Contrary to popular belief, your humble little soccer blogger here, sort of has a life. Sort of. Or at least as much of a life anyone who attempts to assemble sentences together on the Internet about soccer actually can have.
Hey, living is a lot easier when you know your own limitations.
That's my roundabout way of saying that one of the few things that might be considered "a life" is playing softball with my friends, which extends into the falls on Sunday mornings. Thusly, instead of watching the historic, sure to be talked about for weeks Manchester City 6, Manchester United 1 result from my couch and tweeting away in my sweatpants, I was rolling around in the dirt like an idiot.
Actually, driving to the game I did catch about 25 minutes of the Manchester derby on satellite radio via the United broadcast, which the word "we" was uttered about 200 minutes in that span. It culminated with Mario Balotelli(*) scoring his first goal of the day to break the deadlock. It was described as so: " ... gets the ball to Balotelli, he turns, shoots, scores." Even Joe Buck would shake his head at the flat, emotionless, matter-of-fact tone.
(*) My friend Mike and I have a pretty good text summation -- "You can't make it up" -- for the surreal aspects of sports. Everything and anything Mario Balotelli falls under that heading. You could literally tell me anything about the guy and it might be possible in light of him lighting his house on fire after setting off fireworks in the bathroom. Balotelli bought a white Tiger and walked it down the street on a leash wearing nothing but a mesh shirt? Sure, why not? He and Alex Rodriguez ought to spend some time together and see who can pull off the crazier tabloid scenario. That said, that's about 5-in-5 goals for Balotelli. When you're this good you get to be batshit insane, which doesn't seem to be an act. Or is it?
In between softball games -- yeah, doubleheader it's as awesome as it sounds especially on like four hours sleep -- I checked my phone to see the score: Manchester United 1, Manchester City 3. This was roughly the 80th minute. Eye-opening, indeed, but not all that crazy.
Following our walk-off victory, whipping out my phone immediately (**) I started doing a retroactive scan through Twitter, which was sort of like one of those time-lapse nature videos mixed with an episode of "The First 48."
(**) Boy do I paint a flattering picture of myself. What are you guys thinking? Douche? Tool? Loser? Pale-faced loser? (Is the self-deprecating act running thin?)
Without watching the game live, it was perhaps the next best thing.
There was pure adulation and mockery from Manchester United-haters, which grew and grew and grew some more after every tack-on goal.
Resigned designation from United-lovers.
Maybe most telling was the shock and awe by journalists from across the globe who were all left speechless by City's utter domination at Old Trafford. Rarely do you see people as jaded as your typical English football writer unable to contextualize anything.
There's a tendency to blow a result like this out of proportion. It's a kneejerk society, we live in, right? Suddenly Manchester United's 7-2 whipping of Arsenal seems like it never happened. That there are serious questions in Sir Alex Ferguson's midfield. You know the rest. Meanwhile, City is now the premier team in England and about to enter a new era of Gallagher Brother-approved Sky Blue dominance.
Overreacting to United's play might be a little foolish, considering this team did win the EPL last season and played in a Champions League final. For one, Jonny Evans will be on the slow boat to Sunderland pretty soon. Not sure what Sir Alex sees in him after mistake-after-mistake ... after mistake. (Maybe Stuart Holden's shattered leg released as gypsy curse.)
Still, as I postulated on Friday, aside from the Nemanja Vidic/Rio Ferdinand combo (when healthy) and maybe Wayne Rooney when he's on his day, where on the field is United appreciably better than City from a talent standpoint? Throw out the history, the Sir Alex mystique, stoppage time at Old Trafford, the plucky youngster Own Goal and City is just a better group of talent at the moment. Just look how much better a player like James Milner -- not even an automatic starter for City -- is than say a Darren Fletcher for United.
On the opposite side of things, the standard reaction to City's performance is to use the word "statement." As cliched as that response is, hard to term any other way, especially when Ferguson himself was essentially at a loss for words, calling it his "worst day ever" at the club.
It's safe to say the image of City from two seasons ago -- losing the do-or-die Champions League "playoff" with Tottenham -- is a thing of the past. That was probably gone with City winning the FA Cup last May. Maybe the FA Cup doesn't mean much any more to anyone, but it was a win for City and broke their schneid. This group got that taste of winning, which is maybe why what could have been a massive circus sideshow distraction -- the Carlos Tevez nonsense -- hasn't seen the club miss a beat on the field.
And this might be simplistic, but City has bought a lot of good players. The intention was to win a title, so what Roberto Mancini's team is doing isn't all that surprising. When you have solid defending down the middle of the field, a couple velvety playmakers in David Silva and Samir Nasri with finishers like Balotelli, Kun Aguero and Edin Dzeko, you should win games, especially with the depth. The team has size, strength and most importantly a lot of skill, so we can officially retire the best team from 1998 Serie A jokes that City forced everyone to make at stretches last year.
In a lot of ways, reading the coverage of these games from England its a lot like college football. The media and fans are used to United owning everything and City being an afterthought, much like an upstart like Boise State doesn't have the traditions of other NCAA powers, therefore won't be afforded the chance to ever play for a national title. Fortunately for City, they can let their play do the talking, not pollsters and computers.
Sure it might all be aided by oil money from the Middle East for reasons nobody is even really sure about, but if United gets absolutely steamrolled at Old Trafford, who is going to slow down City? The gap from first to second is only five points, but it sure feels more like 50 after yesterday.
Winners, Losers: Aside from Manchester City the only Premier League yet to lose? Yep, Newcastle United which scrapped to a 1-0 win vs. Wigan on Saturday behind a Yohan Cabaye goal. The Mapgies are working Hatem Ben Arfa back into the lineup, so the team could get even better. ... Speaking of losers, who hasn't had enough from John Terry? Maybe he slurred Anton Ferndinand, maybe he didn't. He's firmly atop the unlikeable lists in England. Bad job by Chelsea, even down to nine men, losing to QPR. The Blues missed a chance to keep pace with City. ... Another big weekend for Tottenham, as Spurs are in fifth with a game in hand. Again, simple statement but when Rafael van der Vaart plays and is active the game, Spurs are a different team. ... Hey, hats off to Arsenal, even with four losses the Gunners are now up to seventh place and back in the mix for a Champion League spot. Two more goals for Robin van Persie in a win vs. Stoke, guess he's been listening to Bonnie Tyler a lot, either that or desperately wants to go to Manchester City.
More Fox Fallout: Don't ask me, why, in the middle of drinking some pitchers of beer with friends on Friday night my mind drifted back to FOX winning the 2018/22 World Cup rights. Even if the coverage is obnoxious, in-your-face, typical FOX fare (w/robots), at least the games will be television. Will it have the polish and (buzzword alert) gravitas as ESPN? Surely, no.
Who really gets screwed here is the Women's World Cup in 2015 from Canada. ESPN made this summer's tournament from Germany an event. For maybe a week, it was relevant. Hard to see FOX doing the same, simply since people don't causally watch FOX like they do ESPN at all hours of the day. It's going to get lost in the cable random sports tier abyss.
Also on the ESPN front, Swansea City at Wolves actually turned out to be a fun 2-2 draw with the hosts rallying with two goals in the last 10 minutes, for the likely small audience that tuned in. If you didn't you missed out on Swans boss Brendan Rodgers giving a live, on-air shout out to his brother Malachi in Illinois.
Around the League: The Phil Down red card to Chris Herd in the Aston Villa/West Brom match was another lowlight for Premier League officials. ... Villa, which allegedly is better defensively under Alex McLeish, couldn't mark set pieces by West Brom and lost, accordingly, 2-1. ... Really don't understand how Liverpool can look so good and dominate possession for long stretches and then drop points in an instant like it did vs. Norwich City Saturday in a 1-1 draw at Anfield. Great save in the last second by Canaries keeper, John Ruddy however. ... If it weren't for the result at Old Trafford, Fulham might have had the worst result of the weekend, losing 3-1 to Everton on a pair of goals after the 90th minute. Cottagers are in trouble. ... Oddly enough top EPL fantasy player of the week was Roysten Drenthe. Maybe teams ought to consider grabbing the Real Madrid castoffs, at least if they're of Dutch origin.
Fantasy Team O' the Week: Longtime blog reader Jared Dunn gets top honors with a healthy 75 points thanks to Cabaye, van der Vaart, Silv and Aguero.
One Other Thing: Small sample size, but if you wear a Marty McFly-approved vest people look at you differently -- not necessarily in a good way, either.