Leading up to Saturday’s game at Leicester, we were worried especially after the boring 0-0 draw at home to PSV three days earlier.
Many were slightly dumbfounded as the starting line-ups came out and Schneiderlin was only on the bench as he had been one of the few United players who was having a consistently good season. He did have a poor game against PSV in midweek, but if that was the reason he wasn’t starting, another five or six from that game could have joined him on the sidelines.
United didn’t start badly, but soon went into their ‘possession shell’ and it took less than half an hour for Jamie Vardy to score in his eleventh consecutive league game to put Leicester ahead from a counter-attacking move, and become a record breaker in the process.
Thankfully, though not playing well, United equalised just before half-time when Schweinsteiger got his first goal for the club, heading in a Daley Blind corner.
The second half was more of the same, and though United had the by now customary majority of possession, they hardly created anything. Leicester could have gone ahead again when De Gea saved from Ulloa, and United did seem quicker and showed more intent when Rooney was replaced by Memphis, but it was to no avail and the game finished 1-1.
In other games in the league, City won 3-1 at home to Southampton to go back to the top of the table (and with Silva back it might be hard to get them off there); Arsenal flew for a whole fourteen minutes to get to Norwich and draw 1-1, a point that leaves them in fourth place while adding Koscielny and Sanchez to their already bulging injury list; in what was meant to be the game of the weekend, Tottenham and Chelsea played out a goalless draw in a game so boring that the highlight was unused sub Diego Costa throwing his bib towards Jose Mourinho; in what turned out to be the game of the weekend, Bournemouth and Everton drew 3-3, with four of the goals being scored in the last ten minutes after Everton had been two up at half-time; Klopp’s L’pool beat Swansea 1-0 from a ‘lucky’ penalty decision to climb up to 6th, six points off the leaders; West Ham drew 1-1 at home to West Brom; Sunderland beat Stoke 2-0 to climb above the relegation zone, where neighbours Newcastle are now after their 5-1 capitulation at Pardew’s Palace; and Aston Villa stay anchored at the bottom after losing 3-2 at home to Watford.
This all means that for all the ‘boring’ possession football, United are third in the table, just a point off Manchester City. Considering the team is not creating that many chances, and they look like they lack creativity, it’s not a bad position to be in with a very busy period coming up.
Our consolation at the moment is that though the football on show by United is quite sleep-inducing, they are right where we hoped they’d be at this stage of the season, though that’s mainly because none of the others teams have been on fire. Apart from City winning their first five league games and seemingly running away with the league in August, nobody has been consistent enough to make the most of other clubs’ misgivings, which leaves United (and the rest) nicely placed towards the top.
That’s not to say that things are good. Not when we were knocked out of the League Cup by Middelsboro, who this week lost their quarter-final at home to Everton; or when our progress into the next round of the Champions League hinges on having to win a tough game in Germany. But the league table keeps us hoping that things are looking up for us, though just.
My hope is that things on the pitch can only get better, and if (hopefully when) United start firing on all cylinders, performances will get more exciting as long as players are given the freedom by Van Gaal and they’re not afraid to take risks. Some players do need to pull their socks up and start earning their wages. Also, Captain Wayne Rooney needs to realise that the armband is not just for show (though the club’s marketing department might think otherwise), and he needs to start leading the way, not just run around for lost causes then look tired even before the ball gets to him.
Anyway, in other news, United legend Gary Neville has been appointed as Valencia head coach until the end of the season. With Valencia owner Peter Lim also owning half of Salford FC, the ‘Class of 92’s’ club, it seems sort of natural that business partners work together in another venture. He’ll be replacing manager Nuno Espirito Santo who left the club on Sunday. He’ll probably need more than the Holy Spirit to do well in Spain, but we look forward to seeing how he does with his brother’s help. Hopefully this will be a first step towards one day being involved at Old Trafford.
We also heard that two more high-ranking FIFA officials have been arrested in Switzerland, where a two day meeting of the executive committee is supposed to be going on to vote on reforms. This at a time when FIFA are predicting annual losses of over £60 million pounds for 2015 due to less sponsorship deals and legal bills. I doubt this will put the organisation in the red seeing as it has over £1 BILLION in reserves, and they made over £300m of profit in the past three years.
Oh, and have you heard about the Leeds ‘pie tax’? Their ticket prices are going up by £5, but that includes a voucher for food. Talk about force feeding their long-time suffering fans eh? It’s sad to see club owners wringing more hard-earned money out of people who love their clubs, even if this is funny because it’s Leeds.
Looking at the next week, United play West Ham at Old Trafford on Saturday (3pm UK time), then travel to Germany for a tough Champions League game at Wolfsburg on Tuesday (7:45pm UK time). As always we’ll be hoping for two wins that will keep us in the top three of the league and also stay where we belong in Europe (no, NOT the Europa League)… COME ON UNITED!!!