People talk about winning ugly; that a team has to be able to win ugly in order to win a championship.
United have tried to prove this theory a number of times this year, with some scrappy performances and late wins at stages this season. During the winter period when United seemed to be at their scrappiest I suggested that this may all change with the return of Park and Valencia and the added width that they could provide (at the time United were operating on Nani and Giggs for width) and Valencia in particular has been hugging the touchline like it’s a life support system.
So, given the demolition of Schalke on Wednesday night (and people will rightly point out how poor they were) it led me to ponder slightly louder, something that I’ve been pondering for a while….do United win because they have a higher bottom level than anyone else?
Peter Schmeichel : “People say he is a great player, but you have to define what a great player is, For me, it is a player who has a bottom level that means his worst performance is not noticed.
“If he is having a bad game, a team-mate might feel Paul Scholes is not quite on his game, but a spectator wouldn’t notice. Scholes, of all the players I have played with, has the highest bottom level.”
For me, when United play badly, it’s still good enough for most teams in the league. It’s good enough for some team’s top level. What a lot of people called United’s reserves last night featured the top scorer in the Premier League this season, a winger with more goals and assists than any other wide player in the Premier League, another wide man who was one of United’s best attacking outlets last year and has recently returned from injury to sensational form.
In midfield we had a player who still defies belief with the range of his passing and who was rated by Zidane as the best midfielder of his generation. Goalscorers Anderson and Gibson joined him in there and then in defence we had Rafael, who until injury was United’s first choice right back this year, John O’Shea – not exactly spectacular but incredibly reliable and winner of more medals than Fabregas and Gerrard combined. Oh and Smalling and Evans stood in front of one of the best keepers in the modern era. Sounds rubbish right? WRONG.
United have a squad that can cope with most situations, and whilst people will rightly point to the games where their bottom level hasn’t been enough, most of the time it has.
That’s what’s scary about this team, they can push on and be that much better. Is their first XI as good as that of Barcelona? Probably not. Will they stand a chance in the Champions League final? I think so. I can guarantee that United won’t be able to play anything other than their “top level” in that game. But it’s a final, you’d expect nothing less. But for the simple business of playing almost 60 games a season, for making the most of every single player in the squad, I don’t think there are many better than United. Other teams have had injuries this season and it would be ridiculous to try and weigh each team’s losses in that respect, but United it would appear have coped best with theirs so far.
People will slate a lot of the players who “aren’t good enough for United” like John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Darron Gibson and in some cases Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Carrick have been targets for criticism. I’ve written defences of Berbatov and Carrick in the past and won’t waste space doing it again, I’ve also said out that Gibson, like Anderson deserves a chance to prove himself and that if after being given fair chance and proper support from the fans he doesn’t make the grade then we’ll wish him well. But it’s the slating of players like O’Shea that I don’t like. Mr Versatile may not play as many games as other players, but I can think of very few examples where he has ever let us down.