Up until recently, a weekend without football was one of those awful anomalies of the fixture calendar – something you had to endure a handful of times per season in the knowledge things would soon be back to normal. Due to being knocked of of the cups we’ve had 2 or 3 in recent weeks and all things considered, they’ve actually proven fairly enjoyable. Mainly this is due to the fact that things can’t get any worse if we’re not actually playing, can they?
The Olympiakos away game could prove to be the tipping point as regards Moyes’ reign at United. Unless there’s an unforgettable night at Old Trafford on Wednesday we’ll soon be out of Europe too, meaning the last couple of months of the season look set to provide as much appeal and excitement as the last 6 months or so have. It’s pointless pretending otherwise… we’re a shambles at present. It’s all a bit of a mess.
The performance in Greece followed the Palace away game which led certain commentators to suggest we might have turned a corner of sorts. We hadn’t. Merely keeping a clean sheet and beating relegation fodder is cause for an outbreak of unconfined positivity these days, especially as it was done without the utterly execrable pairing of Young and Valencia – fast becoming the least threatening pair of wingers in United history.
Other than a brief 6 week spell after he signed, Young has proven to be a complete waste of space at Old Trafford. He doesn’t have a trick, or pace, can’t cross a ball and he’s physically weak. Compared to wingers of the past (and I’m including the likes of Arthur Graham and Ralph Milne, here), he just doesn’t move very well with a football. The only thing Ashley Young appears to be capable of is cutting inside and attempting something spectacular from 25 yards… which tends to result in a goal about once every 6 months.
Valencia meanwhile, is possibly even more of an enigma than Young. The frustrating thing here is that Valencia can play. He really can. We’ve seen him destroy Ashley Cole on a number of occasions and there was that golden spell he had pre-injury where every cross he put in seemed to land on Rooney’s head. I defended the guy for a long, long time but I’ve given up now. Things reached a nadir last season where his confidence had gone to the extent that when faced with a defender, he was performing 180-degree pirouettes and heading back to the half-way line.
On the occasions he does fancy taking on the full back and actually beats him, it usually results in one of his signature-move, ‘smashed across the box’ crosses that again, have about a 1 in 50 success rate. As everyone in the Premier League sussed months ago, it’s all too predictable and easy to defend against. It speaks volumes for Tony’s ongoing slump, that watching him toil with his waning powers, one finds oneself pining for the living embodiment of brainless inconsistency that is Nani. Nani for Christ’s sake! I swear, even Bebe seems a preferable alternative to Valencia at present.
Most fans accept that players go through dips in form at one time or another, it just starts to become a major annoyance when a few weeks becomes months (or indeed years in the recently-departed Anderson’s case). Perhaps the wisest thing the player himself can do is keep their head down and play through it until things improve – a point that seems to have been missed entirely by Tom Cleverley.
Cleverley, just in case you’d missed it, is not happy right now. Apparently he’s been ‘stung’ by the criticism he’s received from United fans this season and feels he’s been made a bit of an escape goat. I have to admit, my first thought after hearing this was one of confusion because I haven’t heard any criticism of him whatsoever at a game, so presumably he’s talking about getting a bit of stick off bellends on twitter. Simple solution to that one, Tom: don’t take any notice of bellends on twitter.
For me, Tom Cleverley isn’t really a player that invokes any strong feelings because he doesn’t really do much other than simply existing. Indeed, I can’t say I’ve noticed any drop off in his performances because it’s difficult to recall any of his performances. People call him The Brand, but it’d be more accurate to describe him as The Bland. My biggest problem with Tom Cleverley is the way people often compare him to Ray Wilkins due of his penchant for passing sideways. To me that is just an insult to Wilkins who I thought was a lovely player, a true artisan – Cleverley is just a maladroit droid in comparison.
It probably never occurred to Tom or his advisors that in conceiving his TC23 website and media presence, they’ve only succeeded in making him more unpopular with the world in general. This isn’t just limited to these rabid hoards of United fans who are hounding him either, given that England fans have already selected Tom as their official World Cup pariah before the tournament has even started. We all know that no England tournament exit is complete without an MUFC-affiliated scapegoat, fair play to England fans for deciding on this year’s at such an early stage – I expect the quality of effigy likenesses to be off the chart given the additional lead time that’s now available.
If Tom wants to improve his standing in the hearts and minds of United and England fans, I’d suggest it might be wise to explore traditional methods such as playing well in football matches. Y’know, winning the odd tackle, take a few more risks, maybe even consider scoring a few goals or something? Puff piece, ‘nobody understands me’ interviews with a sympathetic Oliver Holt aren’t going to placate anyone or do you any favours – especially when they’re packed with condescending drivel about how your game might be better appreciated by Spanish football hipsters.
Unfortunately, you don’t play in Spain, Tom. You might feel you’d avoid the white hankies and be universally lauded in the land of tiki-taka but you’re at Man United – at a time where competition for midfield places is at an all-time low and you’ve had ample opportunity to make your mark on the team. Almost 3 years into a United career you’re better known for a website and going out with a girl from TOWIE than you are for being good at football, and that’s not down to any misunderstanding or lack of awareness on anyone’s part other than you and the people you’ve got setting up these media opportunities.
Too harsh? Possibly – but he’s 24 now so we’re not talking about some kid who’s just broken into the team, he’s an experienced international who’s got an opportunity 99% of his fellow professionals would kill for. The longer this shocking season goes on, the spotlight will rightly intensify on David Moyes – but it’s time some of his charges began to take more responsibility themselves. No passengers.
Copyright Red News – March 2014