As United have apparently stumbled upon their early season lull a couple of months behind the expected schedule (or 10 months early, for those insisting we aren’t going to be having one this season), it’s only natural that collective fingers are prepared, sharpened, pointed, prodded and jabbed violently in the direction of the presumed culpable parties amongst the squad.
In ‘failing’ to replace Scholesy with one of the eleventy squillion midfielders we were in talks with over the summer and in conducting those inhumane maniacal experiments on Hargreaves in the name of franken-science, forcing him to flee our evil clutches, United unsurprisingly created a little plateau of doubt; somewhere for the disgruntled faithful to rest our half-empty flagons of pessimism. With no apparent disposition of the problem, we have no option but to drink down our midfield malaise* with a hot cup of steaming reality.
* For the perfect midfield malaise cocktail:
1. A heavy addition of inconsistent Brazilian Cachaça.
2. A 1/2 measure of weak Scotch.
3. A ‘dash’ of traditional flat English Sloe-lemonade.
4. Occasional infusions of South Korean mild Soju or vintage Welsh fine wine.
5. And a huge slice of Tom Cleverley (whichever part falls off him during preperation).
But, silly joke aside (sorry if you missed it), laying the blame at the feet of the midfield players in the squad isn’t entirely fair and not something I’m personally partaking in quite yet (besides they probably wouldn’t know what to do with it).
We can admit amongst ourselves, whilst no other fans are listening in, that we no longer employ any of the best midfield players in the Premiership and without doubt this goes for European competition too. Of course we should never utter a word of this to other fans of other clubs, what goes on our blogs stays on our blogs etc. We must maintain our dignity at all times. Game face and all that. It’s not to say that we don’t have midfield players capable of winning matches on their day or midfield players who wouldn’t walk in to 80% of other Premiership starting XIs. It’s just there are others out there who are better (albeit impossible to present as a true argument with the lack of objective evidence there of).
City have Toure and Nasri. Liverpool have Gerrard (and at a stretch Adam or Adams as he’s known in football circles). Chelsea have Michael Essien, remember him? (and possibly Lampard) Arsenal have Jack Wilshere and Arteta. And Spurs have Scott Parker and Modric. You, as free thinking members of our wonderful democracy, are welcome to vehemently disagree with any, or all of the above.
Okay, so once you’ve finished putting your fist through your laptop and sent me the bill, here’s where this is going…
Having admitted we no longer have the best midfield players, doesn’t mean we need reach for a bottle of thick bleach, find a quiet spot down a secluded country lane and glug it down sobbing and vomiting, slurring, “it’s not fair!”. For me it’s just means we can put the midfield issues into some sort of real context, starting with ‘The best players don’t equal the best team’ and then followed up with, ‘The best team doesn’t equal the team that wins the Premiership’. Having one of the best managers, with the most experience, equals one of the better teams has a good chance.
SAF having allegedly missed out on midfield summer targets (although never officially substantiated) expressed his excitement at the squad going forward and was also quoted as suggesting our midfield was well equipped to deal with the season ahead. Of course, whether he genuinely believes that we will never really know. I’m not going to bombard you with vacuous cliches, but here’s one: As ever, we can only judge him on this statement at the end of the entire season.
Our whole squad has been stretched by injury, in what was always going to be a difficult season with the departure of Van Der Sar and the loss of the likes of Gary Neville and Scholesy from the dressing room. Our defence hasn’t adapted yet to their new Number 1’s ‘style’. Rio hasn’t any form or fitness, Vidic has barely played and we still don’t have a fit recognised Right-Back. Moving up the pitch Tony V’s still not match fit, Fletcher’s long standing problem with a virus has taken its toll and Cleverley‘s had to remove Kevin Davies studs from his calf. Rooney has had on and off-field issues to deal with, Chicha’s already been out injured twice, and having finally been given the chance at United Welbeck has been left isolated due to the circumstances and many more excuses besides. As a whole the squad hasn’t really been allowed to settle, not just the midfielders.
The cliche that the ‘game is won in the middle of the park’ is one I subscribe to and after a couple of poor results: Anderson has reverted to type, tiring after 60 minutes, after losing all discipline. Carrick hasn’t really provided us with any firm evidence that he’s about to enter the world of the living again any time soon. Fletcher has remembered that he was once just a very average midfielder who never got any press attention apart from the odd bit of abuse, and has remembered how safe he finds that place, it’s comfortable like his mothers womb, warm. He likes it there. Cleverley has looked impressive but he seems injury prone. Park can’t run in any direction for more than 15 yards without introducing his face to the grass. Giggsy is 38 years old.
The cliche that the ‘game is won in the middle of the park’ is one I subscribe to and after a couple of good results: Anderson having had a good pre-season is already showing signs of improvement. He needs a bit more work on his fitness and he’s still indisciplined but that’s down to his natural instincts to try and do everything, like a kid in the playground. At just 23 still plenty of time to develop into a player, not least this season. Carrick hasn’t played much this season, but his composure and control of the game can be vital in some games, a solid player to have in the squad. Fletcher has had his injury issues over the course of the last year or so, but as his goal against City showed he’s still got the quality. He just needs the team around him to stabilise to grant him a bit of freedom to maraude around the pitch such is his wont. With Cleverley in the team there seems to be more fluidity between midfield and attack, he’s a real prospect. In Park we trust, one of the most tenacious players United have had and on his day a match winner. Giggsy can go on till he’s 48 years old
We don’t need to panic after every bad result. We have to remember that everything has a context. We should try and be fairer to our middle men. It’s a shame that all goes out the window when I try to do it myself.