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Hurt Pride (Park) and Looking Ahead to Chelsea

I happened to give the game a miss — not intentionally, mind — but it turns out, from reports all over, that my decision was far from ill-advised.

On the surface there couldn’t have been a bigger mismatch; a side that just attained its zenith of footballing glory was pitted against one that had plunged to humiliating depths of footballing failure. But as the cliches go with cup games like these, form books are usually ripped to shreds.

But — yes, there are plenty of buts here — while it’s understandable that a team can have an off day, displaying the sort of ineptitude (apparently) that belies the vast array of talent available certainly isn’t. Again, my lack of game watching time prevents me from passing judgements on our performance on Pride Park, but when Fergie himself said we were lucky to escape with a 1-0 defeat rather than a 4-0 thumping [not to mention, our ‘phenomenal’ two shots on goal], then it’s a case for worry.

Not that this sort of a result was a bolt from the blue. All season we’ve been as disjointed as I can remember from recent memory. We’ve shown as much grace in our general play as Godzilla in a figure skating competition and, for most part, the finishing ability of a blind folded archer. Blame this decay, from a deadly, high speed counter attacking menace, on something systemic, or on Sir Alex, or on a side that’s seemingly reached its peak — but the answers are not that simple. There are problems in the side, but I can’t pin the blame squarely on one person. Anyway, mine is not to mull on the negatives extensively, but talk about what lies in store, which leads me to the final part in this meandering piece.

Teams can pick themselves from a rut when there is enough motivation. Mental attributes are never to be underestimated especially when the ability of players is not in question. And a situation presents itself beautifully, over the weekend, with the Blue Russians driving up to Old Trafford. Both teams are currently looking for a corner to turn, a tonic for their respective illnesses. Chelsea, after a belligerent start to their season, have fallen on bad days. United have never really seen bright days this season — there have been a few good performances, but never a string of them to strike fear. A win for either side would be the shot they so badly seek.

What I am looking forward to is a performance from the lads to make a statement to the rest of the league. I know, a win would be great. But performance is something I’d be looking for over the end result. Of course, I’d be gutted if we lost. But I need the giant that is United to wake up from it’s slumber and I need Sunday to be the day they stir — and a stirring performance is what I ask.

But, from recent history, we have been attritional against the top four sides (barring some Arsenal games). So it is going to be a big ask of us to go gung-ho against a side of Chelsea’s stature. But we must play to win, and it should be reflected on the pitch. Full stop.

There has been case for optimism at times — Berbatov and Carrick against Southampton, Rooney’s cameos at times, Ronaldo’s road rage on his Ferrari… er, scratch that last one. But we need it as a collective force and I hope the Chelsea game is the one that kicks our season to a higher gear — to say the least.

Meanwhile, a couple of other things that I thought of penning down along with this post:

1. The Tevez PR machine is on a full-fledged damage limitation exercise. There is only so much that can be lost in translation. But Tevez’s reaction was to newspaper reports [i.e., quotes attributed to Fergie], which are alleged to be the work of a mischief making journo. Despite all the charm from his agents et al, there certainly is something to all this — mischief or no mischief. The bottomline: Tevez will feel frustrated if United continue to stall on his contract, and this story will make an appearance again. So watch this space.

2. We keep stalling on Tevez’s contract but we’ve snapped up a defender who couldn’t make it to the first team at Stoke. Here’s wishing the lad all the best to his United career.