Questions and answers as the business end of the season approaches.
While I was watching the Southampton game, I was surrounded by many an expert telling me ‘eeee yaaaa lad put this in, Nani is shit. Put that. That’d be class. I’d read that’. Somebody did say something which made me giggle. There’s movement on the United bench, Nani’s getting ready to come on and as he crosses the touchline and takes to the action, the guy next to me slams down his pint and shouts loudly;
“Fuck me, if Nani’s the answer, what is the fucking question?!”
So that’s how you build a twelve point gap at the top of your domestic league; seemingly you play game after game winning despite yourselves and in the process you get everyone asking questions that don’t actually matter (will Nani sign? What’s he playing at with that shot? Did you REALLY go inside while your keys were in your motor, Paul?… A fifteen minute window of opportunity, Paul, REALLY?). All the while, the lads in red are piling up the points.
The Southampton game at the end of January typified the attitude Manchester United have taken on their challenges this season. We were behind quickly, carelessness was punished and we recovered and did enough to see it out. Southampton gave it a bloody good go though, not in a plucky FA Cup giant killing way either. They didn’t just go for it and bugger the consequences, they were constructive and they had us on the ropes at times it seemed, a little more quality where it counted and they’d have taken tangible points from Old Trafford. As it was, they earned our respect.
Southampton are an important part of this story, the new manager has them buzzing; buzzing all the way to victory over Manchester City thank you very much. In two games Mauricio Pochettino has made everyone forget about Nigel Adkins and he has put himself at the top of our Christmas Card list (although probably not because football is fickle and by the time Decemeber rolls round he’ll have lost a few and be out the door). Southampton have found their answer.
Where’s this guy come from? What’s happening at City? What was Joe Hart thinking with that commercial? Will anyone remember Mario?
These are questions English football writers were asking recently, it was fun to sit back and watch people answer them.
Meanwhile, United took stick for parts of their display against Southampton, Carrick and de Gea had equal time on the naughty step and you felt the matter would be dealt with; United went to Craven Cottage and you could see that it was. David de Gea kept a clean sheet and was up to the challenge when he was called upon and United controlled their frustration when their efforts to score were denied. Eventually, United made the breakthrough and got the result.
Southampton gave us a challenge, Fulham was a challenge in as much as we didn’t look like the ball was going to go in the net, Everton even, were in the game right until they weren’t if you know what I mean.
At this stage of the season it’s not about why Wayne Rooney played striker, midfielder, defender and covered every blade of grass against Everton; it’s not about analysing the bejesus out of Rio Ferdinand and writing his United obituary. It’s not really about who is there and whether they deserve to be, it’s about whether those players can do what they are asked to do – and God help them, they are. I hope Carrick got his arse handed to him for that moment against Southampton, but he’s been epic this season. Rafa has been immense and I’ve even had to shut up about Paddy Evra because he’s making his point. Knock the he’s gone at the end of the season off until the end of the season and enjoy where we are.
None of the games were a walk over, we had to work and we had a few wobbles but eventually, we did what we had to do. That’s good, you don’t want to win a league that is easy to win. Even though United have bordered on schizophrenic at times you can only beat the teams you have in front of you and that’s just what we have done.
We deserve to be where we are; we’re keeping clean sheets and finding the net. Yes we have asked as many questions of our own team as we have of opposing defences but we are twelve points clear of the rest as European competition takes over.
Stop and smell the roses.