So it’s a new year. A new FA cup including ManU. yada yada yada. A new England manager Sven “the cell” Eriksson. As usual, a new year brings its share of potential new glories. Can anybody catch United at the top of the Premiership; bearing in mind they carry an 11-point advantage into the crucial part of the season? Can England qualify for the World Cup after a disappointing opening two games? A cruel or ignorant observer might suggest that the first scenario was a question not even worth posing; that Man United will win the league easily and without doubt. The same ignoramus would suggest that England will not qualify and probably list a plethora of excuses why. Thankfully, neither of these important matters of state is in fact decided and as I’ve said before – that is why they play the games.
One man who will certainly – barring freak injuries or unforeseen events – play a key role in these unfolding stories is David Beckham. He may singularly turn out to be the deciding factor in both situations. This is not to suggest that Manchester United’s supreme squad of superstars could not bring home the trophy without Beckham – but rather an acknowledgement of his appreciating maturity as a player of influence.
I witnessed recently the gourmet chefs’ equivalent of mouth-watering anticipation underestimating the eventual outcome as Beckham ruled the roost at the Bradford vs. United Premiership game. Ponder for a moment the possibility that this guy is getting better and better. He has added a willingness to run into available spaces from which to dictate play that I believe has come about thanks to the long debate over whether he should play in a more central role or continue his fame on the right side. It is almost as if United have added a flexibility to their midfield under utilised until now through a telepathic understanding between Roy Keane in particular and a general awareness of the whole team that allows Becks to go wherever Becks wants to go. This results in Beckham being on the right wing crossing those patented bending balls in to box at the right time and amazingly appearing in central midfield threading through balls when that seems to be the right option. It is comparable to the strikers’ instinct for being in the right place at the right time a la Gerd Mueller, but somehow involving more than one player.
In the game referred to above, Beckham covered the proverbial every blade of grass and managed to avoid the tightest of honest marking snapping at his heels. He went through the ninety minutes at a consistent pace, stroking passes majestically and utilizing impeccable vision at every turn. The through ball played for young Chadwicks first senior goal of 2001 was both arrogant and beautiful in its’ execution. Very few players in the world would have played it like Beckham did.
Unpredictably, Bradford had played wonderful soccer for 70 minutes, matching their efforts against the much heavier payroll. There was a calm inevitability about the last twenty minutes that saw the score line reflect United’s cream rising to the top. The chasm between the top and bottom of the table was amazingly disguised for the first 70 minutes and highlighted for the last 20. The trick for Bradford then, is to find a way to play like they did and sustain it for 90 minutes. Perhaps not all hope is lost for them although it does look ominous.
Now the England scenario represents an interesting challenge to someday Sir Beck. I think he knows that he is one of the top six soccer players in the world. (chances are he doesn’t suffer from my humility and rates himself higher). But England do not have the luxury of giving caps to Roy Keane and so David must find an England ally to allow him roam ironically part time on the right wing where he is undoubtedly the world number one; and of course fulfill his destiny as saviour in the middle. Well now Sven, I’ve given you the solution to the countries woes – it’s up to you to get the best out of Beckham and if you don’t qualify, you should step down and give the job to someone who could, me. You do have my cell number, don’t you?