Friday, September 15, 2006


Out of the Shadows

For the first hour of the thrilling, if error-ridden, Manchester United v. Celtic match on Wednesday night, Louis Saha gave one of the most exciting performances I've seen from a striker in quite some time.

Tommy Anderson, in the SBS studio afterwards, complained that Saha had been given far too much space by the Celtic defence. True enough, but few defences could have coped with the Frenchman in this sort of form.

He was at it from the outset; an audacious stooping header and a thunderous 20-yard volley on the turn both went agonizingly wide in the opening 15 minutes. And these were only the first of a dozen or so shots at goal that Saha created for himself; his touch, turns of pace and powerful shooting were a joy to behold.

He finished with two goals, and played a crucial role in United's winner, bursting into the box once again to force a desperate save, before sliding the ball across to the far post for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to tap in.

He did disappear somewhat in the final half-hour, as tiredness took its toll, but this can surely be forgiven considering his earlier efforts.

Since his arrival from Fulham, Saha has largely been forced to play second fiddle to van Nistelrooy; something of an irony, this, since Fulham's first game on their return to the Premiership also marked the debut of the prolific Dutchman for United. Although Alex Ferguson's team scraped a win that day, the star of the show was Saha, who notched two goals for Fulham.

This season could well see Saha come impressively out of his shell.

Troubled by injury over the last couple of seasons, Saha has shown only glimpses of the quality he showed in abundance at Fulham, and his chances of starring for United, particularly after the arrival of Wayne Rooney, have been limited.

Now, with van Nistelrooy gone to Madrid, Saha is finally the main man again. And, against Celtic, he played like one.

I saw the extended highlights of the game on the Champions League Hour last night, and it certainly looked like Louis Saha played a much bigger role than in the past. I'm not a ManU fan at all, but I'm sure Lord Ferg will be happy with his performance. I reckon it might have been a little different if Thomas Gravesen had played like he was worth £2m. (He even takes the blame for the loss.)

It's certainly a far cry from his silly antics in the World Cup, where he carried a yellow card into the semi-final against portugal, came on with 3 minutes left on the clock, and then was booked again, thereby missing the final...
Speaking of strikers who aren't mentioned in the same breath as some of the 'stars' when perhaps they should be, what about Vennegoor of Hesselink?

What a great it was to watch too.
Saha got Fulham to where they were a few seasons back, he wasn't contained despite being identified as their one threat.

Going to sit on the pine at United was another one of things that made me angry because it seemed he'd fade away from the EPL, going home in frustration in a couple of years.

I don't want to wish Man Utd any luck or anything like that, but its always good to see an exciting player playing well.
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