Never In A Month Of Saturdays: September

THIS was the month of the header and the 1:0 victory. It seemed that in September we progressed, if only a little, from a spluttering start to one that was consistent whilst still not being the most fluent displays ever.

Yet while everyone was moaning about our lack of fire power, our defence emerged as one of the strongest. Everyone had been focused on the fact that we often had only a 1 in the goals for column, while forgetting the fact that week after week this month we constantly had 0 in goals against. 

We did enough against Sunderland at the beginning of the month, Danny Higginbotham played like a man possessed, perhaps looking to prove a point against his old manager. Anderson ran his socks off, as Anderson seems to do, and the points headed for United courtesy of Louis Saha’s head. 

Nemanja showed the way for the strikers when he broke Everton with a bullet header at Goodison to record the third of our 1:0 score lines, before an emotional return to Sporting Lisbon for Ronaldo who scored the only goal of the game against his former club, with another header. 

The Chelsea game came and went, or rather Jose went and Chelsea came to the home of the Champions looking completely lost. Manchester United benefited from some key decisions, largely the sending off of Mikel. That may have been fortunate but in this game of swings and roundabouts there were unpunished incidents against United players elsewhere in this game so you could say it all evens out, if the referee tries to even it, that is.

The Saha penalty is a non debate in my eyes, no I don’t think he should have done the dying swan after contact was made but the fact of the matter is contact was made. Nowhere does it say in the rules that a penalty award will be reversed if the fouled player makes an idiot of himself with his reaction.

The drama of the referee display was all we had to focus on in this match that lacked the usual spark from this encounter.

United’s only blip this month was a rather catastrophic performance from our youngsters against Coventry City. A lot of the team that night were young and inexperienced but this was their big night and many of them got stage fright. I hope they can recover from the disappointment of their individual displays because from what we have seen in other games, at least some of the players on show that night do have ability. The school report for these lads reads ‘can and must do better’.

So we end the month as we began, with a 1:0 score line in favour of the Premiership Champions. Premiership champions is what we are, and though we have not yet played like them we are certainly going in the right direction.

Our goalkeeper and defence should be praised, Ronaldo is looking good and Michael Carrick has impressed me also. We are managing to mask some fairly average performances by still getting the results. 

So while we are getting the results we cannot complain. It could be worse, we could be Chelsea supporters!


It’s Roman’s Empire

MANCHESTER United versus Chelsea is very rarely an afterthought when it comes around, but this week you could be forgiven for thinking it was, at least in some quarters. Jose Mourinho’s departure will be felt by Chelsea and their fans but it will also be felt by the league in general because I think he was good for the league.

Some United fans will be glad to see the back of him and when you think of a few of his comments about our players, or some of his words last season as our team wrestled the Premiership trophy from him, it’s hard to disagree that sometimes he was out of order. The league will be a poorer place without him. I think some people at South Bay would have been eager for a rematch with him and his training staff; in fact there we at may have uncovered the real reason for him leaving. Maybe the thought of a rematch with South Bay members was too much to handle! 

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“Play For The Shirt, Lads”

A season of fantastic highs and occasional lows essentially came to an end on Sunday with Chelsea’s draw at the Arsenal confirming Manchester United as the champions of England for a ninth time in the Premiership. Manchester United fans all around the world deserve to shout it out loud and truly revel in this moment because this has been a well earned success when few outside Man United actually predicted it. The ‘special one’ himself at various times in the season predicted that the table was false and that his Chelsea team would eventually topple United from the top and eventually win the league. They got close on a few occasions especially when our injury list got longer, and I actually believe that if we had been removed from top spot, Chelsea would have gone on to win the league. That they didn’t says an awful lot for our players, the ones that get the headlines and the ones that do not. I’m speaking specifically here of Darren Fletcher, who I have been critical of in the past but who, even I will admit, has risen to the challenge in recent weeks. Such players may not be first team material on a week in week out basis and there were times I wondered why we kept such average players around even for the bench. The fact that we did shows why Alex Ferguson is the manager and I am not. We built a team mentality that was not based on superstars in every role, but was instead based on players playing for the shirt whenever and wherever they were required.  You do not need twenty two headline grabbers!

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Today Now You’re At The Wheel

This fantastic season is on the verge of blooming into everything we have desired, and more and thanks to the events at Goodison we are in theory a win, a loss and a draw away from the title. If you want to get into ifs and Nicky Butt’s, we could win it at Eastlands on Saturday but let us not get ahead of ourselves. Neither our manager nor the players will be getting ahead of themselves despite the excellent chance we have given ourselves. Everyone seemed to be looking at our game as a stumbler, and in turn completely underestimated Bolton’s chances to make life tough for Chelsea.

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As You Were

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.

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Chelsea Rent Boys

It was the biggest game of the season so far on Sunday and it was one of my matches so I was happier than a happy thing and geared up for this match more than any other this season. Football is largely irrational, trying to explain why United fans hate Chelsea is somewhat rational – they have bought the title, a rat of an ex Chief Executive of ours and they have achieved a dominance of the English league, which brings with it its own jealousy. The irrational part is that Frank Lampard and John Terry are the types of players who opposition fans just love to hate and add to that ex Gooner Ashley ‘show me the money’ Cole. Some players you just aren’t going to warm to, Ashley Cole is one of them. Perhaps that is the reason I cheered more than ever and leapt around like a demented maniac when Louis scored that goal, the first half United had been playing well up to that point although we hadn’t really found a way through. There was a moment when we were all screaming at Giggsy for taking the ball wide instead of heading for goal, but the moment when Saha seemed to take an eternity to put the ball in the back of the net was classic. He stopped, moved the ball on, moved it again and then just when you were ready to scream at him he curled a sublime ball into the corner of the net. Cue yours truly leaping up and grabbing hold of my Uncle and screaming at the top of my lungs, “You legend!” Not only was it a stupendous goal at a crucial time, it was scored by the man who had been in the headlines all week for his penalty miss against Celtic. That was a middle finger to everyone who doubted the man in that moment at Celtic Park.

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