THINGS in life as, as in football, have a habit of working themselves out, even if you can’t see that while events are unfolding. With that in mind, Fulham came to Old Trafford on the back of a stonking victory in the first week and Manchester United were on home turf after Goodison turned bad. Robin Van Persie started his first game at home, when Nani found out his services were not required he got in a taxi and went home and later that evening a certain Wayne Rooney would be hobbling home from the hospital.
Whichever way you slice it, home is very important.
In general there are a great many things to be happy with as we look over Saturday’s game but just because there’s only two games gone doesn’t mean we can gloss over everything else. The fact is that this season probably more than any other, Manchester United need to be doing things faster, cleaner and brighter than the other team’s we are facing. There isn’t the time to lose or draw too many early on, the days of losing two and drawing one in August are gone. We need to be at the races every game, and this is why we need Old Trafford to be a place where no visiting team thinks they even have a chance. Like it was when Stan Collymore ‘broke into the bank of England’ and scored against United. Nottingham Forrest and Collymore, or Chelsea and Gavin Peacock, were blips… because Old Trafford was a fortress. It needs to be again. That’s how hard it should be to take points from the theatre of dreams; if an opposing team takes a point or three away from Old Trafford then no one will care because the end of the world will be coming at 5pm.
During the first half or thereabouts United had that invincibility. Robin Van Persie scored that classy goal which ‘starts to repay the fee’, but there was never any question that he would feel at home at Old Trafford. David De Gea showed one moment of insane confidence with quick footwork and Tom Cleverley will improve the more games he plays for us, which depends on him steering clear of injury. His shot on Saturday led to Johnny on the spot Shinji Kagawa putting the ball in the net for 2:1. We are ready to categorise Kagawa’s start in a United shirt as very good, his passing against Everton was something to cling to and on Saturday he was alert and made an impact. That really did go for the whole team though, everyone appeared to be on their game, Rafael thought he was Roberto Carlos, only good things can come from that unless he spends too much time with Pat and forgets to go back.
It was Rafael who scored the third goal, and lead us to believe that Fulham were there to be picked off at will. It was something approaching irony that, with Nani out of the picture, that third goal was assisted by two wingers making meaningful crosses into the danger area; Valenica, Young and the little Brazilian’s head to finish. The cross ended up on his head, not in row z. You have to wonder if Nani was watching.
David De Gea did come in for criticism in the days that followed the game, and sometimes he has to hold his hands up, by all means curse Vidic with your mouth and your eyes (Schmiechel used to crucify Bruce and Pally all the time, even when it was the Dane’s mistake), but he needs to work on his flaws. It’s good that David is good when he is good, but when we as fans know he’s going to be flapping like a panicking bird, chances are the opposition will know this too. They’ll stick a player on him and see what happens. What happened this week was that he should have taken it, called for it, maybe he didn’t, but “Keeper’s” is a phrase he should keep in his back pocket. The interest of balance and not wanting to crucify David permits that we glorify his double save from Duff and Petric, two efforts denying Dembele and a header from Ruiz. He is getting there, have no worries about that.
Bad karma goes to the football commentator who looked at the ball not going in the net and made the comment “good save, actually”… almost as if the fact that David on the whole does well for us, is quite a surprise. He is due a large break from some of the pundits. David De Gea being superb for Manchester United doesn’t seem to be in many of their scripts so far in his United career.
We need to end this report on Wayne Rooney; a player who has always been at home in the middle of our attack, less so when he is asked to play wide. So when you pondered where the purchases of Kagawa and Van Persie left the white Mick Johnson*, you may have said “wide” (most visiting fans have said as much for years). He was on the bench with Danny Welbeck, who celebrated a new long term United deal with splinters.
Who would miss out? What did it all mean? Rooney answered all those questions for up to a month by getting studs in his knee and turning ‘Pundit says Rooney and Gash in the same sentence’ into a lethal drinking game.
Football has a habit of working itself out.
Next we should go to Southampton, respect and ultimately destroy them and run back home with the confidence to destroy anyone that comes into our path. Old Trafford is our home. It’s their theatre. It should be the fortress.