Tuesday, 28 September 2010
United: Steady start or team of wasters? And is this Michael Owen's time?
We are yet to set foot in the month of October, yet it's already feeling like an incredibly emotional season. After last minute muggings on Merseyside, disappointment in West London, a borderline farce against the champions of Scotland, and a huge opportunity lost against Bolton, I'm not sure how any of our hearts are gonna take all this as the games come thick and fast!
Three wins and three draws is by no means the worst start in the world. That is only 6pts off the maximum we could have achieved so far. But there is a niggling feeling that there's been a certain level of under achievement happening in front of our eyes. We've always been slow starters. That is the United norm. But the surrendering of late goals, and a lack of potency at times at the other end of the pitch have raised unusual question marks.
The biggest blot of course is against Rooney. His form is shot and I guess we all know why. After the revelations of his not-so-private life I was quick to jump to his defence. Not in an expected showing of blind loyalty, but because I really felt that he would suck it up and stick two fingers to the sky at his detractors on the pitch. However....I was wrong. I'd say Wayne is operating at maybe 50% of his powers at the mo. It shows in his body language and his facial expression. I think he has a mountain to climb this season as he tries to sort out his life off the pitch. How reliable he will truly be to the cause of the team in the immediate future is now fully up for debate.
But we do have options...
The overall form of Dimitar Berbatov has been pleasing (though he went missing at the Reebok) and it looks like Kiko Macheda will feature this season more than last. But it's Michael Owen that has got my attention. I think most forget that before his season was cut short by the most dodgy of pitches at Wembley, that the former Scouse lynch pin was in a great vein of form. Had we had him available for the rest of the season post Carling Cup last year, would he have made a difference? We will never know but in my opinion it would have been a fourth straight championship with him fit, especially after Rooney's ankle injury against Bayern.
Owen now has 3 goals in less than three halves of football. His goal against Bolton was the sort of opportunism that we have sorely lacked so far this season. With our style of play it's always very hard to think of how you accommodate a player like him, but maybe us having to diversify our formation to fit him in may not be a bad thing. Last year, teams worked us out at times. We were very 'Rooney heavy'. We got battered in several ties, that in previous years would not have happened. This year we have different challenges. We are now 'Rooney-lite' and it appears we need to find more goals from somewhere within. Berba and Nani may well score substantially more than last season, but I really think that Owen is the key. He is the predator in our squad. The one player whose business is only about scoring. He's not going to get involved in other areas of the pitch as all our other strikers will do. We have to utilise and arm his weaponry NOW cos we cant wait for Wazza to get his head together. Of course Chicharito is also an option to Sir Alex, but I think it would be unfair to burden the boy at such an early stage of his career. Slowly but surely for his development. He will play his part this year.
Valencia will be a tough challenge. It's true that they are not a team with a David Villa or Silva anymore, but a trip to Spain is always tough and they currently lead the very early La Liga table. But remember what Michael Owen did in Wolfsburg last year? Should he be given the opportunity at The Mestalla he may well just do it again.
So it's mixed emotions so far, but when have United ever done ANYTHING easy? We have a position in the league that we would have taken a month ago, and we only have to glance west to the shore where Liverpool exist to see what staring the relegation zone of the league looks like. The key to success in the next few weeks could come from a player that cost us nothing, and quite possibly the return of two midfield crocks in Anderson and Hargreaves. You cant help but think United need some sort of inspiration, and it could well come from the most unlikeliest of sources.
Sometimes it's the unfashionable that really kick start your season.