Hands up all those who expected this at the end of Saturday’s game against Middlesbrough? Still three points clear at the top of the league with one fewer week to play. In the great scheme of things that is like Christmas considering how I felt at full time at Old Trafford. I know it’s terrible to admit it and I should have had faith but for the first time since Christmas when we first went six points clear, I had real doubts about our chances of staying in front and winning this league. I could see nothing but a Chelsea victory, Chelsea team celebrations and an arrogant post match interview with Jose. In the event only one of those things happened, Chelsea looked like a team dented as they left the St James’ pitch and it is all a case of as you were in the league. It would have been lovely to take three points from Boro and get the Newcastle result the same but life doesn’t happen like that. We should thank whoever you like that we were not made to pay for our stumble.
We were off our game on Saturday, and we need to improve. Our get out of jail card has been used up and the slip that we prayed for from Chelsea came and went. The injury situation is pretty bad and for every player we are going to get back, we lose another one. I would take defeat in every other competition we are in, in order to finally win that Premiership. I’m scared that the competitions we are in, increase our chances of blowing our chances of winning the one that most of us deem essential. We are ahead in the league, still, and so in theory nothing is lost but if we win in the San Siro and suffer more injuries to our squad what is the cost at that point?
Perhaps less competitions will mean that we can focus on this league trophy. There is the risk that my wish comes true, we get knocked out of Europe and we still don’t win the league but at this point with the injuries we have and the potential for more injuries each time we play, things are stacking up against us and departure from Europe may be a blessing. I should be saying let’s go as far as we can in every competition, but what if going as far as we can in every competition means that we finish runner up in every completion?
At which point I slap my face and realise that if we get knocked out it leaves Liverpool a possible winner, and our old friends Chelsea also have the chance. A Liverpool victory in Europe? No thanks, not after the living hell that was the last time they won it. They won it five times, you know, not that they remind you all the time or anything. On the other hand would I be happy getting the League trophy knowing that Chelsea got Europe as a consolation prize? The mind boggles.
On Sunday I hoped for the best and feared the worst and our prayers were answered. I would count victory at Goodison as more important than Victory in Europe, but of course progress in both would be great.
I understand that some may view this as defeatist, some maybe as realistic and I myself have no idea which side of the fence I am on. Make no mistake I will be shouting as loud as anyone for the remainder of the season and defeat is not something I actively seek in Europe, but if it happened it may not be the worst thing ever.
Some of the best advice I ever got was not actually about football but it can be applied. Around the school exam times I was wondering if it was possible to produce selective effort in certain subjects, concentrate more on the ones that I knew I could excel in. I thought I had cracked it and my theory was brilliant. I was told in no uncertain terms that it was not, it was a dangerous game to play and that aiming selectively increased the chances of blowing them all.
“Do your best, aim as high as you can, always. Aim for the moon, if you miss at least you get stars. If you aim for the stars you may not even get those!”
We’ve got two competitions to fire in, and many little ‘cup finals’ in the league. Let’s aim for the moon and see where we land.
On the day of St George, it’s maybe a bit sad that we see none of his flags but let’s keep the United red one flying high.