Ryan Giggs is gently juggling a football. He looks slight and pale, and is looking down intently at the ball through his floppy fringe. You’d think he was doing so shyly until you see how relaxed his shoulders are. Thousands of people are watching him and the cameras are rolling, but the 17-year-old Giggs ignores them, slow dancing with the ball.
Two decades later, the footage from that moment will crop up in a montage at the start of Class of 92, a documentary about Giggs and his peers — David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary and Phil Neville — from the famous Manchester United FA Youth Cup–winning team of 1992. The shot will be nestled among a flood of broadly contemporary images of Poll Tax riots, early Oasis gigs, royal divorces, Conservative prime ministers — and soundtracked by a song by James, the indie wing of the Acid House–infused music that swept Manchester (and, Mancunians will tell you, the world) at the start of the '90s.
A look back at the weekend's Premier League action.
Chris Ryan: Tensions flared this week, folks, and I'm not talking about the time you mistakenly brought up Obamacare in front of your sister-in-law. Belts got a little tighter, and I'm not talking about your belt after you ate that third piece of pecan pie. No, I'm talking about England, where Thanksgiving is called "Thursday," and belt-tightening and tensions flaring are just what happens at this time of year, as the games come fast, the injuries pile up, and tempers get short.
A look back at the action in the Barclays Premier League.
Chris Ryan: Arsenal benefited from a truly based Artur Boruc goalkeeping error and beat your annoying soccer fan friend's favorite team, Southampton, 2-0. The Gunners had the kind of luck opposing teams typically have had against them in seasons past. While Boruc's Cruyff-esque Almunia-esque moment was the highlight …
A look back at the weekend's Premier League action.
Chris Ryan: There's Robin Van Persie, celebrating his goal with the best player on the field on Sunday. I don't know if a scrappy 1-0 win over Arsenal — one that will be more remembered for its nasty head injuries than anything else — can serve as a bluperint for future success for David Moyes. After the match, I don't even know if he needs a blueprint at all. He might just want to take out an index card, write "Rooney" on it, and pin it to a corkboard. Team talk done. See you later.
In case you were busy playing quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
In a Sunday-night battle of division leaders, the New Orleans Saints ran roughshod over the Dallas Cowboys in a 49-17 win. "It was always a tough matchup for us," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said with a deep sigh. "We lost Sean Lee, Austin is still out, Ware's at half speed, our GM and owner are the same crazy old man, and that's a good team we played." Garrett then paused, stared straight ahead unblinking, and added, "metaphorically speaking um, all of that was a metaphor."
A look back at the week's Champions League action.
United’s Lack of Ambition
Mike L. Goodman: It's not that Manchester United didn’t create much on the road against a mediocre Real Sociedad team that fans should find alarming. It’s the fact that manager David Moyes seems pretty OK with it. After the game, his comments focused not on the lack of creativity, but rather on their lack of clinical finishing. He wasn’t upset they didn’t find more shots to take, he was upset they didn’t score the ones they did have.
We’re now more than a fifth of the way through the Premier League season, and it’s safe to say that David Moyes’s Manchester United look like an average team. They currently sit tied for eighth place on 11 points, trailing Premier League–leading Arsenal by eight, and are five points out of the last Champions League spot. That’s not good. So what's the problem with Manchester United?
A look back at the weekend's Premier League action.
Goal of the Year
Chris Ryan: This was a hymn to football. I tried to do that little hop step that Jack Wilshere does in the very beginning of this goal in my living room and I broke a vase. It's OK, I have hundreds of vases. Anyway, on Saturday, when this happened, our own Mike Goodman said this:
Chris Ryan: We're going to look back on this time, people. We're going to look back and remember, "That was the time dozens of British football pundits and announcers bravely tried to pronounce Adnan Januzaj's name while screaming. They were the best of us."
Ryan O'Hanlon: Brad Guzan has more assists than any American in the English Premier League. Brad Guzan has more assists than Gareth Bale. Brad Guzan is the American Messi.
That Manchester City was undone this past weekend by a long punt from a prematurely bald goalkeeper seems weirdly fitting. It was a fluke! Or, at least, it wasn’t a real play: The ball bypassed City’s entire team, everything they spent all that money on. The other two goals were similarly not real, too. Villa’s first equalizer came from a blown offside call, and the second came from a once-in-a-lifetime brick of a free kick off the foot of a guy who’d never scored a goal outside the Netherlands. How do you lose a game in which you could’ve scored five goals in the first half? Just like that.
In case you were busy arguing that Lane Kiffin really hasn't gotten a fair chance to prove himself as a head coach with a particularly stubborn stop sign, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Tom Brady finally synced up with his young receiving corps, as the New England Patriots built an early lead and held on late, beating the Atlanta Falcons 30-23. "It's tough to beat them when Brady is back on track, but we gave it our all, and I'm impressed with my team," said a gray-haired man claiming to be Atlanta's head coach. "Wait, seriously, I'm Mike Smith," the man said, giving a clearly fake name, before adding, "You've heard of Dan Reeves? Well, I'm the most successful coach this franchise has ever had. We were in the NFC title game last year." The man, likely a deluded extra who wandered off the set of Boardwalk Empire, then added, "No, I'm not the mayor from Boardwalk Empire. For chrissake, come on, are you messing with me?"
The Major League Baseball regular season ended, but there's yet more to be decided as the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers finished the season tied for the second AL wild-card slot, and will play a one-game playoff. That game will determine which team will face the Cleveland Indians in another one-game playoff, which will determine who will be the AL wild-card representative in the postseason. This will be followed by a series of three-inning "mini-games" to determine home-field advantage in each round, which will be followed by a series of three-out home run derbies to determine which manager will be forced to turn in his lineup card first. Then, naturally, will come the dizzy bat competition, which will be just for fun, followed by a three-legged race, which will supplant this year's World Series, and for which, naturally, the Boston Red Sox are the favorites to win what with their flashy red socks likely to be advantageous for maintaining a three-legged race rhythm.
In case you were busy getting taken aback by the presence of hockey news in your Twitter feed, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Max Scherzer got his 21st win and the Detroit Tigers clinched the AL Central with a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins. "Fine, fine," said every sabermetrician in the world in unison. "We get it. Scherzer is the Cy Young winner, fine, fine. Fine," before adding a passive-aggressive "it's not the worst decision you guys have made — he is leading in fWAR, which you probably haven't even heard of" while throwing their arms up in the air all at once. Then every sabermetrician muttered under their breaths, "He might not even be the best pitcher on the Tigers, but hey, who are we to know things," adding a derisive "as far as you know, we're in our mothers' basements" in one harmonic voice.
"Eliminated," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, lying flat on his back, after New York's 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. "I am no more. The Yankees are no more." Cashman let his mind think back on the odyssey he had taken this season to arrive at this moment: the Jeter injury, the Rodriguez suspension, the retirement of Rivera, the consistent presence of Jayson Nix in his lineup, until of course Nix got hurt. Everyone had gotten hurt. Cashman balled his fists and yelled at his ceiling, "Who am I?" Suddenly, a great shaking took hold of his office, and the ceiling split before him, as the hand of God itself reached down to grab the balding, drunken GM. "You are the Cash-Man," God intoned with a surprisingly feminine voice, as he was lifted into the air. "You are my Cash-Man. And to prove it—" Suddenly, God threw Cashman in the air, a flash of lightning showed Cashman he was falling back to his office floor amid a rain of American currency, and for just a second Cashman glimpsed the face of God. "Mrs. Steinbrenner?" A clap of thunder sounded, and all went black.
A look at this past weekend's Premier League action.
The Tortoise and the Hare
Mike L. Goodman: Ahh, the Manchester derby, where championships are won and lost, seasons decided, the fates of coaches and managers alike resting on the razor’s edge. Or not. A 38-game season is deceptively long, and how a team fares against the majority of the league is much more important than how it does against its chief rival. Last year, for example, both Manchester City and Chelsea took more points off of teams in the top five (Arsenal, Chelsea, City, United, Spurs) than United did, and United walked away with the league. Spurs performed much better against elite teams than Arsenal, but Arsenal nipped them at the wire for the fourth spot. There are, in fact, 78 points available against the bottom 13 teams in the league (with Liverpool and Everton currently not quite Champions League contenders but still better than hoi polloi below them on the table). That number of points, coincidentally, would have gotten a team second place last season. United took 69 of those points last year. That’s why they won the title so easily.
In case you were busy clapping politely when you lost the best featured actress in a miniseries Emmy, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Trent Richardson scored on his first touch in a Colts uniform, and the San Francisco 49ers' early-season woes continued, as they fell 27-7 to Indianapolis at home. "So the master has become the teacher," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said to his former quarterback Andrew Luck after the game, before realizing his mistake and sputtering out, "I mean, shit, wait, no, let me try that again." But Luck was too embarrassed for his former coach and instead backed away from Harbaugh awkwardly, before exchanging an extended secret handshake with Colts head coach Chuck Pagano while Harbaugh looked on, fuming.
Despite giving up 30 straight points through the second and third quarters, Cincinnati's defense came up big late, returning a fumble for a touchdown and disrupting Green Bay's passing game as the Bengals came from behind to grab a 34-30 win over the Packers. When asked if he'd do anything differently were he to have the chance, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said, "well, I told the guys at halftime, whoever gets to thirty first wins this game." McCarthy shook his head and added, "I thought it was clear that I wasn't suggesting the rules of the game would change, but for some reason people seem to take what I say quite literally." McCarthy then looked directly at the media with an expressionless face and asked, "Am I not fun? I think of myself as being a fun guy. I enjoy fun things like pencils and reference books. I wish people saw me as I saw myself: a barrel of pencils."