GILES SMITH'S THURSDAY THOUGHTS
The season may be more than a month old, but there is still so much to get used to, such as five-syllable names and remonikered silverware. Columnist Giles Smith has some advice…
This week's Capital One Cup tie was a joy to witness. Yes, it was possibly a touch one-sided. Frankly, it was men against Wolves. But the fact that we were 3-0 up after 17 minutes meant that even the most neurotic among us in the crowd could begin to sit back, relax and simply take pleasure in the performances.
And what performances. It would be almost impossible to find fault with Lucas Piazon, for example, on the night, except in as much as he tended to look confusingly like Oscar from a distance. But he is young (ridiculously so), and one feels sure that it's an area of his game that he can work on on the training ground.
Cesar Azpilicueta, too, looked sensational, at right-back. Some people, at this early stage, are having a little local trouble with the name (there was a certain amount of talk around my way about 'the number 28', which, let's face it, was just ducking the responsibility). But it's just a matter of breaking it down into the component parts (Az-pilly-kwetta) and putting in a bit of practice, preferably in front of a mirror. And once it's cracked, it's cracked for good.
There were equally impressive appearances by Juan Mata, who seemed to cover more ground in this match than most players do in a month, by the imperious Oriol Romeu, and by David Luiz who, admittedly, spent the match on the bench, but who passed the half-time interval 'loosening up' in no uncertain style. Lucky seat draws, guest appearances, crossbar challenges, penalty-taking contests against Dave Beasant - all these diversions have their place, obviously. But very little passes a half-time break as quickly and amusingly as our Brazilian centre-back, in a track-suit, seemingly attempting to put a ball over the roof of the West Stand.
All this and three more goals in the second half, including a header of quite exquisite timing from Fernando Torres, plus a moment near the end when Oscar, Eden Hazard, Victor Moses and Marko Marin were all on the pitch at the same time, cranking the close-control skill-quotient to almost hilarious new levels. You couldn't argue with that on a value-for-money basis.
When we considered this problem a couple of weeks ago in this space, we fondly imagined referring eventually to 'the Capital', but I, for one, am not feeling it happen just yet and I'm wondering whether what's actually going to be needed, before we all feel properly comfortable, is something a little warmer.
When the League Cup was sponsored by Coca-Cola, one recalls, a lot of people took to referring to it familiarly as 'the Fizzy', which had a real, easy-to-use ring to it. Capital One are, to the best of my knowledge, in the credit card game, so maybe - as in the Coca-Cola years - we need to come at this one slightly laterally and christen it 'the Plastic'.
The only real test, of course, is to try it out in a few prototype sentences and see how it feels.
'Who have you got in the Plastic?'
'Surely Arsene Wenger, of all people, can't afford to take the Plastic lightly.'
'Realistically, a decent run in the Plastic is the best that Brendan Rodgers and his side can hope for this season.'
'Not to worry - it's only the Plastic.'
I don't know about you, but it works for me - certainly until a better suggestion comes along.
In the draw for the fourth round of the Plastic, as conducted in front of the cameras of Sky Sports last night, following the match between Manchester United and Newcastle, we were given an only too rare opportunity to feel grateful to Nicky Butt.
Actually, correct me if I'm wrong, but that might have been a world first.
Whatever, Butt pulled our number out of the velvet bag on the home side, which was where most of us, surely, were hoping to see it. (In fact, if we're going to be strictly accurate, it wasn't a bag; it was some kind of black vase, possibly gathered in a last-minute panic from the Old Trafford board room when someone realised they'd forgotten to bring the velvet bag. But anyway.)
Mixed feelings, perhaps, about Alan Smith, who then went and pulled out Manchester United as our opponents when potentially easier rides (the likes of your Bradfords, your Readings, your Tottenhams) were clearly available.
On the other hand, it's what you want from the Plastic, isn't it? A big night under the lights and a meeting that means something, with a bit of an edge to it. After all, if you're going to play anyone's reserves, it might as well be Manchester United's.