Saturday was the ninth anniversary of one of Manchester United’s most spirited and inspired performances of the last decade. A side that had been stripped of some of its best performers, while others were still considered too raw and young to be relied upon, took on an Arsenal side that had won the league the previous season and dominated them in their own backyard, as Roy Keane famously saw Patrick Vieira “out there”.
Nine years on, United buckled under Stoke’s physicality, surrendering for the eight time this season without much of a fight, not a whimper of aggression bar for the frantic final ten minutes, during which United never looked like scoring anyway, their unorganised attacks reflecting the terrifying lack of confidence that has crippled the players’ minds this season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has stated that Wiflried Zaha has the potential to be as good as Cristiano Ronaldo, quite a comparison considering that the former Palace man had never started a Premier League match for Manchester United, since arriving at Old Trafford last summer.
The 21-year-old joined Cardiff on loan on deadline day and made his debut for the Bluebirds on Saturday, coming off the bench against Norwich to deliver an assist as Soslkjaer’s men came from behind to win 2-1, gifting Ole his first win in the Premier League since his arrival in South Wales.
Chris Smalling has admitted United might have to win almost all of their remaining games if they’re to clinch a Champions League spot ahead of next season, but the United defender admitted that bridging the seven-point gap that currently separates United from Liverpool won’t be easy.
Saturday’s shambolic defeat at Stoke highlighted yet again United’s numerous deficiencies, while David Moyes’ obstinate choice of deploying a 4-4-2 formation backfired, as the Reds’ approach was as pedestrian as that of a Sunday league team, with almost no shots on target in the whole of the second half.
Hell is a place that’s often been described, though it has never been seen. A cold, windy and rainy afternoon in Stoke, however, would gain a rather large consensus if the description of hell was to be put up to public vote.
Everything is quintessentially awful about Stoke. Their fans, their manager, the horrible football they insist to practise, their players and their horrendous wind-swept ground, where footballers and fans are at the elements’ mercy, with sudden gusts of wind making play almost impossible.
Deadline day was a largely uneventful 24 hours for fans hoping to witness the debut of a new arrival at Stoke City today, a match United MUST win.
The betting odds for this match suggest United will be too strong for The Potters but they’ll have to do it without a host of youngsters and also a surprise deadline day target.
Things might have gone very much quiet on the arrival front at Old Trafford after the signing of Juan Mata, but the exit door has been incredibly busy on transfer deadline day so far, with many youngsters been given the opportunity to gain crucial first team experience on loan at other clubs.
Wilfried Zaha has finally completed his loan move to Cardiff for the remainder of the season and one can only hope the youngster will grab his chance to prove his worth between now and May.
Away from the transfer deadline day shenanigans, ITK Twitter accounts and the dreaded “Sky Sport sources” line, for Manchester United and David Moyes there’s the small matter of a second Premier League game in four days to deal with.
Having finally got back to winning ways against Cardiff on Tuesday night, United travel to the Britannia, which, while it clearly isn’t the fortress the press have spent the last five years harping on about, remains a hotbed for dire football, generally windy and unpleasant days and, more importantly, some of the worst fans the Premier League has ever seen.
Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola might have just given United fans a reason to remain glued to TV screens and radios tomorrow, after admitting that Toni Kroos could leave the Allianz Arena before tomorrow’s transfer deadline.
The Bayern Munich midfielder has been on David Moyes’ radar for quite some time, after the European champions’ Chief Executive, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, admitted that the club was struggling to come to an agreement with the midfielder over a new contract.