We’ve heard quite a lot from our former defender, Gary Pallister, over recent weeks. It was only the other day he was praising United and insisting this wasn’t going to be Liverpool’s year.
However, following our 0-0 draw with Villarreal, he’s come out with some rather odd comments, suggesting maybe he hasn’t been paying as much attention as he’d like to think he has.
“They are simply not playing well enough,” Pallister said. “It was unusual for them to be outfought at Liverpool. It’s the biggest game on the calendar for Manchester United and they usually put up a good fist of things down there. What’s happened with United over the last two seasons when they’ve won the Premier League – and obviously last year the Champions League – is they’ve started really well. They’ve been fit and raring to go right from the start of the season. It’s unusual to see them have such a sluggish start.”
Now, whilst I’m not one to start slating former heroes, I do have to question what on earth Pallister is on?
Last season, we drew our opening two matches, before losing to City in the third, scoring just one goal in three games. This season, we’ve drawn one, lost one, and won one, scoring three goals in as many games.
Even when we started picking up the points at the start of last season, we weren’t playing well, and we certainly weren’t scoring many goals. We were seven games in to the campaign before we managed to score more than one goal in a match. With eight matches played, we’d scored just seven goals!
Still, didn’t stop us scoring 73 goals in our remaining 31 games, an average of 2.4 goals a match.
The season before last we had a blinding start to the season, no doubt, but if we go back to the title winning season before that, in 2002-2003, we had a shocking start. In our opening six league games, we won two, drew two and lost two, with one of those defeats coming at home against Bolton, who finished one place above relegation that season!
The title winning season before that, in 2000-2001, we won four, drew three and lost one of our opening eight matches. Again, hardly setting the World alight.
In Pallister’s last season of success at United, 1996-1997, we drew four of our opening seven games.
So, to be frank, it’s not at all unusual to see United have a ‘sluggish’ start to the season. We are well known for our strength in the second half of the season. Even a loss at Stamford Bridge wouldn’t be the end of the World. We will have played three of our first four games of the season away from home, two those matches against top four clubs, with the other against a side that finished 8th last season.
Had Chelsea had such tough fixtures at the start of the season, maybe we’d see a similar story for them. As it is, they’ve had two home games, and have played the 8th, 9th, 11th and 14th placed teams of last season.
Anyone who is worrying now is mad! It’s a long season ahead and to have doubts over our capabilities just three games in to the season is illogical. There was the same talk at the beginning of last season, but that was all forgotten when our players were celebrating the league title and European Cup.
So relax. Win, lose or draw at Stamford Bridge this weekend, we still have 34 games left to play, and I’m more than confident our players will turn it on when needed, just as they have done in all our prior title winning seasons.
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