The weather forecast had been universally grim. It was supposed to piss down constantly throughout the weekend but that wasn’t how it ended up being. A stuttering United performance was nicely concluding into a hard fought victory when Southampton got a corner on 88 minutes. After a game of cat and mouse between referee Michael Jones and Saints midfielder James Ward-Prowse, over the pinching of inches and placing the ball out of the D of the corner flag, Ward-Prowse floated a corner in to cause a chaotic scramble in the United six yard box. This resulted in a farcical equaliser for Southampton, which was eventually accredited to Adam Lallana. Moments later, what had been an elementally very agreeable day turned very dark very quickly. It was if the goal itself had given the Lord the royal hump and he thus, decided that there was going to be a downpour of rain which was of biblical proportions. Driving home down Chester Road I saw a rainbow gracing the Hulme and Moss Side sky in front of me. Somewhere over the rainbow in sight is an interesting and potentially turbulent time for United.
Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Photograph courtesy of Kevin Gallagher)
There’s a whole philosphical argument about whether a United side should be shutting the shop by swapping a centre forward for a centre half with three minutes left and defending a one goal lead. This appeared to be David Moyes idea today when he took Wayne Ronney off for Chris Smalling on 87 minutes. After booking his day in the sun to Rio the other day, Smalling himself could do with having a good look in the mirror for his part in the Southampton goal. Whatever the United way is, can be debate for another day but if you’re gonna shut the shop, it’s a good idea to make sure that it is actually fucking shut. When Southampton equalised, United were short of forwards. After Lallana cancelled out Robin Van Persie’s brilliantly taken goal, the expected injury time siege on the Southampton goal never materialised. Indeed Southampton looked more like scoring after they equalised than United did. As for defensive minded football and the United way, I remember similar mumblings of discontent when Alex Ferguson played five at the back in a home match against a very good Everton side in February 1987. United lost that match and on that dark and freezing late winter afternoon, four months into Fergusons tenure as United manager, there were similar grumblings of discontent and rhetorical questions of whether he was the right man for the job. There is a similar feeling being mooted by some reds at the moment. They may be right, but Moyes is also four months into the job and has to be given at least two seasons to be found suitable or not. United, despite being champions, are not a great side and haven’t been since 2009. The sheer force of Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial brilliance has won the title on the last two occasions. Moyes has been left a side that whilst incumbent champions, needs dismantling and rebuilding. Not something he’s going to be able to do in four bleeding months.
Rain sodden United fans on Chester Road in Hulme, en route to a welcoming pub on Deansgate (Photograph courtesy of Kevin Gallagher)
The moaning at the full time whistle by some United fans were of a similar relentless nature to the rain. Reds are obviously going to be pissed off about conceding a last minute equaliser, I was too, but the mard arsed baloney coming out of some United fans walking down Warwick Road after the match was as clueless as potentially embarassing. There’s a train of thought amongst some United fans of my acquaintance that a barren season or two wouldn’t neccesarily be a bad thing. The idea being that it would get rid of the muppets who have jumped on the Man U (sic) bandwagon in the Ferguson era. Whilst there will obviously be an exodus, to what degree is to be ascertained. Anybody who remembers the garbage served up in the latter part of the Ron Atkinson era and the early part of Ferguson’s will remember Old Trafford being a pretty depressing place. Some people talk with misty eyed nostalgia as if it were a halcyon period of relentlessly noisy, loyal and passionate support from the cauldron of United Road and Stretford End terrace. It’s as if Old Trafford in that era was predominately populated by a core of knowledgable and hardened reds who rolled with the punches (so to speak). That’s complete bollocks. There was a similar ratio of know nowt, mard arsed knobheads at Old Trafford in that era as there is now. There were some great days, the league double over Liverpool in 86/87, the heroic 3-3 draw at Anfield on Easter Monday 1988 against a brilliant Liverpool side and giving Liverpool and Arsenal a good leathering in 1989, but it was pretty dire apart from that between 1986 and 1990. Some people wanted Sir Alex Ferguson sacked in 1989 and 2004, other people wanted rid of David Gill, they eventually got what they wanted (well Sir Alex retired, but you know what I mean). The way some people are talking about Moyes, they want to be careful what they wish for. Liverpool have, barring the odd exception, been a pretty average side since they last won the title in 1990. Is Anfield now populated by hardcore and knowledgable fans? Ask any honest or proper scouser that question (trust me, they do exist) and they’ll give the same response about Anfield having a similar proportion of clueless wankers that Old Trafford has.