Reports of Manchester United’s demise have been exaggerated. The Los Angeles Earthquake was a disaster. The eruption of Mount St. Helen’s was a disaster. Every single one of Glenn Hoddle’s haircuts in the eighties was a disaster. Drawing 2-2 with Porto is an understandable result and a retrievable situation. On the other hand, Hoddle’s barbour will never work again.
Firstly, Porto were magnificent. They attacked the game from the start, moved the ball around slickly and chased our players into the dust. Fernando and Gonzalez linked up superbly and would have given Brazil circa 1970 a hard time on last night’s form. Not to mention that in Hulk they boast the best named player since Congolese striker Bongo Christ. Yep, United were up against it.
By my calculations the last time United put in a truly worthy performance, one that makes the blood boil with excitement and your voice hoarse, was against Chelsea several months ago. We are still top of the league, remain in every competition and have even won a trpohy since then. So does this mean that we have been the luckiest side in history and are currently being found out? The simple answer is no. The players we have are quality and have shown their worth, I should imagine that it is not easy to give an Oscar winning performance every match. Especially not when you are playing so much. No other team even has the pressure of entertaining so impatiently placed upon them, only United.
Ferguson, as was widely reported after the Fulham loss, took a gamble on the Villa fixture. It could have been moved but he kept it on Sunday to give our players an extra day to recover, therefore jeopardising premium fitness against Porto. We were, admittedly, 9 parts outrageously lucky and 1 part inspired against Martin O’Neill’s men, but we got the result.
As soon as I settled into my seat for the European game I knew the players would tire towards the end. Two high pressure matches inside 52 hours is a helluva lot to ask of anybody. To concede a late goal was not entirely unexpected considering these circumstances. It just seems such a shame now because we were so close.
On th-glass-is-half-full side of things, we have played those two matches now and a vital victory in the league was obtained along with a workable result against a team who have played their best game in Europe this season. We lost neither.
Granted, at times last night we seemed to be 11 individuals, rather than a team, and there were points when I wondered if Porto’s midfield were the only ones to get off the bus. We have largely been carried this season by the unspeakably good form of the defence. That bubble has now popped (step forward Johnny Evans) and it is time for the attackers to stand up and be counted. Rooney is scoring goals, Tevez proved once again his remarkable penchant for scoring at important times and this lad Macheda should have Berbatov thinking very hard about his work rate too.
Next up we have a four day rest (crikey me!) followed by a freefalling Sunderland side. Then, a four day rest (Dear Lord!) followed by a winner takes all tussle in Porto. There are no guarantees in this life but I am hoping (I always do) that there is life the Red Devils yet. Let’s get behind the team.