February is usually a football fan’s favorite month in the entire season, as it signals the return of the Champions League (CL), the most entertaining sporting event in most of the world’s opinion (sorry America).
With Manchester United not playing in the CL for the first time in more than 15 years, it is a little painful to watch. Alas, the football on display is the best in the world, so watch we must. We’ll start with Manchester United’s must-win game in the FA Cup before moving into the Champions League.
Manchester United vs. Preston North End (3-1):
Many United fans will feel vindicated after repeatedly calling for the inclusion of Andres Herrera and for Wayne Rooney to be played in the attack. It was puzzling to see a striker of Rooney’s immense capacity be forced to play in the middle and seeing both perform when given a chance was great.
Still, in the first half of the game it seemed that United would be in for some embarrassment once more. Thankfully the boys picked up the slack after going down a goal to provide a more vintage United comeback. After Herrera’s equalizer (from an Ashley Young assist), it was much smoother sailing with goals from Rooney and Fellaini sealing the game.
The real turning point was Ashley Young coming on in play of Falcao; it’s good to have him back. Yet, I am still an advocate of Radamel Falcao at this point despite his poor showing to this point in the season. I believe a player needs time to acclimate to the new country and a far more physically demanding league. But the wages he is earning ensures that enormous pressure will be on him to perform.
Paris Saint Germain vs. Chelsea F.C. (1-1):
What a game for Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian shot-stopper pulled off what will be seen as one of his best games to date. This is after a couple of games in which he was harshly criticized. “The Special One” (Mourinho) will be happy to have left the Par des Prince with a draw, as it means Chelsea now hosts PSG in the fortress that is Stamford bridge.
Don’t let the score line fool you, the fact that it was a draw is incredible. PSG threw out everything they had. The combined might of Blaise Matuidi, Edinson Cavani, Javier Pastore and the ever-mercurial Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a force few clubs can withstand and none would take on willingly. Branislav Ivanovic scored a goal very much against the run of play in the first half, in what is becoming for him the role of defender-striker of some sort.
There are few defenders in this day and age scoring goals the way Ivanovic is currently. But once the second half started, PSG came out with all guns blazing and quickly equalized through Cavani in the 56th minute.
From that point on, we had an all-out assault on the Chelsea goal. The only thing holding back the tide was the brilliance of Courtois. To think he’s still so young. He and David de Gea will go down in the annals of footballing history by my reckoning.
Games to watch out for:
Manchester City vs. Barcelona: Tuesday Feb. 24 @ 1:45 PM
Juventus vs. Borussia Dortmund: Tuesday Feb. 24 @ 1:45 PM
Southampton vs. Liverpool: Saturday Feb. 21 @ 10:15AM