To learn that Mick McCarthy had made an incredible ten changes to the side that beat Spurs at the weekend meant this was not just a time for reaction, but to bolster goal difference. A few weeks ago there were double figures separating us and we’d managed to claw it down to seven. Was it possible to get a lot closer?
We were gifted our first goal thanks to a ridiculous handball in the box. Wayne Rooney, who is now the second highest scorer in the league, one goal behind Didier Drogba, took a brilliant penalty. It didn’t matter that the keeper guessed the right direction because Rooney put so much power behind it.
Our second goal came from a corner, incredibly, which maybe signals some kind of response to the weekend, when only one of our nine corners beat the first man. It was as if Sir Alex Ferguson had a word with Darron Gibson, told him if he practised his corners for a couple of days and took them successfully in training, he would get the nod ahead of Anderson. Gibson delivered some good corners over the 90 minutes and it was the one just before half time which lead to Nemanja Vidic’s goal. He had an effort cleared off the line on Saturday but there was too much on this header for the keeper to keep it out.
The third goal was probably my favourite of the season so far though. It’s the kind of goal you’re just dying to see a replay of. The ball came to Gibson, who flicked it on to Paul Scholes in the air, whose one touch lifted it to Dimitar Berbatov, who kicked it over his head to land perfectly in the path of Antonio Valencia, who rifled it in to the back of the net. 3-0 United.
Of course, it wasn’t all that great. Given the strength of our opponents, we really should have done better. Rather than sinking to their level, we should have raised our game and put on a dazzling show. We just don’t seem to be at the races at the moment.
Let’s not get too down in the mouth though. We’ve now scored fourteen goals in our past five league games, which is a big improvement on our scoring rate earlier in the season. Eight of those goals have come from midfield, five from up front and one from defence.
And what about everyone else?
Chelsea were dogshit against Portsmouth at home yesterday, a side we thrashed 4-1 away less than a fortnight ago. They drew 3-3 with Everton at home at the weekend, a side we thrashed 3-0 a week or so earlier. The massive goal difference has been cut to just five goals, their lead to three points, and they still haven’t been to Old Trafford, White Hart Lane or Anfield. That’s without even mentioning the African Cup of Nations.
I wanted Arsenal to beat Liverpool last week because I want this season to become as embarrassing as possible for all the Liverpool fans/players who claimed this year really was their year, as well as the media, and because I don’t ultimately see Arsenal as a threat. Their win and our defeat to Villa meant if they won their games in hand, they would probably go above us on goal difference. Not to fear, they don’t have the bottle or the stamina. Their 1-1 draw with Burnley last night kept them five points behind though (with a game in hand) and a goal difference inferior to ours by two.
After that, there’s Villa who are five points behind us, then Spurs, whose comprehensive victory over City put them seven points behind us. Liverpool are down in sixth and ten points behind us, holding their Europa League place nicely, on the same amount of points as Birmingham. All of City’s draws have finally caught up with them though and they’re now eighth, eleven points behind us (with a game in hand).
Who’s setting the world alight? Not us and fortunately, nobody else either. We’ve lost four games so far this season, the total number of games lost in the whole of last season, yet we’re still only three points behind Chelsea and they haven’t come to Old Trafford yet.
So cheer up! It could be worse, you could be a Wolves fan and just spent £42 on a ticket to watch their second XI! “We want our money back, we want our money back…” I don’t bloody blame them!
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