SOON we won’t be able to say it’s the start of the season, we’ll sort ourselves out… At a certain point November falls into December and you have to be there or thereabouts when it does because that’s when the season starts to count. Whisper it though, while we’ve been bemoaning the defence, the fact that we have to be scared into scoring, or whether the word groundbreaking can apply to a Manchester United formation without wingers, United are within one point of the leaders and in a healthy position in Europe. It was like this last season, largely awful, it was almost as if we were playing a joke on the rest of the footballing world and they took some time to wake up to it, but remember when they did? Out of Europe, nudged into second in the league, we stretched that elastic band to the moon at points last season, rode our luck so many times we had money off coupons.
Yesterday was glorious when it was glorious, and typically bloody Manchester United the rest of the time. It’s Chris Tarrant sat in the Millionaire chair, writing a massive cheque and handing it to the Manchester United collective before snatching it back with a customary “We don’t wanna give you that!”, two nil up and dominating, nah we don’t wanna give you that, let’s watch Chelsea play their way back in, even it out and then give it United at the last.
I’ve just used a flimsy piece of entertainment involving a twat with a cheque book, to describe a match between Chelsea and Manchester United. Quite.
On the playing front, United played with wingers, oh the joy! No diamond, no caution, no holding, wingers running fast, finding strikers who then find the net by jove I think it just might work. It is the way of Manchester United speaketh the Lord (Eric), and it shall be called four, four, two, or four, four, two with one slightly up and one slightly back if you want to be modern.
We started well; it’s everything we have been asking for since the start of the season. Yes we needed the mother of all rebounds to make that start count on the score sheet but we deserved that and the second, particularly the second when you remember that it came from the back and Rio, involved Rafael running his legs off and Valencia’s productive end product to set up Van Persie. Very quickly, Robin Van Persie had been on the mark and United had benefited from width and pace, it was all going swimmingly. It wasn’t just Antonio Valencia who was feeling productive, it was the whole United team, with twenty minutes played United had registered a mere 36% possession and yet were two up and comfortable, that’s how you make the most of what you have.
That said however, there were still points when an attacking Chelsea looked dangerous so we should have guessed what was to come. There were times when their attack exploited gaps left by Patrice Evra and I was screaming at him, it didn’t help, but one particular attack was broken up by Tom Cleverley’s presence of mind to be where Evra wasn’t.
David de Gea deserves absolute credit for keeping the score in our favour for as long as it was, him and the post let’s be honest. In that squeaky moment before half time he was either indecisive in not coming for the corner or he gave it up as a lost cause and played to his strength knowing he could stop a shot, take your pick. Whichever way you call it you cannot deny that Fernando Torres, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata will all reflect on the questions they both asked of him and the answers he brilliantly gave. Some will harshly but inevitably still pick holes in the lad’s display, maybe his positioning was off for the first Chelsea goal. Cracking free kick, David blameless, Rooney’s panicky challenge symptomatic of a team that was struggling to weather the Chelsea come back. I’d by that description over whether David should have done the time warp (jump to the left, step to the right) and saved the free kick, any day.
“Chelsea scoring the second goal put the momentum back out way. That woke us up a bit.”
Sir Alex Ferguson, in on the joke, clearly.
Here’s one for those in the cheap seats, we can’t really let this game go without debating THE issues of the game, tackling the subject everyone else is tackling… no, not whether Gary Neville has put weight on or just slumps his shoulders in the Sky Sports studio yesterday (true debate, people, I kid you not)… No obviously we have to touch on the dismissals and the off side goal.
Ashley Young (a fast winger, there’s a pattern here) had Branislav Ivanovic on toast for pace, last man, had to go. Evans made contact with Torres and gave the referee a choice to make. Who knew he’d make that one though? We’ve said it before, when United have benefited from a penalty earned in somewhat charitable situations, contact is contact and whether it should be a case of enough or not enough to go down, it isn’t… contact was made, the striker had the right to go down and Evans left himself wide open for a red card.
On the winning goal, could you tell instantly that Javier Hernandez was off side? In the time it takes a linesman to make the call, could you? If you could tell instantly then you are clearly meant for a higher calling, please fill in the ‘Be A Referee’ section of the FA website and await your little book and cards in the post. If it took you the slow motion replay to decide that Javier was still off side then congratulations, you’re equal to everybody else regardless of what they will say today. Yes it was off side, but it wasn’t given, if a tree falls in the woods…
So it seems this humorous treatment of United fans will continue, it seems the players will continue to put us through the ringer. Even when we score first and make it easy for ourselves, we still find new and exciting ways to make it harder. It’s not funny but can continue for now, because soon, just as the proper pantomime’s begin we should stop smiling, grab the throttle and go for it. When the festive smoke clears we will be where we want to be and that’s the whole point.
In a bit. GTS