Here we are one week into the New Year, which started with United visiting Stoke for what proved to be a much harder task than usual. After arguably dropping two points at Tottenham due to the clear-cut chances created in the first half, this turned out to be a point gained, as United looked so out of sorts, and hardly created anything, while Stoke hit the post and could have had a penalty.
Stoke showed their intent by going ahead after just two minutes, and it was all uphill from there. Thankfully Falcao, who for the first twenty minutes seemed to have acquired Rooney’s first touch, was alert enough to equalise with nearly half an hour gone. He improved a lot after that, and many were surprised when Herrera replaced him just after the hour. It seemed that Van Gaal was worried as Stoke players were targeting him and he got quite a few kicks in the second half. In the end, we were relieved to get a draw at a place where United lost last season, and at least they had the bulk of the possession (though that could be because Stoke were hoofing the ball up to Crouch).
A few days later, the squad travelled to Yeovil for a third away game in a row, this time in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. It was pleasing to see that Van Gaal was taking this one seriously, and even though he made quite a few changes from the Stoke game, we still had the likes of De Gea, Herrera, Rooney and Falcao to give us hope that this season United would go further than they did last season (not hard really). Though they’re bottom of League One, Yeovil tried their hardest to make it difficult for United, and it seemed to work as the Red Devils seemed even worse than they did three days earlier. The introduction of Mata and Di Maria in the second half gave United the push they needed, and an excellent goal from Herrera, coupled with a deft last-minute finish by Di Maria were enough to make sure that United were in the hat for the next round. When the draw was made on Monday evening, away day fans were cheering as United will travel to Cambridge for the next round, while season ticket holders cheered as they wouldn’t be forking out more money than they already have to purchase their tickets. The bad news from this game was that both Luke Shaw and Rafael came off injured, though hopefully it doesn’t seem like they’ll be out for long.
In other games in the Premier League, Tottenham made sure the New Year’s Day headlines were all theirs when they trashed leaders Chelsea 5-3, which left Jose Mourinho unsurprisingly moaning about refereeing decisions; New York City’s Frank Lampard came off the bench to score the winner in Manchester City’s 3-2 win over Sunderland; Southampton made sure they stay fourth by beating Wenger’s Arsenal 2-0; Steve Bruce’s Hull beat Everton 2-0 to make it four defeats in a row for Martinez’s side; and L’pool were sailing on the back of two penalty goals against bottom club Leicester, until they went back to being average in the second half and let the Foxes back into a game that finished 2-2. All this means that United are still in third, three points ahead of fifth placed Spurs, four ahead of Arsenal, and eight points ahead of last season’s Easter Champions of England.
In other news, L’pool’s Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard has suddenly become the best Premier League player ever by announcing he’s leaving the club, only one week after Thierry Henry had been given the same accolade. Now, we’re not arguing the fact that Gerrard is indeed a very good footballer, and has carried L’pool for many a season, but to hear some of the ‘journalists’ going on about him this week, you’d think he was a Roy Keane or Paul Scholes even! Just imagine if L’pool had won the league last season (the proper one, not the Easter one), the media would have been unbearable. It will be bad enough for the next few months, as seen after he scored two against the mighty Wimbledon in the FA Cup.
Newcastle United are making sure they’re still of a good comedy value, even though a New Year has started. Their fans will be hoping that Rangers get promoted to the Scottish Premier League so maybe Mike Ashley sells his stake in their club, as Rangers will probably make him even more money once they’re in Europe. Meanwhile, they’ll just have to keep sitting tight and be ‘happy’ with seeing a few very good players turn out for their club before being sold on for a huge profit.
Oh, and David Moyes’ Real Sociedad beat Barcelona 1-0 in La Liga, making sure we don’t forget about him that easily. This seems to have been the last straw for many at the club that is ‘more than a club’, as tremors are being felt all the way up into the boardroom. Moving on…
Back to United news, the club seems to have offered goalkeeper Victor Valdes a contract, which would be excellent in keeping De Gea at the top of his game for the next couple of years; Rafael has had surgery on his cheekbone and insists he should be back in training by the end of the week; meanwhile, Bebe will be moving on loan to Spanish side Cordoba as he continues to struggle to find his feet.
This weekend United play at Old Trafford against the team just below them, Southampton (Sunday 11th, 4pm UK time). Though it might not be easy, when we have players like Di Maria and Falcao in our team, we have to be optimistic of continuing the positive run… COME ON UNITED!!!