A Long Road Back – Manchester, March 1st 2015

The most memorable moment of yet another dreadful first half at Old Trafford was when Jonny Evans passed the ball back to David de Gea from near the half way line in the 22nd minute. A wayward corner from Ashley Young ended up with Daley Blind on the opposite flank. He passed to Evans near the halfway line who in turn passed to de Gea. Evans had no choice, he couldn’t pass safely to another United played where he was so he did what any sensible centre half would do. The howls of disapproval, most notably from the K Stand, were the angriest I’ve heard Old Trafford since the anti Moyes banner flew around Old Trafford last April. Some people thought that the crowd were having a go at Evans, but I think it was more a case of a pissed off crowd who had seen far too many moves evaporate this season in this manner. That there was no outfield player available to Evans to pass to is more a problem for his team mates as a collective, than it is any culpability for Evans after an attacking position moments earlier fell apart. Not for the first time this season, United fans chanted attack, attack, attack-attack-attack, however to my ears, this was shouted with a bit more vigour than usual.

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Possibly the most terrifying image I’ve ever seen used to advertise a football match. Incidentally, Thriller by Michael Jackson is still available in all good record shops (while good record shops last)

A feisty Sunderland side who clearly fancied their chances were finally undone in the 63rd minute when Radamel Falcao was fouled by John O’Shea in the Stretford End penalty area. From where I was in the ground, I could see that a foul had been committed but I couldn’t clearly see who had done it. It took an eternity for the penalty to be taken, at the time I thought it was gamesmanship from the Sunderland players in an attempt to rattle Wayne Rooney before he took the penalty. Having seen the replay, it was obvious now as to what all the arguing was about. Wes Brown had been mistakenly sent off by Roger East. Brown ran off to the tunnel, greeted by a standing ovation from an Old Trafford crowd who respect his service to the club. Twenty minutes later, after some comically poor defending by Sunderland, an Adnan Januzaj shot was parried by the excellent Costel Pantillimon, only to end up for Rooney to nod it in on 84 minutes. I have a feeling that if Wes Brown would have been on the pitch Rooney would not have had such an easy goal to score but that rightly, didn’t worry a very relieved Old Trafford crowd.

Sunderland players debating with referee Roger East over the sending off (photo courtesy of Neil Meehan)

A hard fought win and an important three points, yet again won in the ground out style that this season has been abundant with. Was it good to watch? Not at all but it will be tolerated in the short term if it gets United back into the elite of European football. An elite that United fans have become accustomed to being a part of, to which they now demand it to be so and also an elite that commercial pressure demands United be part of too. In this case is a perverse unholy alliance between United fans and commerce. Both want the same end for completely different reasons and this season, United fans have quietly done a deal with the (red) devil. An acceptance of turgid and boring football with an eye on the long term big picture. Some stupid people think that with United being basically happy with top four this season means that the club and fans have had a lapse of ambition. This is not true and if anything, shows the people saying that rubbish up for the short sighted fools they are. We”ll take top four this season, a decent title challenge will be wanted next season.

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Ashley Young making a balls of a corner in the 22nd minute, seconds later, the ball was with David de Gea having not been touched by a Sunderland player

As for being in European football, it’s probably a small mercy that after twenty four consecutive seasons, United are having a season’s rest from it. I saw a Barcelona side who are not as good as they were twelve months ago, destroy the recently deposed league cup champions (© Glen Johnson) in midweek. Arsenal were similarly battered and bettered by Monaco, the one side they fancied themselves against. Liverpool deservedly went out to a side that used to be considered canon fodder, a team that they themselves beat 8-0 in 2007. I wouldn’t on present form fancy United against any of those teams that knocked the English clubs out through the week. There is a long road back for United, there will be the occasional wrong turn in that road and we’ll come a cropper due to something that isn’t our fault, but I believe that it will eventually come good.

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An artist on Warwick Road painting an outside image of the Scoreboard End. This was far more interesting than anything that happened on the pitch

Heartfelt thanks to Pete Barry for sharing his fish ‘n’ chips with me before the game, I was bleeding starving at the time. Cheers pal

12 thoughts on “A Long Road Back – Manchester, March 1st 2015”

  1. Hear what your saying Tony but a trip to Old Trafford these days is like a trip to the Dentist !!!! full of fear and dread and just hoping you will get out of there with out to much pain ! like you said ‘ A very long road back ‘ !!!!

  2. The game. A penalty. And one of our heroes gets sent off. Any port in a storm and all that. But the goal that mattered, came from a pot shot. Goalie fumble, and hey Presto, Denis Law pops up and does what did when David Herd and Bobby Charlton et al would shoot when they saw the whites of the goal posts. And yes up pops Wayne Rooney. A goal. Got the names arse about face? Maybe but it still works. The perfect goal that has plagued Arsene Wenger, is a fools dream. ‘ave a crack and see what happens. Total football, maybe not. Fun, you betcha second bollock it is. Attack, attack, a fucking tack. And will Sunderland supporters feature in the nob ed review at the end of the season?

    1. Sunderland fans weren’t actually worth talking about. Same old self aggrandising songs about what loyal supporters they are and…(snore)

      I’m with you, I prefer a far more aggressive way of playing than the ponderous style we’re seeing at the moment, I remember Ferguson’s early sides had a similar way of playing too. Van Gaal is no fool, he knows United’s traditions, whether he can mesh that in with his now infamous philosophy remains to be seen.

  3. Cheers Murph.
    I remember saying yesterday (possibly to yourself) that last year seems more enjoyable than this, because you just did not know what would happen. This year you do… hardly anything! ‘The Backpass’, as I may attempt to have it permanently known as, was the most memorable bit of the first half to me, too. Soneone told me they’d never heard OT so vocal in its disapproval generally. I’m sure that was the second corner that went back to de Gea aswell? Unless I hallucinated in all the excitement.

    On a positive note, it was good to see Young and Januzaj running at the fullbacks towards the end (against 10-men relegation fodder). Hopefully they’ll try it again in the next few months.

    What was their end like? The Stretford End was good, I thought, so I didn’t hear them other than the ‘we support our local team’ outbreak when I was with you on Warwick Rd pre-match, by a group including half-and-half scarfers.

    1. I’ve certainly heard Old Trafford more vigorous in its disapproval, anybody who remembers Alan Brazil turning out for United will concur with that but it’s a rare thing for sure. As for the second corner, I think you’re right but I had somehow erased that moment.

      The Sunderland end was pathetic, usual drivel about how they support their local team et al

  4. “A long road back…” reminded of another quote, which I felt you would appreciate me sharing with you.
    “The most notorious ill fortune must in the end yield to the untiring courage of philosophy- as the most stubborn city to the ceaseless vigilance of an enemy”
    Edgar Allan Poe(1809-1849) ‘Loss of Breath'(1835)

    1. Very much appreciated, I feel that “words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality” – Edgar Allan Poe (year unknown)

  5. This is grounddog day for us Utd fans. Every Sunday or Monday we digest the after effects of yet another dismal display. With the ball at his feet Evans has always looked like a rabbit in the headlights. Wes Brown still looks a more daunting challenge than our defenders.
    I totally agree with your suggestion that on current form we would be rolled over by the Europe elite, let alone Monaco and yet I’m already dreading their cannon fodder, Arsenal, giving us a painful FA cup experience.
    Two seasons on from SAF and I’m pining for a reason for optimism but its in short supply.

  6. Reading the doom merchants on here, though understandable, is not taking into account the task at hand. Alex Ferguson left an ageing but talented side. Rebuilding did not start until this season started. Mata and Fellaini apart, nothing seemed to change and no, I don’t blame Moyes. It wasn’t his time. The defensive set up is our main problem and until LVG gets us back in the CL (I refuse to say we’re we belong. We are where we belong) we must be patient. A trip to the dentist usually pays a divi. Stick with it. We are United. We are the lucky ones.

  7. Excellent as ever Murph. As an aside I also read your excellent interview with Andy Walsh in this month’s Red News.

    1. Cheers Graham. With the fact that you live in Sydney and also the fact that Red News only came out last Saturday, how have you managed to see the interview I did with Walshy so quickly? Anyway, he´s a great talker. A man who knows what he´s talking about and also (and this is the best bit) he talks passionately without slipping into dogma. He´s also an all round top bloke. If anybody reading this wants the latest Red News, either via kindle or print, click on this link http://rednews.co.uk/current-issue.php

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