Those pesky takeover rumors just won’t go away, will they?
The latest round of speculation over Manchester United’s present and future has the Qataris coming back with an offer of 1.5 billion after having an offer of 1 billion rejected by the Glazers earlier this month.
The twist in these tidbits is that the prospective bidders are considering partnering with the Red Knights, a step that would do more to endear themselves to the supporters than anything the Glazers have done in their tenure as owners. Of course, any and all of this tabloid talk should be taken with many a grain of salt, as it’s very much smoke, smoke, and more smoke for the time being, but it makes for interesting reading and debate nonetheless.
Meanwhile, the team has a title race to tend to, and while every single one of United’s remaining dozen matches is of great significance, the three trips that lie ahead in the next eight days are the most important of the season, without a doubt.
By the time we leave Anfield next Sunday, we could have reaffirmed our position as the team to beat and put paid to Chelsea and City’s flickering title hopes, and the race could be down to United and Arsenal, just as it has been on multiple occasions in the Premier League era.
First up is today’s short trek to the DW Stadium, and with two massive matches ahead, is there a chance we could overlook a relegation-threatened opponent that we’ve beaten 11 straight times since they made the jump to the top flight?
I could well be proved wrong, but I’m leaning to the side of ‘not a chance’. Not only are the three points an absolute must given what lies ahead in the next two matches, but a brief mental visit to what happened the last time we were away from home in the league should be more than enough for the squad to know that any and all opponents from this point, especially away from home, must be taken on with the same level of intensity and focus.
Besides, after what could be nicely termed a subpar performance against Crawley in the FA Cup last weekend and an equally hard-to-watch showing at Marseille on Wednesday, you would think (the operative word there being think) that they’ll come out with a little extra inspiration and something to prove. Right? Right.
Wigan come into the weekend unbeaten in their last three, which includes an impressive 1-1 draw at Liverpool a fortnight ago. Still, they occupy a place in the bottom three, two points ahead of West Ham and Wolves and one behind West Brom, but we shouldn’t be in the mood for favors like we seemed to be at the Molineux three weeks ago (seems like longer, for some reason).
On the bright side, Roberto Martinez’s side hasn’t given up eight or nine goals like it did against Chelsea and Tottenham respectively last season, and it must be said that 10 of the 26 goals they’ve allowed this season at home came in their first two matches of the season, a 4-0 defeat to Blackpool and a 6-0 defeat to Chelsea.
Still, they’ve surrendered multiple goals in more than half of their matches this season (14 in 27), and we should’ve netted much more than the two we did in November’s 2-0 win at Old Trafford, so there’s no reason for our attack to stutter like it has in the last couple of matches and quite often this season away from home.
Just as much of a question mark is our defense, which, as I’ve mentioned in this space several times, has had a few forgettable moments away from home this season. Fortunately, we won’t have to deal with one of their most dangerous options today, as Tom Cleverley will be a mere spectator against his parent club. Cleverley has impressed when he’s been fit, so the Latics will certainly miss his presence today. That’s all the better for us, both in terms of today’s match and his development, which has certainly benefited from the opportunity to be a key player for a Premier League side.
With Cleverley not in the mix, we must contain Charles N’Zogbia (this might help, perhaps) and Hugo Rodallega, both of whom might be counting down the days until they can leave for greener pastures. Easier said than done, given the aversion to prosperity our back line has had away from home, but even with Rio out once again (and he’ll be out on Tuesday as well), we should be able to do the business at the back.
Given how much my predictions recently have contrasted with the actual results, I briefly pondered going the reverse psychology route today, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So here goes, and here’s hoping.
Prediction: 2-0 United