This season’s been something of a mixed one to say the least, despite the fact the team we all love are sitting pretty in the three main competitions, it seems there’s been more than a few causes for concern.
Throwing away leads, poor away form, Wayne Rooney, central midfield and dropping my phone down the toilet on my birthday have all been reasons to be less than totally cheerful about how the last eight months.
Don’t get me wrong, this season could potentially be one of the most successful we’ve ever had and as someone who remembers the 5-1 at Maine Road -barely- it’s easy to forget just how lucky us United fans are sometimes.
Chicharito, Chris Smalling, the evolution of Nani, Wazza’s derby winner and Dimitar Berbatov adding goals to his game have all been big positives in a season, normal – or should that be less enlightened fans- would be more than happy with.
All the negatives and reasons for regret pale in comparison to the number of times United have made me thank the football gods my dad took me to Old Trafford as a child- mind you living in Manchester what team was I ever going to support? It’s not as though I’m from Stockport.
Any United fan worth his salt- whatever that means, does it mean the salt in your body or kitchen, I’ve never fathomed that expression and will endeavour to cease using it from now on- can’t have failed to notice as always there’s room for improvement in certain areas.
Over the past few months on this site, I’ve tried to heap the praise more often than I have raised the questions, but there are times when one must ask “is this good enough?”
I was at a Legends tournament at the Soccerdome, where thanks to the poor pay that goes with freelance journalism, I still cover a few shifts at, watching Paul Simpson score a wonder goal against a Tesco team which contained Jason McAteer when I received the following tweet “@Gagz7: @jaymotty I tweeted the other day and asked can you tell me the last time United scored from a free a kick?……No answers so far!”
Being bored with watching middle aged players I barely respected in their prime I wandered off to ponder this question for some time resisting the urge to google.
My answer after almost half an hour of deep thought, interjected with being amazed at how small Georgie Thompson is in real life and how Quinton Fortune is a lot stockier than I remember, I admitted defeat. I couldn’t remember one successful United free kick all season.
In fact as I mused over this further one more thing occurred to me, even from penalties United haven’t been that great this season, with only Sir Ryan Giggs proving infallible from 12 yards. Then there was corners, this may sound like I’m drifting from the initial point but how many times have United scored from corners this season? Three? Four? Whatever the tally, there’s no denying that The Reds are far less lethal from corner kicks than they used to be and if I’m completely honest, many of the corners I’ve witnessed this season have been frustratingly bad.
When you’re a side that attacks as often as United does, you’re always liable to earn free kicks around the box, corners in abundance and more than your share of penalties. Yet unlike in the days of a certain Portuguese legend who went from completely useless to the best free kick taker the world had seen since Posh’s husband was in his prime, there is now no real dead ball specialist at Old Trafford.
Nani has flattered to deceive a few times, Ryan Giggs has always been decent without ever raising his standard above that while Owen Hargreaves is about as likely to take a free kick for United this season as Norman Whiteside is.
United simply do not have a player who can place the ball on whatever spot the referee indicates and convert that into a goal at least some of the time. Don’t get me wrong I understand it’s grossly unfair to expect any players to reach Ronaldo like standards but some sort of excitement when we get a free kick 20 odd yards from goal wouldn’t go amiss.
Nor would someone who could beat the first man at a corner on a regular basis. It’s actually this way of thinking that’s making me believe Blackpool’s Charlie Adam may not be the bad shout I once thought it was. Adam’s corner taking is superb as he demonstrated not just against us but also against West Ham, where he scored directly from one.
Continued on page two.