No Monday Musings piece this week as my recent travels took me back to the World Before Mobile Phone Coverage, The Internet and even Televisions. While enjoyable in their own right such adventures are also beneficial because they make us realise just how lucky we are. Today most of us can sit at home and with the flick of a switch or press of a button tune in to almost any live sporting event we please.
Watching sport on delay when you know the result isn’t quite the same. But I still watched a replay of the Caulfield Cup just to see how close Rising Romance got to holding off the charging field. In the days before the race there were a number of high-profile scratching’s and while one of the Japanese visitors was a pre-race casualty Admire Rakti stepped up to the plate with a storming run down the middle of the track. Midfield at the turn Admire Rakti finally caught Rising Romance in the last fifty metres to claim the win. The favourite, Lucia Valentina, was a fast finishing third. Immediately after the finish the mind games started, with Admire Rakti’s owners claiming that if the horse was penalised for the win and given a greater weight for the upcoming Melbourne Cup then he would have no hesitation in skipping the race and taking his prized asset home. In the end the handicapper reached some sort of compromise, with the 0.5kg penalty the lowest for a Caulfield Cup winner since 1980 but not too much to scare off owner Riichi Kondo who has since confirmed the horse will run. Admire Rakti is now the favourite for the Melbourne Cup ahead of Protectionist and Lucia Valentina.
This morning (Australian time) Manchester United travelled to West Bromwich Albion looking to secure a third league win in a row for the first time in more than 18 months. That is far too long for a side of United’s stature and still the wait continues. United bossed the majority of the game but were forced to come from behind twice just to secure a point. West Bromwich Albion started brightly and had the ball in the back of the net inside ten minutes courtesy of a fine strike from Stephane Sessegnon. Thereafter United controlled the tempo but a few half chances for Angel Di Maria and Robin Van Persie aside they never really threatened. The half time introduction of Marouane Fellaini added an extra dimension to United’s attack and, after almost 15 months waiting, he finally scored his first goal for Manchester United.
United looked the most likely to press on but another defensive lapse was yet again costly as young striker Saido Berahino exploited a gaping chasm in the heart of United defence to stroll in and easily beat David De Gea and restore the Baggies one goal lead. United pressed and were rewarded for a committed performance when Danny Blind stroked in a late equaliser. But there was not the same level of late drama as Liverpool’s clash with QPR the previous day (which finished 3-2 to Liverpool after there were four goals from the 87th minute on) as the sides settled for a point each.
And to finish, a word on Manchester United. They controlled the ball well and moved it at pace but were found lacking in two critical errors. Their defensive errors are being ruthlessly punished and yet again that was the case here. West Brom only had a couple of chances but took both and until United stop conceding on such a regular basis they are going to find climbing the table a tough ask. The second area they fell down in was the attacking third. Van Persie seems to have lost not only his goal scoring touch but his appetite. United swung in plenty of crosses all to no avail. And while Fellaini gave them another target he was also unable to get his head to any. Van Persie had one shot that hit the post but that moment aside he looked off the pace, one-dimensional and unaware of the players around him. Adnan Januzaj was another to disappoint. Given a chance from the start he regularly chose the wrong option. The site of him racing past opponents was one of the few highlights for United fan’s last season but on this occasion he failed to beat his man once and is likely to return to the bench against Chelsea. United will be sweating on the fitness of Di Maria, who while not at his best still looked the most likely to create a goal. United’s next two fixtures are against the two sides most likely to fight out this year’s title, Chelsea and Manchester City. Lois Van Gaal’s task is not getting easier any time soon.