Monday, 28 April 2014

JUST LIKE OLD TIMES

It was great, but when it sunk in, bittersweet. There's now only two ways of analysisng the last 10 months: Either David Moyes was completely out of his depth at United and hence offered nothing to challenge the players to defend our trophy, OR, that the players simply did not take to him and simply strolled through the season in the hope that he would eventually be shown the door before a lot of them are.

More than anything else, the performance on Saturday, albeit against relegation threatened Norwich, showed that the latter analysis is more probable than the former. The tempo, pressing and desire in the team was akin to what you would associate with United on a big European night at home. I mean let's be honest: United usually do not need to step out of second gear to beat the likes of Norwich. However Ryan Giggs, on his managerial debut, instilled ito into the players to go out and quickly impose themselves on the opposition, sniff out their attacks and hunt for goals from the start.

A 4-4-2 formation at Old Trafford designed to quickly get the team in a comfort zone as soon as possible is what fans had grown accustomed to over the years. No suprises then that this our best league result of the season and that we fashioned more chances in this fixture than in any other game this season. In many ways, game 35 was the first in a long while since it felt likes a proper matchday. From Giggsy's presser to matchday to the post match presser; it was all like Manchester United re-born.

The most hurting point about the season has been players strolling through games without conviction, without purpose enroute to defeats. It was great to see all those cherished United values return to the side. Even if Norwich had somehow managed to defend a cleansheet and nick a goal, you wouldn't fault the team on that kind of effort and drive. It's now all about maintaining that through to the end of the season.

For many, the end of the season was supposed to be a slow pain to the finish line of a nightmare season. Giggs has brought back that belly fire that could yet give us cause to remember something about this year. The Class of 92 in charge of Manchester United is the stuff of dreams. Unfortunately, it cannot last beyond the summer, but perhaps its a starter for a main course that will come someway down the line. If that was the starter, what a meal we'll be in for?

Friday, 25 April 2014

OF MOYES, NORWICH AND RYAN GIGGS' SECOND DEBUT

Regardless of what social media had you think, Manchester United let David Moyes go with a heavy heart. The club has built its image upon stability in the managerial department and so cannot afford to go down the path of changing managers every season. Moreso, given the club's listing on the New York Stock Exchange, stability rather than instability enhances its value in the long term. Perhaps more importantly, an Academy system desperately relies on having the same first team manager for a while. The only reason a lot our players have managed to get through the Academy system is because Sir Alex was always there to monitor progress and take his time to pick and choose who and when to give a debut. Contrast that with hired guns who only have a season to merit an extension to their 2 year contracts. What are the odds that they will stake their contract extension on youth team players? For all the progress David Moyes made with the  Reserves, it goes to waste when someone else is brought in, quite simply because the new man has to make his own evaluations.

We all hopped that it would work out with Dave. Goodness knows that United would have been saved a great deal of pride if Dave was what Sir Alex made him out to be. As it stands, he has added fuel to the argument that leaders, no matter how great, should not be allowed to choose their successors. The results were simply unacceptable. Sir Alex made poor United sides punch above their weight, but so did Moyes at Everton and hence possibly the reason why he was seen as the man to do a job. Forget the alleged 'unprofessional' manner in which the club let him go, I actually do think that Moyes feels a huge weight has been let off his shoulders. He probably did not imagine that the scale of the job would be this big. It must have taken him till Christmas to realise that every word said by the United manager would get thousands of tweets and retweets across the globe. As a result, he must have been appalled by his own inconsistencies in his interviews. Pressure does that you. And it can be sickening, especially when you are in your dream job, because at the back of your mind, you know its downhill from hereon of you fail to make the grade.

They will not say it out loud, but the League Manager's Association was mostly disturbed by the reality that England's first club were on the verge of taking the foreign route in management as well. Brendan Rogers now carries the flag for British managers at the very top level, but even he can only be solidly assessed with how he juggles Champions League football and domestic duties next season.....much like how his opponents in Sunday's title decider are caught between a rock that is Athletico Madrid and a hard place that the Dippers have proved to be this term. However the foreign influence in England is a debate for another day.

Manchester United are lucky to have Ryan Giggs. For all the continuity that was about Moyes, Ryan Giggs brings much more of the same on the table. In effect therefore, until United hire their first foreign manager in July, continuity is still very much alive. The Class of 92 that learned their all from the great Scot can only seek to impart their traits on this current side. The last 4 league games are therefore about whether we can finally see the Manchester United that we know take to the pitch. Intriguingly though, should United resonate with their Alex Ferguson days, it will be a damning message to the former manager about the attitude that the senior squad had towards him. All will be clearer by dinner time tomorrow night.

Onwards and Upwards!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

IS THE SEASON OVER YET?

Blogging about Manchester United towards the end of a season has never been as unexciting as it has been this term. That said, we've already had more than enough unpleasant 'firsts' this season to worry so much about blogging.

It hasn't been a common theme in the last couple of decades that we've gone into the final lap of the season playing for nothing of importance. But again, you do not need reminding that this season has been a complete lab rat.
In fact, the only thing baffling is how we've managed to rule ourselves out of every prize in football and yet still have, not just one game, but games to play.

It's all acceptable that misery comes to us all but the good people in safe houses will include you in their will if you put a gun to their head and end their misery. The FA are sadly having none of it. United will play at least four more games----five if by some incohate mirracle, game 38 finds them 2 points off 4th.

We've had so much salt rubbed into our wounds this season that many of us are now wondering what the fuss was about salty water. It's actually great!
I digress, but I found it weird that some journalists still think there's any salt left in the world for Everton to rub into our wounds. Everton's best hope on Sunday is sugar, for nothing salty can hurt this Manchester United side anymore.

The popular line is beating the toffees somehow enhances the chance of 4th. The reality though is that Arsenal are the beneficiaries of Everton's slip up in mid week. Beating Roberto Martinez's side only rubber stamps that.

Moving on from popular lines, the apparent official line is that David Moyes will only start next season in his job if United are at least in the Europa league next season. It's not a target out of the means of the Scot as he often was thereabouts with his former side.

About Sunday though, David Moyes has an oppportunity of claiming a personal accolade---setting up United to play better football than Everton. It's either that or further evidence that he perhaps held Everton back with his cautious means. Given how United have recently performed away from home in fluid formations, that cannot be difficult. If he selects something that mirrors the games away to Newcastle, West Ham and Palace, then we might be good for another away performance.

Ultimately though, it's not the excitement of the match that will get us out of Easter beds to watch, but rather the fact that for the first time since 1928, Manchester United are on the telly again, to play a game of football. The blogging might not be as exciting, but the watching never ceases to boil the blood.

SO COME ON YERRRNNIIIITTEED!

Friday, 11 April 2014

BEST 23 SECONDS OF THE SEASON

Supporting Manchester United in 2013/14 has come down to looking back at seconds of the season to find things we can hold on to.

As soon as United drew Bayern Munich in the European Cup quarterfinal, it was always going to be the full stop of their European campaign. The first leg in England though did give us cause to dream and the travelling support to Germany this week had something to cling on going into the second leg.

At halftime at the Alianz Arena, United had gone through 75% of the tie still in the tie, yet to mathematically fall behind in the tie. All we had to do in the final 45 of the tie was to get that away goal and keep doing what we had done well for 3/4 of the tie. Easier said than done though, but we actually did accomplish one half of the mission soon after the break.

Patrice Evra took giant strides towards a seemingly loose ball and let fly towards goal. Most of us did not actually see the ball hitting the back of the net. What made us leap out of our seats was the ball striking the inside of Manuel Neur's goal and staying within the general area of beyond the goal line. It was not so much about the meaning of the goal as it was about the quality of the strike. Suddenly we were on course to accomplish the unthinkable. Suddenly we were in dreamland. The celebrations on the pitch matched the delirium in the stands and in pubs across the planet. Sensational, but only for just 23 seconds

Bayern Munich equalised soon after and from that point you got the feeling that that was that. The quality of the champions shone through in the end and the wind was taken out of our sails. It was a brave and determined effort that United put up overall in the tie; if only the players had started the season with similar effort in the league.

For all his faults this season, David Moyes has at least shown that he can cope with the demands of European football over a season. It's up too him to win himself an opportunity to have another crack in this competition. United now have to get back to the bread and butter. The league title is priority next season and without the demands of the Champions League, you expect that the pressure will be on the manager to produce the kind of thrilling league season that Liverpool have enjoyed this term with no European distractions.

Ultimately, those 23 seconds in Munich might yet prove to be the best 23 seconds of the season!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

AWAY DAYS CHAMPIONS!

At this rate, Manchester United will win the Away Days title. 33 games into the season and we have the best away record in the division dedpite lying in midtable. Such is the frustrating tale of United's season that you wonder what might have been if Old Trafford this season was less of a pressure cooker for us than it has proven to be. It's amazing that a team can get to point to it's home form as a reason for its poor position but such is the complex nature of United's season.

The popular line is that teams no longer fear to come to Old Trafford and yet we've managed to steamroll them at will in their own backyards. I mean
Liverpool had a harder time with us at Anfield than they did at Old Trafford. Such is the intriguing tale of United's season.

The victory away at Newcastle suddenly means we are the first team to record 10 away wins this term. For a team in 6th place, that is quite an illogical statistic. But again, that is exactly what this season had been.

Juan Mata playing with Shinji Kagawa has so far proved to be a joy to behold. It's sad that he can't play at the Alianz Arena, but it gets you thinking of what our midfield could be capable of next season with the right tactics. If we lose Kagawa, it will undoubtedly be a step back as you need more of ball playing midfielders in the contemporary game.

Finally for this review, one wonders if David Moyes has taken note of the performances in which he has let rip his attacking technicians. Crystal Palace, West Ham, Aston Villa now Newcastle United. The demolition jobs that have been apparent in those games perhaps tell of a story that you hope the boss at least considers heading into the summer.

Next up in Wednesday is perhaps our last Champions League game in a while. That said though, we've been here before vs Olympiakos and behold it wasn't the last one.
If David Moyes eliminates the World Champions from this position, in this of all seasons, a couple of Reds could lose their lives in Bavaria. One to alcohol poisoning, and the other to suicide having promised to take his life if United went through.

The challenge yours truly faces is to get through 20 beers alive if Unired are in the hat for Friday's semifinal draw. Such was the irrational bet I made.

Dare to dream Reds!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

AGAINST THE ODDS

Apologies for a late mention of the Bayern Munich game on Tuesday, but I guess one can understand that some United fans were always going to take a couple of days before this result sunk in. Tuesday was one of those games where no review would ever do justice to the result posted on the night. In this torrid season of all seasons Manchester United 1-1 Bayern Munich aka German Champions aka European Champions aka World Champions, can only be reviewed by a picture that hopefully says the 1000 words on my mind right now. Cheers!