The 1988-89 season I remember being a particularly chastening one as a fan. We'd finished strongly in the previous campaign and, after a terrific 3-1 over Liverpool and advancement to the 6th round of the FA Cup, there was talk of a United league and cup double for a while. We had never won one at the time and it was a big deal with genuine excitement attached to it. In fairness, it was only the truly optimistic who thought we could do it, but considering I was ten years old at the time I was one of those optimists.
Then Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest dumped is limply out of the cup and the goals started to come slowly in the league. The season finished with a bit of a whimper. Mark Hughes’ volleys were the best thing about us at that time. A couple of years ago a similarly cheery thought ran through fans’ minds when it looked like we would win the ‘Quintuple’.
At the moment, and especially after we have been dubbed ‘the Crap Invincibles’, there are those who believe United can finish the league season unbeaten. This is extremely unlikely to happen and we are going to lose a game at some point. The mighty Lawro has predicted that we will come a cropper against Spurs this weekend and he may be right.
It is, of course, against the grain to agree with the one-eyed, moronic Anfield veteran, but I do feel it is wise to brace ourselves for the reality of defeat sooner rather than later. The key to those moments, when they come, is to bounce back as quickly as possible.
It has all been peaches and cream of late but it is doubtful that a team managed by Fergie will be psychologically broken by a solitary loss. There is every chance that the club will still win that all-important 19th title, but a few decades of watching Manchester United teaches me that it is unlikely to be an uneventful canter to the finishing line.
The match against Spurs will be defined by three key battles on the pitch. The first of which is Gareth Bale against Rafael. The young Brazilian contained him brilliantly earlier in the year and if he can repeat that we’ll be fine.
The other contests I am very unsure about. Whether Rooney and Berbatov can provide the finesse up front to score us a winner is far from a forgone conclusion. Rooney is well over due a performance, let’s hope it is this weekend.
At the other end of the pitch much rests on the abilities of Rio and Vidic to contain Mr. Van der Vaart. Quite apart from it being very painful to watch a brilliant player who we should have signed playing for the opposition, the fella can play a bit too.
After the stunningly poor performances of our title rivals the league championship is now in our hands. Let’s hope it is still there in a few weeks time.
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