TERRACE TALK: Man United - We could be facing more penance in Advent

Last week, giddy after Piggy’s last-minute bacon-saver at Watford, I allowed myself to write hopefully that a “qualification-clinching evening against PSV would cap five days of United hugely cheering us all up”. Sigh. When will I ever learn?

TERRACE TALK: Man United - We could be facing more penance in Advent

Instead, we’ve just endured another several days of soul-searching, breast-beating and fist-gnawing, most of which has centred upon one existential query: “have we had enough of this Dutch clown, or what?” (I think that’s what the lawyers call ‘a leading question’.)

You could step back and point out that we’ve just earned a decent point from a top-of-the-table away day, and that — on paper, at least — we ought to be well capable of beating Wolfsburg in the Champions League group finale. You may even wish to hazard the sally that 14 clean sheets in 23 games shows that the rebuilding is bearing some fruit, if we accept that all such projects start from the back and work forwards, and that Chris Smalling should be a Player of the Year contender.

All that is true enough. Has it helped your mood, though? No, of course it hasn’t. As one Red put it to me: “you can make all the intellectual arguments you want. None of them stops me dreading have to watch United these days.”

Another out-trumped him: “pfft: never mind watching them. Even listening to them on the radio is boring beyond belief.”

So on we trudge, with West Ham due next at Old Trafford as a warm-up for next week’s German showdown. We are all desperate to see something happen up front to give us hope.

As one wag quipped on Saturday: “even Jeremy Corbyn is more committed to attacking the enemy than this manager.”

It has come to something when certain Reds say they would actively welcome an injury to Rooney, as that seems to be the only way to guarantee his inert lumpen presence would be left out of the team, thus leaving more room for Martial, Herrera and Mata to breath.

It’s perhaps no accident that, at such a grumpy moment, stories linking both Ronaldo and Bale to United have re-emerged with gusto.

I flagged up the Ronaldo issue a few weeks ago, and suggested we’d be hearing more in due course: I can assure you it’s more than just paper talk.

Whether it’ll ever amount to anything is another matter, of course. You could hardly blame either player for casting a glance at how LVG’s philosophy is working out and responding that they’d even prefer a bit of Nietzsche at his gloomiest, thanks very much.

To cap it all, this weekend we had the winter equivalent of the spring’s first cuckoo: sightings of ‘Pep Guardiola-to-Manchester’ stories in the tabloids, neatly divided into those that predict United or City destinations for next summer.

Whether there is anything to them beyond indicating a certain malaise at both clubs, I couldn’t say.

But if they contribute to any self-doubt LVG may be experiencing about whether he is imposing the right methodology at Old Trafford, then they can only be welcomed, however ill-founded.

Tomorrow is the first day of December. A happy Advent to you all, of course — but let’s also remember this tends to be a dread month for stumbling United bosses. Frank and Wilf lost their jobs in the Decembers of 1972 & 1970, whilst the wheels started coming off for Ron, Sexton and Moyes in 1985, 1980 and 2013.

And ten days from now, on the way back from Germany, our current monarch may be realising he’s in for another such winter of discontent.....

More in this section

Price info

Subscribe to unlock unlimited digital access.
Cancel anytime.

Terms and conditions apply


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox