You would think that our fans had never seen through a whole season supporting United, judging by the reaction to our defeat against Burnley. Don’t get me wrong, it was a dreadful result and a poor performance, but christ, it’s not as if we haven’t seen them before. Just looking over the past ten years or so, we’ve had some bloody awful results and performances. Who remembers that 3-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday during the 98/99 season? What about the 5-0 thumping we were delivered by Chelsea (before their days in the top four) the following season? Or how about when Boro did us 4-1? I wonder which United people have been watching all these years when a 1-0 at Burnley is seen as the end of the world.
Of course, the knee-jerk reaction is simply because we have sold Cristiano Ronaldo. Whether you’ve been confident of our success with or without him, we’ve all wondered what we would look like without a player who has been at the focal point of our team for a couple of years. When we lost 3-1 on the opening day of the season to Aston Villa following the sales of Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Andrei Kanchelskis, there will have been similar worries.
We haven’t started well but then neither have the ‘title favourites‘ thanks to their opening day defeat, whilst Chelsea have only got full points on the board thanks to an accidental injury time goal. We should hardly be shaking in our boots.
We travel to Wigan today, a team who we often beat 4-0, hoping that we can get some strikers’ names on the scoresheet, increase our confidence, and most importantly leave with three points. Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov will likely start, with hopefully Nani and Valencia getting a go down the wings. I’d like to see Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher in the centre of the park, with the best possible back five Ferguson can get together amidst our injury woes.
I’m confident of a win because we have to be but let’s not kid ourselves in to thinking the season hangs on this one result. I’ve read comments on the blog claiming this to be the most important game of the season, clearly forgetting the dreadful starts we’ve had during so many of our title winning seasons, but that’s bollocks. A defeat today would mean the pressure is piled on, it would mean we’ll get a load of stick in the press, but it wouldn’t be a season-defining moment.
I want to see a disciplined Rooney today who manages to control his desire to go deep in search of the ball. For this to happen, our midfielders need to keep possession and get the ball to him. Less of this lobbing it up the pitch, save those kind of balls for Scholesy to deliver, and keep the ball on the ground. We will be hassled and harried but let’s just keep possession of the ball and run them ragged by keeping our passing nice and short and accurate.
Nani and Valencia need to bomb it down the wings, skin their full-backs, and keep pumping balls in to the box. Rooney has the strength to get to those balls first. If he doesn’t, the likes of Carrick and Berbatov should be prowling and ready to have a go when the defence try to scrabble it clear.
I agree with the majority that we’re a player or two short of the dream team we’d all like to have but the players we do have our capable of winning the league. It is about their attitude, it’s about having that bit of luck and it’s about them having faith in their own ability. Another central midfielder and winger would ease the nerves but this squad is a good one and is capable of winning the title.
Wigan are a hard working team but they’re without arguably their best players of last season with Valencia, Palacios and Heskey all making their move. They will fancy their chances after the Burnley result but our lot need to be professionals here and get the job done. I want us to come our all fires blazing and I hope that’s the tactic Ferguson goes for. Just go out and scare them shitless. And if we beat them 4-0 again, I won’t be complaining…