It was the anti-climax of climaxes. When the two major talking points are a stomach churning thigh gash and a punch to the midriff, you would be forgiven for picturing a late night scuffle outside Sankeys rather than a goalless snorefest in Hull. That the focus of attention was fixed on the unsavoury was hardly a ringing endorsement of the quality, or lack of, on show.
In the end, Hull deserved to go down: It wasn’t yesterday that proved to be their downfall, but their ineptitude in front of goal against a half-hearted United, already thinking about the sun loungers and Piña coladas, summed up their season. It was a shame really, Steve Bruce is a very genial man, someone who served our club with such heart and distinction, endeared unconditionally for those headers against Sheffield Wednesday- the platform for a wealth of trophies and success. Also, unlike the team who profited from Hull’s profligacy, I do not have an absolute dislike for his club.
Louis Van Gaal’s rousing speech was the abiding highlight from the midweek end of season awards, but it seemed that it was not solely his drunken diction that left a lasting effect: the performance could easily have been attributed to the devilish delights of Dutch space cakes and the copious amounts of Grolsch that his country prides itself on consumed on that very night. The new ‘going on the piss with Georgie Best’ chant has quickly become a crowd favourite and it seemingly served as encouragement for the players to let their hair down with the mission already accomplished.
Even wearing an all white strip, that he previously donned with such attachment in Madrid, could not bore out even a mere semblance of resurrection and light in the United career of the forlorn Angel di Maria. A poor mimicry of the player who outshone the bigwigs of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to clinch La Decima for Real Madrid nearly a year to the day, even the player who looked every inch the costliest Premier League import in the autumn. His start in a red shirt was arguably the most scintillating of all the bygone wearers of the iconic number 7 shirt, yes that even includes you Antonio and Michael.
The pace of his downturn has been as quick as his pitch-scorching forays down the left-wing that whetted the appetites of many a supporter when news broke of his arrival. The supposed answer to the majority of United’s ills has suddenly turned into an ill that is becoming more and more irreversible by the game. Granted, players have different pain thresholds, but would you have seen a Keane, a Robson, a Bruce in fact go off under similar circumstances? For weeks, it has appeared he does not want to be here and it seemed he took the easy option towards securing an exit.
Don’t get me wrong, I am writing this with not the slightest intention to hang di Maria out to dry. Even in this tale of woe, he still gets you on the edge of your seat in the mere hope he rediscovers that autumnal electricity. The burglary evidently played a huge part in his loss of form but nonetheless you still expect a hell of a lot more from your £60M signing.
It’s common knowledge that he had his heart set on PSG and their Arab riches last summer. You never know, with a pre-season and a year of English football already in the bank, we might see the real Angel di Maria next season but, at the same token, if PSG come calling again would you blame the blazers if they managed to all but recoup the fee shelled out for him and ran with it?
You cannot sugar coat a turd nor, in this case, defend the indefensible, so the less said about the Fellaini moment of malice the better. It could ultimately act as a blessing long-term though. His renaissance has been absolutely commendable but a valid criticism, regardless of the Belgian’s form in the second half of the season, has been that there has to be more to a Manchester United game-plan than playing around Fellaini. His enforced absence from the side at the start of next season will force Van Gaal to change the recent plans and strengthen the midfield in the transfer market. Fellaini is a great weapon to have, but should not be the default action plan for a Manchester United side prided on a certain style of play. That said, he has had a very good season and will still give us something different next season.
The transfer activity has already begun in earnest, with Radamel Falcao expectedly saying his goodbyes and widespread reports that players have already been told whether they are surplus to requirements. It promises to be a hectic summer of comings and goings, Get busy, Woody.
We managed to secure Champions League football taking a poultry 5 points from the last 18 available, any other season and we wouldn’t have got away with such a meagre tally, it is an indictment of the quality of the league and an indicator that, despite doing what was needed, there is still a lot of work to do to get back to where we REALLY want.
This season was all about pragmatics, getting back into the top 4 no matter what. Yes, it was ugly, boring, laboured and sluggish at times but it was necessary. The pyrotechnics will come next season, when Van Gaal gets the players he wants. That will also be the time to properly judge Van Gaal. He had to salvage a grim wreckage and he has achieved the first part of the rebuilding process. Van Gaal will hopefully take us to familiar territory next season in terms of style and silverware.
Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all, as loyal readers, for your continued support and largely positive feedback. I started these ramblings on the back of the derby defeat and, predominantly, to vent my spleen at Chris Smalling, what a transformation for him since then incidentally. That may sound like my volley brought the best out of him, but the chance to present my views to you all brought a buzz and enjoyment that will continue into next season and the seasons beyond.
I hope you have enjoyed this feature, even if you may not necessarily agree with everything I write.
Enjoy your summer, and see you next season.