Manchester United take on Wigan tonight looking to close the gap back to two points. It looked as though our chance to close in on them this side of New Year had passed when we lost to Villa and Fulham, but Chelsea’s dreadful form has given us a reprieve. Their draws against West Ham, Birmingham and Everton over the past fortnight have given us a way back in, and if not for an own goal a couple of days ago against Fulham, we’d be even closer to the top.
We’ve battled on without a defence or our first choice goalkeeper and if we are able to close the gap to two points this evening, Chelsea should be thoroughly ashamed and we should start getting excited.
United play better in the second half of the season, we don’t have the African Cup of Nations like Chelsea to send our best players to (Drogba is the Premiership’s top scorer with 14 goals, after him is Lampard with 6 goals (5 of which were penalties!), then Anelka with 5, and since Essien has been missing with injury, Chelsea have won 2, drawn 3), we’ve kept the pace with our defence out injured so imagine what we can do with defenders playing in defence and our better players (like Fletcher) playing in their proper positions and Chelsea still have to come to Old Trafford. I’m not saying the title is in the bag but I believe I win tonight, as well as putting a dent in to the goal difference gap, should really give us faith in what 2010 can bring.
“I would definitely have taken being two points behind the leaders,” Ferguson said this week. “When you look at all the defenders we have had out injured. It has been a key period to try and get through it. It is impossible to play midfield players at centre-back in this league. You might get away with it once. But not twice.”
Fortunately, we have some defenders returning which should sure up the defence. Against Hull, when playing four defenders for the first time in a while, the only goal we conceded was a penalty that had been caused because of the mistake of a striker. We’re still without our first choice keeper in Edwin Van der Sar, and we may already have to prepare for his long term absence, (at 39-years-old, I wouldn’t even think about leaving my wife, who had just suffered a brain haemorrhage, in a different country to play football. Sorry), but we have enough players to start improving our defensive record. Gary Neville is a possibility to start, alongside Vidic, Brown and Evra, meaning we would even have the luxury of a defender, Rafael, on the bench!
So at a time when we really need the points and goals, what better side to face than Wigan. We have beaten them every time we’ve played them, ten occasions, scoring an average of three goals a game. Those kind of records can’t last forever, but when looking at their recent form, it’s hard not to feel confident. They haven’t won a single game in December, losing to Birmingham and Liverpool, drawing against Stoke and Blackburn. They’re currently 15th in the league, one point away from the relegation zone, so we do need to worry if we can’t turn them over at home.
I’d really fancy just a good game of football too, if that’s not too much to ask. I’ve watched an awful lot of football over the past few weeks, not just United games, and it’s been dross. Dull and uninspiring football, with scrappy goals, dreadful decisions by the referee and no warm and fuzzy feeling afterwards. I don’t know what’s happened to the Premiership this season, or whether I’m been whipped in to a frenzy by all the people who come on this blog complaining about United, but it just doesn’t seem as enjoyable this year.
So let’s have Obertan and Valencia on from the start so we can have plenty of pace down the wings, lets have Fletcher in the centre of midfield breaking things up and Giggs supplying the creativity, with Berbatov up front dazzling us with his vision and control, and Rooney banging the goals in, as he has done on eight occasions in the ten times we’ve played them. Surely, that’s not too much to ask for?
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