Sunday, 8 December 2013


Do you ever wish life had a reset button? I know I do.

Let me take you back four weeks, to the 10th of November, when Manchester United had just clung on to a 1-0 victory over Premier League leaders Arsenal; a win which looked to have ignited an already smouldering title race. That weekend, losses for Tottenham and Manchester City - coupled with Chelsea only managing a home draw with West Brom - meant United climbed to fifth, just five points of the leaders and heading into the international break with major confidence.

It is now 28 days later and, much like the survivors in the zombie film of the same name, United find themselves fearing for their own future as the members of their group turn on each other one by one, with previously benign foes now turned into malevolent, fearsome animals capable of tearing them to pieces at any moment.
Yes David, my thoughts exactly
Going back in time once again, this time to last Tuesday, I wrote an unbelievably good blog about how United fans should stick by David Moyes in spite of the troubles our team are facing. Two home defeats later, and United have fallen to ninth in the Premier League table, behind Everton, Newcastle and Southampton, those traditional powerhouses of English football. Indeed those three teams have taken a combined seven points from Old Trafford this season, with the former two teams claiming wins this week. These results have tested, but not broken my resolve to stand by Mr Moyes, but things have to start turning around soon. Being a United fan this season is a little like someone stuck in a dead end relationship, but moving out would mean homelessness; things are bad, but the alternative is far worse.

Supporting United this season has been a frustrating experience, although it is not (yet) one I will abandon. Yes, if our players could shoot as accurately at the goal as they do at their own feet, much of the gloom surrounding the club would be lifted, but football benefits from - not suffers for - its unpredictability. Besides, Arsenal have not won anything in eight years, and look how smug they are with a five-point lead in December.

I can't even say life as a United fan has been a struggle. Yes, the countless times when the team have been behind late in games has probably contributed to the inevitable baldness I will face later in life, but the team often, if not always, found a way to recover from disaster. Believe it or not everyone, United lost games under Sir Alex Ferguson. We often played this badly under Ferguson. And it is arguably because of Ferguson that our midfield is so short of quality and thus our team - built on an ethos of verve, speed and power - has become more predictable than a film starring Jason Statham, or the X Factor.

Moyes has made many mistakes, but he is by no means solely responsible for the gargantuan pile of despair, misery and ineptitude which we have come to associate with the last 6 months. He is the footballing equivalent of former England cricket coach Peter Moores: taking over a once proud but slowly sinking ship, trying desperately to impose himself on the side. Moores would famously leave his post after a 'disagreement' between himself and Kevin Pietersen, after famously blooding young 'stars' such as Sajid Mahmood and Liam Plunkett. But Moores' work has grown to be appreciated with time, perhaps Moyes' will.

Therefore, United's play this season has resembled a sort of strange, mass rendition of the Cha Cha Slide by the immortal DJ Casper (what happened to him?); moving sideways, somtimes forwards, before inevitably having to take it back now...ya'll. The whole thing (our season, not the Cha Cha Slide) is maddening, but there is always a game next week to get hopelessly optimistic about, before the inevitable decline into depression.

Just as United's title hopes were revived four weeks ago, they may receive a boost in a little over three weeks with the opening of the January transfer window. Whether Moyes will rectify the mistakes of the summer and actually buy a proper midfielder remains to be seen, but it is an opportunity to improve which surely must be taken.

That said, Marouane Fellaini - Moyes' most recent signing - is still trying to prove there is more to his repertoire than his past suggests, a bit like Daniel Radcliffe trying to convince everyone he is not Harry Potter. The £27.5 million (I know) player is clearly working hard, but still plays like an old man trying to intercept a chicken. The man is more than a little slow and the need to buy again could not be more obvious.

And to be fair to Moyes, he seems aware of the gravity of the situation, carrying as he does the constant look of a man who has been bought tickets to Live at the Apollo, only to learn that the headline act is Lenny Henry. His main problem was always going to concern moments like these, when players so accustomed to winning were having to take motivation from a man who has won absolutely nothing. Do you remember at school when you found out that the teacher you always feared was sick and some poor bugger straight out of university was taking the class instead? That is how the United dressing room must feel right now.

"It's gonna blow!"
So who can United buy in January - or indeed the summer - to turn things around? Well, they only really need a left-back, a young centre-back, two central midfielders (one creative, one combative), a skilful winger and maybe an extra striker. Fittingly, as it's Christmas, the list reads a bit like the famous song 'Santa Baby' by Eartha Kitt (thanks Wikipedia), so "Moyesy baby, slip Khedira under the tree, for me" seems oddly appropriate, if more than a little weird.

However, for the foreseeable future, I don't really have much choice other than to ride the bad times out and hope for better days. After all, the season ends in just five months, and then there will be England's traditional World Cup collapse to look forward to. Hopefully, Moyes and co won't be too focused on that competition and will instead do their homework better than they did this summer, when United loudly bragged about being being close to signing a number of players, not noticing that the clubs to whom they belonged were laughing at them, much like a man who hasn't realised he has walked out of a toilet with paper stuck to his shoe and his flies open.

From a positive point of view, United are a few good signings away from being an amazing team. With some excellent youngsters pushing through and money apparently available to spend, there is no reason why United can't compete again for years to come. However, at this rate, we look more likely to lose talent than gain it. But it's Christmas, chins have to be raised. Peace to all mankind and all that bollocks.

Things will get better, but they may have to get worse first.

Or, better yet, hopefully I'll just wake up.

No comments:

Post a Comment