For the past couple of weeks I’ve been a bit of a miserable bastard. I haven’t bothered going round to see my family, my bird has been on the receiving end of some temper tantrums and people at work have given me a wide berth.
Whilst the less understanding features in my life, ie. those who don’t have any interest in football, have shown little sympathy for my behaviour, the more understand components, ie. those who are obsessed with the game, have been fairly good to me.
Losing feels shit and it stays with me for days or weeks. I’m a fucking brat about football and I only have to speak with a bluenose down the local to see just how spoilt I am. They’ve won just three of their last eight, compared to our six, yet they’re generally fairly happy. They’re not going to go down this season (sadly) and they’ve got a bit of European interest to keep them going. We’re sitting pretty at the top of the table, a point clear with a game in hand, and I’m a grumpy sod.
Granted, we haven’t had a good time of it recently, given the 4-1 defeat inflicted at Old Trafford against the dippers before going on to lose to Fulham, a day before Liverpool only go and stuff Villa 5-0. But finally I am managing to get some perspective.
The Liverpool game was shit and we didn’t play well enough. However, we were 2-1 down due to ridiculous mistakes from Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra. We were in the game and even whilst not playing very well, we had still created more chances than Liverpool and our passing and possession was more favourable. You’d have fancied us for a draw, maybe even a win, until Vidic fouled Gerrard and was sent off. To lose a man and a goal within minutes of each other is destroying, particularly when playing against a team that is all giddy about scoring at Old Trafford, given it had been five seasons since one of their players had last managed to.
Still, we had to push on. Instead of being ten points clear with a game in hand like we had all hoped for that morning, we were four points clear instead. No big deal.
The only teams with better home records than Fulham are Manchester United and Liverpool, winning as many home matches as the dippers this season. The victory in the FA Cup came all too easily for us but we were under no illusions it was going to be that simple again last weekend.
Like the deadly blow of Vidic’s card the weekend before, we suffered the same fate at Craven Cottage. Paul Scholes was rightly given his marching orders just a minute before Danny YSB Murphy put away the resultant penalty. To recover from that kind of blow takes grit and determination and freshness. Playing with ten men for 72 minutes away from home, we still saw more of the ball than our opponents, but it wasn’t until the second half, with the introduction of Wayne Rooney, that we were able to do anything with it. We simply weren’t good enough but could have been good enough at 0-0 with eleven men on the park.
Regardless, two massive individual errors have cost the team big and it just so happens they’ve been in two consecutive matches. Whilst we wanted to see more from the other players to right the wrongs of their team mates, there are just some days where it’s not possible. We were playing at home against a team with the second best away record in the league, then away against a team with the third best home record in the league. It was bad timing for these individual errors but they will not define our season.
A few weeks ago we looked on course for our easiest title in years, whilst right now, we’re cutting a very different picture. However, even fans who are sadly blinded with their love for the dippers are in the general agreement that title is staying in Manchester. We’ve had a disastrous couple of matches, but like Mark YSB Lawrenson says, we are the better team. Add to that the greater experience of winning titles we have within our squad and with our manager, then our favourable league position obviously keeps us as clear favourites.
There’s just a bit more spice in the league now and whilst of course it would be nice to cruise to victory, the added tension makes for a more exciting couple of months. The feeling of seeing Ryan Giggs score our second goal against Wigan last season was fuckin incredible. Compare that with the feeling of being sat inside Old Trafford before the West Ham game the season before, having made certain our status of Champions over a week before when Chelsea failed to beat Arsenal. Of course, you take any title gladly, however it is won, but I can’t say I’m too disappointed in knowing that we’re going to have to work a bit harder for it.
If Roy Keane was still at the club he would be fuming, insisting that our trophies had to be earned and wouldn’t be handed out cheaply. If we’re going to sustain this latest period of success for more than just two seasons, the past couple of matches have been an important lesson to this team, who have been short of what we would consider their best all season. It’s been four years since we’ve lost two on the bounce in the league and we should be fighting to ensure it’s at least another four years before it happens again.
If I was to sum up recent events with clichés, it would have to be ‘people make mistakes’ and ‘you can’t win them all’. Maybe from this point on we, meaning the fans, players and manager, will start to appreciate our success all the more. So less of the glum faces and disappointment, the individual criticisms and team selections grumbles with hindsight because we’re still fuckin United and the trophy belongs to us!