It is fair to say that this year has been an eventful one in the history of this club. A season ending, not beginning, in August. The absence of supporters inside of Old Trafford since March. Seeing Liverpool win the league and Leeds United promoted back to the Premiership. Having Marcus Rashford taking on MP’s, being blocked off and still land the winning effort on behalf of schoolchildren from disadvantaged backgrounds. The loss of more of our club legends and heroes from our past. Our club captain being arrested in Greece. Mason Greenwood being vilified in the press for breaking restrictions on England, while Phil Foden gets away unscathed. Enough events off the field to take up several seasons in an Amazon Prime documentary.
On the pitch, we have been equally scattershot. It is not especially surprising. A manager who has been described as a part-timer and a PE teacher who lacks any sort of tactical clout who somehow has got the better of renowned coaches like Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti and David Moyes. I kid. Despite the lows of the league position in January, the side managed to claw back results on the sides above them to eventually finish 3rd. Only dropping 10 points from a possible 42. Finishing ahead of ‘more deserved’ teams in the eyes of many. Scoring some incredible team goals such as the one away to Brighton or individual brilliance like Martial’s effort against Watford. One or two slips occurred but we were able to generally come back and score crucial wins.
Even with another dis-functional start of this season, the team has displayed admirable aspects. Until the recent draw against Leicester, they had been on a remarkable winning streak away from home. We have become a seriously potent attacking outfit. Seriously. Look at some of the goals we have netted this season. Easily comparable with some of the best under Fergie’s reign. They also brought back that gritty, never say die attitude characteristics we all knew and loved. Regardless of the deficit, or obstacles facing them, they ended out victorious come the final whistle.
Of course, not everything has gone swimmingly. Going out of the Champions League at the group stage, after winning the first two games, was lamentable. Allowing Istanbul their first ever goals, points and win was very shoddy as was the first hour in Leipzig. Reaching three semi-finals and losing all three was hugely disappointing. Especially as we don’t have too much silverware in recent seasons. At certain times, luck deserted us in terms of poor finishing, decisions not in our favour, a goalkeeper in ridiculous form, or a defender switching off at a critical moment.
And this is the most frustrating aspect of this side. If I wasn’t bald already, I would be tearing my hair out at times. We seem to make the most basic defending errors to negate the good work generally done. Plodding strikers like Eddie McGoldrick and Sebastian Hellar suddenly become peak era Batistuta or Van Nistelrooy in the eyes of our fidgety back four, but they can also keep Neymar and Mbappe scoreless in another game. De Gea and/or Henderson are both capable of producing saves of the highest orders, or terrible shanks at the same time. We possess a midfield with a lethal potential, energy, running, passing, tackling and goal scoring ability. Some of the biggest names in European football. A goddamn World Cup winner for crissakes! But at times whatever combination employed look like they have never seen a football before, let alone played or trained with the players around them. The ability in our front-line is frightening. Incredible potential. Yet massively frustrating at the same time. Martial FC on twitter will always herald their boy, yet he appears disinterested on so many occasions. Mason Greenwood still learning the game and Marcus can snatch at easy chances while effortlessly sweeping home more difficult ones.
And this inconsistency can take hold of us all within the space of 90 minutes!
How many times have we seemed destined to drop points, only to take complete control in the space of a few minutes. I would love for a balance to return to the side. A settled line-up, structures and the eradication of daft mistakes would make this side a deadly prospect. At the time of writing, we are second in the table, into the League Cup semi-final and a Europa League campaign ahead. Imagine our placing if we managed to reach our potential and cut out the lurches in form. Do I wish for the days of two defensive midfielders, one up front and aimless side to side passing? Christ no. As much as I bemoan our lapses, this side is away more exciting than in recent years. It is the life of a United fan. We take the bad with the good and there is a lot of good at the moment. The duality of Manchester United.