“Well this was bound to happen. Ever since we sold Ruud, you just knew it was on the cards. That’s our title hopes over and done with.” Has anyone else heard someone mouthing off in their local with this kindof talk?
Yes, we lost to West Ham. Yes, they were in the relegation zone. Yes, we should have done better. But is this really down to the fact we sold on Ruud? Or because Ferguson isn’t doing a good enough job? Or because or squad is too shallow? Or because we’re not good enough to win the league?
It makes me think what we used to say, when we were flying high, cruising at full speed at the top of the league. What did we say then when we lost a game? Did we have to blame it on one thing, or multiple things, or could we just hold our hands up and say our team didn’t perform on the day? Why now is it different?
United stand two points clear at the top of the league, fourteen points ahead of the team in third. Now, I am one of the most optimistic reds going, but even I couldn’t have predicted such a great start to the season. When we looked at the papers every morning in the summer, knowing we hadn’t signed anyone, whilst Chelsea were tipped to bring in Shevchenko, Ballack and Ashley Cole, all arguably in the top few in the World for their position, did we think we’d be two points ahead of that team deep in to December?
So we lost a game that we dominated away from home. Their keeper had an amazing game, we had close to twenty shots on target, our possession was close to 60-40, and we lost. West Ham were due the shock result, with them lying in a lowly league position which wasn’t reflective of their players, and a new manager taking over, a manager who in his fifteen year managerial career had never beaten United.
United shouldn’t have lost, of course they shouldn’t. In 1999, we were arguably the best team in the World, and we shouldn’t have lost to Arsenal, Sheffield Wednesday, or Middlesbrough, but we did. Why? Because we didn’t play well enough on the day.
I’m disappointed, because I wanted to keep our lead at five points. It was nice having the extra three points as room, but I’m not going to get suicidal about it. I’m not going to throw in the towel because we’re only two points ahead of the team who have strengthened the twice in a row winning league side with three more World class players. A side who currently plays one of the best wingers in the World on the bench. A side who’s first sixteen costs a total of £202 million, leaving their average cost of a player at £12.6 million (compared to United’s average of £6.9 million).
We’ve fought hard this season, and for the past few weeks, we’ve had no attacking options on the bench. Yes, this is going to damage how convincingly we’re going to win. But in the past thirteen league games, we’ve dropped just five points. In the whole season, we’ve only dropped ten points (compared to Chelsea’s twelve, Liverpool’s twenty three, and Arsenal’s twenty four). But we’re beginning to get these attacking options back. Ole and Park have both returned from injury, and need to get their game time in, Larsson joins us in January, as well as Rossi and Dong possibly returning from loan. Still, without these, we average more goals per game than any other team in the league so far this season, with more than two per match.
Would Ruud have put one of our chances away against West Ham? Quite possibly. Does this mean it was a mistake to sell him? As far as I’m concerned, definitely not. We’re having the best season we’ve had in years, scoring more goals than we have done in years, but like every team, every season, had a screw up against a team we should have done better against. Reds who are throwing in the towel already need to get a grip, and be thankful we’re doing as well as we’re doing, and enjoy it… rather than waiting for the fall, and taking some kindof strange pleasure when it occurs. When we were nine points clear I insisted we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves because there’s a long season to go, and now it is no different. Whether we were two points ahead or two points behind at this point, we should know better than any fan that the title is not won before the New Year. I’m certainly not giving up hope, and part of me even feels a little ridiculous at having to state that.
We’ll Never Die