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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Outside the Box – Football on TV: Manchester United ensure a Super Sunday at Sky


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This weekend brought with it the first meeting between two teams that finished in the top four last season, which inevitably meant that the Sky cameras were there for Live Super Sunday. Old Trafford was the setting for a fixture that always grabs the attention of any football fan. I was disappointed as the coverage began when there was no sign of Jamie Redknapp; who on earth were we going to laugh at? Well, Paul Merson obviously and fortunately host Ed Chamberlain also revealed the line-ups and Arsenal’s inclusion of youngster Francis Coquelin ensured there would be plenty of mirth in store.

Of course the live Sky football coverage has changed much from a year ago before the sexism scandal that saw the departure of mainstays Richard Keys and Andy Gray. Whatever your thoughts about the actions of the pair and the brutally swift manner in which they were dealt with, the resulting change of presenting staff have freshened the whole thing up and in Ray Wilkins particular, they have unearthed a commentating gem. No Wilkins for Sunday’s game though as Alan Smith took up the co-commentating duties and he is more than capable of providing insightful titbits; although quite what he was trying to tell us Sunday when stating “if in doubt, follow your man” is open to question. It could however lead to a regular slot on ‘Loose Women’ methinks.

The game itself was of course earth-shatteringly shocking; even to a neutral like me the complete surrender of the Arsenal team was incredibly difficult to witness. I found it particularly distressing to think about those solid Arsenal stalwarts of the past and how hard it must have been for them; I imagined Steve Bould sitting demoralised in a small country pub, nursing a pint of Best as his heart broke a little more as every goal came. And Martin Keown, stumbling out of his cave after sensing something terrible had happened in Manchester.

Another Arsenal legend Merson was incredulous in the post-match analysis and regrettably, a dose of anger only exacerbates his already shambolic grasp of the English language and his rambling diatribe shot off on wild tangents; he talked about “Championship Two” teams (?), something about snow when talking about Ashley Young and best of all his cry to Arsenal fans who were bemoaning Wenger’s leadership; “don’t wish away always what you want because it don’t always work”. Yes, you may scratch your head too and it was quite sobering to witness a scenario where Gary Neville was the articulate one.

Unsurprisingly, the game at Old Trafford was the main event at Match Of The Day 2 later in the evening and yet another Arsenal icon was forced to front up to the humiliation in the shape of Lee Dixon. Like Merson, the experience left Dixon teetering on the edge of sanity as he chose to explain away Arsenal’s capitulation with a bizarre maths equation involving squad numbers. The carnage at Old Trafford overshadowed what was the big news at Match Of The Day 2 – the ending of Fergie’s BBC embargo. His post-match interview was something of an anti-climax yet despite just beating one of his bitterest rivals 8-2, he still found time to have a pop at the media. No matter though as MOTD 2 remains a great way to finish the weekends football with it’s whimsical air and playful banter; Roberto Martinez was a great addition this week and his wistful thoughts on the various issues of the day were refreshingly perceptive.

An incredible Sunday of football then, I haven’t even mentioned Manchester City’s demolition of Spurs but that’s because I haven’t got ESPN. Manchester United’s utter destruction of Wenger’s team in front of Sky’s cameras will take some beating, but I am confident that Merson, Wilkins, Redknapp and Smith will continue to provide us with many more golden moments throughout the season. Unless of course, Ray Wilkins unintentionally reveals his questionable thoughts on female referees – just don’t go there Ray!

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Chris Pettitt

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