What a spoilsport. Talented one, though.

What a spoilsport. Talented one, though.

Sunderland v Man Utd, 05 Oct 5:30PM

Jonny Evans

Despite neither side registering a win in their last competitive outings (Sunderland losing 3-1 at home to Liverpool, United held 1-1 away at Shakhtar) both teams will have some cause for optimism for this Saturday’s encounter. However, I predict Man Utd to come through as fairly comfortable victors.

Sunderland were probably as good as they have been all season in defeat to Liverpool. That really isn’t saying much, but at least there was a liveliness to their play that had been lacking up until last Saturday. They actually managed a lofty 23 attempts on goal. That only five of those efforts hit the target exposes one of Sunderland’s big problems at the moment – their strikers aren’t very good. The latest injury to Steven Fletcher (out for five weeks with a dislocated shoulder) leaves them very light up front and I can’t see them scoring any more than one against a United team that, bar the Man City and West Brom games, have looked reasonably organised in defence. I think there is a strong enough argument for them not scoring, which makes the 6/4 about a United clean sheet an enticing price.

United’s main problem this season has been their ponderous uncertainty when in possession. Again on Wednesday night they looked pretty clueless with the ball at their feet. This can in some way be attributed to the change in management as the players adapt to Moyes’ style of play. United fans will be looking for Fellaini or Kagawa to truly emerge as a consistently dominant midfield presence and you’d suspect at least one of them has to for United to retain their championship. That said, neither should need to be exceptional this Saturday, as even a ponderous United, slightly fatigued from a midweek European engagement, should have enough to take advantage of the acres of space this Sunderland side are likely to afford them. United to win 2-0 is my correct score prediction.

Another one of Sunderland’s problems is that they have been awful at defending crosses (see Sturridge’s opener for Liverpool last week). I fancy United to nick one from a set-piece. If Jonny Evans starts, then I’m looking for around 50/1 for him to open the scoring against the club he spent two previous loan spells with. How this Sunderland team could do with him now.

Recommendations*
Man Utd to Win 2-0 – 8/1
Man Utd Clean Sheet – 6/4
Jonny Evans First Goalscorer – 50/1

*All Betfair Exchange

Shakhtar Donetsk v Man Utd, 02 Oct 7:45PM

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The tide of negativity regarding United’s prospects this season may have pushed them into a value bet for Wednesday night.

Much will be made of Shakhtar’s impressive Champions League opening day result, a 2-0 away victory against Real Sociedad. A strong result for a side looking to enhance recent European pedigree. However, an impotent Sociedad attack contrived to squander a host of presentable chances that night, allowing for the Shakhtar sucker punch. Two goals from emerging Brazilian talent, Alex Teixeira, came from just four shots on target for Shakhtar, compared to Sociedad’s eight.

Shakhtar’s recent league form has been mixed, with just one win coming in their last five matches. However, they do tend to score, having found the back of the net at least once in each of their 12 competitive matches so far this season.

There’s enough to make backing United an appealing prospect. In the face of a barrage of criticism they have abundant incentive, and enough quality, to go out and claim the three points that will see them take a firm grip of their Group A destiny. I have them to edge a close encounter.

Recommendations:
Man Utd to win – 21/10 Betfred
Man Utd to win 2-1 – 10/1 general

Iron Man 3 at Odeon IMAX, Swiss Cottage

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I think I’d only ever been to an IMAX cinema once before. It was back when they were first introduced and weren’t even showing proper films. I think the film I watched was about sharks, there wasn’t even a story to it. It was basically just a load of big bastard sharks swimming around on a fancy new screen. I remember being bored by it.

The theory of the spectacle being more important than a good story continues in IMAX cinemas to this day. The films they show are blockbusters like Iron Man 3 with plenty of explosions, chases, colour and noise. Plot, strong dialogue, character depth – the IMAX doesn’t care so much about those.

I hadn’t seen the previous Iron Man films but I had watched (and really enjoyed) Avengers Assemble so I was familiar with the smooth sarcasm of Tony Stark (Iron Man’s alter ego). By the end of Iron Man 3 I was pretty sick of it – Tony is an unrelenting douche, an arrogant businessman. I was glad when it ended but I had spent large portions of the previous two hours marvelling from a very comfortable seat at the awesome screen, incredible sound, and 3D imagery that requires no effort whatsoever (my girlfriend complained that the glasses were too big but they fitted my large head perfectly). Much as in the film itself, ingenious technology was the saviour of the day.

Funny thing was, when we got home, my girlfriend wanted to watch more Iron Man so we found the second installment on Sky Box Office and watched it. Then, as I flicked through the channels yesterday, I saw the first Iron Man was starting on Film 4, so I watched it. In just over 24 hours I had watched all three Iron Man films but in reverse order. What a fucking interesting thing to have happened.

IMAX experience ★★★★☆ Film ★★☆☆☆

The London Marathon

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I traveled to New York two days after I ran the London Marathon in 2008 (my one and only).

During the course of the week away, I picked up a cold which manifested into unexpected and uncomfortable symptoms. By the time I returned to London I was suffering: blocked sinuses; an unshakeable cough; wheezing; and loss of quite a bit of my hearing!

I was like this for a couple of months so eventually went for tests to try and determine what the problem was. I’d blood tests and ultrasound scans but in the end it was all attributed to a standard virus which had run amok on my shattered post-marathon body.

I’d been so battered by the race that a minor infection had me in pieces.

Thing is, I’m glad the marathon messed me up. It exhausted me and felt like a sacrifice. I like the idea that people train hard and are still wrecked as they cross the finish line, because they’re normal people, and it’s an unnatural distance to run.

If I was organising the race I’d encourage the crowd to be as loud and colourful as they are but I would ban the runners from fancy dress. The event would only be about sacrifice and excersion, not attention seeking or showing off.

There was a guy dressed as Paddington Bear who overtook me in 2008 and ran ahead of me until the finish line. For the ten miles I could see him I was thinking, “this race is about human spirit not fictional bear spirit, you bell-end.”

This year, my friend, Alex, was one of many thousands who ran the race in practical running gear and raised money for charity in front of many thousands more who offered fantastic support on a beautiful spring day.

There was the odd knob.

★★★★☆

Zigfrid Von Underbelly, Hoxton Square

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I used to go out with a girl from Buenos Aires who worked as a waitress at Zigfrid’s.

I’d meet her at the end of her shift, around midnight, 1am. If I was early I’d go in and have a drink at the bar but sometimes I’d just stand outside because I didn’t particularly like the place and I wasn’t in the mood for small talk with her Euro-bartender colleagues.

I lived in Shoreditch at the time, so once she was finished it was only a ten minute walk to my flat. Sometimes she’d have packaged up the unwanted food from the kitchen and we’d share in a midnight feast.

Zigfrid’s is a bit of a jumble. The quirkiness seems manufactured and fails to strike a chord with the hipsters, who might feel they fit in better a couple of doors down at Hoxton Bar and Grill. On the flipside, it’s probably too quirky for the Essex crowd, who find more comfort in the familiarity of neon lighting at the nearby Hoxton Pony.

I imagine bankers like Zigfrid’s. I don’t want to be there to find out, but I can imagine them descending at 6.30 on a Friday, ties in pockets, for a few stress relief Jager bombs and lairy banter with Argentinian waitresses.

The walls in the men’s bogs are mirrored mosaics which look alright until you get your knob out and see it reflected on all four corners of the room.

★★☆☆☆

Clapham Junction Train Station

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so many pass through
this functional interchange
no two interact

★★☆☆☆