Here we are at the end of another year, but this time much happier than the last one.
Our ‘week’ started on Boxing Day, when United were at home to Newcastle. It proved to be one of United’s best performances under Van Gaal so far, and with Juan Mata pulling the strings in midfield along with Wayne Rooney, United proved too strong for the Geordies. Our captain scored two easy goals that were given to him on a plate by Falcao and Mata, then turned provider with a lovely cross to Van Persie, who headed in neatly for his eight goal of the season. Newcastle did score a consolation goal from the penalty spot with five minutes to go, but United did more than enough to win 3-1. Everyone did their job very well on the day, even if Newcastle didn’t make it that hard (not going to mention Fletcher’s cameo that nearly resulted in a Newcastle goal).
We then went into the Tottenham game full of optimism, even if we knew that this would be much harder than playing a below par Newcastle. And so it proved to be, though the unchanged side continued playing very well in the first half. Unfortunately it proved to be one of those days, as the strikers missed a few very good chances. It was a pity to see Falcao and Van Persie, who seemed to have found his shooting boots again lately, not score to give United a well deserved lead before half-time. United then hardly created anything in the second-half and we began to think that Tottenham could even find a late, undeserved winner. By the end, we were slightly relieved to get a draw, though were ruing the missed chances from the first half. Once again, Juan Mata had an excellent game and even hit the post in the first half, though he could have done better when he snapped at a shot in the second half.
Though we’d have been much happier with another win, this point was not to be sneered at, especially as the other teams around United had hard games to face as well.
Most of the team played well in both games, but I think Mata, Carrick, Rooney and Ashley Young deserve higher praise than the rest, and have been consistently good lately. It was unfortunate that tiredness took over in the second half (for Tottenham as well), as the game petered out as time went on.
Van Gaal said that the players were “struggling for life” by the end, because they had played just 48 hours earlier, and will now need even more time for their bodies to recover. It wasn’t just him either, as other managers and footballers came out moaning about too many games at this time of year (Gus Poyet and Peter Crouch to name just two). We hardly heard a peep about them out of the media though; as usual they’d rather focus on United and their manager.
Although not many will have much sympathy for the players because of the wages they get, what’s the point of having extra games that end up being ‘non-events’ for the paying supporters? If it’s all about tradition, why not keep the Boxing Day and New Year’s Day games, but skip the middle one so everyone can have some rest?
From United’s point of view, it was a pity that Angel di Maria missed these games through injury, as while he wasn’t missed against Newcastle, he could have made a difference against Tottenham, especially as United didn’t have any ‘game-changers’ on the bench.
Elsewhere in the league, Chelsea showed their strength against West Ham when winning 2-0, then faltered to a 1-1 draw at Southampton, giving Mourinho the excuse to prove he’s ‘the happy one’ by stating that everyone is out to get them, exactly as he used to do when at Real Madrid and Inter. Let’s see if the British media get fed up of his moaning like their Spanish and Italian counterparts did; Manchester City matched them by putting a show on at West Brom, then letting a two goal lead slip at home to Burnley to stay three points behind the leaders; Arsenal won both their games against QPR and West Ham to climb up to fifth, while L’pool did the same against Burnley and Swansea to climb up to eight place in the table; Meanwhile, Everton lost at home to Stoke, then at Newcastle to stay twelfth, and prove that David Moyes might not have been doing such a bad job after all.
Looking at other news, Crystal Palace got permission from Newcastle to talk to Alan Pardew after sacking Neil Warnock. We understand that Pardew would like to go back to a club where he did so well as a player, but to leave a job where he seemed secure? How bad are things at Newcastle? Quite bad if rumours that Coloccini is favourite to take over are true.
West Brom is another club that have sacked their manager before the year is out. Alan Irvine had been in the job for seven months, since he replaced Pepe Mel. Seems like this is another club in a bit of turmoil though results at one point were papering over the cracks.
And while we’re on about managers, how silly will some Everton fans be feeling right now, after laughing so much at the expense of Moyes (and United) last season? And where are all those former players and coaches knocking him when they thought that Everton would become a top four club without him? Of course Martinez is a good manager, but to make him sound like he’s the new Guardiola because of half a season? One swallow does not a summer make.
In Europe, Fernando Torres is returning home by leaving AC Milan to join Atletico Madrid, who couldn’t get him on loan, as he was already on loan to the Serie A club from Chelsea, but couldn’t afford to buy him outright from Chelsea. But wait… Abramovich saved the day by selling him to Milan (a club that wanted rid of him), which meant that he could still be loaned out this season. So nice of the Chelsea Oligarch to help out a club that he can get a few more players from in the near-future eh?
Back to United, we now have a tough game at Stoke on New Year’s Day (12:45pm UK time). Mark Hughes’ side is in the course of a mini-revival after beating Everton and West Brom in the last two games. Here’s hoping that after most of us celebrate on the last day of the present year, we’ll be cheering happily when United play at the start of 2015… COME ON UNITED!!!