Thursday, 8 April 2010
The thin line between love and hate - United 3 Bayern 2
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
The quarter final between ourselves and Bayern highlighted exactly what is right..and wrong with the current side.
Some thought my twitter ramblings (and believe me they are ramblings!) was some sort of mad negativity, but I hate to say i saw this all coming, and take no satisfaction in that. On the night it was all about which United turned up. And unfortunately it was the one that our form dictated would. To be knocked out in this manner is typically United. The Germans were never going to crush us at Old Trafford, but I genuinely thought that 3-2 was on the cards before the match. I feared Robben more than Ribery. I knew what he could do to us. And I have seen the away goal rule 'do' us so many times before.
Once upon a time the early goal would lead United on to the promised land...but at the moment it seems to give us the excuse to play some strange form of defensive football. Of course, there was nothing defensive about our display in the first forty five last night. The way we tore in to Bayern was impressive and a breath of fresh air. The stadium was rocking, and as the three goals went in we were all in dream land.
And then the curse of the individual error came into play.
Michael Carrick, like Dimitar Berbatov, gets alot of stick from The Faithful for his playing style. Though not as languid as the Bulgarian, his ability to appear only in third gear during a game has caused many a heated discussion. Last night we saw the worst of Carrick. Whereas Fletcher and Gibson fought and closed down everything that they could, and turned defence into attack, Carrick looked once again underwhelmed by the occasion. His ineptitude in dealing with Olic for the first German goal will not be forgotten for many years. Couple that with the fact that he gave away cheap possession by dwelling on the ball several times - which lead to the corner for the Robben strike..well..the lad just had a stinker. And it's not the first time this season. He is just one water-carrier too many.
Some will point to the sending off of Rafael as being the cause of the defeat, and in many ways going down to ten caused us all sorts of problems. Up til then I thought the young Brazilian had had a stormer, and I still believe he will become one of the world's best right backs. But he is young..and he is naive. Bringing on OShea to plug that gap and leaving Nani to run free up top should have given us enough to deal with the Bayern threat..but it didn't. Once again we saw a United side sink deeper into itself. Consumed by fear. After 70 minutes of the match there was only one side that looked like it was going to go through, and it wasn't us. The body language of the team once again turned from marauding monster to a deer being chased in the woods by a larger predator. This is NOT the Manchester United way.
I think this season is now all but over. I think Chelsea will drop points, but I'm also convinced that we will too. That's not a negative view point. It is just a simple assessment of the current state of play. A technical view point rather than an emotional one. Last night showed that there has been positives and negatives this year, and not complete doom and gloom. Whereas Berbatov and Carrick have failed, both Nani and Valencia have succeeded. Darren Gibson could yet become our Frank Lampard. Fletcher has attained even further cult status with his heart busting performances. And Rooney...well...I need not eulogise about his wonders. You just know.
United are about to go into transition once again, as we were five years ago. Its wrong to think that last night was about a referees performance, or the German baiting to get Rafa sent off. You can't win titles with a squad that has this many weaknesses in key positions. We need a striker to take the burden from Roo. We need a creative midfielder. And we need to plan for the future without Van Der Sar, Ferdinand (as injuries catch up with him) and Vidic (if he fancies some sun on his back) These are massive issues for the manager..but he could well be the biggest change that we need plan for. Will he want to rebuild again entering his 70th birthday? I don't think so.
Man Utd is not a club that has ever stood still. In the 60s we won everything. In the 70s the club slid into oblivion and fell out of the top division. In the 80s we flirted with success but could never really achieve it. And then the Ferguson era led us too glory we just could never imagine. United fans must understand that change is a coming, and we must embrace that change. Because if we don't we could easily become Liverpool - a team that does not match its wonderful tradition. I was born into that era. The era where United were failures. I don't wanna go back to that. If the manager cant take us for one last brilliant ride, then I hope the board have had a very long conversation with a certain Mr Mourinho. He may not be everybody's cup of tea, but he drips with the ego and success you need to be a true winner. For me it would be the perfect match going into this new decade.