Normally the four letter utterances emerging from the mouths of Manchester United supporters after being beaten in the derby do not include the word hope. However following Sunday’s narrow 1-0 reverse when a backs to the wall, gallant fight was forthcoming from the red shirts, there now appears a feeling of being reborn.
Chris Smalling’s pathetic brainstorm apart, United were once more a team to be proud of at the Etihad and played with a spirit that the devil on their badge demanded.
Indeed for the first half hour they appeared the better team. Rooney, Blind and Fellaini outnumbering and at times outclassing their counterparts in midfield. And then came Smalling’s moment of madness to reduce the contest to a question of when, not if City would score.
And ultimately they did. Aguero’s first time hit, a class goal and one fit to win any derby contest. And sadly this one. But it was not to open any floodgate, as unlike previous local skirmishes, United rallied and came so close to snatching, come the end, a deserved point.
A defiant Van Gaal, beaten but proud at the final whistle and undoubtedly plotting the exit of a shamefaced Smalling in the dressing room.
And deservedly so.
David Moyes’ pitiable comment this time last year when City thrashed United out of sight 4-1: ‘United supporters can expect more days like this,’ was, greeted at the time with disbelief and even disgust from red supporters, whom many already had begun to suss out that the ‘chosen one’ was indeed the wrong one.
Under Louis Van Gaal, with his transfusion of attacking talent there is now fresh optimism that despite the defence continuing to cause heart attacks, this tunnel, though still dark, now contains a chink of light which under the despairing reign of Moyes never existed.
Are United back? Well only time and another swoop in the January transfer window for a genuine world class centre half can that be truly argued. Hummels and Garay are likely targets. Injuries have not helped by decimating this United defence. Whatever is happening in training has to be looked at, as does the mind set of these players whose insistence on performing in a manner more fitting of drunkards staggering around in a pub during happy hour has to be put right. And soon. Sort it out or ship out because it can’t be allowed to go on.
Jones, Smalling, Evans, and Rafael have to understand wearing this shirt comes with a responsibility to not make a joke out of on too many occasions. Bruce, Pallister, Ferdinand and Vidic. They follow in huge footsteps and have to now start falling into place rather then play the parts of a performing circus act.
Hard maybe but it has gone on for too long now.
If there is one man whom will not tolerate such lapses it is Louis Van Gaal. Great faith has been placed in him and I for one think, come the start of next season, Manchester United will be back in the champions league and ready to fire on for that twenty first title. The scousers sing about ‘hope in your heart.’ One song never likely to make it onto the Old Trafford song sheet.
However Morrissey’s ‘There is a light that never goes out’ is more fitting.
United’s fires though dimming remain alight and King Louis, in time can set this club on fire again.