In the words of Louis van Gaal, 'ex-legend' Gary Neville has somehow emerged from Monday Night's premier league fixture as the focal point from the fallout of events at St Marys' stadium. Apparently, the 'ex-legend' thought United got away with murder from the South Coast. Spare a thought for United's Dutch manager: his limited comprehension of English metaphors and expressions meant that when the question was posed to him, he was bewildered out of his iron skin for a second. He only brought a team down from the north to play a game of football and here he was being asked about his role in the commission of a capital offence!
Those more acquainted with the twists and turns of the English language were immediately aware that the ex-legend meant nothing of the sort. Neville was essentially referring to the general narrative of the game: United played poorly, Southampton played well, United won the match.
There's a reason why a league season is a better judge of the best team than a Cup tournament--endurance of consistency. Whereas a Cup tournament requires a side to put together as minute a run as 6 wins (as is the case with the FA Cup), 6 wins in a league will only take you as far as you can throw a rock. If you're lucky in a Cup competition for even just a couple of games, the chances of success are mathematically greater than if you're lucky for all of 6 games in a league format.
Endurance of consistency has many facets to it such as consistency in performances but the most important of all is consistency in results. The latter is the holy grail. Jose Mourinho would take 3 shots on target for every match throughout the season if it meant his team eventually won the match. At least Sir Alex relied on consistency of results ahead of performances in the latter years of his reign----and he didn't care a jot if it meant victory.
Now back to Neville's argument: In isolation, the comment is fair because United were that poor on the night, but that evaluation is devoid of the most important facet about last night's game---consistency in results. For all the attempts to fill this morning's columns with tales of how United were basically a Sunday pub team, the only thing that will live beyond this week from last night is that Manchester United are now third in the Premier League, a place above the season's expectations, despite an injury list that would overwhelm Florence Nightingale. Indeed, getting away with murder is a crime that is so common in the league that we do not always notice when someone commits it. For instance Manchester United put on a worthy performance on the opening day against Swasea at Old Trafford: 68% possession, 12 shots on goal. Swansea on the other hand had 32% possession and 2 shots on target, let alone the 3 United had last night. Result: Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City. If that isn't 'murder' in Neville's context then I don't know what is.
Make no mistake; Gary was simply doing his job as a pundit. Again, on the night, the comment is fair, but to attempt to define United this season with it is to err. United have blown us away with enthralling performances this season, but by the dawn of November and coming away from the Etihad without a point despite putting on an admirable performance with a man less for 52 minutes, firmly in 8th place on the log, we had all made up our minds to toss the performances and urgently string results together to keep in touch with our top 4 rivals. Remember?
Even so, that United can turn on the show is not in doubt. Only last week, Hull City were on the end of a hiding from a United team in full flow. However, to be consistent in performances when we get a new injury every week and can't name a similar starting XI for 2 straight games is asking too much of a side still taking off to a new philosophy. So if the available players can still guarantee consistency in results, then thank you very much, that will do just fine for me. Manchester United cannot be asked to apologise for coming away from St Mary's with three points if how they achieved it was not illegal.
If football is a results based business, then consistency in results and not consistency in performances is what it's all about. United delivered in that respect, and just to confirm, they didn't kill anyone.
All the above notwithstanding, given that the vermin visit on Sunday, I'd be more than pleased if we get away with actual murder this weekend.