At long, long, last we’ve finally reached the end. Sunday’s trip to the South Coast brings the curtain down on this seemingly endless, utterly shambolic, largely uninspiring campaign meaning we can all spend the next few months dreaming of returning to success, while our heads spin at the number of players United are linked with in the press.
In the last quarter of a century never has there been a season Reds are so desperate to see the back of such as the current one, which has tested our collective resolve and patience in a whole new way from what we had been used to for over two decades.
Under David Moyes United reached their lowest point in a long time but the last couple of weeks have offered some encouraging signs that this season might, after all, simply have been a one-off occasion, the sort of incredible event that will be recalled in the future amid stupor and incredulity: “Remember that year when United were appalling and Liverpool had the title almost wrapped?”
Not only have United shown signs – albeit small – of improvement under Ryan Giggs, but even the Armageddon scenario of the title heading towards the wrong end of the East Lancs Road seems to have been avoided – even though, City being City, the catastrophe will still be on the cards until 6pm on Sunday afternoon – which could make the trip to Southampton much more pleasing than we would have thought a few weeks ago.
As it’s been the case for a while now, United have absolutely nothing to play for, bar the odd chance of squeezing past Spurs and finish sixth to secure the dubious privilege of playing Europa League next season. On Tuesday, the limited nature of what was at stake allowed Giggsy to give James Wilson and Tom Lawrence their debut and both seized their chances in fantastic fashion, the former scoring twice, the latter impressing even without finding the net.
Both, however, could be rested on Sunday, given United U21 face Chelsea in the U21 Premier League final on Wednesday, which means one between Robin Van Persie, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez could lead the line at Southampton, with Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata and one between Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young in support.
Phil Jones’ injury isn’t as bad as thought but he’ll miss out as will Wayne Rooney, who has returned to training but won’t be fit in time, while Jonny Evans is still out, which means Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand could line-up together for one last time. If Tuesday night was all about Vidic’s goodbye, one wonders how many will make their final appearance in a red shirt on Sunday and it’s hard to fathom that we’ll see a similar line-up at the beginning of the next season, for a major clear-out can’t come too soon.
This United side has more than run its course, but were the core of this side still be in its place in August then something will have gone horribly wrong during the summer – and not for the first time, either – for it’s obvious United need to follow their statements with actions in the transfer window.
United normally enter their last weekend of the season with nothing to play for only when they’ve already wrapped up the title and it’ll be a weird experience on Sunday but at least, mercifully, the curtain is finally about to come down on these awful 10 months. Let’s enjoy the last away trip of the season and let’s hope this will be the last time we want City to lift the title.
I wish I could say this season has been a blast, but it hasn’t.
Probable starting XI: