Well let me start by getting the lone positive from the game out. We won. Yup, that’s it folks, we won. And if that’s all it takes to make many of you all wet and warm and fuzzy in your nether regions then may I offer some advice after you check yourselves for a pulse. Get a life. Seriously, if that’s all it takes to please many of you, you seriously need to get out more and start experiencing life.
It’s history now but the newsflash is in from Fergie. We’re all better now and a win is a win and now we can move forward. It’s that easy. I’m sure the Gaffer was encouraged by the win, the hard work defensively and the clean sheet but his false sense of security is just that, a false sense of security. United played a sloppy match that would have been a poor result in the loss column had we actually played a club with any real talent up front and on the wings.
Everton is as pedestrian a side playing at home as I have seen for a while. They have no real creative genius to them without the departed Arteta and without Tim Cahill in their line up. No real cutting edge and so as much as they controlled the majority of the 97 minutes played, they really were just what the doctor ordered to ensure United three points and the antibiotic that will hopefully help in lifting the virus that is presently plaguing our club.
Make no mistake, most any other top ten club in the EPL would have beaten us or at least forced us into a hard fought draw as we were that pathetic and that negative in our play. Our first twenty minutes were very encouraging however.
We controlled the play and rather than run hard what we did was allow the ball to do the hard work as we strung short pass after short pass quickly and on many occasions with one touch fluency. I liked what I saw as we came close through JS Park after Welbeck and Cleverley worked some fine short passing to free Park who should have scored but was denied by his own lack of finishing skill and to be fair, a tough angle and Tim Howard.
But after Patrice Evra shocked the world with a masterful cross (shocking because masterful crosses are not part of Pat Evra’s arsenal) delivered beautifully to the predator of predators, Javier Hernandez to strike home, I was left with a feeling of optimism and confidence as United looked to be in good form and with a positive flurry which defied the tactical set up and squad selection that Fergie started the game with. In fact I kind of liked the passing style and the feeling of urgency in the side.
And then the music died and what followed were 77 minutes that left me with no other feeling than being as ‘Pink Floyd’ once coined in their famous song, feeling “comfortably numb”. What followed so depressed me and so enraged me that I could not and I will not gain any real joy or positive energy from this hard earned win on the road in a hostile environment.
Generally I would expect a tough match at Goodison Park and a loss would not have surprised me at the best of times, but this game was different. We had come off the mother of all humiliations and more important than even a win was to show the world and especially our supporters that that loss to City was just a one off and a freak of nature. That United players still believed in themselves and that they would not allow such a loss to cloud their thinking, play with their confidence and above all, alter their playing style and aggressive approach. Boy was I wrong.
What followed Chicharito’s goal was more disturbing to me than all the goals City scored on us at Old Trafford. Yes we won and yes De Gea and the lads got that all important clean sheet to help us gain some defensive confidence but the manner in which we accomplished this sent shivers down my spine and told me at least that the Manchester United era of dominance and entertaining attacking football is over or at best on hiatus. May it rest in peace.
What followed that goal was unthinkable, it was shocking and it was disturbing. We played like all those minnows that have shown up at Old Trafford over the years hoping to steal a win or salvage a draw. We parked the bus and defended for 77 minutes with only the odd punt and long ball counter attack, which usually led to nothing as a retaliation to Everton’s possession and their ability to fence us in our own end for the remainder of the game.
Bloody Hell! This is not what I signed up for when I became United supporter. Catenaccio and bloody park the bus football in the best Mick McCarthy manner possible? WTF? We basically played 4-1-4-1 today and the fact we seemed to be secure and comfortable with a 1-0 lead leaves me to believe that Manchester United has picked up the worst virus imaginable. Italian pragmatism. Was that Manchester United playing Everton today or were the Toffees hosting Juventus?
I fully believe that Fergie’s recipe of pragmatic Italian football has finally gotten the better of him and unfortunately for beautiful football, he has lost his way. Watch the game again and tell me if the performance did not remind you of a typical Italian performance where they come out and string quick short passes and create a chance or two, get a lead and then place ten men behind the ball and defend that lead until the whistle goes?
Last season we carelessly lost a two goal lead and settled for a 3-3 draw and to be honest, that didn’t bother me nearly as badly as the way we responded today.
Yes I understand that substance (a win) was far more important than style (attractive play). I get the fact that we needed to right the ship and quit leaking goals. I understand that falling farther than five points behind Manchester City would have been more unacceptable, but for me the message sent to the rest of the footballing world after United parked the bus was discouraging and dangerous. Our negativity and caution will reverberate around the country and will motivate a lot of clubs who in the past feared us to now attempt to do the unthinkable. Now they will feel bold and attack us and show less caution when playing us. After all, when we show the Everton’s of the world such respect when they were in such poor form, suffering from injuries like us and lacking any cutting edge up front, then how is that going to make the Blackburn’s, Wigan’s, Norwich’s and Stoke’s of the world as well as other minnows approach matches against us in the future, especially when they host us?
Again let me express my relief that we won the bloody match. Yes we got the three points and for many of the programmed chimps that call themselves supporters out there will feel great about this and will have regained their confidence in Fergie and the club. Some fans are fickle and all it takes to keep them salivating like Pavlov’s dog is the positive reinforcement that a win, in any fashion can accomplish.
Problem is I am not that kind of animal. I am not a Pavlovian canine who can so easily be manipulated and trained to comply through scientific methods of positive and negative reinforcement. I do not watch this game just to see my club win. Sure winning is everything to many but for me the sport offers me a chance to also be entertained in the process. Like I have said many umpteenth times before, I became a United supporter many moons ago because I loved the way they played the game whether they won or lost. Watching them run and use width and always emphasizing attack was what I felt the game was meant to be played like. It certainly is not intended to turn into the rubbish that was on display on this day at Goodison Park.
And even though we were playing a club in worse form than ourselves, we were still lucky to win. A cross bar and David De Gea’s face saved us from a loss or at least a draw. Had Leighton Baines possessed a little more luck when his free kick easily beat De Gea only to hit the crossbar or had Jack Rodwell not been stopped by De Gea’s face perhaps we would really be crying in our soup right now. After all, it’s not like we had a plethora of opportunities to increase our goal count. A half chance by Welbeck was the only real chance we had after we scored the go ahead goal. After that goal it was all Everton and thank God we defended better and that our opponents lacked any cutting edge to really put the boots to us.
Like I said earlier, I left with a strange feeling of comfortable numbness. Relieved by the win but so under whelmed by the performance that I felt and still feel like somebody high on painkillers after having a molar extracted. I just feel hazy and only semi-conscious. I ask myself, is this the official beginning of the end? Are the halcyon glory days truly over or is Fergie going to rumble through his bag of tricks and find a quick cure to our malaise and poor form to once again bring back top quality play and champagne delight footy to Mancunia? Forgive me for feeling pessimistic but based on what I’m seeing, this time the Gaffer really has his hands full and I’m not sure father time and the staff he has presently working for him are up to the challenge.
So what can we finally take from this match? Certainly a win must offer a few positives to take back with us. Yes we got a clean sheet and another good performance from our keeper. Nemanja Vidic was by far the outstanding man on the pitch and thank God for him because Jonny Evans was just dying to find a way in which to screw things up yet again. I was ready to kill him myself when he refused to jump on the Baines free kick that sailed an inch over his head and almost went in. What kind of defending in a wall was that?
Pat Evra was much improved today in both ends of the park. He delivered a great cross for the goal and defended well deciding that staying home and maintaining his position would be best for his club and his future at that position.
Phil Jones was decent as was Chicharito with his runs albeit, his first touch and his passing still need a lot of work. Rooney showed glimpses of fitting into the Paul Scholes role but he needs to start playing more aggressively again in the attacking zone. He worked hard but my God Fergie, wasting his talent like that is just an unforgivable sin. Would Pep Guardiola ever do that to Messi or would Mourinho waste Ronaldo like that. Never should a manager waste his best attacker by playing him so out of position that the player is not able to offer the club what he is best at, which is scoring goals. But it has come to this because Fergie has realised finally that his false sense of security about his central midfield was exactly that, false. That Carrick, Fletcher and Anderson are not even as good as Rooney in central midfield.
No Nani until after 65 minutes, no Young due to injury and Valencia until late took away our width and to be honest, I am shocked and appalled that we never started this game with either Nani or Valencia. Instead we had to endure another match with JS Park accomplishing nothing, especially since he had little defending to do against an Everton club devoid of ideas and no wide wing play.
Frankly I am tired of not seeing Nani start nearly every game. He is arguably our second best player and he deserves to play every game the way Ronaldo did and the way Rooney does. The fact he doesn’t and the fact that Park continues to waste our time and waste a position on the pitch is something I find intolerable and unforgivable. But then again Fergie’s job this season finds me full with feelings of intolerance and makes me unable to find and forgiveness for what I think is a pedestrian, antiquated and cowardly form of management. Management and leadership that defy what he has stood for during his 25 years in charge. A pity and a total shame that it has come to this. But the beat goes on, hardly audible. We’re alive but barely kicking.