…Certainly seems like it. After going ten games undefeated, we were all quite optimistic about United playing for the first time at Old Trafford in 2015, even if Southampton were just behind them in the league table, and are the team that had conceded the least goals in the whole division.
When the line-up was announced, there weren’t too many concerns, though seeing Herrera not starting was slightly surprising, and Falcao not even being on the bench was a little bit more so.
Southampton were very well organised straight from the kick-off, and though United weren’t playing too badly, they found it hard to create chances. When the half-time whistle came, none of the teams had hit a shot on target, proof of how cagey the game was.
As time went on in the second half, the worries started to increase for us United fans, and as soon as Tadic put Southampton ahead, we knew it would be hard to even get a point from this game, even with twenty minutes still to play. It was frustrating to see our players not so much huffing and puffing, as trying to break down a wall with their bare hands (yes, that’s how useless some of them seemed).
The substitutions didn’t help as United only had youngster James Wilson that could come off the bench to play up front. Oh, and Fellaini who was put on with the aim of getting the ball onto his bushy hair. United did create a few very good chances from which they could have ‘stolen’ a draw, the best one of which fell to Mata’s feet who couldn’t even hit the target from just a few yards out. It was a pity as we would have been talking a bit differently if United had managed to somehow avoid defeat.
But it wasn’t to be, and this was Southampton’s first win at Old Trafford in twenty-seven years. As expected, the comparisons with last season started flying soon after the final whistle went. Which goes to show how bad last season really was.
Questions do have to be asked (and they are by a few), as the formation on Sunday left much to be desired. Why, for example, did Di Maria start up front when he’s so much better running at defenders from midfield? And admitting that defenders were needed on the bench because changes would have to be made at the back because of fitness issues? Why not start those on the bench instead, which would have left space for more attack-minded players like Falcao?
As for the 3-5-2, I’m not an expert on formations and numbers (yes, I’m THAT old), but if Van Gaal wants to stick to his philosophy, he needs the right players to do it. Maybe that’s why he’s insisting on these tactics, to show the board that United are still lacking in some positions?
Of course, Van Gaal knows a lot more than us when it comes to his players, and maybe Falcao’s knees can’t hack too many games without a rest. It still makes me think there’s something else going on behind the scenes when it comes to the Colombian striker. What if there’s some kind of clause in his loan deal where United have to offer him a permanent contract if he’s involved in a certain amount of games this season? Farfetched I know, but would anyone put something like that past his agent Jorge Mendes, especially knowing what a dirty business football is?
In other games, Chelsea showed their mettle by beating a manager-less Newcastle 2-0 to open up a two-point gap over second placed City, who already seem to be missing Yaya Toure when they could only draw 1-1 at Everton; Arsenal won a one-sided affair at home to Stoke, while L’pool won 1-0 at a very average Sunderland. Coupled with Southampton’s win in Manchester, this means that United are now in fourth place in the table, just one point ahead of Arsenal and three ahead of Spurs (who lost 2-1 at Pardew’s Palace). Though we’re now looking over our shoulders again, we don’t need to worry too much yet, as we’re still five points ahead of Captain Fantastic’s team, L’pool.
Looking at other news, Manchester City seem to have their own questions to answer as more details of the Frank Lampard deal came out last week. UEFA are now asking about two of the club’s subsidiary companies (City Football Marketing Ltd and City Football Services Ltd), who have posted combined losses of £25m up to last May. It’s also come out that Mangala has cost City £42m, not £32m as the club reported when they signed him. FFPL… Financial Fair Play Loopholes.
Another Premier League club with plenty of doom and gloom around it at present is Aston Villa. Remember how their fans were laughing at us and L’pool (in the Hicks and Gillett days) when Randy Lerner took over, saying that their American is better than our Americans? Yeah, until he found out that he could hardly make the same money that the Glazers were, and started selling the club’s best players to make sure he makes his dollars. Pity, but what made them think that such a businessman would put their interests before his own?
The Ballon D’Or award was also handed out this week. No surprise that former Manchester United player Ronaldo won it, as he had an enormous 2014, and was definitely the best player in the world in the past twelve months.
United now travel to London to face QPR (Saturday 17th January, 3pm UK time), and though the team should be strong enough to beat Redknapp’s struggling side, we’re apprehensive after Sunday’s defeat. With Van Persie out injured, Van Gaal could do worse than start Falcao and Rooney up front, with Mata right behind them, and Di Maria running the show from midfield. THAT would give us much to smile about… COME ON UNITED!!!