This has to be a great time for United fans. How nice it must feel to be supporting a club that also happens to be playing some outstanding football. Of course, the luckiest of the lot would have to be those who get to see them live in action at the Theatre of Dreams week in, week out.
While the Glazers continue to be a much despised lot — what with the ridiculous increase in ticket prices and the Automatic Cup Ticket scheme — the performance of our team, so far, has been nothing short of breathtaking. This team is easily the best we’ve had since our Treble and this is just the beginning.
All this, of course, could be possible only because of certain elements in the club, without whom, we wouldn’t have been able to watch the kind of football that we are witnessing at the moment.
Undoubtedly, Sir Alex Ferguson comes to mind; the man who has made his career by proving people wrong. When backs were against the wall he delivered. And that rubbed on to the club and the players. Today, as we’ve seen time and again, it would be extremely dangerous to write United off and that is for good reason. Alan Hansen found that out with his ill-advised ‘You won’t win anything with kids’ comment; so did tons of hacks world over — in some cases, even United fans — during last season’s title triumph. And at the centre of all this ‘I will prove you wrong‘ mentality is the great gaffer himself.
The promised Third Great Team is before us. All that is left to know is, will this team deliver what seems so promising?
Of course, there are other people who have played an equally important role in building this team of ours. Carlos Queiroz, for identifying some outrageous talents — that, we hope, will play an important part for years to come — and nurturing them. And finally — I am surprised that I am saying this, but here it is — the Glazers; for their non-interference in footballing matters and allowing issues relating to transfers up to David Gill and the manager, while providing funds where required. This is despite their dodgy-looking business model on which they bought the club in the first place. Note that I am not applauding the Glazers for everything because, it would take us years to really be able to pass a concrete judgement on their management of the club.
But let’s get to the football, and yesterday’s game, where we scored four goals — four each in as many games in succession — thus equalling a record as old as 1907. The days of one-nils have been long forgotten; the team is gelling well; and, more importantly, a major myth concerning our strikeforce has been emphatically chucked out of the window. (About the myth here is something I wrote, in early July, about Rooney and Tevez. Even to me it sounds scarily prophetic. 🙂 )
SAF started with a 4-4-2, as was expected, with Hargreaves, making a comeback in the engine room, alongside Anderson. The back four consisted of Brown, Rio, Vidic and O’Shea, who was stepping in for the injured Evra.
We couldn’t have asked for a better start to the game. Nani made space for himself before unleashing an unstoppable thunderbolt to the top-right corner of the net leaving Mark Schwarzer with no chance. It is worth noting that both his Premiership goals have been absolute belters. Middlesbrough hit back quickly when Tuncay did well to dodge a leaden footed O’Shea to cross to Jeremie Aliadiere who headed home to make it 1-1. After a little sloppy period of play, United were gifted a goal by the great Stewart Downing, as a little hustling from Nani made the ball fall nicely on to the feet of Rooney who took a touch before belting it home. 2-1.
But the moment of the game came in the second half, in the 55th minute, when Anderson played a ball to Tevez who played it immediately to Rooney with his first touch, before embarking on a diagonal run. Rooney, spotting Tevez’s run, sent a backheel precisely into his partner’s path and the Argentine coolly slotted it home. Now I don’t know which channel (or stream) you watched it on, but the commentator on mine said, ‘And whoever thought Tevez and Rooney couldn’t play together!’. It was not just an exhibition of the almost telepathic understanding that the pair had developed. It was a statement to everyone to sit up and take notice of this team. Because the portents seem ominous for other sides.
The final goal was perhaps borne out of the need to score another to make it four. Or maybe, they just seemed happy to continue attacking and score more goals. Yes, they understand the United way, and that’s how we should continue to play.
But as with every match, there will be some gripes. It is not to nit-pick, but mistakes are mistakes and it helps to identify weaknesses. It also helps to know that players like Hargreaves understand that we were a little slack in defending at times. As he said in his post match interview in this video (Windows Media/Real Player required) But I am willing to grant them their off day because, it could possibly be borne out of the confidence that our team can score more goals than the opposition — as against the days of the one-nil wins. Hopefully Rio and co are back to their best against the Arsenal.
A low point, if there was any, was Nani’s embarrassing rolling on the ground like someone ripped his jugular. Under the guidance of SAF and Queiroz, he should learn to cut out that part of his game.
Finally, it is worth noting that Ronaldo’s performance — despite being peripheral, at most — did not really affect our team’s performance, as a whole. Which is a good thing for us. And not so good for the others. Even Aston Villa might agree with this assessment.
So the swagger is well and truly back, the season is set up very nicely. And we are playing some beautiful football to go with this. Next week would be a good test. But who cares! We’ll enjoy what we’ve seen so far, for now at least.
Bring on Arsenal!
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