After the downbeat tone of last month’s piece, 3 consecutive league victories have steadied the ship and (just about) prevented City from disappearing out of sight before Christmas. Note that statement comes with a major caveat given they are today’s opposition and I’m writing this without knowing the result of last Saturday’s Arsenal trip. Reading this then, you’re either buzzing at the fact we’re still in contention, or resigned to the fact this season’s league ambitions stretch no further than a comfortable top 4 finish.
In any other season, we’d probably be thrilled at United’s overall form but there’s no getting away from the fact that City have upped the bar to an almost unassailable level at present. 20 consecutive wins (or something) is an incredible feat no matter what era it occurs in or whatever the level of football. They are utterly relentless at the moment. The only solace I can take from this is that before today, I genuinely haven’t seen a single minute of them in action this season. It’s just easier on the blood pressure to avoid the television and radio and let things take their natural course.
Every now and then you get a reminder why this is definitely the most sensible option. It’d slipped my mind they were playing Southampton until a message popped up in the Red News WhatsApp group chat that simply said “fuck, fuck, fuck”. Ah right… that’ll be their late winner then – only six minutes into injury time as it turned out. I honestly don’t know why people put themselves through it. I got suckered into listening to the last 5 minutes of their game at Bournemouth back in August which had a similarly demoralising conclusion. The radio went off and I drove to OT in silence, cursing my stupidity.
As regards today’s fixture, it’s got ‘season-defining’ written all over it. If this United side is going to take the difficult step up from being merely good to great, then now is the perfect time to suggest that with a positive result in a game of this magnitude. Allowing City to dominate possession would appear to be a recipe for disaster, so l’m just praying we try and seize the initiative rather than cautiously sitting back and letting them have the ball. The form they are in though, we may well get rolled over whatever tactics are employed.
Continuing the theme of begrudging praise, the recent form of Ashley Young deserves a mention. Despite him being something of a model professional who’s a thoroughly nice guy off the pitch by all accounts, it’s fair to say that I’ve never warmed to Ashley Young the footballer. However, credit where credit’s due, he’s been excellent this season. It just goes to show that the old cliché about ‘needing a run in the side’ is true and perhaps we’re sometimes too quick to write off players who’re struggling for form on the fringes of the team. Oh, hello Nani. *cough*
That said, I still maintain that despite both Young and Valencia regularly putting in decent shifts, both full-back positions need addressing at some point. Offensively and defensively, they do an alright job but I remain unconvinced we can’t do better in that department. It’s fair to assume both Darmian and Shaw are on their way out sooner rather than later, and Jones/Smalling/Rojo/Blind never look entirely comfortable there despite being able to fill in when called upon. Oh for a young Denis Irwin, Gary Neville or Patrice Evra…
The Watford game also saw Jesse Lingard turning in one of his infrequent star turns, making up somewhat for his execrable performance at Huddersfield which had me ready to strangle him last month. Ever the social-media savant, he immediately took to Twitter and proclaimed that he felt “like Hercules”. Hercules? Do me a favour. Jesse lad, you aren’t no Young Thug no matter how much time you spend stood in front of the mirror listening to absolutely shit hip-hop and practising gangster poses. You haven’t got a ‘Mink Flow’, you’re from Warrington. Grow up.
Down at the other end of the table, I note that soul-sucking, fun vacuum David ‘6 year contract’ Moyes is back in football on his latest destroy and exit mission. One can only assume the shysters in charge at West Ham have lost the plot completely. What possible grounds are there for thinking the bloke will do anything other than guide them to certain relegation? Obviously the Duane Duvatts were absolutely livid with the appointment, whereas Moyes his usual sanguine self. “If it works, great. If it doesn’t, then I’ll see the East End of London for seven months, then I’ll go elsewhere.” Textbook Moyes, that.
Another one not yet done with snaffling all he can from football’s trough is Sam Allardyce. Amazingly, the Everton job is now his 12th managerial appointment. This takes him comfortably past Harry Redknapp who’s had 9, but still some way behind Neil Warnock who’s now at his 15th different club. It makes you wonder how these blokes keep getting offered work in spite of repeated failures, whereas other managers disappear off-radar completely. Is it just coincidence that the above-mentioned are some of the most media-friendly in football? Keeping friendly hacks onside to generate undue praise and gloss over any evidence of incompetence (or indeed financial impropriety), seems to be the way to go. It’s no wonder Moyes is so blasé about getting another job beyond his next disastrous reign.
Anyway, that’s me done here for another year. Merry Christmas all, and I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing for City to hit some sort of metaphorical iceberg before I appear here again in early January. Have a good one…
Copyright Red News – December 2017