Yesterday’s match resulted in what has now become our worst start to a season in a while. A team of United’s stature getting only two points from three games. The team does not have Rooney and Ronaldo and that will be status quo for sometime now. The team has managed to find the net only once in three games after plundering their way through 83 goals last season.
So surely we’ve lost the title? We need a new striker? We need a better formation? Rooney needs to change his boots? Nani needs to shoot? Blah? Blah, Blah?
Umm… not quite.
There are certain things we need to remember here if we consider ourselves worthy fans of our club. So let us spend sometime in this ‘gloomy’ situation to get some perspective here.
Let us first of all not forget that we have continued in the same vein as we left off last season: we have played great attacking football. We’ve also completely dominated possession and bossed the midfield on all occasions. Man City, for all their optimism this season, were completely run over by United. For huge chunks of the game you would be left wondering if we were playing at home. The look on many City fans during the game showed it all. They were nervous not just because it was a derby game, but because they were worried that with the way they were being stamped all over the pitch, they could concede any moment.
But the way this season has started, we haven’t looked like being able to finish. I doubt we would have scored even if the goal was a mile wide. In the Man City game, credit to Richards and Dunne, numerous last ditch tackles masked the fact that their keeper was slightly out of his depth. Kasper did an okay job, but certainly not a performance that has seen him maintain three clean sheets. Nani and Evra were culpable on a couple of occasions for fluffing chances. Tevez was victim of his own eagerness to impress and was at times isolated in front of goal. Giggs, apart from certain deft flicks, was at best average.
On the other hand, our midfield stood out. Scholes and Hargreaves were outstanding. The latter especially. The sheer number of tackles he won kept the number of chances afforded to City ridiculously low. Evra also impressed going forward. At times he appeared like a genuine winger. Unfortunately he hasn’t been able to show that consistently enough to start as a left winger. It’s a shame with Silly being shite and the Gabby Heinze situation that we don’t have too many options down the left side, when we really need to attack. I am talking of Evra as a left winger because he’s shown more ability down that flank than either of Giggs or Nani.
But all this is besides the point. Yes, United haven’t won yet. And the players aren’t scoring. But just because the results aren’t coming does that mean we get impatient and call for heads to fall? True, many of the current crop of United fans have grown up in an era of complete dominance by the Reds. I dare say, we have been spoiled by the success. Yes we did also endure a period of relative drought, where we went three years without a title (between 2003 and 2006). The 05/06 season was almost ridiculous when the press screamed out about the club being in some sort of crisis. Finishing second best or something may be deemed a crisis of some sort by the press because of the stature of the club. The wave of success and standards set by the club in the past have made not winning the title sound almost disastrous. But do we have to be that way? Can we not accept a certain level of failure from the club? Make no mistake, defeats would be disappointing and fans may be irrational. But does that mean we become unreasonable or downright stupid?
Just because we spent quite a bit this summer does not mean we are entitled to a league title. We should be winning, definitely. We have about the same team as last year. True, we never had a game where both Rooney and Ronaldo didn’t play. But we were winning comfortably, scoring goals freely despite the sale of a certain Ruud van Nistelrooy.
So what really infuriates me to no end is the cynicism and fickleness from certain sections of fans. Lads, it’s three games of really good football where we haven’t won. If we go like this till December there may be a cause for worry. But till then spare a thought for the team. In the City game for example, when we were running rings around Johnson and Hammann, their goal came out of the blue which rattled us to a certain degree. Players like Nani and Tevez were expected to be eased into the side that was winning. After such a good pre-season where we saw Rooney and Ronaldo get some well deserved rest, and saw Rooney inch towards his menacing best, we wouldn’t have, in our wildest dreams, expected Rooney to break another metatarsal! Despite the twin loss, we haven’t played shite either. Remember, when other teams like Arsenal and Liverpool have been dogged by poor finishing for years now, we have been blessed in that department in recent seasons. It is only a matter of time when we start spanking teams.
What we need is an acceptance that our team can lose (or draw) at times in succession. Most teams do that. In fact we used to do that even in our pre-Abramovich-Chelsea years. Yes the margin of error is very little. But crying out that we’ve lost the title smacks of arrogance more than anything else. Where is it written in stone that we have to win the title or else we’ll head towards complete destruction? Has our respective attention spans hit such lows? Conversely, has our respective needs for instant gratification reached such highs? Have we become so obsessed with glory?
Rhetoric apart, winning is important for us as fans. But losing is not the end of the world. There are a lot of highs and lows which come as a part of being fans of our club. The lows give value to the highs when they come. I’m sure, for most of us, the title win of last season must have felt among the best for a long time, coming as it did, after a drought of three years.
For those fans who think it is inexcusable for losing or not scoring for the last three games, I’d have to shed my relative zen-like calm and tread on political incorrectness: Guys go have your head examined. Avoid playing Manchester United on pro-evolution or Football Manager. And if you think Chelsea are better for their ruthless efficiency, go on, support them. Just remember, they didn’t have a particularly good season last year – playing shite while losing the title – despite their expensive buys.
Our team management contrary to certain panic-stricken beliefs is in sound hands. Had we converted the numerous chances that came our way, the same panic-stricken lot would have been singing a different tune.
So fans, please, let’s not get too worked up here. It’s only the beginning. Enjoy the football that we get to see our team play at the moment. And hope, like what we fans would normally do, that United do turn it around like they are famously known for.
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