It might be a little too late for a match report, so it wouldn’t be one as such.
United didn’t produce a performance to be necessarily proud of in beating Birmingham but started 2008 on a winning note. While the first half and initial periods in the second saw us practically toying with Alex McLeish’s men, the latter part of the game saw us trying our best to repeat the horror show at West Ham. We suddenly looked content giving the ball away and inviting the opposition on to our half. It was a strange performance; something you don’t associate with United at home.
The first goal, however, was a thing of beauty. SAF started Ronaldo alongside Tevez, with Nani and Park, who got his first start, on the wings to complete our attacking (and interchangeable) quartet. Ronaldo and Tevez’s interplay, in the build up to the goal, gave us the impression that they have been playing together for years as a striking pair.
Tevez first flicked a ball, over the defender, to Ronaldo and made a forward run. Ronaldo controlled the ball and, spotting the run of Tevez, passed the ball back to him with a precisely weighted backheel that cut open the defence, leaving Tevez with a simple finish.
It was the moment of magic that we’ve been regularly producing early on. Even the West Ham game saw a goal worked off some swift movement that left the opposition helpless. It is the subsequent performance in the game, and the inability to kill games off that has been a little surprising to see. Note the choice of words here; it’s not worrying, but surprising.
In terms of performances let’s not get too bogged down with details — you may remember that this wasn’t supposed to be a proper match report. I thought Ronaldo started brightly but faded out. I wouldn’t blame him much. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think he has played every game of the Christmas period. If so, then he has every right to have a couple of poor games — call it tiredness or general new year hangovers. Despite that he has had a hand in most of our goals scored in the festive period. Nani was better than he has been in recent times. He’s looked to win the ball more and made some great runs. But he is a terrible, terrible decision maker — something, I hope, he will get better at with time. Park was energetic, but could have done better in getting to the end of balls played into the area. For a lad whose had his first start in months, it was encouraging. Tevez was the pick of the forwards, constantly running at them, moving over to the flanks, running into the area, tracking back, and generally being a nuisance to the Birmingham players. And the Brum players showed their appreciation by kicking him around and leaving him with a bad ankle at the end of the day.
However, the best player on the pitch was Anderson. The balls that he won, the passes that he sprayed, and the confidence he is now having to run at the opposition — all makes for a man of the match display from the young Brazilian. All he needs to do is to make some runs into the area in goal scoring positions. Oh well, even Cesc Fibreglass took three seasons to start scoring regularly for the Arse. We should see the goal scoring part of his game next season, hopefully. Yes, I am willing to wait that long. But otherwise he made up for a poor, poor Michael Carrick. I have been patient with the lad, as most of the regulars on this site may have noticed. But I’d have to admit this time that my patience is wearing thin. His performance yesterday was cringeworthy. I lost count of the number of short passes that he got wrong — even those horizontal ones. Birmingham were a crap team, which more than explained why they couldn’t make us pay for giving the ball away so easily.
One thing Roy Keane used to say as a player and captain — something, I am sure, he would still say — was never to give the ball away cheaply. You may be a very limited player, but if you complete most of your passes you would have done a much better job than someone with fancy footwork but no end product. And during his time, many a player has been at the end of his bollocking if he ever were to concede possession so cheaply. For a No. 16 — I know, I know, Carrick wasn’t a replacement for Keano — the least he could have done was to pass the ball to a United player rather than look for the Hollywood pass.
Anyway, this rant has ended up being a match report rather than being a short description of my opinion on the game. *sigh* But let’s move on to another major talking point.
(I will go on a minor rant against Fergie which could become a sort of a letter to the manager midway through the next few paragraphs.)
Fergie blamed the fans for the poor performance. Well, this is not entirely new ever since the Glazers took over. But for a person who was apparently known for his more socialist views (at least that’s how I saw it) towards the importance of the common fan, his comments were entirely unfair.
Dear Fergie, you have done brilliantly for our club to the extent that we are spoiled by the years of glory that you’ve brought over the years. But please, don’t try your level best to spoil relations and make us remember you for these comments. Don’t go on your annual rant on how poor the fans have been. When you struggle to kill teams off like Birmingham who’ve had a very leaky defence this season, then it only sounds childish. This, I am really sorry to say. You don’t burn bridges with fans. True, the hand that feeds you these days are the Americans and you may have your reasons — admittedly, burning bridges with the owners is worse, than doing it with the fans, as Rafa might attest — but have you had to stoop so low, in your appeasement of your employers, to have to go this far as to dismiss fans entirely?
Could you not, for example, have considered that the profile of the club makes a lot of foreign fans, many of whom do love the club a great deal, attend games? Their lack of familiarity singing some of the chants, and inability to understand the local flavour could be detrimental to the ‘atmosphere’. But it is unfair to slag them, because it’s not for nothing that we are the biggest club in the world.
Or how about not allowing fans to do something like say, stand up? What about stewards making life hell for many fans, forcing them to behave in a certain way? How about the high ticket prices bringing in the more privileged class and shooing off the working class, hardcore supporter? Dear Fergie, all these do add up. And I am sure you do realise that. You are way too smart to not realise it. So it worries me that you still harp on the poor atmosphere. True, OT sounded quiet for a 70,000 seater the other day. But blaming the performances on the fans is unacceptable.
A reader, and a concerned Stretford Ender – Nick, emailed me about this. I will let his email (reproduced in full, with minor edits) do the talking:
To some extent our IMUSA man, Colin Hendrie, has a point when he talks about a mini ‘nanny state’ at our ground. I’m a Stretford End season ticket holder and am sick and tired of being told to sit down by confrontational stewards at key times in the game (different individuals each game who speak very little English are also in a difficult position). The new ticket swindle this year has much to do with it too at United as people are forced to purchase cup tickets through the automatic cup scheme on top of the ~Â£650 season ticket money they are glad to pay.
I’ll explain, New Years day was a case in point with pretty much everybody who sits near me selling the Birmingham game to families and observers, who want to sit all game in silence (I was asked to keep it down by an old lady with a hearing aid!) and NOT the true fans who do raise the roof! The ‘Yankers’ who own our club are only interested in bums on seats and profits. Many lads breathed a reluctant sigh of relief when we were knocked out of the League or Reserve Cup (I’m almost ashamed to say this). The game against Birmingham was poor too and for those of us who can afford it and managed to beg, borrow or steal a ticket for West Ham away we needed and wanted to get a ‘lift’ from our team to make up for the poor show there!
I was delighted with 3 points and think United fans can be a bit complacent at times with what we expect our team to produce when they play defensive teams but United please stop ripping us off, making stupid fixture times and dates and training ground staff to be too strict!
Scott, another regular at OT, also has his own take on Fergie’s comments. Have a read.
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