There are a lot of people thankful for the place the world has become; which is mostly great, because it’s nice when people are happy (except when it allows for some to write off the very serious issues: who was responsible for ‘post-racial society’, anyway?) because things are, of course, different now and not like it was before. It’s probably why today’s news never seems to stack up to whatever craziness people got up to in the past.
But that’s just how history works, or seems to work. When you’re merely living through it, few things appear as important as they are in reality. It’s difficult to imagine now, but your grandchildren’s history textbooks will be dominated by all sorts on horsemeat. (Topical! And tedious, on a lesser note.)
February is Danny Welbeck’s month – and he didn’t have to do too much else but score at the Bernabeu. The significance of the headed goal goes beyond the tie, the competition, this season – or at least, maybe. Robin van Persie could have scored that and it would have been wonderful, but what else? Same for Patrice Evra. But, for someone like Welbeck, it’s the sort of thing that media types file under ‘coming of age’; and something that could be the career-defining moment they write about a decade later. That’s not a given, but it’d be lovely if February 2013 became the month it isn’t right now.
While Welbeck will appreciate the hyperbole, the italicised clichés and the hopefullys, all of this has, at the same time, done him a disservice. He didn’t just score the crucial away goal against Real Madrid in a knockout game, but whatever people made of Manchester United’s actual performance, his overall contribution was an important one and must be mentioned as much as the goal. There was no real consensus on how good United actually were, but, in the context of the game, it sufficed – and they improved dramatically in the second-half to a point where it looked like the game was in the balance, at least from those partial eyes.
Welbeck, to go slightly off-topic, has his doubters and there are quite a few. That’s mostly fine. For those that get Welbeck, though, take solace in the idea that the opinion of professionals is typically the most important, especially those that have one on the young forward. Now, that’s not always true when there is a limit to what they can say, but there is a trend in what the likes of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Sir Alex Ferguson, most importantly, have said about the player recently. Tom Cleverley put it best after the Madrid game: “He’s not scored as many as he did last year but we know he does other things for the team that are just as important. I don’t think anybody’s really worried about [his lack of goals].” And that’s right. Welbeck is indeed lucky that his teammates have made his general profligacy in front of goal less of a problem than it should be, but praise is also due for his ability to make his teammates play, like he had done in the first leg. See, if the players agree on this rather specific attribute of his, instead of the “oh, he’ll come good”, then Welbeck is definitely doing something right, even if more focus is required to see it.
Welbeck was not the only player to influence perceptions in the 1-1 draw; Rafael da Silva, almost certainly in United’s top three performers this season, found those that (let’s be honest) dip in and out of games just don’t know. It’s weird to think, given the amount of television coverage United get, that so many seem to be poorly informed. There are United fans that are suspicious of Rafael, or others like Michael Carrick and Jonny Evans, but perhaps what makes it acceptable is they have obviously seen enough to come to whatever opinion, no matter how perplexing. Rafael did struggle in dealing with Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil doubling up on him, accompanied by Fabio Coentrao whenever he wandered up the field, for at least 45 minutes, but then everyone would. Rafael’s February was fantastic apart from this minor blemish, his high-point a superb all-round performance against Queens Park Rangers at the end of it, with a goal for everyone to appreciate.
Some other musings: The renascent Ryan Giggs has made us all happy inside. February saw two key goals against Everton and QPR and countless records broken in the process: it’s that sort of thing that earns you a standing ovation at the Bernabeu.
United are twelve points ahead of Manchester City, in the quarter finals of the FA Cup, Phil Jones’ prospects as a future United midfielder look good, David de Gea has made friends, Carrick has a song to stay this time and Nani is making a comeback. Also, twelve (12) points, which is nice (and hopefully continues to be nice in March).
What’s been really good is that there’s been no defeat to talk about in 2013; two columns and barely any need to speak ill. Wonderful.
Madrid at Old Trafford, then. They haven’t been great away from home.
Barcelona? Oh. 1-3?
February was good, though.