If you thought that October was frustrating, then how did you enjoy this? Another four consecutive league draws, each one less satisfying than the last. In three of them we were ahead in the second half, in two we were ahead with ten minutes left, and in two we were at home. And they weren't exactly against the Premier League's form teams: Birmingham City, Burnley, Liverpool and Hull City. We finish the month in seventh place. Had we taken another four points from this month (from holding out against Burnley and Hull) we would be fourth. Throw in a win against Birmingham or Liverpool and we would now be third. Turn all four draws into wins and we're one point behind United with a game in hand. Bollocks.
Birmingham City (a) 0-0 (thoughts, ratings, reax)
Burnley (h) 3-3 (thoughts, ratings, reax, more reax)
Liverpool (a) 2-2 (thoughts, ratings, reax, more reax)
Hull City (h) 1-1 (thoughts, bumper reax)
Player of the Month
Like last month, I'm not particularly eager to bestow this honour on anyone. I'm tempted to declare it void this month, or even to award it to Uwe Rösler to coincide with his induction to the MCFC Hall of Fame. But what's the point? Player of the Month is still fun even if it does feel better when rewarding real excellence - such as Gareth Barry in August or Craig Bellamy in September. (Both of those players had woeful Novembers, for what it's worth.)
And there are a handful of credible candidates. Even some of our more maligned players - Joleon Lescott and Carlos Tévez in particular - strung a few decent performances together. Shaun Wright-Phillips was better than he was in October; not a high pass mark admittedly but two goals and two assists (from a possible six) implies a hint of form returning. But they're not going to win. Neither is Nigel de Jong, although he does win the silver medal off the back of some battering ram tackles against Birmingham City and Liverpool. I'm going to give it to Shay Given instead. He is always excellent, but two saves in particular stand out. First from James McFadden's penalty at St. Andrew's: diving far to his left, keeping us in the game, silencing the locals. The match finished goalless but imagine how bad November would have been had it started with a loss. The other was at Anfield, reacting like a Jedi to palm Daniel Agger's header past the far post. Our first half performance that day was nowhere, and had we gone 1-0 down that early we may have never recovered.
It's becoming increasingly obvious that Shay Given is not only our best player, but the Premier League's best goalkeeper and the closest thing we've had to a world class player at MCFC since the 1970s. If I made awards for the calendar year (and I'm not ruling it out) Shay Given would win the 2009 prize with much more comfort than that with which his compatriot Stephen Ireland would have won 2008.
Performance of the Month
Tempted by ironic joint award to Lescott and Bridge against Burnley. But it's got to be Given against Birmingham.
Goal of the Month
Ireland against Liverpool. Patrick Barclay wrote a nice article about this but I can't find it (tell me if you do.) But it was a lovely move.