Connect with us

Manchester United News

Taking stock, post-Leeds.

I woke up at 6:45am in time for the 7am kickoff, my local time. I was up late the previous night; stayed up till 4am, in fact. But late nights are quite common during weekends, by my standards. About 60 minutes into the game, overwhelmed by a combination of weariness and an unprecedented ennui watching the game, I gave in and involuntarily dozed off. In my mind the game played on as Rooney fashioned a comeback 3-1 win.

When I woke up, I carried on with my day, only to fire up the Guardian a few hours later to read the match report. Only then did the 0-1 scoreline dawn on me. Funny story — not much on poignance value — but true.

A few hours later I watched the rest of the match and what I witnessed was an extension of the pre-slumber blur, earlier in the day.

But this was supposed to be less a match report and more a description of trends I’ve been observing this season. You’ve read the match reports everywhere. So another one will only be redundant. In case you haven’t read this already, Cockney-Red, who writes for the refreshingly honest blog When Seagulls Follow the Trawler (and who has often faced unfair flak in the past for calling a spade a spade) has hit the nail on the head with his match report.

Even the proud optimist, Scott, on RoM was mightily pissed off at the result.

Therefore, when Ferguson decides to talk about added time under the circumstances, I squirmed much more than I’ve ever squirmed before when the manager complained about added time.

He, however, did go on to direct his ire at the players for their shoddy performance. But anyone would have to be either blind or have the brain of a housefly if they didn’t think we played shit. A loss to Leeds hurt, although not as much as it would have years ago, but United’s capitulation, while unexpected, upon reflection seemed unsurprising.

Following more convincing wins against Wigan and Hull I wondered if they were for real. The nature of our season has been such. I had high praise for the lads after the Wigan demolition, but I felt compelled to pour a little cold water over it because it was hard to believe they were precursors to a revival. Five premier league losses by December — some of them, comprehensive — can do that to a United fan.

So when you think of the Leeds defeat, all you can do is sigh, and go, “Oh dear… what next?”

We can only go so far as to blame squad selection. In past seasons it didn’t matter what side Ferguson put out — they’d find out a way to win. In past seasons we could put out a similar side and win 10 times over against that Leeds outfit. This season I think we might win six times and lose four. It’s that random. We are a random side this season.

We might very well win the league, and if we do, then it would also be the greatest shooting in the foot our rivals would have done, since Hitler marched his troops to Russia. [Of course, I exaggerate. But the fact that we’re two points off the pace after five defeats says a lot.] But that sort of misses the point. It also doesn’t have anything to do with a general improvement of the Premiership. Well, it has to a point, but not to the extent that we’d lose five by December.

But what was more galling from the Leeds defeat was the complete lack of passion. Neville, Evans, Brown, Welbeck, Gibson are all players who’re expected to get the importance of the game. Every Leeds player was first on the ball, pressed like their life depended on it. (Which makes sense because this is a massive game for them considering their league status.) But the rivalry was built up prior to the game by managers and fans alike. Even if a player wasn’t aware Leeds United existed, it would have been force fed right into his bloodstream under threat of castration.

Also, Welbeck on the wing? Really? If anything, now that we’ve established he’s as useful on the wing against League One full backs as a skunk in a pan-animal-kingdom body odour contest, we can safely send him back to the reserves to play in his proper position. There have been instances of players like Henry who’ve started out on the wing and gone on to become great strikers. But Welbeck has always been shit on the wing. Why not play him in a position he’s used to playing?

We were supposed to be playing our “kids” against Man City. There’s the familiar spiel from the manager about nurturing youth and developing them when quizzed about transfers. You will hear the familiar, “we don’t have value in the market,” when there is ample evidence to prove there is value when you look for it. Ferguson can be stubborn like that. [I’ve long nurtured a secret hope where I’ve interpreted his “we won’t be buying players to resolve our defensive crisis” as “we might, however, explore options on the attacking end.” I’ll hold out hope on that front till the 31st of January]

As mentioned earlier this season, we have deficiencies in our attacking end that need to be plugged. I am still confident about our defence when it eventually comes together, which it should in the coming weeks.

The newspapers have been awash with the MUTV caller that kicked off the post-Leeds inquisition with a “Ferguson must be sacked” comment. I think that’s a ridiculous remark and I wouldn’t go as far, but I can sympathise with a lot of fans who have been less than satisfied by the manner of our performances this season. MUTV have since then edited out those uncomfortable moments Lou Macari and Co. had to negotiate in their repeat airs. But, in those comments, despite their causticity, lies a giant grain of truth that not all is well.