Yesterday was one of the most anticipated days of the year; everyone was up for it and looking forward to finding out what it would bring. But enough about my birthday, there was also a very important football match too. It was chance to stuff the Gooners and move nine clear of crumbling Chelsea. In the event we did not take the chance and as I write here today I am still unable to figure out really what happened.
First of all the line up was pretty much what I expected, Henrik and Wayne up front gave me cause to think they were really going to go for this. Then we end up seeing Larsson up front on his own and Rooney out wide. Rooney always does the work of three men whenever he is on the pitch, he will defend, track back and importantly he will create for himself and the team – wherever he is asked to play he will do it I’m sure and we really should know by now not to disagree with Sir Alex but I personally hope his days in such wide positions are few and far between. Then again, can we really argue when he gets in from there to score his first goal in ages?
There are reasons to be cheerful despite the hurt over the loss of a game that we seemed to have in the bag with minutes remaining. Michael Carrick continues to show his emergence into a player of United quality, if we bought him for 18 plus million then surely getting a player like Owen Hargreaves essentially for only 2 million pounds more than Carrick, will be good business if it happens. Carrick is a good player but was bought for a highly inflated price because of the club that came in for him. The Carrick deal was reportedly £14 million basic fee, which may with time rise up to £18.6 million. Owen Hargreaves is already a quality player, I doubt you will get any arguments about that from anyone unless they wear blue and visit Eastlands every other Saturday. In the crazy world of football we should be paying a lot more for Owen than we were asked to pay for Carrick and the fact is at the moment, apparently, 20 million is on the table for consideration. Hargreaves for 20 million just highlights the flaws in the Carrick deal. Fair play to Tottenham though, they got what they were cheeky enough to ask for and we needed a midfielder so we had to pay it.
Also what exactly have we lost? On Saturday I warned that this will be looked at in terms of the title when it should be viewed as a game in its own right, a difficult game against a good opposition very difficult to beat. We still have the points gap that we had before the weekend. The disappointing part is we had a chance, we really did. We have to get this out of our heads as soon as we can and I for one am I glad I was not in that dressing room after the final whistle. ‘We won’t lose like that again, I can promise you that.’ I think that’s the first time I felt sorry for the Sky Sports presenter, I feared for his life. The thing is I share his pain, other than playing sometimes within ourselves I don’t really think we did a lot wrong yesterday, but when we did they had and took two chances that changed the game. If anything I have come out of that game feeling that our team is hungrier and more determined now to win this league, weird considering the fact that we lost, but at least it’s now and it’s Arsenal. At least it’s not in a few weeks time at Chelsea; the loss coming when it did might be a catalyst to take us into those games with an extra bite. The old United ethos of making life hard for ourselves, one which I hate – having begged the team to just once take the easy route and give us all a relaxing Sunday – has served us well before and it looks like it might be called on in this season. Again, though that suggests that we have a mountain to climb. We don’t. We are no worse off; it hurts because we could have had it so much better. It hurts because Rio , for all his great work yesterday, may have been a little at fault when it mattered and as a result we didn’t stick one on the arrogant French forward. It hurts because, as a team we too have benefited from playing until the final minute and never saying die, and there we were on the receiving end. It’s almost like England teaching the world the game of cricket, only for the world to then turn up and play them off the cricket pitch.
Whether I agree with our game plan, such as it was yesterday, for most of the game it worked. If I was being harsh I would say it was to bore us all to death, get a point. Perhaps even when we took the lead we looked like a team that was expecting Arsenal to level, rather than go for the second goal…if I was being harsh. At least the Sky Sports team were saved from having to deviate from their Arse-nal kissing summaries. Give Arsenal credit, they came back into the game and won it but we should have never allowed it. Sometimes when they are on Super Sunday I feel sorry for the rival team because whoever they play, the Sky Sports tongue is firmly lodged up the Arsenal. Andy Gray even admitted that United did very little wrong as well, before going on to praise Arsenal to the nth degree. I will stop that line of inspiration before it sounds too much like sour grapes.
Losing the way we did is unforgettable and Sir Alex will make sure the players don’t forget it. At the same time we must. We must move on quickly, but this result should power every game from now until Chelsea. We can’t allow this to happen in this manor again, if we don’t learn from it we can forget taking the trophy back. Let’s hope it’s a blip and not the start of a downward spiral because, although we have little to worry about at the moment, another bad result and we could well do.
It could have been so much better today, I, in my new 25 year old self, could have been supporting a team with nine points separating us and the Champions. In the end, our team are six points clear and still have every chance of winning the title.
“Don’t panic, don’t panic Mr Mainwairing!, as they said in Dad’s Army. Mr Ferguson won’t be I’m sure.
As Private Fraser frequently said “We’re all doomed Cap’n Mainwairing, we’re all doomed”…
Far from it. Far from it indeed.