Cleat Geeks

Jamie Vardy, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Record Breaking

Between the years 1972-1993 the late Roy Castle hosted a show on the BBC entitled ‘Record Breakers’. Each week contestants would attempt to break records that were listed in the Guiness Book of Records and in so doing achieve a certain amount of fame. Until that was, with a certain amount of inevitability, their particular record was also beaten and a new champion donned the podium.

jamieVardySlideIf the show was still running today there would be no doubt who the guest of honor would be this week, from the world of football, Jamie Vardy. With perhaps the fallen champion Ruud Van Nistlerooy only able to sit, watch and applaud the new usurper to his crown.

There was a certain amount of irony when Vardy smashed the goal-scoring record of Van Nistlerooy for Leicester City on Saturday 28th November 2015. Van Nistlerooy’s record of scoring in 10 premier league matches was surpassed by a player who, in professional football terms, has come up the hard way, however that was not the only curiosity on the day the record fell.

When Vardy struck his 11th goal in 11 games against the team Van Nistlerooy originally set the record for, it was not only a recognition of how good Leicester City are at present under Claudio Ranieri, but also how poor Manchester United have been at times this particular season.

For many spectators the Vardy goal, fast, flowing and decisive was a reminded of how United played under the previous manage Sir Alex Ferguson.

For an example here compare Vardy’s goal with Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal of only a few years ago at Arsenal.

Vardy v Manchester United 2015

Ronaldo v Arsenal 2008

In the harsh reality of the premiership however there will be few, if any people forecasting that Leicester City will win the title, Vardy or no Vardy. Paradoxically at the same time many will see United as a good bet to lift the trophy because of two important factors, their goals against record and the amount of possession football they enjoy in each match.

As Hamlet might say “ay, there’s the rub!”, because it is the philosophy of Louis Van Gaal; not the quality within the team, which at the moment faces the fans ire and the journalists microscopes.

It was curious that Van Gaal set up with three across the back instead of  his now more usual four in a 3-5-2 formation. Paddy McNair, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind were the three across the back aiming to cut down the amount of space available for the likes of Vardy.

In theory, if not in practice, closing down the space between defenders would limit the threat of Vardy in particular and Leicester in general. Unfortunately for United the Leicester City striker, on at least one occasion, managed to find the space he needed and the opportunity he was given to set the new premiership match scoring record.

JuanMataUnited started with Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial as the main strikers in front of a four man midfield, with Juan Mata playing ‘in the hole’. The system requires the wide men or wingbacks, in this case Matteo Darmian and Ashley Young, to push forward and supply crosses for the main strikers and also to do a defensive role for the team.

United surprisingly looked dangerous early on from set pieces, which is not always something you associated with the team at present. In the 23rd minute Young leaving his defensive duties ran down the left wing and earned a corner kick. From the corner Smalling had a good chance to at least test the goalkeeper but his header was poor however as a result of the attempt United earned another corner from the right wing.

It was from this corner that the ball was caught by Kasper Schmeichel in the Leicester goal who then quickly dispatched it to Christian Fucks. Fuchs angled a quick through ball to the onrunning Vardy who was able to run onto it and score past David DeGea. Manchester United (and DeGea) finally conceding from open play in the premier league for the first time in 545 minutes, another kind of record. Young, not a natural defender, tracked Vardy back but played him onside at the crucial moment. Darmian was also slightly off the pace as he failed to get in any tackle on Vardy as the Leicester man collected the ball.

MUSchweinsteigerThe United equalizer when it came in the 45th minute was from yet another corner on the right following another left wing cross from Young. The corner taken by Blind was accurate and dropped near the penalty spot where Schweinsteiger, who had to hold off Shinji Okazaki in the run up, set up his own record for United. If last weeks goal at Watford was deemed an own goal by Troy Deeney there was no doubting this was Schweinsteiger’s first goal for the club as he headed into the net from close range.

The chances to win the match for either team in the second half were few and far between as Leicester tired and United showed signs of fatigue after their midweek match against PSV Eindhoven. Schweinsteiger in the 49th minute, Leonardo Ulloa in the 66th minute for Leicester and Memphis Depay in the 84th minute for United all went close without scoring. The final chance falling United’s way when Darmian fired over the bar after a good first touch to bring the ball down under his control. In the end 1-1 seemed a far result with the added bonus of seeing records broken for both teams although Vardy’s record rightly grabbed all the headlines.

Records, as they say, are there to be broken and the United manager will be hopefull of another one next Tuesday night when United play Wolfsburg in the Champion League in Germany. It will in truth only be a minor record for Van Gaal in getting United into the knock out stage of the European competition for the first time. Yet it is something Van Gaal has yet to achieve with Manchester United and records big or small are always welcome, some more than others.

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