I’m angry. Again. The draw at Spurs has irked me and I’m failing to see the worth of this ‘momentum building’ unbeaten run that the team are currently on. When you look at the last three fixtures of both United and league leaders Arsenal, you’ll find that despite our victory at Old Trafford; Arsenal have 6 points compared to the reds 5.
Draws in this league, in this season, are proving costly. Chelsea and Southampton at home, Cardiff and Spurs away. Winnable games drawn and in frustrating circumstances each time. It leaves our title chase becoming more and more an uphill slog and every game now becoming a ‘must win’ fixture. Yes, we were excellent in Leverkusen but one performance in every three is not going to see silverware at Old Trafford this season. Not that we have a god given right to expect such a thing (before the spoilt brigade sharpen their social media swords) but its nice to think we could win something.
The Spurs game killed me because it’s a fixture wear despite the ‘tough trip’ billing, we have an exceptional record and we were facing a Spurs team who’d just been hammered at City the previous week. Many sought to point out the ‘wounded animal’ effect. A bollocks notion really. We should be the last team they would have wanted to see striding down to London. Does the good form of both Everton and Newcastle mean this weeks fixtures will be easier than the one we endured on Sunday? Of course not, so let’s cut the bullshit. Spurs were there for the taking and we didn’t do the business. Two points dropped, time to move on.
And here is where United and Moyes need to get a grip and quickly. If ever the importance of a so-called ‘lesser’ position was highlighted it was during last season when our newest number 2 was the team’s most consistent player. Injury hasn’t helped, of course, but fuck me do we miss Rafael at full back. It’s amazing the stability a team can get from fielding two regular full backs. Naming a team to others an starting with ‘the keeper, the two full backs’ and everyone knowing who you mean is an assuring statement.
Because let’s face it. When Chris Smalling is deputising for the better Da Silva, it hardly inspires confidence. Feillani may have been treading a disciplinary tight rope in Sociedad but the poor Belgian was sent hurtling off it when Smalling fired in yet another misguided pass in field which resulted in a flailing leg followed by a card coloured red. Chris did well against Arsenal. Well, not unbelievably good. His performance was more recognisable because it was without a major error a’la Cardiff. The ridiculous challenge he carried out as United took a lead into injury time cried of panic and uncertainty of how to operate in that position.
Rafael, reckless though he can be, would not have been so hasty. If anything, in the past 12 months he has learned to pick his moments to dive in and pick up a yellow. His only indiscretion of note last term was in the Chelsea bore-fest when he did what everyone would have loved to do and took a swipe at the complete twat that is David Luiz. Rafael only drew criticism from my direction that day because he failed to hospitalise the Chelsea centre-half.
It’s not just the fast paced one-on-one defending where Rafael excels obviously. If ever his attacking threat was required it was on Sunday when Valencia succeeded in creating created nothing from a giant host of opportunities. The lad from Ecuador was struggling and had not one bit of help in the shape of an overlap. Such a simple move from a full back bursting past his right shoulder would have drew Vertongen a yard away thus creating the gap for Valencia’s ‘smash it and see’ cross. The amount of times he smashed the ball into the Spurs left back’s shins was embarrassing but for a player who lacks a bending cross or a series of tricks, he relies on linking with Rafael in order to play well.
Rafael was on the bench on Sunday and with 25 games of the season to go, he has to play 20 at the very least. Our centre half options are such that the two positions sandwiched between the Brazilian and the Frenchman can be filled by a number of high quality combinations. It is the combination of the South Americans on United’s right that is more needed as we ready ourselves for the festive fixtures.
A full back might seem like a position that is unimportant in comparison to other areas of the pitch. It is my belief that getting our first choice player back on the right hand side of the defence could help stabilise us at the back and bring a new dimension to our attack.