If you looked out your window early enough this morning, you may have seen a huge red moon rising. Apparently the celestial heavens must be the latest universal merchandising partners of Manchester United, for what better way to herald the long-awaited return of the team to the top of the Premier League?
LVG’s philosophy, which appears to place the premium on chance-conversion rates, rather than the amount of opportunities created in the first place might be the opposite of Alex Ferguson’s United circa 1994, with whom we all fell in love. They would habitually create an absurd hatshop-full of chances per game, and happily waste the majority, confident in their ability to make enough count by full-time. Thus it was that we would always forgive Eric or Hughesy occasionally going for the gloryshots and Hollywood moments; we knew they’d make up for it later.
The above occurred to me during Saturday’s first half as we laboured to trouble one of the worst sides seen at OT in recent years, performing with all the pace and invention to which we’ve become accustomed this season. To be fair, United did manage seven shots on target against the wretched Mackems. And the team can now point to three Old Trafford goals in games against Liverpool, Ipswich, and Sunderland. Depay and Rooney scoring important personal goals is obviously further cause for satisfaction. As for our new wunderkind, showing he can create as impressively as he can finish, well... he’s just a darling, ain’t he?
So why doesn’t it all feel better than it does?
Perhaps Arsenal will show us why next Sunday, in a welcome return to pre-eminence for what was once the English fixture of the season. I suppose this could now be billed as a clash of philosophies to match Camus vs Sartre.
Arsenal’s almost perverse insistence on the primacy of producing aesthetic thrills over all else actually goes further than even Ferguson’s most exciting sides, who never lost sight of their ultimate goal amid all the dazzling fireworks. Watching the Gunners finally click, and thus match up their skills and goals tallies on Saturday, should have given some Reds pause for concern; this is not the best time to be going to the Emirates now they have some wind in their sails.
There are quite a few Reds around who have already decided that the sooner LVG has his philosophy beaten out of him the better, and who may quietly consider that a good kicking from someone like Arsenal would be just what the doctor ordered. Frankly, I doubt it would do any good: he is surely too old and stubborn to change his ways after spending 16 months inflicting them. He is top of the table, and suddenly has the hottest teenager in the world on his hands — just when two of his biggest three rivals, Chelsea and City, are entering storm zones. This must feel like Christmas to him.
So on we go; “what will be will be, grasshopper” as the holy guru Doris Day almost said. It is generally agreed that the 44-pass move which led to a United goal last week will have been viewed by LVG as the ultimate expression of his beliefs. The trouble is, for every Red who enjoyed its unfolding, there was another dying of boredom.
Here’s the nub: Even at its theoretical future best, LVG’s Way will never be accepted by some as being sufficiently ‘United’. It will all come down to numbers in the end, as philosophical battles often do. Sartre posthumously lost to Camus because the deaths of Maoism and Communism were judged to have reached indefensible levels. LVG needs to stack up the trophies to ensure the group of ideological refuseniks remains small enough to handle. As a colleague pithily put it: “I don’t want to see 44-pass moves — unless it’s one that leads to a European Cup final winner.”
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