A Last Minute Lament
May 11, 2012 in Premier League
There was a time when the world was a much happier place. At least for me. Manchester United were eight points clear of Manchester City, and really, the only thing I had to worry about was the whine of neutrals claiming that they wanted City to catch up because “the league was gonna be all boring now”. Well, there you go, neutrals. Fast forward to the present day, and there’s your show, there’s your entertainment. And only at the low, low price of my happiness.
It’s become a bit of a mantra. “United do it the hard way.” Why, might I ask? Why, when the team is eight points clear of what is clearly the strongest squad in the league, do you prefer to make it hard for yourselves? Why, when it seems that the wolves are at the door, do you just open it for them? I accept that a title victory would have been papering over the cracks; our squad is comparatively weak, or not ready, whatever you want to call it. But unless United were going to use the football equivalent of Polyfilla, the cracks needed covering. I know I’m being defeatist, since United still have a chance of winning the league, but taking that out of the picture, a City league title will force us into buying players. Why have we waited for the situation to reach that stage before taking this necessary action? United seem like that child who waits for the teacher to yell at them before they do their homework.
It’s not even that United don’t spend, it’s more that they don’t spend on the right people. £50m+ on David De Gea, Phil Jones and Ashley Young show that there is money to spend, but the fact that United have not spent any money on improving the team in central midfield since 2009 says everything – it’s our weakest position, and nothing has been done to address this. Tom Cleverley, having played well in the few instances he has featured, was elevated to near-God status, while Paul Scholes’ return coincided with an eight-game unbeaten run; this is how desperate United are for a central midfielder. Michael Carrick works best alongside a more dominant player, and can only change a game when someone else is helping him, while Anderson has been beyond useless, seemingly injured all the time. Oh well, the medical staff need friends too, right?
I dare not truly question Sir Alex Ferguson. The man has done more for my club than I could ever hope to do for it. But concerns, if not questions, have to be raised. In the match where the title could have been lost – the Manchester derby last week -, why was Antonio Valencia, comfortably the best winger in the League, limited to a short cameo? In poor results against Wigan and Everton, why was the back four so shaky? If they were vulnerable, where was their midfield shield? Wigan and Everton are two games which United are expected to win, especially when eight points ahead, and even more so, in the case of the latter, when you are two goals ahead. We lament the loss of Nemanja Vidic, arguably the best defender in the world, but the squad should be strong enough to deal with that. Can you imagine Barcelona, a team United are supposed to be on par with, collapsing like we did against Everton just because Carles Puyol was injured? Can you imagine Barcelona’s other defenders, Gerard Pique or Javier Mascherano, falling foul like that?
Standing on what everyone perceives as a crumbling tower is a strange feeling. We’ve lost the title before, but it wasn’t treated with the same feel of finality as this year, even when United went two years without winning it. This situation is more desperate; even if we lost the title to Chelsea, United were still the best team in Manchester, and the best team in the north of England. This season’s title defeat would mark the loss of even that scant consolation. And the worse thing is that we did it to ourselves, through complacency both on-field and off-field. Come on, any team whose fans become cocky enough to print ‘Champions’ t-shirts two months before the season’s end deserves to taken down a peg or two.
Admittedly, we’ve played better than last year, but last year, it was commonly accepted that we won the league by default – we won because no-one else seemed bothered to win it. So how will this season end? QPR will probably bend over and take it from Manchester City, with all the pre-match hype and build-up, all of the mind games from Fergie, all the attempts to enrage Mark Hughes about his treatment by City so that he Hulks up and destroys them, eventually leading to a damp squib. I’ll have to avoid all things to do with football for the day, and try to find consolation in the fact that United will come back stronger in September, hoping that we learn our lessons from the mistakes we’ve made this year, and some of the younger players start to develop. A valiant effort with an underpowered squad, but it’s time to accept the long-standing truth that we need to move up a gear. Hopefully, this summer, we will. Hopefully, the players won’t have this title defeat on their minds throughout next season as QPR will do us a favour and hold City. And just hopefully, we’ll be able to get away with a season which even the most die-hard United fan won’t remember with much fondness.
Unless it goes that way, I’ll be frantically seeking refuge from the “blue moon rising”. I can’t think of anything worse. At least it’ll make good viewing for the neutral, right?