Manchester United (a)

2 Nov

match reportI rarely dream about football or, if I do, I’m rarely able to remember it – mercifully so, since I’ve usually been drafted in to replace Clive Wilson at left back and am completely out of my depth – But on friday night I had a clear, vivid and almost prophetic dream about saturday’s game. I dreamt the damned united scored a goal that didn’t actually cross the line, I dreamt that familiar feeling of injustice and impotence, like a fish slapping itself against the tiles – but then they scored the rebound anyway. It was time to stop struggling and die quietly.

You don’t need to be some hirsute guru to interpret this dream. For on a profound, subconscious level we know that nothing will go for us at Old Trafford, that it’s an uphill battle where people are flinging faeces down at us. So, in a perverse way, I was glad when Nani scored his goal. We already knew we were in a hopeless situation, it’s important everyone else sees it too.

But the second part of the dream suggests it may not matter. That they’re still too efficient or professional to be beaten let alone overtaken as title contenders. Again this seems to have been bourne out by the match. Whilst they scored a dubious goal it didn’t seem to matter, we did appear to slipping towards a defeat with all the resistance of water in a sink.

So what positives are there? Commentators say we gave a good account of ourselves. Perhaps. It was an even contest, their goals came out of thin air, but did we actually play well? I doubt there are many Spurs fans who believe we did. Conversely Man Utd fans seem more than happy with their team’s performance. Why the disconnect?

Despite the predictable result I think we saw the balance of power shifting towards us, just as it has been over the past few seasons. The overriding factor that is determining these results is not how well United play, but how well we play. Consider the 5-2 calamity the season before last. When we were dominating the game it was down to us, they weren’t poor, we were good. Following the farcical penalty United played well but not without us totally collapsing – what happens depends on us, not them, this is a big change and reflects us taking on the mantle of a big club.

Saturday’s game was a similar affair. We not only gave the ball away more often, we gave away it away cheaply and unnecessarily. We gave the ball away in positions that led to prolonged spells of United possession, they were unable to do much with it but playing with a rather blunted attack we needed the ball as much as possible – when there’s only 1 Keano we need to play the percentages. Had we managed to be less profligate with the ball the entire complexion of the match would have been different.

It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly was behind it: No Huddlestone? Tiredness? Nerves or some other kind of mental weakness? Whatever it is, we’re getting closer to stage were we can go to these big teams and comprehensively beat them. Just a little bit of tweaking…

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