Football. Bloody hell! (I’m copywriting that so nibs off) It feels like yesterday that little old Yewnited were peering up at the top of the Premier League table from the bottom of a very deep and cold crevasse, aspiring to be just like City. Or something. Then piff paff poof, alacazam, and our boys magically transformed from bumbling clowns into majestic golden eagles, but not before they’d infected that lot from the Etihad with a large dose of the thundersh*ts. So here we are, a few weeks later, looking down on the boys in pastel blue, cackling maniacally. With each week that passes the self-satisfied ‘I’d eat my own t*rds and they’d taste of Dairy Milk chocolate’ grin on LVG’s face is widening, whilst Manuel Pellegrini is looking more and more like a wide-eyed, vacantly gurning David Moyes every day. Incidentally, Moyes himself has the same sh*t eating gurn as the Dutchman, as he does what he does best in San Sebastián, lifting a rotten team out of the mire and into a position of utter pointlessness in mid-table. You rule Dave.
Speaking of Moyes, for it is what I do best, in December, January and some of February there didn’t look to be a great difference between his United and LVG’s. The points totals were certainly similar, as was the boredom factor. New style, same ability to invoke feelings of frustration, exasperation, boredom and full-on catatonia on fans around the world. And then, out of the blue, something clicked, one suspects partially by accident, and suddenly we go into a derby with City at Old Trafford next weekend as favourites, a point and a considerable amount of confidence better off than the other lot. Search, if you will, deep into the recesses of your mind, for that terrible night a year ago when a United side coached by Captain Out-Of-His-Depth ran up the white flag and allowed the buoyant visitors from across town to literally stroll to the easiest of victories, humiliation heaped upon an already vast, steaming humiliation pile. To add significant insult to injury, Captain OOHD stared into a television camera and uttered that “we aspire to be like City”. The resulting fatwa is yet to be lifted. Only nine days before, on the same ground, that same pathetic rabble had allowed Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez to run riot in a 3-0 defeat to Liverpool that was, quite frankly, a closer scoreline than the performance merited. It was properly sickening.
And yet here we are just over a year later, only a few weeks since actually starting to play presentable football, going into the annual home game against City ahead of them in the Premier League table and most certainly not aspiring to be like them. This comes only a fortnight after that cathartic 2-1 win at Anfield, which has sent Brendan Rodgers, the New Shankly, the tactican, orator and everyman and his charges into a tailspin out of which two of his best players seem intent on bailing. Happy days. So, after 18 months of being THE crisis club in English football, the swagger is back and United have left the incessant negative press and infighting to others. Order and balance have been restored to the world.
Not that this is any time to get complacent. All of this laughing at and mocking of the unfortunates below us is all very well, but with seven pretty tricky fixtures to go we’d all look very silly if Brenton’s men breezed through their very soft run-in and pipped us at the post, or if City won at Old Trafford and accelerated away once more. Having recently thrown away my rock I’d be left with nothing to crawl back under. But all is looking strangely promising isn’t it? The United who faced Villa on Saturday did so with the swagger that has been so absent from our game until recent weeks. While the match didn’t at any point feel ‘in the bag’ until the third goal it was a dominant performance, albeit against very average opposition. It allows me to throw out some phrases that have been sitting at the back of a drawer in the basement, redundant for some time.
‘Controlled, purposeful possession’
‘Fortress Old Trafford’
So there they are. Aren’t they beautiful? Words of art. Or something. We’ve also learned some important lessons about this team:
-Carrick is flaming well indispensable. No Carrick, no party. He just ponces around looking effortless whilst making everyone else look amazing. He’s nearly 34. PANIIIIIIIIIICCCCCCC.
-Daley Blind is waayyyyy better at left-back than in a holding midfield role. With Ashley Young tormenting full backs, but also helping defensively, Blind had cover for his own lack of pace and the space and confidence to get forward himself, from where he crafted Herrera’s first goal.
-Herrera can make sweet love (for he’s not the type to roughly shag) to my girlfriend. How long have United needed a goal scoring threat from midfield? LVG tried to offer an explanation as to why he’d dropped the Spaniard earlier in the season, jabbering on about the player not doing the things he wanted him to. Maybe he’s justified in that, but Herrera was excellent even before his enforced absence. It’s hard to imagine that the team could have played much more poorly with him in it. The Basque revealed that his manager had told him to control the ball before shooting, which he did for his first goal. Then he stroked home his second with a sweet first-time hit. “Sussssseeeddd”, said Ander, seconds before Van Gaal’s bo****ks came crashing down on his bonce.
-Always keep Wayne Rooney on the pitch, even when he’s having a terrible game. On Saturday Rooney was absolutely bobbins, right up until the moment when he sublimely controlled Di Maria’s cross, swivelled and thundered a volley into the top corner. Technique wise he is extremely inconsistent, but he always was a street footballer. His game has always been less about cushions and more about rockets. 6 goals in 8 games says that his return to the lone striking role has been successful.
-There is no place for Robin Van Persie in this team. The erratic David McDonnell of the Mirror last night let loose a story claiming that LVG and United are preparing to sell the Dutchman. Given what he gave us in that one momentous campaign then I should be sad, but I’m not. In the words of the great Elton John, “The candle burned out long before the legend ever wiiiiilllllll.” Something like that. He’ll never be forgotten for that contribution to United’s history and the way he b*mmed the Ar*e to get a move to the club, but he’s been on the decline for a while and simply isn’t dynamic enough for a role in this system.
-Some fans have long since lost their rationality regarding Radamel Falcao. They are still claiming that his failure to control a football or do the basics right is somehow LVG’s fault and that he’d have scored loads in a team that creates plenty of chances. This belief has been solidified by his three goals against the might of Bahrain and Kuwait. The only conclusion you can draw from that is that both are worse than Cambridge, Yeovil and Preston. No matter that Rooney came in for him up front and the difference in the movement of the two was obvious or that he started scoring goals where the Colombian wasn’t. It’s all about the system change apparently, not about the personnel. A few weeks ago Jonny Evans was booed for passing the ball back to the keeper. Fast-forward to Saturday and Falcao was given a supportive cheer after slicing one of the most unfortunate volleys I’ve ever seen into the crowd when he had space and time to control the ball, then shoot or pass. But then people always speak differently to their own family than those they don’t know so well and/or revere. The idea that United are responsible for Falcao’s woes is laughable. He’s tried his very best and behaved incredibly professionally, but he’s been pure, unadulterated sh*te. I’d like to take the moral high ground and wish him well at his next club, but can you imagine the revisionist b*llshit we’d have to endure? Be on your way Radamel, into abject mediocrity if you don’t mind.
-Ashley Young really is having a wonderful season, both with his defensive and offensive contributions. Outfield player of the season anyone?
-Dave is fallible. So f*ck off Perez, he’s our imperfect saviour.
-Di Maria should persist with United and the club should simply refuse to let him leave. He’s been terrible in recent weeks but, like Rooney, he still makes things happen. Two ropey substitute appearances, two assists. Marvellous.
So it’s on to the Derby, after which all of my rambling musings may seem even more wise or, alternatively, delusional and worthy of copious shovels full of mockage. If it’s the latter I’m off to find a new rock. But I rather fancy it to be the former…..