Getting Fleeced In Greece – Manchester 25th of February 2014

This was so bad as to be comical in the Karaiskakis Stadium tonight in Piraeus. Throughout the team is a recurring theme of a bad dream. There’s no heart, no fight, no desire and no apparent idea. Excellent has-beens like Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra are beginning to become ruthlessly exposed to being on the wrong side of the proverbial hill. Never-will-be’s like Tom Cleverley, Ashley Young and Chris Smalling are being shown up even worse, through not having the quality around them that they have had in the last couple of years. This is through to the obvious decline brought on by Old Father Time of the aforementioned trio.

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View for United fans in Karaiskakis Stadium tonight (photo courtesy of Lee Thomas)

For all that, this United side should have had the quality to at least get a draw against a game but limited Olympiakos side. It’s a gift that United played the Greeks tonight and lost only 2-0. Could you imagine if United had played a top quality side like Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund or a declining Barcelona, that would still hand United their arses on a plate? It’s a mercy that I’m grateful for.

The tone of the night was set as early as the second minute when Patrice Evra received one of the softest bookings I’ve ever seen, from Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi. Whilst United dominated possession in the first half, as per usual, despite having two world class forwards in the side, they never looked threatening. This is damning to the likes of the supply line players of the midfield. This should be no surprise though; Michael Carrick passed like an Italian tank, Ashley Young crossed nothing but a nought and Tom Cleverley did exactly what he has been doing in the near three years he’s been in United’s first team, a period in which he has not supplied (or assist if you insist) a single bleeding goal. That is nowt, tittota, nada, rien, nichts, fuck all. As Kevin Garside said in The Independent, “Cleverley is the anti-Xavi, in that he occupies the same space without any of the touches, at least in a forward direction”. Antonio Valencia’s final ball was delivered with all the subtlety, but none of the accuracy, of a late 1980s Mike Tyson punch.  In the 38th minute, a poor Giannis Maniatis shot was diverted into the right hand side of David De Gea’s goal by Argentine midfielder Alejandro Dominguez. Ten minutes into the second half, Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell, placed a 25 yard shot past a partially sighted De Gea. There was no rally from United, no hint of one. There was just a pathetic meek acceptance from a team that looked like getting fleeced in Greece.

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Paulo’s eye’s are watching you…

For some, their day to Athens was potentially already in ruins when two hundred reds were stuck at Ringway this morning. According the Reds Away forum on the UWS website, they were “waiting for their plane to take off because the pilot has gone missing”. Once in the ancient splendour of Athens, Reds indulged in a hearty diet of Mythos and giros. Reds were here, Reds were there, Reds were all over Omonia Square, and that will have been one of the simple joys for the travelling army who had travelled over on a four hour flight to be eventually served the crap that they were treated to later. Two weeks ago, I lamented that travelling United fans deserved a better show than the spineless and negative bollocks that was served up at Arsenal’s stadium. The thing is, that night, Robin Van Persie at least had the decency to force an early save from Wojciech Szczesny and also hit the bar late in the second half during a match seemingly dominated by Michael Carrick harmlessly passing the ball back all night. Tonight, Van Persie missed a great chance in the 82nd minute, a chance you would normally expect him to bury. I forgive Van Persie that miss; he was probably too gobsmacked at having found himself with a decent chance – a chance he had actually created himself due to his teammates playing with all the creativity of Carlton Palmer. The best player on the pitch tonight was Olympiakos’ John Oates doppleganger, Portuguese midfielder Paulo Machado, he didn’t even appear until 76th minute.

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Post match lock in with Roy Keane, Adrian Chiles and Lee Dixon. Keane was lovingly, even longingly serenaded, less so messrs Dixon and Chiles (photo courtesy of Lee Thomas)

Some people have described tonight’s performance as a disgrace, but to my eyes it wasn’t. The Leeds United side of the early 1970s were a disgrace, the existence on the planet of Dennis Wise is a disgrace and travelling England fans in central Europe are a disgrace. Whilst it wasn’t a disgrace, it was poor, very poor maybe even staggeringly poor. In three weeks time, the return match is on at Old Trafford. United might go through but I wouldn’t take anything for granted. If United do go out, then it would be an appropriate exit to the final competition United are in, for what has become the worst season since 1988/1989. David Moyes said after the home draw against Fulham two and a half weeks ago that it was “as bad as it gets”. I hope he was right, I really do, I fear he wasn’t.

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Photo courtesy of Lee Thomas

8 thoughts on “Getting Fleeced In Greece – Manchester 25th of February 2014”

  1. This United performance was among the worst in my time. With the names you mention, are mixture of past it, never up to it. But even they are better than that. As a Red, I will stand by my team and manager, however good or bad while they are there. But the bean counters of Wall Street may not be as patient. I still believe Moyes will turn it in our favour. But the body language, at times, around our dugout, didn’t fill me with short term optimism. They, at times, looked as baffled as the team. This squad as poor as it is can do better than that. They’ll have to.

    1. “This United performance was among the worst in my time”

      Well Gurney, with me knowing that you’ve been watching United since pre-Munich, that’s quite some call. It’s the worst I’ve seen United play since a shocking performance at Carrow Road in 2005. Can it compare to the dark early days of Fergie’s reign? In my opinion, no. That’s not to mitigate though, it was still an appalling performance.

  2. I wanted to wait to reply in order to gain some perspective, but I still think that is the worst performance I can remember, for so many reasons.

    When I saw Keane afterwards, I just could not picture him in our team. The idea that he played week in week out just seems so far fetched at the moment, but I know it did happen. I saw him, I think…

    No point changing the manager now but the one player who has been brave all season in wanting the ball and wanting to make things happen is Januzaj. No idea why he was rested, he’s hardly played recently and there is no game for United at the weekend.

    I hope more than expect for the second leg, at the moment…

    1. Cold perspective might take some edge off immediate vitriol, but there’s no other way of describing that performance other than it was a pathetic crock of shit and I’m speaking 48 hours after the final whistle.

      Like you, I was baffled why Januzaj was rested in favour of Young. I was also surprised that after the relatively good game he had at Palace, Fellaini wasn’t picked, unless he’s picked up a niggle on the QT. The most damning thing though was Welbeck being sent on over Hernandez. I’d love to know the logic behind that.

  3. Spot on with the body language comment from Gurney Slade. As an objective observer I didn’t think United were a disgrace. They had a proper off night and you should all console yourselves that if RVP had scored with the goal at his mercy (as he will with his next 99 chances in the same position) then the task at OT would be even easier. As it is, I can’t imagine United not going through. That would make them in the top 8 sides in Europe if they got knocked out in the quarter finals and even better if they got through that stage. Don’t jump down my throat for saying this but …… I think you proper Reds are going to enjoy the next few seasons much more than the last few. People like us didn’t get a choice of who we support and these kind of times will show you all who you should stand shoulder to shoulder with. You knew that anyway. It’s a funny old game and the current unpredictability will, ultimately, be good for United and their core fans. Enjoy the rollercoaster. Keep the faith!

    1. “I can’t imagine United not going through. That would make them in the top 8 sides in Europe”

      I don’t share your optimism. That’s not to say it’s impossible but there will have to be a dramatically different performance in a couple of weeks. All the same, good to hear from you and enjoy Barcelona 🙂

  4. Fair and reasonable comment, Jamie. A lot of the younger fans, will be bemused by some United shows of late. But your say on standing together through thin and thick is sound advice. Not just for us, bruised Reds, but any club no matter what. Taking the piss is all part of it. And stick that comes our way is OK with me.But when all said and done, football fans need each other. Good read Murph. Hard to write on that sort of thing.

    1. It’s no surprise that there has been a decline, we all knew that Sir Alex had sewn a silk purse out of a sow’s ear since the Glazers took control nearly nine years ago. What is bemusing is how abrupt that decline has occured. There needs to be a root and branch clear out of the squad in the summer. I believe that Moyes should be in control of that purge, time will tell as to whether he will allowed to be. Before the end of next month, United will have played the return leg of this tie, City and Liverpool at Old Trafford. Jamie alluded to the rollercoaster in his above comment, let’s see how dizzy we are in four weeks time through being on it 😉

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