The Answer My Friend Is Blowing In The Wind – Manchester 5th of January 2014

We’re back to that time of year when the trees have come down, Father Christmas is back on the dole and everybody’s bills come through the letterbox. The time of year when people go off the beer and there’s slightly less cheer as the festivities disappear. That can only mean one thing; we’re back to the third round of the FA Cup. This is when players and supporters of smaller clubs get condescended by clueless commentators from ITV and BT Sports. Bemused players, who didn’t grow up in the UK are asked, “just what did the FA Cup mean to you as a boy growing up in Spain/Holland/Germany etc”? Before that though, we had the New Year’s Day fixtures.

It’s not been a good week for United fans. To my eyes, United were unlucky against Tottenham. United attacked Tottenham for most of the game and were worth at least a draw. Not for the first time, Chris Smalling allowed an opponent a free header which resulted in a goal. It happens to the very best centre halves occasionally but it’s happening to Smalling way too often. It was Smalling who was caught out by Vincent Kompany at the Ashton New Road stadium in April 2012 for a goal that cost United the match and ultimately, the title. Smalling allowed Anthony Pilkington a free header in November 2012 that gave a staggeringly poor Norwich City side a 1-0 win against United. Smalling, for a centre half and a lad of 6’5”, shouldn’t be getting caught out for free headers with the frequency that he does and is not good enough to be a long term centre half for United (or short term come to think of it).

Tottenham’s second came courtesy of Antonio Valencia going to sleep at fullback whilst Wayne Rooney was screaming “man-on” at him as Christian Eriksen sneaked round the back and put the ball in the back of the Scoreboard End net. I’ll forgive Valencia as he’s a) not a full back and b) one of my favourite players. When Danny Welbeck pulled a goal back for United a minute later, it sparked a siege on the Tottenham goal that, alas, didn’t yield a goal.

There’s a need for some calm heads at Old Trafford at the moment. This is maybe the worst football that anybody under the age of 35 has ever seen; anybody over that age will remember the late 80s and will know what a crisis is. This isn’t one. Whilst it’s not a crisis, it’s not good either. United haven’t lost an away match in any competition since getting hammered by City in September. Since that resounding defeat, United have lost five times at Old Trafford, mostly to teams who had forgotten what it was like to win at Old Trafford. With Swansea winning at Old Trafford this afternoon for the first time ever, today if anything, surpassed those defeats. There were plenty of reds who were pissed off with United’s performance against Tottenham. I think they were being harsh but today’s performance against Swansea? Now that was as bad as anybody said the Tottenham performance was.

The first noticeable thing as the teams came out on the pitch was that the Swansea side looked like a load of traffic chicanes in their blue and yellow kit. it was a course of chicanes that United, after a lively start, found too complicated to negotiate. In the 13th minute, seconds after Javier Hernandez missed a good chance, Wayne Routledge put Swansea 1-0 up by lobbing an out-of-position Anders Lindergaard. Three minutes later, Hernandez atoned for his previous miss by equalising from six yards after a cross from Alexander Buttner.

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Not a scene from The Book of Exodus in the Old Testament but the Main Stand at Old Trafford whilst the match was still playing after Swansea’s winner

Rarely have I seen so many passes made by United players in the opposite direction to the opponent’s goal. United’s attack play resembled an Italian tank. The longer the game went on, the more reticient the play was. They actually looked scared of going forward. It got to a stage that when Fabio Da Silva was correctly sent off for a ridiculous studs up challenge on Canas in the 82nd minute, I was wondering if United could hold out for a replay. I then had to pinch myself to remember that this wasn’t Arsenal, Liverpool or City that United were playing against, this was Swansea City that I was hoping that United could cling onto a draw against. In the 89th minute, Routledge beat Darren Fletcher on the left flank to cross the ball. In the six yard box, Wilfred Bony was unmarked, between Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans, to score yet another free headed goal that United have conceded. Immediately after that goal, there was an exodus from the ground that would’ve impressed Moses. The fourth official signalled that there would be a minimum of four minutes injury time. If anybody was going to score in that four minutes, it was Swansea. Still, we can look on the bright side, there’ll be no more automatic Cup Scheme extractions of £37.00 from our bank accounts to watch a fringe side play with a pink football in a cup that nobody really gives a fuck for anymore.

Time was, and it wasn’t that long ago, that a visiting side to Old Trafford would be lambs to the slaughter following a United home defeat, especially a side like Swansea whom before today, hadn’t won in seven games. It became apparent after thirty minutes of this debacle that whatever else was going to happen, Swansea were not going to get a hiding. The 4-1 defeat that United inflicted on Swansea four months ago, feels like a hell of a lot longer.

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Anybody who had any denomination of Christianity shoved down their throats as children, will know that tomorrow is the feast of the epiphany. The epiphany came a day early for United fans with this performance. Bob Dylan famously said fifty years ago that a Hard rain was a-gonna fall and today we got it both metaphorically and literally. The weather as we slumped out of Old Trafford today was as bad as I can remember in recent times. There was also the thought that of a very interesting five months that we now have in front of us. We can now say, with tongue firmly in cheek that we can concentrate on the league. The reality is though that United are in a dogfight to make fourth. Can they do it? The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.

12 thoughts on “The Answer My Friend Is Blowing In The Wind – Manchester 5th of January 2014”

  1. “United’s attacking play resembled an Italian tank”….class Murph.

    Sadly true as well, far too hesitant & tentative.

    11 men back at corners, backwards passing & no plan B.

    I’ve no issue losing, it’s actually quite refreshing to give some parts of our fanbase a bit of a wake up call, but at least go down fighting!

    Still, makes the Sunlun trip even more enjoyable Murph.

    Your taxi leaves at 2.30pm.

    1. How many times this season have you seen United clear a corner, only for an opposing defender pick it up and launch another attack?

      The strange thing about that is the Everton side that he managed could hit opponents on the counter attack, painful memories from the 4-4 fixture in April 2012 will attest to that. A counter attack though is out of the question when you have as a matter of policy, eleven men defending a corner.

  2. Sadly I have to agree. We looked devoid of any ideas.
    But the sense of perspective – too may people turn up and expect United to win. I remember New Years Day (92) against QPR !!! Now that was bad.
    And the dross that Dave Sexton served up?
    United will not panic with Moyes, but I think there has to be a realisation that some of our second string arent up to it and/or hungry enough to want to get into the first team.
    Capital One Cup Glory beckons !!

    1. The New years day fixture of ’92 was a real shock at the time. Hindsight also proves that it started a slow decline of form and confidence, particularly towards the end of the season when Leeds nipped in and won a title that United should’ve won.

      This is different though, there has been a malaise in Uniteds side since the summer of 2009. It was covered by Ferguson’s genius of management but for all that genius and behind the veneer of being League champions, he left David Moyes a sulphuric smelling mess last summer when he retired. Moyes however has made mistakes, a near wholesale clearout of the coaching staff in favour of his own men has made an already tricky job, even more difficult.

      As for Dave Sexton, my first ever match (Ipswich Town in March ’81) was the first game of the seven match winning run that actually lead to his sacking. I can only go by what my old fella said about his sides. Compared to what Tommy Docherty served up, it was “a bit dull”. 🙂

  3. To take a line out of the book The Red Eye by David Blatt, “Following Manchester United is like Sex. When it is good, it is really good. When it is bad, it is still good” . We used to score 90th minute winners, Now we just concede them in injury time. Hopefully the patience shown by the real fans and the hierarchy will bear fruits one day, though there is no doubt that the performance level should increase very soon, win or lose.

    1. Hopefully the level of performance and more importantly, luck, will improve as soon as possible. I’ve seen far worse United sides in far worse situations than this though. As Andy Mitten recently said (linked below), if Moyes was at City, Chelsea, Barcelona or Madrid (to name but a few), he’d’ve been sacked by now. As the perservence with Ferguson proved between 1986 to 1990, United don’t do kneejerk dismissals. For all the faults that Martin Edwards had (and Christ I could talk for hours about that), fair play to him for holding his bottle in keeping Ferguson when it would’ve ben far easier to sack him.

  4. Any long term, loyal, knowledgeable Red, has been expecting this, or similar for some time. Unlucky could be used as a get out. But bad play is bad play. Consistency is a problem. Young players not coming through to our high expectations. Bottom line is, no Champions League, no big signings. Does anyone think Rooney and RVP tolerate that? No neither do I. Who could blame them? We want ambitious players. Does the backroom money men realise that the ‘PROJECT’ will go tits up, without a properly guided transfer policy? If no positive action is taken, in this ‘window’, the piccy you showed us wont be 2 mins to go. It will at the fucking KickOff.

    1. Ambitious players is one thing and the most obvious thing is that ambitious players want to play in the European Cup.

      That said, when City signed Yaya Toure in 2010, they were in the Europa League the following season. When Carlos Tevez signed for City in 2009, he had left a side who were league champions and the finalist in the previous seasons European cup to go to what could euphemistically be described as a project.

      Ultimately they, along with Robinho, left clubs who were to play in the European Cup the following season for money. That’s fair enough, footballers like everybody else, are entitled to go where they get the best financial reward for their labour. United would have to get the cheque book out in a big way if they don’t finish fourth. To use the words of Bob Dylan again, City and Chelsea have proved (just in case we didn’t already know), that “money doesn’t talk, it swears”. That more than any top four finish, will decide United’s future this summer.

  5. Julius Caesar once said, you have to deconstruct to reconstruct. I’m getting the feeling the deconstruction is bigger than everyone thought, players who still had 2 or 3 years left in them are dwindling away in front of the watching theatre-goers. Twitter was an interesting place to be yesterday, people for Moyes people against Moyes.
    Lots of people saying Moyes needs time, which I agree. But how long is long enough ? 6 months, this time next year. The analogy I gave was, if you’ve been with a girl for 6 months and it isn’t working out. Do you buy a house with her & get her pregnant ? No… You move on !!!
    I think the next two transfer windows will be interesting, on who comes in, as well as who leaves.
    I keep hearing United aren’t a sacking club, I hope we are. If the manager isn’t right, I hope we sack him.

    Rene Descartes once said: I think, therefore I am …. I’ll echo that thought !!!

  6. That analogy is obviously a sensible one in context, but in regards to a football manager? As Julius Caeser said, “Men are nearly always willing to believe what they wish

    If it was in your power, when would you have sacked Ferguson? The winter of ’89 when something between %40/%50 of United fans were calling for him to be sacked? “.To use another Rene Descartes quote, “When it is not in our power to follow what is true, we ought to follow what is most probable”. If the United board would have followed Descartes advice, Ferguson would’ve been sacked.

    1. It’s very difficult to compare Sir Alex in the late 80’s and the present David Moyes team, Sir Alex was building from the ground up, he was creating a vision. He had the buy in from Martin Edwards and more importantly Bobby Charlton.
      David Moyes has inherited a squad that’s just won the league, and should’ve progressed further in the champions leagues, if it weren’t for a shocking refereeing decision.

      A famous architect once said, Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning … It may get even worse, before it’s gets better. The rumours circulating that some players and staff have already given up.

      Only when the tide goes out, that’s when you’ll know who’s swimming without shorts !!!

      1. The main things that Ferguson and Moyes have in common is that they both inherited declining sides.

        A shocking refereeing decision did help in knocking United out of the European Cup last season, but so what? If United had got past Madrid, do you think that they had the measure of Dortmund or Munich?

        Obviously United won the title last season, helped by a City side that had become complacent and more importantly, stopped playing for their manager. Moyes inherited that side but do you seriously believe that to be a great side? Do you think everything was hunky dory in the United squad because they’d won the title?

        Regarding Moyes, I refer you to a stanza Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”

        If you can keep your head when all about you
        Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
        If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
        But make allowance for their doubting too…
        …Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
        And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son

        (Kipling: 1895)

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