I’m not really the doom mongering type. I prefer to try to see the silver lining among the dark clouds, to eat and enjoy the un-burnt bits of pizza, to see the nice personality inside the ugly bird.
As a football fan I think it’s healthier to be an optimist. It’s much more fun than being that ceaseless worry-wart who can only see catastrophe looming over the horizon. It’s even more fun than being a realist.
And while a good chunk of United fans choose to bathe in negativity, I’m absolutely loving this Moyes to Van Gaal transition. You can talk about comparative points totals and match statistics all you like, but United are a much improved side this season. I guess spending over one hundred million quid on new shiny playthings helps – but under their new Dutch zookeeper, Man Utd look a different animal. (Lionsh and Tigersh and Bearsh….oh my!)
The confidence in possession has returned, as has that attitude and aggression made so famous under previous United sides under Fergie. “Process” and “philosophy” have been the watch words of their season so far; one taking time, the other taking shape.
But while the general improvements are as obvious as the current defensive frailties, this optimist has spotted some lesser talked about elephants in United’s dressing room (no, not Anderson you weight-ist).
It’s time to engage Captain Cynic and let fly with that stinky pessimism.
If we are indeed witnessing the development of the next “great” United side, then which players will be a part of it? Or more importantly, which players won’t?
As much as it pains me to acknowledge (it’s time to channel my inner realist…Rational Roger), the future of David De Gea must be a real worry for United. The outstanding young keeper has yet to commit to a new long term deal and the Real Madrid links have started to surface. We all know how that works – if Real want a player, they eventually get him. A return to his home city looks pretty much nailed on, it’s just a case of when.
Defensively we know United are a shambles. Fitness isn’t the only issue for a mentally fragile and unreliable bunch – only Luke Shaw and his enormous arse look to have a guaranteed long term future at Old Trafford. Already we are talking about potentially replacing 4 first team players at United. Let’s move up the pitch….
33 year old midfield lynchpin Michael Carrick won’t be part of United’s next great team either. Daley Blind has done a fine job in filling in for the former Spurs anchorman, but that is another hole that will need plugging sooner rather than later (giggity). You can scratch Darren Fletcher and Marouane Fellaini off the list too. Fletcher looks as though he is running in custard these days, while Fellaini continues to move about the pitch like a Bad Manner’s fan skanking to Lip Up Fatty. Put down those elbows Marouane. Neither are the first names on the team sheet, but it’s a squad game yadda yadda.
On paper at least, United look to have a glittering array of attacking talent, but right now they are simply big names and not big performers. It’s a set of forwards who are at an age where things need to happen NOW. If LVG’s three year projection is correct, then we could be looking at a completely different United attack at the end of his process (or proshesh as he likes to call it).
Robin Van Persie is in his early 30s and looks to have started a gradual decline. Will the Dutchman have the quality to still be leading the United attack at 34 or even this time next year for that matter? Wayne Rooney’s diminishing physical attributes have seen his explosiveness replaced with a more considered approach, but his game lacks the subtlety and guile required to really dominate from the number 10 position. Can you see him still contributing at 32 when his inconsistency causes huge frustration for United fans right now?
Falcao looks to be caught in that same state of physical depreciation as Van Persie and Juan Mata will surely blog his way towards the Old Trafford exit if he continues to warm the substitute’s bench. Suddenly it looks as though United have a set of players on the way down instead of up.
I paint quite the picture don’t I? We are talking about replacing almost an entire team here, following a summer where United almost did that already. It’s enough to make you cancel your Sky subscription and climb back under the covers until next summer.
Although that outlook is considerably bleak and not beyond the realms of possibility, the optimist in me still thrusts itself through the gloomy, dingy vapour and back on to centre stage.
Yes there is a tonne of underperforming talent at United, with a whole slew of doubts over injuries, formations and personnel…..but I am still left lingering on that big “WHAT IF?”
“WHAT IF” United’s enigmatic superstars just ‘click’? “WHAT IF” they are just like a collection of ingenious musicians, supremely talented as individuals but just aching to find that song that will finally unite them and set them free as an all conquering collective – a magnificent sum of parts.
I guess it really does come down to your chosen mindset. Are United on the cusp of something magical again or have they simply put a coat of paint on a derelict house? Most sensible thought and analysis would probably point you to the latter. But “WHAT IF” you’re wrong?
That’s an exciting thought.
by Simon Winter