Some people call it the Mickey Mouse Cup. Others call it the Reserves Cup. Whatever it’s called, United were drubbed 4 nil by West Ham, a team that look destined to be relegated at the end of this EPL campaign. At times, it’s unbelievable that West Ham somehow manage to stay up each season, but they do usually provide some good football performances here and there. Tonight was no doubt one of their only shining moments in a season where they’ve been paltry, at best.
After our 7-1 thrashing of Blackburn on Saturday, many expected the form to continue and that we’d come home from Upton Park with another Carling Cup win. To be completely honest, performances like ours on Saturday are typically followed by a falling out in the next match. This Tuesday, it just so happened to be against West Ham. Winners of the previous two Carling Cup trophies is something they can put in the history books, but does the League Cup really mean that much? Some argue that it does. Others argue that it’s nothing more than extra matches and meaningless silverware.
I will admit that in a season where we won nothing of significance – last year – there was a part of me that liked the fact that we had the Carling Cup. But, that’s really what it was – mere consolation for winning nothing else. In my honest opinion, while it would’ve been nice to keep winning and stretch our unbeaten record to another weekend, I’m not going to lose sleep over this loss. It’s pretty impressive that our first loss of the season has come in December, right? That’s not too shabby, if I’m being honest.
The match wasn’t pretty to watch, especially the part where West Ham – a side who has only scored 14 goals in the 15 games during EPL play – brushed our defenders aside to net 4 goals. Big up to them for winning handily on their home pitch, but I contest that this loss gave us more perspective than a win would have. If you look at the stats, there is no way that West Ham outplayed us by a 4-goal margin, but they did net when it mattered. Fergie has fielded similar teams in the other Carling Cup matches and we’ve fared pretty well. Tonight just happened to be different. There isn’t much you can take away from a 4-goal loss, but I’ve singled out a few.
First and foremost, it is only the Carling Cup. We fielded a team full of reserves, most notably the four in the back. We didn’t have any starting defenders – a defense that many United fans, including myself, are confidently content with – until Rafa came on for his brother. But only after the damage was done. The Carling Cup is nothing more than an obligation at this point. You can see the attendance numbers for these games. Fans don’t much care about it – unless their team is not in contention to win any other silverware. Ahem, West Ham.
Secondly, we got served a piece of humble pie. A loss like this is always good for a little perspective, because you can’t win every single match. If we had drawn or won, everyone would still be pointing at the unbeaten streak. At some point, that would turn into a number that everyone would dwell on. It’s over and done with. We’re not unbeaten any longer. Let’s move on.
Thirdly, and I don’t know about you, but as the season drags on, people are going to get injured and pick up nicks. We’re already an injury-riddled team, so not having to play a few more Carling Cup matches, regardless of if it’s a reserve team or not, is something that will help our depth. We are atop the Prem and are about through to the Champions League knock-out stage. That’s more important than a Carling Cup trophy.
Fourth, we got to see more idiosyncrasies about our players. Evans is an enigma that I still can’t figure out. I’d say loan him out, but if something happens with our defenders, we’d have no one else to step in. O’Shea proved, yet again, that there is no place for him in our squad. I’m sorry if you don’t agree, I just can’t see it. However, Anderson played well…again. It’s been a long time coming, but all the hype (something I never bought into) is now getting presented out on the pitch. Fletcher is struggling for form and Giggs had an off night. We could go round and round with Bebe and his “raw” ability, but I won’t do that. In the end, Fergie got some insight and perspective.
So, Saturday is Blackpool, a very dangerous side as it turns out. I don’t know about you, but I’d be surprised if United turn in a display against the Tangerines like they did against the Hammers. Regrouping will happen at Carrington mid-week, things will get sorted out, and come game-time on Saturday, I have faith that our Reds will be ready to take three points back to Old Trafford. And, at this point, I’m taking three points in the EPL over a win in the Carling Cup.