The roof first truly fell in on Louis van Gaal’s philosophy at Arsenal in October when, after 20 minutes, the home side were 3-0 in front. For all that, United actually won the game in van Gaal’s eyes due to having 62% possession. Another thing which helped him immeasurably that day was the sacking of Brendan Rodgers – following a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.
Juan Mata lines up a free kick which ends up in the freight Terminal behind the Stretford End (photo courtesy of Neil Meehan)
Three weeks ago, walking out of Old Trafford, Manchester United had just beaten Manchester City 4-2. The world seemed a different place. United had won and won well too. What we didn’t know at the time was that United were to lose the next three games in the bounce; something they haven’t done since a similar odyssey in 2001.
Robin van Persie about to miss his penalty in the 72nd minute (photo courtesy of Neil Meehan)
At Anfield on Friday night, United beat Liverpool 1-0 in the Under 21 play off semi final. A pretty scrappy game was settled with a goal from Andreas Pereiraon 44 minutes, a goal that I missed as I’d stole a march to the bar for a half time pint. I knew it was a great goal though as I was suddenly inundated with text messages by smug twats watching the game on MUTV all saying a variant of “What A Goal!”.
United reserves at Anfield on Friday night, photo taken from the Anfield Road end, looking out to the Kop
In a day when Arsene Wenger celebrated his one thousandth game with a record equalling defeat at Stamford Bridge; in a day where Andre Marriner made a refereeing mistake that will give him indefinite sleepless nights; in a day when Daniel Sturridge bravely shook off the national vilification for his disgraceful antics last week with a goal at Cardiff (waddya mean you’ve heard nowt about it?), Wayne Rooney equalled, then surpassed Jack Rowley’s scoring tally and stole the headlines with a goal from 58 yards at the Boleyn Ground. It’s hard to say which is Rooney’s best ever goal and it can obviously only ever be a matter of opinion anyway, but it’s comfortably the furthest goal he’s ever scored. The goal has been constantly compared to David Beckham’s goal against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park in August 1996. Personally, I think it’s more akin to Nayim’s fantastic goal for Real Zaragoza against Arsenal in the 1995 European Cup Winners Cup Final in Paris (shown below). Like Andre Marriner, West Ham United keeper Adrian will have a few sleepless nights coming up. Even with admiring the brilliance of Rooney’s initiative, a keeper should never be beaten from that distance (unless you’re David Seaman)
A strong smell of splff blissed everybody out as we headed towards half time in an awful game. Apart from a stupid booking for Patrice Evra, a Ryan Giggs shot hitting the bar and a correctly disallowed Adnan Januzaj goal for offside, nothing much had happened apart from plenty of impotent United possession. Inspired by the aroma of the Casbah, reds were looking at each other and remarking how cool everything is. This happy catatonia was brutally disrupted when Ryan Giggs maintained his incredible record of scoring in every season since 1990/1991 in first half injury time. Unfortunately, for the first time in 23 years, he had put the ball into his own net having been pressured by his fellow Salfordian, Phil Bardsley, into doing so. The feelings of a mutual loving of mankind, evaporated almost immediately and transformed itself the usual atmosphere at football matches of loathing and hostility. Normal service was resumed. Half time and there was a sense of numb disbelief. Nobody could comprehend how Sunderland, a side who didn’t even know who was playing in goal for United, could be 1-0 up.
Sebastian Larsson (bottom right hand corner) about to take the free kick which lead to Sunderlands goal in first half injury time