Terrace Talk: Let’s clutch at straws and enjoy the thrills

So much for getting one’s just deserts from Santa. 

Terrace Talk: Let’s clutch at straws and enjoy the thrills

The three matches since we last met here have all ended up with the wrong results. We lost a game we deserved to draw; then drew away when we should’ve won; and finally, we drew at home when we ought to have lost.

Not even the most pessimistic of Reds forecast we’d win none of the trio. I suppose we are entitled to be throwing our new Christmas toys out of the pram, given we have been eliminated from (arguably) two of the four trophy-hunts we were still involved in just a week ago.

But this has at least been an entertaining week. All three games gripped to the bitter end and were packed with juicy incident. Yes, the majority of these thrills were being ultimately derived from bad mistakes and bad luck but a thrill’s a thrill, nonetheless. (And if that sounds to you a bit like grasping at straws, then well spotted).

Actually, I’ll offer you two other positives grabbed from the swirling sinkpool that is taking our trophy hopes down.

Both Mata and Lingard got their bounceback timings right, which may bode well for their immediate prospects.

Mata was being increasingly criticised for becoming peripheral in the run-up to Leicester, criticism he promptly, if temporarily, staunched with a rare double, while Lingard answered the open-goal catcalls at the Walkers Stadium with a double of his own yesterday.

Nevertheless, let’s not kid ourselves about our general also-ran status as we trudge mangily into 2018. Take the example of those two players cited above. Many Reds would contend that they should have no place in a future ideal United champion side.

That may seem especially harsh on Mata, who remains very popular as a man and pleasing to watch as a player. But the brutal truth is that our main rivals deploy Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard in key mercurial roles. Mata has been a fine servant, but he’s not in their class when it comes to ‘making things happen’.

Notwithstanding the nebulous nature of that phrase — after all, don’t all successful players ‘make things happen’ within a team framework? — this seems to indicate where we are lacking. At least, that is what I and others of my ilk are told; that Jose craves a transfer-market injection of creativity.

To those who ingest a media diet wholly made up of ‘Mourinho the negative pragmatist’ landfill, this may come as a surprise.

But a Lisbon friend-in-common assured me last week that, were money and feasibility no object, Jose has told Ed Woodward he’d take Eden Hazard in a flash over anyone.

Yet the mardy, inconsistent, and unpredictable Hazard would strike some as the very antithesis of the 2018 Mourinho Player.

They did, after all, catastrophically fall out at Chelsea, a fallout that means Jose’s alleged wish is probably doomed to remain hypothetical.

But it would seem the grisly Bridge experience hasn’t dulled Jose’s occasional pangs for the kind of player who whiffs of sulphur.

And on the subject of players who have smelt of rotten eggs, figuratively speaking, one senses Rooney’s mouth may already be beginning to water over next Monday’s Goodison clash. (For point-proving revenge, not food. All right, as well as).

Since Fat Sam’s resurrection over there, they’ve stopped chucking eggs at Rooney and may be moving onto fatted calves.

We could be in for an uncomfortable headline-writer’s dream next Monday — especially if United’s defenders turn up in the same clown car as they did this past week. Umm: happy new year, nevertheless...

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