TERRACE TALK: Zlatan and the Armenian steal Rooney’s thunder

“Let’s open a cracker . ‘Twas Christmas in Manchester, and the excited youngsters were hoping for something special from that tubby old man in red white and black - the one the adults no longer believe in.

But unfortunately for Santa Rooney, his thunder was thoroughly stolen by Zlatan and The Armenian...

Wayne doesn’t appear to be laughing at that one, so let’s move on. He’ll now just have to put ‘breaking Bobby’s record’ onto his New Year’s Resolutions List and hope for the best. He must pray he does better on that one than he used to do when trying to give up smoking.

I doubt anyone will have seen anything as magical over Yuletide as The Armenian’s finish for the United topper yesterday, which took us into proper ‘Winter Wonderland’ territory. (The good sing-song version, not the one you see exposed in the tabloids every year these days.) In truth, Zlatan’s one-on-one moments earlier had ended the contest but, as grace notes go, The Armenian’s will be hard to beat this winter. Much more of this kind of thing, and we might have to start learning to spell his name.

Poor David Moyes can’t complain about the scoreline, as faithful a reflection as you could have demanded of the afternoon’s proceedings. Fate may have worse in store for him now. All of United’s previous returning ex-bosses were en route to sticky ends when they came to Old Trafford. McGuinness 1975, Docherty 1978, Sexton 1982, Atkinson 1989...all ended up losing their jobs and/or getting relegated shortly thereafter.

No such fate apparently in prospect for José, of course, who must be tempted to chuckle over the way the climate has swung in a matter of weeks. From headlines about our “worst start ever” and a supposedly unhappy José potentially “doing a Chelsea”, we now feast upon the regular sight of O.T. briefers falling over themselves to talk extended contracts and ‘dynasties’.

It may have been through the haze of pre-prandial Crimbo sherry but I believe I even saw one paper wittering on about fresh options of “10 more years” for José. Heh: I bet ol’ Fergie’s nose would’ve moved up to ‘Defcon 1 - Purple Alert’ if he’d read that. A dynastic Mourinho? Could there ever conceivably be such a thing?

To be fair, my Lisbon snouts have been telling me for years he only ever had two serious ambitions left - to manage United, and then to take over the Portuguese national job before retiring. That’s a lot of time that still needs to be filled.

But we get ahead of ourselves, as ever. It was, as they say, “only Sunderland”. To diminish it ever further: “it was only Sunderland - managed by David Moyes”. Boro’ arrive next, from whom one might expect a slightly more sophisticated challenge, given they have a bright and imaginative foreign boss. The biggest test of the whole festive period then lurks two days later: West Ham away.

By then, we will be into full-on transfer window speculation, which José happily helped stoke over the past week by making it plain he was, indeed, after at least one player. (Just as we reported here, many weeks ago, would be the case.) He also cheerfully flung a couple of players into our own shop window, with Schneiderlin the most ostentatiously covered in garish ‘New Year Sale Bargain!’ pricetags.

His name reminds us - with a shudder - of the boss who once seemed so keen on him, namely Louis Van Gaal. Perhaps it would do us good to think back two Christmases, when most Reds were still cautiously onside with The Philosophy six months into his reign, and where “at least this beats Moyes” was the commonest carol.

In other words: it’s only December. There is plenty that could yet derail this speed-gathering bandwagon, so let’s keep those safety harnesses fastened for a while. The city that remembers ‘Rodney Marsh, 1972’ knows only too well it can take just one wrong step in the market to upset the whole cart...”


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