United’s miserable defeat at Newcastle, yesterday, was perhaps in keeping with a dark-hued week. The extended Munich commemorations had cast a strange light over the club. Legions of older Reds went out to Munich for a sort of grand get-together, drink-up, and remembrance, which put many in a ruefully thoughtful mood as they came home.
And just as they were pondering the passing of time, and sudden loss, there was the terrible news about Liam Miller. Gone at thirty-six years old. What can you add to such a stark sentence?
I’m struggling to avoid a line that includes the words ‘putting into perspective’, but there they are.
For example, I could have a right old rant about the bizarre pantomime José Mourinho and Paul Pogba put on last night, but, for once, I just can’t be bothered with these boys and their silly games.
By the time you read these words, on Monday morning, one assumes it’ll have been established whether or not Pogba was really injured, why Mourinho left him on for so long, and whether we are right to suspect something is up with either or both of them.
Fathoming what goes on in the heads of those two has been baffling us for most of the season, so it’s just one more chapter to add to the book. A book one will be increasingly tempted to throw at them, if this current malaise continues.
As for Chris Smalling, the book has surely now been written, closed, and published. And, with any luck, will go straight to the pulpers. Causing a losing goal because of a wretched dive is, I think, a new low for a player who had already become a byword for haplessness. You may well ask why we are still enduring him and gurning Phil Jones in the middle, anyway; wasn’t their reign of terror supposed to have ended long ago?
That and many other questions about individual players and managerial choices always spring to mind after such poor defeats, but there’s one overall doubt this correspondent would like addressed.
In the vernacular: are they sufficiently ar*ed anymore? More than once this past month, the team have performed in league games as though they know it’s all futile, and consequently can’t manage to apply the clichéd, 100% effort.
This obviously doesn’t apply to enthusiastic newbie, Sanchez, who continues to please, as he seeks to impress his new master and crowd. But many of the others simply don’t look ‘all in’. Out of the corner of their eyes, they can see Europe, and the FA Cup. Those things aren’t a lost cause. Catching City most certainly is.
Indeed, it sez ’ere that if City and United win all their games between now and then, City can take the title against United on April 7, with a draw. Fortunately, that scenario seems very unlikely, given that no-one believes United will perform so efficiently.
We do still have fixtures to look forward to, as well as dread, of course. What better cure for these winter blues than next week’s Seville match? Even this weekend’s jolly to Huddersfield has its appeal, thanks to it being a Cup tie. The recent embarrassment we suffered at that ground should surely have taught the players not to take it for granted, either.
But, still, there lingers the sense that something is wrong, something that’s more than just players being out of form, strikers missing key chances, or the manager making some bad decisions. The whole approach and style of United’s play have been increasingly questioned by many Reds for months now. Increasingly, heads turn and then fingers point to the manager, not the players.
And more than 18 months and four windows in, Mourinho can hardly argue that is unjust.
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