We knew it was too good to be true and it wouldn’t last, didn’t we? And so it came to pass as after four wins that saw United go through in two cup competitions and also give themselves a good shot at finishing in the top four, they went back to playing turgid football when they visited the Midlands and Merseyside to face West Brom and L’pool respectively.
Even before the game started on Sunday a lot of fans were worried (aren’t we always?) to see that Schneiderlin and Memphis, two of the best players in the past couple of weeks weren’t even starting. The game seemed hard from the kick-off, and as soon as Juan Mata got sent off for two yellow card offences in three minutes, we knew it would be an uphill struggle to get anything from this match, even if it was still 0-0 at half-time.
West Brom themselves hardly created anything, but Venezuelan Salomon Rondon found enough space after sixty-six minutes to turn in a cross into the net and put the Baggies ahead. With over twenty minutes to go, we’d have expected United to try and get at least an equaliser, even with one man less, but they were even less creative than the home side and when the final whistle went to give West Brom their first home win in the league against United since 1984, we were all left feeling like we had for most parts of the present season – dispirited and downhearted.
We’ll never know if United would have got something out of this game if Juan Mata had stayed on the pitch, and he should know better than letting his team-mates and us fans down like this, especially after having been the hero a few days earlier against Watford. But a lot more was expected from the others still on the pitch, even if they were outnumbered numerically. As for Van Gaal and his selection, it’s a massive surprise that he didn’t start Schneiderlin next to Herrera as both had paired up very well together in those four consecutive wins, and an even bigger surprise that when Schneiderlin came on it was to replace Herrera rather than Carrick. Hopefully the mistakes will be sorted before it’s too late (though for many reasons it already is).
On Thursday evening it was the turn of eternal rivals L’pool to show how shambolic United have become. In a game that mattered much more because of who the opponent was rather than what competition it was in, United just didn’t turn up apart from David de Gea, whose saves made sure there’s still something to play for in the second leg.
We can sit here and say that L’pool’s first goal came from another dodgy penalty decision that Sturridge converted and Firmino’s goal for their second was down to Michael Carrick’s mistake, but United didn’t deserve anything from this game and have shown how far we have fallen not just in Europe, but in England as well.
Thankfully it was ‘only’ 2-0, and this gives United an opportunity to make amends in the second leg as they still have a chance to qualify. They have to play much better though, and it will be difficult. But if we don’t believe it can happen, what’s the point of turning up?
As for the travelling fans that always get praised for turning up for games even when our players don’t, some of them should be ashamed about some of the chants that could be heard coming from their section. Of course other clubs’ fans do it as well, but why should our fans stoop to that level instead of reeling out some of the many chants they usually come out with and are deservedly applauded for?
In the Premier League, Tottenham and Arsenal drew 2-2, making sure Leicester were the weekend’s biggest winners as they went five points ahead of Spurs and eight points ahead of the Gunners after beating Watford 1-0; Manchester City beat ‘relegated’ Villa 4-0; West Ham went up to fifth as they came from two down to beat Martinez’s Everton 3-2; Klopp’s L’pool beat Pardew’s Palace 2-1 with an injury-time debatable penalty; Chelsea and Stoke drew 1-1, the same result as Southampton-Sunderland; Swansea beat Norwich 1-0; and McLaren’s Newcastle lost 3-1 at home to Bournemouth.
In other football news, it’s great to see that away ticket prices in the Premier League will cost a maximum of £30 for the next three seasons, thanks to the work of the many fan groups that have been fighting for this for the past few years. Wouldn’t it be nice if the clubs have it in themselves to also lower prices for home fans rather than charge many of them over £40 per game? We won’t hold our breath though.
Champions League continued this week, and English Champions Chelsea showed how much the Premier League sides have regressed as they were knocked out by a much better PSG (with Angel di Maria back to his best). The same happened in the Europa League as Tottenham were hammered 3-0 by Borussia Dortmund, though they still have the second leg to play at White Hart Lane.
United play two more games in the next week. On Sunday they welcome West Ham to Old Trafford for the quarter-final of the FA Cup (4pm UK time), and on Thursday they’re at home again, this time facing L’pool in the second leg of the Europa League tie (8:05pm UK time). As always, we hope that United get two important wins that will see them progress to the next round of both competitions… COME ON UNITED!!!