In many ways, yesterday’s was arguably United’s worst performance of the David Moyes era, perhaps with the exception of the 4-1 shellacking the Reds suffered at the Etihad earlier last month.
Granted, United showed the fighting spirit of old in 10 spirited minutes and managed to turn a game on its head with two late goals but however welcome the win was, it was yet again a case of papering over the cracks.
United’s back four looked shaky and uncoordinated, Chris Smalling was once again completely out of his depth at right-back, while Tom Cleverley offered yet again another abject performance, bereft of ideas in possession and devoid of any physical impact when chasing the ball.
Though his performance would have ranked quite among the most indifferent performance of a midfielder in a United shirt – and we have witnessed aplenty in recent seasons – even Cleverley was spared the abuse some sections of the crowd directed at Nani yesterday, as the Portuguese produced the sort of game that makes one wonder whether he is a professional footballer or simply somebody who was in the right place at the right time.
On his day, Nani can be exceptionally good. In every other occasion – which, unfortunately, tend to make up the majority of his days – he’s the footballing equivalent of a diva, as he floats from sheer petulance to mind-boggling selfishness, always demanding and never offering a glimmer of substance.
Many consider Nani to be one of the few player at United capable to turn a game on its head and regard the Portuguese as one of the best wingers in the team – hardly an achievement considering his rivals for the position – while others see him as poor man’s Cristiano Ronaldo, whose petulance and inconsistency should no longer be tolerated.
While I tend to agree with the latter camp, the treatment Nani was subject to yesterday was simply disgraceful.
As he came off the pitch to be replaced by Adnan Januzaj, the Portuguese was bombarded by whistles and boos from a rather large section of the crowd who, in my book, have nothing to do with Manchester United.
While it’s every fan’s right to criticise their own team – particularly if the criticism is constructive and goes past the “he’s awful” stage – and attending a game these days requires a hefty investment, the price we pay for a ticket does not entitle us to boo our own players off. It never has, it doesn’t and it never will.
Nani was bad, but singling out a player is an act of infinite petulance, arrogance and stupidity, not least because, bad though Nani was, he wasn’t the only player who deserved criticism yesterday. Ironically, many of those who booed Nani off yesterday are probably the same individuals who poke fun at Arsenal fans for their fickleness and criticise Manchester City for failing to sell out their ground week in, week out.
United could have played a lot better yesterday and there’s no disputing that this season’s performances have so far fallen way short of the incredible standards Sir Alex Ferguson set during his 27-year reign, but regardless of the incredible success we have witnessed over the last quarter of a century, we aren’t entitled to expect success.
Success on the pitch is the fruit of the hard work the manager, the club and the players put in on the training pitch and behind the scenes and if we want to boast about United’s success, then we have to do our own part by getting behind the team, however poor, frustrating, or shockingly bad they might be.
We’ve been spoilt for 27 years and regardless of our personal opinions on them, some of the players on the pitch yesterday have contributed to United’s success over the years and thus they deserve better.
At the next misplaced pass, those who feel the urge to boo should remain silent – as they do for the majority of the match anyway – or strongly consider the option of supporting another club. United are a mid-table side these days, you know, don’t wast time on us, feel free to hop on to whichever bandwagon comes round the corner next.
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