It was the first day of meteorological winter yesterday, and the temperature had duly dropped on cue, perhaps reminding some at Old Trafford of Ice Station Astana.
You might think that in such increasingly chilly conditions, United players seeking warmth would have run around a bit more energetically, or even — gasp! — played at a proper Red Devil pace.
But no. As is increasingly their wont these days, they made us endure huge periods of turgid, unambitious, and often incompetent dross, studded with very occasional bursts of the kind of youthful zest we should expect by right from a team this young.
That opening 45 minutes was every bit as awful to watch as the first 70 had been in Sheffield, despite the goal; taken together, those two hours of football may represent some kind of nadir for the Norwegian boss.
Justice was admittedly done when Villa scored their second —they would rightly have felt robbed had they left Manchester pointless.
Grealish, in particular, did not deserve to be on a losing side. His brilliant goal and committed, driving display demonstrated why he has been one of the Red Issue website punters’ most respected and coveted non-U players for the past three years now.
It’s no exaggeration to say that he alone contributed more to the entertainment than all three of United’s midfielders combined.
Granted, Pereira’s ball for the United opener was excellent, but he was otherwise well down to his usual standard. Poor old Mata is past it, whilst Fred is in danger of becoming the most laughed-at character of that name since Mr Flintstone.
Of course, to be fair, we are missing our injured first-choice midfielders. In particular, if I may abuse Beckett, we are all Waiting For ‘God, OT’ as Paul Pogba probably thinks he should be addressed.
His ongoing rehab is being punctuated by social media appearances whose narcissism simply further aggravates a fan base containing sections who are already at a stage where they can barely stomach the sight of him.
There is also the conspiracy theory that Pogba will never actually play for us again, and is merely swinging the lead until the window opens and offers him an escape route to Spain.
I’d love to believe this, because I’ve grown heartily sick of him, yet we are all repeatedly assured by people who ought to know that it’s not the case. He’s supposedly committed to United … until June, anyway.
Yay! What a great Christmas present, kidz, I’m sure you’ll all agree.
Yes, you do detect sarcasm, dear reader. What we really want for Christmas, for starters, is to get through this coming week in one piece without seeing ‘cracked badges’ all over the back pages.
Poor Ole. Facing a rejuvenated Spurs and champions City, just at a moment when he could do with a couple of duffer opponents.
(Although, let’s not forget, Villa were two points from the drop-zone at kick-off yesterday. How much easier did he need it to be?) Spurs on Wednesday means Mourinho, and thus the circus coming to town.
What festive timing! Can we expect the full range of mind games, psychodrama, and play-acting from headline act The Great Mourinho? Or is the newly rechristened Humble One going to go all zen on us?
Fan reaction will be interesting.
Most were relieved after he’d gone, but they did sing his name until the bitter end, and I’m not sure there are many Reds who actively hate him in the way that we grew to detest some of his predecessors.
Then again, an old Red comrade of mine who knows Jose and was once one of his greatest supporters muttered to me: “I hope we send him home to cry on his pillow, which I suspect has his face on it.”