At last: a United home league match with a novel type of twist in the tail.
The twist being that there wasn’t a twist. (Erm, that’ll make perfect sense after a couple of pints.) United clung on and somehow failed to collapse into yet another 1-1 draw.
Frankly, one suspects we were all a tad surprised by this outbreak of game-closing quasi-competence. Let’s face it: the warning lights had been flashing. If The Unspellable Armenian being carted off on a stretcher with 10 minutes to go looked every inch the harbinger of doom, then watching Fellaini lumber on with 90 seconds left verged on the “asking for it”.
Yet somehow the blundering Belgian omitted to concede a penalty or play some scorer onside, and a moment later we found ourselves clutching three points. Taken in conjunction with escaping intact from Ukraine, United have produced a solidly workmanlike week.
Ugh. ‘Workmanlike’. Now there’s a word you don’t wish to see associated with United too often. José Mourinho does get that, though. A chat with Lisbon sources this week revealed, inter alia, that he has been asking people about how United fans are viewing his team’s performances. Do we like the style of play, the general manner, the team mentality?
This is rather heartening, in that it suggests he knows what factors we think are the most important in judging a team. (Van Gaal never seemed to grasp this, for example.) That, in turn, should also hearten him, in that he ought to realise he will be forgiven results such as the now-expired run of home draws if we can appreciate some value in the displays.
He’s also been reiterating how annoyed he was by the impression given that he wasn’t enjoying living in Manchester, which some span into a suggestion he might not want to stick around.
Quite the contrary; the private talk has been of how to conduct two/three-window plans, with an insistence that the time has come for only established players to be signed in future.
That might not be music to Ed Woodward’s ears, given the consequences for both initial fees and resale values, but he won’t need much reminding of how many supposed ‘stars of tomorrow’ signed over the past few years have rapidly and expensively proved to be no such thing.
As for the ‘stars of yesterday’, the one sitting brooding on the bench yet again on Sunday is unlikely to appreciate his apparent new and continuing role of World’s Highest Paid Dugout Meat.
Thanks to Trident, Britain is used to expensive subs, but at least that still frightens people. Poor Wayne cut a disappointed figure against Zorya, the sort of opposition against whom he would once have filled his boots. Now those boots are increasingly full of lead.
As for the post-Rooney forward line, Lisbon ‘friends’ tell me José’s number one target for the summer is Antoine Griezmann, but also that there’s been some behind-the-scenes scuffling concerning Zlatan.
The issue is ongoing but it is understood certain American interests have been attempting to encourage his 2017 departure, and that both Ed Woodward and José now know all about it.
As we speak, the resolution is uncertain. Perhaps surprisingly, given his legendary self-regard, Zlatan is even alleged by one snout to have expressed some doubts about his own physical capacity to plough on post-August in the Premier League — hence the possible attraction of a more laidback West Coast routine for a season or two.
No such slacking-off on the horizon this week, Mr Ibrahimovic. Here comes yet another midweek away game, against the potentially awkward and slightly desperate Palace, followed by a weekend with the battling Baggies. Two characterful proletarian venues with boisterous support on cold dark nights, with flying tackles on rock hard pitches.
Now then; surely no-one would want to swap such delights for a genteel LA vs Tampa trot-about on a lazy sunny afternoon on a perfect pitch in a fab stadium and ... Zlat? Zlat?”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved