Our performance against Arsenal wasn’t actually as bad as it was reported but it was still pretty poor. Whilst we can point the finger at individuals, the biggest problem for me was the tactics. Playing Rooney up front by himself was a daft idea and I would be relieved to see Sir Alex can that formation for the rest of the season (although I imagine as soon as the big European games come about it’s exactly what we will see again!) because for Rooney to be successful up front, he needs someone like Berbatov sat behind him. He was out-jumped for most high balls and out muscled by two centre backs when the ball came to feet. Ridiculous.
But we got away with the three points after Arsenal failed to kill us off and Diaby oddly chose to jump up for the relatively harmless Giggsy cross to give us the win.
So, that’s one in form team out of the way. Now for another two, but will we get away with another performance like last Saturday’s?
Arsenal had won both their games before travelling to Old Trafford, scoring a total of ten goals. Given our defeat to Burnley it was certainly interesting to think how we’d fare against an in-form Arsenal team, who we’d really rather play a few months in to the season.
Now we have to face Tottenham Hotspur, another in form team, who have won four out of four, scoring on average almost three goals per game. After them, we play City, who have also won all of their games, albeit less convincingly, but they will certainly prove to be a test. Chelsea are the only other team in the league at the moment who can boast of an equally strong start as our next two opponents. It is going to be a test.
Worst case scenario, we could lose both of these games, given that we usually have pretty naff starts to the season and both our next opponents are enjoying good form. The season before last, when we won the league and European Cup, we picked up just one point from these fixtures, after losing to City at home and drawing against Spurs away – Berbatov putting them ahead and Carlos Tevez scoring an injury time equaliser for us. How things change.
However, if we are to pick up just one point from these two games this year, it will be reported as a disaster. The hysteria revolving around our club, and football in general I suppose, seems to mount every year. Every result and performance is scrutinised and every player is examined for faults. Berbatov is lazy, Foster won’t ever be good enough, Carrick is average, and the insults go on and on. I find it utterly bizarre.
I’m confident we’ll win the league this season (don’t use that as a source of much inspiration – I believe that we will at the start of every season!) but if we don’t, it really isn’t the end of the world (unless Liverpool win it, which they won’t). If we were to win it this season, we’d be achieving something no other English club ever has, winning the title four years in a row. Are we seriously saying that is what our expectation has to be? I felt the same thing towards the end of last season, as we were staring at the possibility of being English and European champions in consecutive years. Whilst it would be fucking brilliant, there was no way that we could be too disappointed over failing to achieve something no club in Europe ever had before!
This isn’t defeatist talk or me anticipating failure this season, rather me trying to get things in to perspective. Whatever we win or lose this season, it will revolve around the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. There’s just no escaping him. But with his ever-decreasing attitude, we certainly weren’t guaranteed to win the league this season with him souring the dressing room with his dreams of elsewhere. I’ll be made up if we win the league this year, particularly because we will have done so on the back of so many doubters, but not winning the league this year doesn’t mean disaster, it doesn’t mean decline, it just means our lads will have a real fire in their belly for next season. Remember the days when the league used to go back and forth between Old Trafford and Highbury? Well we’ve kept it for three years in a row and we should be bloody proud of that. If we make it four in a row, even better.
Still, we travel to London tomorrow and may very well come home without any points. Equally, they may crumble again, as they did in our 5-2 victory over them last season, but I imagine memories of that humiliation are very raw to them still. They will feel they have a point to prove, Harry will at least, and their form this season shows they’re able enough to get a win against us.
Essentially though, I’d trade in the three points against them for a win over City the following week. For the first time in years, we are not the clear favourites to be victorious. Whilst of course most neutrals would fancy us and there is still the usual uncertainty of derby day, City’s squad now is the best they’ve ever had and they should give us a real game. Mocking aside, they’ve bought some decent players this summer, and whilst their mercenary souls will shine through sooner or later, temper tantrums aplenty, they’re working together well enough at the moment.
Ironically, Carlos Tevez will be centre stage at Old Trafford, something he longed for desperately last season, although now it will be in the blue of City. Since signing for them, he has repeatedly voiced his strong feelings towards our fans, but now he plays for a club whose fans sing his name in a chant that mocks the Air Disaster. I struggle to think of a time when a player received a worse welcome than Tevez will receive that Sunday. The boos and jeers will be deafening.
All together now, who’s that twat from Argentina, who’s that money grabbing whore? Carlos Tevez is his name and he hasn’t got a brain, and he won’t be winning trophies anymore!
This is what it’s all about – a derby day with a real kick to it. When the stakes are so high, and they really are high where this game is concerned, it’s adds to the brilliance of match day. A defeat is unthinkable. I can’t even bear to imagine the stick we will get from the bluenoses if we don’t get a result here. All the ‘tick tock’ and ‘tide is turning’ remarks will be unbearable.
Since they were promoted back to the top division in 2000, we’ve played them 17 times, with them winning 5 and us winning 8. There’s not a lot in it. But a win on this derby day will signal to them their new dominance and I can’t stand the thought of that. The delusion that would come with a result like that would be unbearable and the national papers would likely jump on the bandwagon. Nightmare.
We’ve got to pull our finger out though and now is the time to do it. Rio Ferdinand might play a part in the Spurs game, which will be great because it means he is well on the road to recovery, but also a worry because he will be rusty. At least he’ll have a game under his belt before partnering Vidic in the derby. Fletcher will, as always these days, play an important role because we really are going to need a tyrant in the midfield. Berbatov has to be starting behind Rooney but if we’re in desperate need of a goal and ol’ Mickey comes off the bench, I hope Ferguson sees the sense in taking off a midfielder and leaving Berbatov on the park to play the balls through to Owen and Rooney.
It’s too early in the season to be feeling too nervous but I certainly feel a bit tingly at the thought of the week ahead. It’s going to be a big week for Manchester United but don’t kid yourself in to thinking it will be crucial to our title defence. Win, lose or draw these next two matches, we will still be battling at the top come May. But how great would it be to get another scalp from in form teams when we’re still finding our feet? Come on reds!
The RoM 2017-18 Season Preview is available for just £5. It includes an EXCLUSIVE interview with Paul Scholes, a Q&A with the country's top journalists about our transfer targets, articles by brilliant United writers, and so much more. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.