It’s that time of the year, when every Manager would be evaluating his team’s progress. The new signings would have had game time under their belt, while the already established stars would look to kick on to greatness. At the onset of every league season, an average United fan demands certain objectives; more importantly, Sir Alex demands a level of performance from the men that don the sacred red jersey. With a third of the season gone, the gaffer would be evaluating those goals – where did United lack the cutting edge? Were expectations met with performances on the field? Let’s evaluate for ourselves the season so far.
The season summary so far:
In an ideal world, with 13 league games of the season gone by, the Manager and fans would have hoped for top billing and possibly a healthy lead. However, such wishful thinking is a recipe for disappointment. Three points off the summit after a third of the league season and guaranteed qualification to the knock out stages of the Champions league are hardly a cause for sleepless nights. The league Cup campaign is going as strong as ever, where a quarter final show down against the Hammers awaits. The biggest victory, however, seems to be of the field, where United managed to convince their talisman Wayne Rooney to stay at the Theatre of dreams. Like him or hate him, United are most certainly better off with his presence in the team. The cynics can point at the points dropped and the leads squandered; however, there is only one team on the British Isles who can call themselves undefeated. There are certainly some chinks in the amour, but there’s nothing that can’t be set straight.
Positives from the season:
The most obvious positive has to be the form of United captain Nemanja Vidic; the Serbian has been immense and possibly the best center back on view around the country. With Rio getting back to fitness and form, the central defense issues of last year look a thing of the past. The emergence of Chris Smalling as a reliable back up points to a bright future, with Johhny Evans, Wes Brown and John Oshea available as more than decent cover.
Wayne Rooney was in the form of his life in the season gone by, and United sailed on the tide of Rooney mania. The reliance on the man from Croxteth was undeniable, and in his absence the goals seemed as rare as an oasis in a desert. However things have changed for good this season. United have scored 26 league goals so far without a single Rooney goal from open play. The one man team myth has well and truly been buried; Rooney is instrumental but certainly far from indispensible. The early season form of Berbatov and crucial goals from new signing Chicharito has eased the pressure. Nani has made his presence felt with goals and assists of his own, and the midfield has chipped in when the need arises.
The rather comfortable position United find themselves in has to be credited to the brilliance of Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha, a.k.a Nani. The Portuguese has been at the center of everything United have conjured up offensively. With four league goals and the highest number of assists, the twinkled toed winger has set the league alight.
However the thing that fills United hearts with pride is the ability of the side to never accept defeat. Even when the most ardent of supporters lose hope, the men on the field still carry on their fight. The comeback is always around the corner; it’s never really over. It’s rightly said that “Man Utd never lose, they sometimes run out of time”. The belief instilled in them by the great man at the helm has been the hallmark of each and every United team in his regime – a testimony to Ferguson’s longevity and resilience.
Negatives from the season:
The Rooney Saga undoubtedly remains a blot; the player and the club could have done without the episode. Dirty linen was washed in public ,and the repercussions are yet to be seen. The Wayne Rooney fiasco left a bitter taste in the mouth; bridges will have to be rebuilt, as fan ire is inevitable as soon as the Roon returns. It’s been an unnecessary distraction which should certainly have been avoided.
On field, United are yet to lose a game this season; however the bigger picture indicates an inability to win games. Leads have been squandered and points dropped in a very un- United way. United have lost points from winning positions in none less than three games. Fixtures like Man city, Sunderland and Bolton yielded nine points the season before; this season, the total stands at a miserly three.
Another major issue giving unbearable heartache to Devils has been the weak and subdued performance of United’s center midfield. Carrick and Fletcher have been unimaginative at best. The old war horse Scholes soldiers on, but the burden hasn’t been shared. The clamor for an attacking midfield addition is growing like never before, but Fergie will still seek answers from within, as his philosophy says “Sometimes you look in a field and you see a cow and you think it’s a better cow than the one you’ve got in your own field, it never really works out like that.” The enigma that is Anderson rolls on; in his third season with the Manchester club his progress has stalled. Hopefully, like Nani, he’ll rekindle his form and the Anderson chant will be heard again in the terraces of OT. The most disappointing case remains that of Michael Carrick, devoid of inspiration and exuberance – the axe could be nearer than imagined.
Aspirations from the season ahead:
The Red Devils need to buckle up. The club takes pride in its attacking, free flowing, aesthetically beautiful brand of football – ‘the United Way’ , as its often called. However the swagger has largely been missing, and the displays have been timid and uninspiring.
Young guns like Obertan and Fabio could possibly be given more game time, as they look set for the stage. Exciting new talent has always excited the Old Trafford crowd and set pulses racing.
United need to perform commandingly against other title rivals; the two games against Chelsea effectively cost them the title last season. With the league up for the taking, United should clean up their act, remove those annoying inconsistencies and play without fear. Christmas is fast approaching; it’s that time of the year when United of the season gone by had thrown down the gauntlet. Belief has been the bedrock of this football club, and belief shall stand it in good stead even when tough times arrive. “For those who believe, no proof is necessary, for those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.”