It seems over the past few weeks, I’ve fallen asleep and awoke in an alternative Universe, one where being second in the league, having played the entire top ten teams, still being in the Champions League and having one of the most talented squads on the planet, somehow consitutes a disaster.
Don’t get me wrong I’ve had the odd gripe, I’ve questioned certain decisions by the manager, or actions by players and dared to wonder why, or what if? But the fact remains that for me, if I’m completely candid, then this current United side and it’s position far from filling me with dread and disappointment, actually leaves me with the a certain sense of both belief and pride.
Yes, City are top of the league and yes United will almost certainly face one of the top sides in Europe should we prevail in Switzerland and okay go on then, we don’t have a Roy Keane or a Paul Scholes in midfield, but allow me to ask you one simple question: are things really that bad?
United have suffered terribly with injuries to key players at crucial times, more so than any of our rivals including City. Danny Welbeck’s injury against Arsenal came at a time when the youngster was enjoying the best form of his entire career, ditto Tom Cleverley against Bolton. Nemanja Vidic was arguably the one player we needed the most for the visit of City, yet was considered not fit enough to play, Chicharito leaving the field only seven minutes in against Villa could have condemned United to a draw, after all the Mexican was in fine form as he always seems to be. It’s easy to downplay these absences but they do have an affect on the team and it’s credit to the strength of our squad that we’re still only five points behind a side that’s had an easier run of fixture and less tribulations due to injuries- perhaps the signing of Owen Hargreaves was an attempt to address that.
United’s struggles in Europe seem disastrous but again let’s delve deeper and ask for a modicum of rational perspective. The Basle game was a poor performance, of that there is little doubt, but Benfica was a tad unlucky and more due to one lapse than anything more sinister.
There’s been a lot of criticism of United’s central midfield, how it’s looked bereft of creativity since Cleverley’s injury and how it’s a travesty Wayne Rooney has been forced to sometimes play there.
While it’s true the energy and craft of Cleverley has been missed, I’d argue that lately United’s midfield has begun to look far more distinguished than in prior months. Michael Carrick is in a fine run of form and we’ve recently seen Phil Jones give every indication that his adundant capabilities may well be best served in a midfield role- something I’ve always advocated. As for Rooney dropping deeper into the midfield, is this really such shock or nightmare, considering how often he occupies the role anyway, regardless of his position and the quality United have up front in his absence?
Defensively United seem more at ease, and the amount of clean sheets since the Derby day mauling cannot be ignored and nor should they be.
Patrice Evra seems to be revitalised somewhat of late and seems to have vanguished some of his earlier les impressive performances this season to mere distant memories, while Chris Smalling on the other side of defence seems almost as capable as his French left-footed counterpart, if not even more so.
The loss to Crystal Palace was treated with the same melodramatic doom mongering normally reserved for Champions League final losses, but even that admittedly poor performance and result had it’s positives. Darron Gibson returned and showed that he’s still got something to offer as a back-up player, while youngsters Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba got some valuable first-team experience.
It’s not all plain sailing of course, there was that derby defeat, the Da Silvas inability to complete 90 minutes and not finishing top of our Champions League group, but there are enough reasons to again feel proud and pleased we’re supporting Manchester United football club.
We have the chance to avenge the 6-1 in the FA Cup, a game I firmly believe we will emerge victorious from and should we get Barcelona or Real Madrid or whoever in the Champions League, then perhaps it will give us the chance to show that we’re still capable of mixing it with the cream of Europe, if we want to win the trophy we’re destined to face the very best anyway, why not now?
Call me overconfident, deluded or perhaps imbedded with the not so distant memory of some of the other squads I’ve witnessed during the Sir Alex Ferguson era, but as I look through the United team sheets, the fixtures both us and our main rivals have to endure in the near future, I cannot help but feel as I so often have, that this is a great time to be a United fan.