On the 7th of November 1990, Alex Ferguson took his United team just over the Welsh border to Wrexham for a European Cup Winners Cup second round, 2nd leg match for a 2-0 win that would be the last time United played a competitive match in Wales until today. I remember that night well, with it being my first “Euro away” watching United, it was an efficient and dour performance with United doing just what was required and nothing else. Today, twenty one years, one hundred miles south in distance and the same place in quality of performance, United did enough to win a game against a team who have a manager who believes in having his team playing good football, but a team that United should have been out of sight of by half time, but for some sloppy final balls/passes. It’s becoming a recurring theme this, but United have yet again got away with winning a game when not firing on all cylinders. At this rate, I’ll be happy for United to stay in contention for the title by January where I’m hoping that Alex Ferguson spends some of that Ronaldo money which he insist is still there and get a midfielder who can pass a ball accurately, tackle and take control of the game. If he doesn’t, then I think we can forget about the title.
Despite Swansea City’s admirable attitude to playing football, they are a mediocre side who whilst having periods of dominating possession never really looked like scoring, save for a glaring miss by Scott Sinclair on 23 minutes. Most teams, losing to United by a goal with, lets say ten minutes to go, would go on kamikaze attacking mission against which would normally result in United breaking on the counter and scoring, occasionally a siege can develop and United will concede. Swansea today played the closing stages of the match like a team seeing out a draw. There was no urgency or frenzy from them. It was a strange approach from a home side. All through the game United’s defence had Swansea well under control, Phil Jones once again outstanding. On 11 minutes, the time defying Ryan Giggs hustled the ball off Angel Rangel to set up Javier Hernandez to stumble the ball home.
After that, there was an abundance of opportunities for United to extend the lead only to lay off a casual and sloppy final ball. Wayne Rooney was playing too deep, attempting the lung bursting playing style of Bryan Robson and Roy Keane, at one point in the first half, it looked like he was trying to play a twenty five yard pass to himself, such was his vigour. I love that sense of commitment and desire that Rooney has, but his union card says he’s a goalscorer and one of the best in the world too, hopefully his time in midfield is as a makeshift, in lieu of a new midfielder signing in January.
One statistic I heard after the match was that United have the most clean sheets in the Premier League. This is after the statistic being bandied about in early October that said United had given opposing teams the most shots on goal up until then. This means to me that far from being a calamity, United have, with David de Gea actually signed a good keeper. Odd that nobody in punditry has pointed that out after the glee that greeted his mistake at Wembley or the Hawthorns. Where’s Mike Summerbee when you need him ? Humbug !
As for the atmosphere in the ground, the Welsh, southern Welsh in particular, are famous for their love of singing and they didn’t let anybody down today. A noisy and raucous crowd finally seemed to lose heart after about sixty minutes when I could hear United fans singing songs about Andy Cole, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Paul Scholes. Take Andy Cole for example, my fellow reds are the only fans I’ve ever come across who sing songs celebrating a player who left ten years ago, whilst the match is playing. It’s a sign that if a player does good for us and behave honourably after leaving United (hello Mark Hughes), he’ll always be remembered and feted by Reds. It makes me proud to be a United fan but the truth also is that when United fans start singing songs in the middle of a game celebrating them players, it’s because they are bored. That’s fair enough, I’d rather United fans did that than do what the perenially unimaginitive do and start doing a Mexican wave. There’s nothing else in the world like being a red and tonight, I’m gonna be in the pub celebrating that, hopefully in true Manchester United style…