I’d hate to see the season reviews come May looking back on this week and referring to it as the week that United lost their grip on the title. We already find ourselves five points behind Arsenal after a crushing derby day defeat last Sunday and defeat to Arsenal this weekend in the Cup could be the final blow.
The derby day Munich memorial game was one we’d all been looking forward to for some time. If I am honest, I didn’t even consider the possibility of us losing. That, I imagine, is fuel to the fire for people who slam the arrogance of United fans, but after spending so much time focussed on the spirit of Manchester United, looking at all United achieved before and after the Munich Air Disaster, I just couldn’t see how that wouldn’t carry through to our performance against City. Particularly after losing out on the points at the council house at the start of the season, despite completely battering the blues, I just assumed we’d win. I imagine the players felt the same way.
I’m not sure anyone can really explain what happened against City. Did the pressure get to them? Was the occasion too much? Were they too complacent? I suppose Sir Alex Ferguson has spent this week trying to work that out. Essentially, last Sunday was a big moment for the club and fans, and our players ruined it. I can’t remember ever feeling this way towards our players. The losing I can handle, but I am still struggling to deal with the way in which we lost. How dare they put on such a half hearted performance in such an important game.
Several players have promised an answer to our bewilderment in tomorrow’s game against Arsenal. “We’ve all been thinking about the reasons why it happened and how we want to pull ourselves together and get the result out of our minds,” said Rio, who had a truly woeful game against City. “The best thing you can do is to come into training and just get focused on winning the next game, and that’s what we’re doing.” Ryan Giggs joined in, adding, “we’ve got to make sure we don’t produce any more performances like that.”
With talks from Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson for weeks leading up to the derby game, our players spirits were likely to be very high. Our players would have felt as though they were prepared, mentally and physically, to get a win and do the fans proud. For the whistle to blow on a game which not only left us with a loss, but an absolutely dismal performance, will have been gutting for our players.
So now we are focussing on Saturday as a means of redemption. Knocking Arsenal out of the Cup won’t make up for losing to City in the league, but it will certainly raise morale and belief. After drawing with Arsenal at the Emirates, to beat them at home would send out the right message to the fans and our rivals. We’re not giving up on this title race and we are capable of beating Arsenal.
However, if we suffer a defeat against Arsenal, our second loss in less than a week at Old Trafford, it might serve as a blow we cannot recover from. Whilst in reality, to overcome five points in February is by no means an impossible feat, the confidence levels in the players will be at an all time low.
The story doesn’t end there though, with a trip to Lyon following four days later, then up to Newcastle three days after that. Both of these will be tough games for United, where things could certainly turn from bad to worse.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t intended to be full of doom and gloom. Whilst things could go tits up for United here, it could also be the turning point in a much more positive way. Beating Arsenal would put questions in their players’ minds, most of whom haven’t come close to winning the Premiership before, whilst restoring confidence in our lads.
The important times of the season are much better reflected on in hindsight and I am possibly getting ahead of myself here, but I can’t help but wonder whether we are approaching the climax of the week that makes or breaks our season.
What do you think?