Here we are once again, bemoaning the fact that United seem to have thrown away a golden chance to finish in the top four. In a season where they have been average at best (bar a few games that gave us all the false hopes in the first place), Van Gaal’s side were handed yet another excellent opportunity to still sneak into a Champions League place this week, yet it all turned sour for the umpteenth time this season.
It all started on Saturday lunchtime when United travelled to East Anglia to face relegation threatened Norwich. Things didn’t go as planned as Anthony Martial had to be replaced even before the match started as he got injured in the warm-up. In a game of hardly any entertainment and very few chances, it was sad to see two sides needing a win for different reasons play like they were already on holiday.
It was worrying to see United struggling to string a few passes together. Thankfully Norwich were even worse, and looked like a side destined to go down to the Championship. With twenty minutes left, Bassong made a mistake and Captain Rooney pounced on it. He was a bit slow (what’s new?) to create a chance for himself, but thankfully Juan Mata ran into the box and Rooney put the ball on a plate for him, with the Spaniard slotting the ball into the net for an easy finish. From then on it was a matter of waiting until the final whistle to make sure that while United were still in the fight for Arsenal’s fourth placed trophy, Norwich took another step towards the Championship.
A day later, ‘noisy neighbours’ City hosted Arsenal and when the game finished 2-2, many fans were getting giddy as a top four finish was back in United’s hands. Though many of us knew the match at West Ham would not be easy, especially if United played like they did against Norwich, it was fun to see that after such a sorry season United had a more than decent chance to make it seem better than it actually had been. Until Tuesday evening arrived, that is.
West Ham’s celebration of their last ever game at Upton Park turned sour when United’s team bus was pelted with bottles and beer cans as it tried to make its way through the throngs of Hammers ‘fans’. The few that acted like hooligans ruined the party atmosphere for many others who were there with their families. Kick-off had to be delayed by forty-five minutes to the ire of some ‘journalists’ who seemed intent on blaming Manchester United for what happened outside, giving an excuse to the behavior of the yobs outside the ground.
Unfortunately, once the game started, the United players on the pitch showed a lack of bottle and made us realise that this was going to be an uphill struggle. It only took ten minutes for West Ham to go ahead through Sakho, and their lead at half-time could have been a lot bigger than one goal but for some very good missed chances.
In the second half United were slightly better (they could hardly be worse) after Carrick replaced Schneiderlin. Soon after the restart Martial equalised with an easy finish after being found by Juan Mata. With twenty minutes to go, the same Martial scored again to put United into an undeserved lead, but our ‘shocked’ joy didn’t last as just four minutes later Antonio made it 2-2 from a free header, and another four minutes after that Reid scored what proved to be the winner from another header. It was angering to see United collapse like that once again especially in a game that mattered so much. Suffice to say that with so much at stake, United only had three shots on target in the whole ninety minutes.
The defending was once again atrocious especially at set-plays. ‘Mike’ Smalling was the best of a bad bunch as Marcos Rojo, Valencia and Blind were very poor. Rojo has been for a while now; while Daley Blind doesn’t seem to have an average game for the club – he’s either very good or very bad. Also, what was the point of Juan Mata covering for Valencia at right-back when United needed him to be more advanced to create the chances we were craving? ‘Philoshophy’ indeed.
In other games in the league, Leicester celebrated their title triumph with a one-sided 3-1 win against Everton; Tottenham lost 2-1 at home to Southampton; L’pool won 2-0 against Watford, then drew 1-1 against Chelsea, who had lost 3-2 at Sunderland at the weekend in what was probably captain, leader, legend John Terry’s last game for them as he got sent off in the last minute; Guidolin’s Swansea beat West Ham 4-1 in the penultimate ever game at Upton Park; FA Cup finalists Palace won 2-1 at home to Stoke; Bournemouth and West Brom drew 1-1; and Newcastle played out a goalless draw at Villa Park, making them the only team who haven’t beaten Villa in the league this season.
On Wednesday, Sunderland beat Everton 3-0 to make sure they stay in the Premier League while Newcastle and Norwich are relegated along with Aston Villa.
Looking at other news, United are third behind Real Madrid and Barcelona as the most valuable football club in the world with a value of £2.3 billion. So no matter how rubbish we are on the pitch, the Glazers will still be happy with the job that Ed Woodward and his team are doing, with even more money to be made from the new TV deal coming in from next season. Kerching.
We now look forward to United’s last league game of the season when they face Bournemouth at Old Trafford (Sunday, 3pm UK time), as we somehow hope that they end the campaign with a win while City lose at Swansea (yeah, right)… COME ON UNITED!!!