🔹Shooting blanks at Old Trafford
🔹Penalty Shootout Misery
In the days leading up to the Manchester derby, all talk was about the city being red or blue. Apart from the fact that most of us know that Manchester is red anyway, it was a given that the game would be built up as deciding on who’s the leading club in the North at present. It was also a given that after all the headlines and assumptions, the game would turn out to be quite boring by both clubs’ standards.
Van Gaal had a strong starting eleven out, with Valencia and Rojo starting as full-backs to stop City’s main threats coming from the wings, Sterling and De Bruyne. That worked perfectly as both did an excellent job of making sure that City didn’t create any proper chances, though it was them that had a few attempts on goal in the first half (none on target). United’s problem was that going forward they seemed poor as well, and didn’t even have an attempt on Joe Hart’s goal in the whole of the first half.
United were better in the second half, and kept City camped in their own half for most of it. Anthony Martial was being a thorn in City’s defence, and was by far United’s best player up front. Chances didn’t get much better though, but United still could have won it when towards the end first Lingard hit the crossbar, then Hart made a very good save from a ‘Mike’ Smalling header.
When the final whistle went, we were slightly relieved that at least United didn’t lose, but also a little disappointed as City were there for the taking, especially as they went deeper into their own half as the game wore on. With no team managing to score, this was only the third goalless draw between the two sides in the past twenty eight games (all competitions).
A few positives to take from this game – Martial fast becoming a player that can create something out of nothing; Valencia actually playing well by marking Sterling out of the game; Rojo showing that we have an able replacement for the left-back position while Luke Shaw recovers; Schweinsteiger was a match for City’s midfield monster Yaya Toure, and was very good in keeping it simple; Schneiderlin continuing to make the position in front of the back-four his own; and Smalling once again showing what an asset he’s become to the side. It was also important to at least not lose as United stay just two points behind the leaders with a few ‘easy on paper’ games coming up in November.
As for the negatives? The wayward passes and losing possession easily was there to see. Rooney might have been the main culprit, but he wasn’t the only one giving the ball away cheaply. It’s unfortunate that we can’t rely on our captain to be the difference anymore like he used to be often against sides like City. He did work hard in this game, but his end product left a lot to be desired. A couple of times he preferred to try and pass the ball rather than take an attempt at goal, something that he used to go for just a few seasons ago. His performances of late meant that many didn’t seem pleased when the club granted him a testimonial, but more of that later.
When the League Cup game at home to Middlesboro came around, we were all feeling sprightly from the scores of the evening before. Oh how we laughed at Arsenal being hammered by Sheffield Wednesday and Chelsea losing at Stoke. Only twenty four hours later everyone else was laughing at us after another insipid, mostly frustrating performance by a ‘makeshift’ side. Though many were rested, United still had enough ‘stars’ on the pitch to be able to beat a Championship side (admittedly in good form), but hardly created much until extra-time, when they should have had a penalty and had enough chances to easily wrap the game up before any penalty shoot-outs. When those came along, it wasn’t much of a surprise when Captain Rooney, Carrick and Ashley Young, all English, missed their attempts to send United crashing out of a trophy we thought they might actually win.
Many of us were rightly disappointed as for all the possession, most of United’s play was turgid and worrying. Even seeing Rooney put the captain’s armband on as he replaced Wilson at half-time left us shaking our heads. What United needed then was someone like Schweinsteiger to keep it calm and simple. Or at least Mata or Herrera to try and get a few passes to team-mates rather than opponents. Oh well, it was only the League Cup and United are still on for the treble (stop laughing at the back).
In the Premier League, Arsenal beat Everton to go top for a few hours, long enough for some of their supporters thought they had become Champions; the current Champions Chelsea lost their fifth game from ten, this time 2-1 at West Ham, in which a few of their players started acting like spoilt brats, or like their manager (which is the same thing really); Klopp’s L’pool managed to get a point at home to Southampton, ‘the normal one’s’ third draw in a row since taking over at Anfield; Ranieri’s Leicester beat Crystal Palace 1-0 to stay fifth, just a point behind United; Stoke lost 2-0 at home to Watford; Bournemouth conceded five for the second week in a row when they lost 5-1 at home to Tottenham; Norwich lost at home as well, 1-0 to West Brom; while Sunderland beat North-East rivals Newcastle 3-0, making this their sixth derby win in a row. Fabio Coloccini was sent off for the Geordies, a decision that has now been overturned.
In other news, the Serious Fraud Squad in the UK is investigating money laundering claims against FIFA. This includes money paid by the Australian 2022 bid commitee to former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner regarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups that might have gone through London.
And United have granted Wayne Rooney a testimonial. Which is understandable, as apart from the past two or three seasons, he has been a great servant to the club. Yes, he wanted to be transferred not once, but twice, and I am one of those who thinks he might not be worth what he’s getting now. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want him to do well for the club that we support. What doesn’t seem quite right is why Rooney’s team found the need to announce that proceeds from the game will go to charity. Did they perhaps think that some of his most ardent supporters were beginning to turn so are trying to get them back on his side?
Looking at the next seven days, United now play away from home in the league when they face Pardew’s Palace on Saturday (3pm UK time). Pardew’s side are on a bit of a slump at the moment, so we hope that continues this weekend. The next game will then be played at Old Trafford on Wednesday (7:45pm UK time) when United host CSKA Moscow in the Champions League. Here’s hoping that this time next week we’ll be smiling more than we are right now, and United will have scored a few goals in both games… COME ON UNITED!!!