To be fair, it looked a little less silly after the rather wretched defeat at Hull, when José unveiled his first Trumpian ‘alternative fact’ — that the match had, in fact, finished in a draw.
I suspect many a Red would have been amused by his startlingly original refusal to recognise a goal, with its whiff of a capricious banana republic dictator declining to concede he’s just lost a brief border war.
Less amusing was United’s performance and attitude, which stank of complacency. On a bitterly cold night up on Humberside, marked by an especially vibrant vocal display by the travelling shivering hordes, the players’ seeming indifference made it an unusually shabby way to scrape through to a final.
Yesterday saw us continue on our other route towards Wembley with a team featuring nine changes, and including a couple of faces we’d almost forgotten. Prematch news that the heavyweights Shaw, Rooney, and Schweiny were all in the squad may have had us worrying for the team coach’s axle strength but The (Fat) Pig, at least, did manage to give us all something to smile about, his cheeky goal causing delight across the stadium.
Indeed, the whole afternoon was very much the prodigals’ parade, with the scorers and assisters almost all being players who’ve received more than their fair share of criticism of this season: Martial, Fellaini, Piggy, Smalling, The Armenian. Smalling in particular must be marvelling at how his day turned around; he had committed a clear penalty offence with the score at 0-0, and had been simply awful throughout his previous appearance in the shirt.
Arguably the most important element of the afternoon was the slight resurgence of Martial, once he moved away from the central axis. Mourinho has barely bothered to conceal his displeasure concerning many features of the Martial carnival over recent weeks, with Anthony’s mouthy agent apparently not learning his lesson after a previous managerial yellow card.
The tacky ups and downs of Martial’s private life, lipsmackingly detailed in The Sun every month or so, haven’t helped either. Some papers had even billed Sunday as ‘Martial’s last chance’, which can’t have helped the boy digest his pre-match croissants.
Your garlic-aromatised correspondent may be ever so slightly biased, given his essential belief that all French players should be gratefully regarded as gifts from God until proven otherwise, but Martial’s innate talent surely demands he gets another shot to establish his position?
Once Rooney finally clears off — and latest intel is China are now really pulling out all the stops, despite the player’s American preferences — one trusts a logjam will have been broken, which will give both Martial and The Armenian a proper chance to flourish.
We now await with unbated breath a third match with Hull in as many weeks, which is at least three more than anyone would want, before going to the floundering champions at the weekend. (I know: you’d forgotten Leicester still technically hold that title, hadn’t you?) These ought not be testing occasions for an expensive team with Champions League pretensions. But the displays of the last couple of weeks have produced a lot of groans amongst Reds, and I hear United are interviewing six coaches for two new ‘performance analyst’ posts this week, Pfft! They could save their money and just go onto Red Issue’s website for some properly bracing expert analysis, although some of the fruitier language on there might fox José’s English comprehension skills. Especially when the subject is Rooney.
In any event, let’s not get too negative. It could be a lot worse: just look at Anfield this week. Editor: how many laughing emoticons can we fit in here? As many as the teeth Klopp somehow fits into his manic ‘Shining’ grin? Of which we are now seeing a lot less these days, it seems...