Every once in a while you’ll get a match that lifts gloom and renews portents of doom for another day. The question of doom in essence is ridiculous, relatively speaking. After all we were, before yesterday, five points off the pace, having sold our best player and performing marginally better in comparison to last season. I mean, just talk to West Ham fans and they’ll bite anyone’s hands off to swap positions with us.
But standards at United are different — a couple of days ago many of us were miffed at the handling of Serbian prospect, Adem Ljajic, by the club. A lot of strange flip-flopping public statements made a lot of people wonder if it’s the Glazer debt that’s the reason behind all this. Paying supporters deserve to know if the club is in rude or poor health. But those days of accountability have disappeared in club football, as clubs have become private entities keeping their affairs to themselves.
But yesterday was a day to be happy about. We started with a central defence more patched up than a pair of jeans on a homeless vagrant. Evra Brown Neville and Fletcher started. Then Neville limped off so we had Carrick playing in central defence. And if that wasn’t enough, we had Brown getting injured to carry on with ten men. And the remarkable thing about all this was a clean sheet. And the small fact that we scored four goals.
Maybe West Ham are actually that poor. Or maybe we are that good. Or maybe I don’t care today.
How can you, on a day you root for Man City to beat Chelsea? And jump for joy when it happens — with a mild tinge of regret that you promptly suppress.
How can you afford to complain when Blackburn, following their giant killing exploits against Chelsea in the Carling Cup, hold Liverpool to their 845024th draw of this season?
Maybe yesterday never happened and I wake up tomorrow to an alternate reality. Maybe I didn’t care if that was the case, because even if yesterday was too good to be true, the operative phrase “too good” was enough for me.
Good thing this was all true, eh?
* * *
The match as such started on a rather turgid note. There was very little of the first half I can recollect. Same missed passes, build up that could have been and things like that. I think, for a good part of the match, our midfield never really stood out, yet somehow did its job.
Darron Gibson will be held out for special praise. And not for his performance as such. At the risk of repeating myself I will invoke my earlier analogy. Watching Gibson play is like an inexperienced male having sex for the first couple of times; less of finesse or ability to ‘hold’, but shoots at the first chance. The difference here is, he shoots well.
But, if you have the talent, with experience you’ll get better at it. Hopefully Gibson goes down that road. He has an attribute none of our midfielders have, and especially in a side where we desperately need to spread the goals around, he presents a valuable outlet. Speaking of goals from midfield, another encouraging indicator has been Antonio Valencia’s return. In his career for Wigan from 2006-2009, he’s scored 7 times. For us this season, 14 appearances in, he has 5 goals. For a winger, and someone supposedly not known for prolific scoring, that’s an impressive return. Still early days, but encouraging nonetheless.
Our past three matches have scores of 3-0, 4-1 and 4-0 in our favour giving this a goal difference of +10. We are moving into familiar Manchester United territory. This has typically been the time when we come into our own, and ramp up pressure on Chelsea. We also have a favourable fixture list right till the end of January. We’re two points off now. Let’s make this count!
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