Haven’t written much about United recently as I seem to find it difficult to say much about a team who are efficient and effective without, frankly, being terribly inspiring to watch. The 3-0 win over Everton at the weekend was a case in point; a good win against determined opponents but somehow, there’s no adrenaline. Still, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – United fans are spoiled rotten by years of success.
To be honest, I got more pleasure from watching the U-18’s win 3-0 against a pretty average Liverpool team at Melwood on Saturday morning. All of which made me approach tonight’s ‘dead rubber’ against Besiktas in the Champions League with a bit more interest as I knew some of the youngsters would be playing. Even so, I was surprised by Lord Ferg’s selection with both strikers’ spots filled by tyros like Danny Wellbeck and ‘Kiko’ Macheda.
Well, fortune favours the brave, or so we’re told and for the first 20 minutes, the kids and the fringe players performed very creditably, creating a number of chances that really should have been put away. Summer signing Gabriel Obertan was particularly impressive and is already challenging Valencia for the right-wing slot. He may look like the Mekon from ‘Dan Dare’, but the boy can play.
Then, Besiktas scored a deflected goal completely against the run of play and though United continued to dominate in the second half, the two young strikers just didn’t have the necessary cutting edge at this level. Obertan was probably our best player on the night, but Anderson and Gibson disappointed in midfield, so it was all a bit of an anti-climax in the end.
The Mekon takes on the Besiktas defence at Old Trafford last night
Still at least we are through to the next phase whatever happens in the final game in Wolfsburg in a fortnight. Contrast this with the mood among our hitherto noisy neighbours down the East Lancs, who have gone rather quiet of late and whilst we can afford to shrug off a 1-0 defeat, Dippers fans are no doubt reflecting that they can win 1-0 in Budapest and still be condemned to the purgatory of the Europa Johnstone’s Paint League where they will no doubt be drawn against teams from Eastern Europe whose names sound like gastric ailments and where they have mass bingo games at half-time.
Liverpool’s main priority of course is to finish in 4th place or above in the Premiership – in what so many reckoned was going to be their year. That, it should be said is not going to be a foregone conclusion, with City, Villa & Spurs providing stiff opposition. Where did it all go wrong, Rafa? I thought you were the man with the facts at his fingertips? The Liverpool soap opera has been great fun so far and has distracted from humdrum affairs at The Vatican. Chelsea, meanwhile are looking ominous (yet another 1-0 win in Oporto) and are moving through the gears just in time to lose two key players – Essien & Drogba (plus Mikel if he’s still getting picked) to the African Cup of Nations. Still, my pre-season prediction that Chelsea would win the Premiership this year is still looking good, unfortunately, but I think their eyes are just as much on the Champions League – especially John Terry, who apparently has a picture of the moment he slipped on the wet turf in Moscow up in his house to motivate him. Bless……