league might.

And for a Friendly fixture it wasn't a bad game. Reasonably competitive, although some early moments where you could see players leaving the foot out of tackles were soon forgotten when Fleck  flew into a 50:50 in the middle of the park. A physical challenge you need to time perfectly and as a spectator you flinch at. Lundstram then clattered into Dalbert, no foul given and after a lengthy delay the Brazilian was stretchered off.

The Blades matched Inter well and it was an extremely well worked goal down the left side that saw United take the lead. Stevens and Fleck exchanged passes twice, before Fleck surged towards the edge of the box and dinked a perfect through ball to McGoldrick, who had held his line well with one of the Inter centre halves sitting deep. McGoldrick's finish was calm and assured, lifting it over the advancing Handanovic. A scoreboard reading Blades 1 Inter 0 is a lovely sight, whatever the circumstances.  Fleck then went close with a dipping half volley from 30 yards that just went wide of the post and the feeling was the Blades could kick on from here.

It was then that Inter woke up. Whereas up to then United had squeezed them back as they steadily played out from the back, their passing and movement became much sharper and they scored a goal equal in quality to the Blades' opener. A superbly weighted pass from Lautaro opened up United down their left side and the cross from Candreva left Icardi with a simple tap in. Icardi gave Egan a tough game, one the debutant stood up to well for much of it, but you can see how the Argentine striker bagged 29 Serie A goals last season. He went close again, after Lautaro back-heeled into his path, with Henderson making a fine save.

Whilst Inter were technically good, they also had the cynical side of the game down to a tee; little shirt tugs, trips and a sneaky raking of studs down the Achilles all stopping United breaks and disrupting play. A scrappy start to the second half was further disrupted as the substitutions started, four for the Blades and five for Inter. I was beginning to wonder if the last excitement of the evening was the scrap that started by the refreshment bar under the South Stand at half time. It was hard for those coming on to make an impression, but the final clear cut chance of the game fell to one of them. Sharp's shot from just outside the box was parried away.

With the scoreboard clock  yet to click over to 90 minutes the referee's whistle blew. What with a slightly delayed kick off and only 2 minutes added to the 1st half, despite the lengthy stoppage, I can only assume the Italians had a curfew, or a somewhere else to be. 

So a United team with 6 international caps between the starting XI performed very well against an Inter side that, even without the two Croatian World Cup finalists and Nainggolan, started with 9 internationals and 269 caps between them. Yes, it is only pre-season, yes there were other gears the Inter side could probably have shifted to, but a pleasing performance all the same, but with work still to be done.

Three final thoughts:

Gianni Flecki the midfield maestro. The best player on the pitch and the source of most of what was good about the Blades performance, surging runs, excellent passing and creativity. Wouldn’t have looked out of place in a blue and black striped shirt in their midfield. By heck, I do wonder how long John Fleck can be ignored by Big Eck.

Ricky Holmes impressed off the bench. Having had limited opportunity since joining last January, it was good to see him come on and give the team added impetus when the performance and the game as a whole was starting to flag. Just a few moments suggest that we may have a player to justify the haircut. It will be interesting to see whether he can deliver a top knot(ch) performance from a starting role.

Having arrived in my seat in the South Stand just before 7:15 I was disappointed to find the inauguration of The Tony Currie Stand had already happened in front of a quarter full stadium. Why they didn't wait until nearer kick off to do this, when the ground was fuller I am not sure. Instead we were "entertained" by some lass who didn't win The Voice belting out Nessun Dorma, whilst Gary Sinclair was so deferential to our visitors it felt like it was a pre-requisite of the match fee. I hope they do something for TC and the fans at the Swansea game with a bigger crowd and TV cameras present. 

No comments:

Post a Comment