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After the 6-1, would we really have taken this?
“After the 6-1 we’d have taken this” has been a recurring refrain from United fans since last week’s hideously inept defeat at Wigan. During the autumn, as City demolished United and appeared to be inexorably steamrolling their way to a first league title since 1968, had we been offered a five-point lead with four games to go then surely, yes, we would have taken that.
However, it is impossible to escape the feeling that the utter embarrassment suffered in losing 6-1 at home to City and the equally humiliating runarounds distributed by Athletic Bilbao, home and away, will be the eternal memories of this season even if the 20th league title is secured on 13 May. That is an abhorrent scenario that surely no United fan would ever accept.
Even throughout an exceptional run of victories during the spring, it is difficult to pick out any timeless team performances; rather, there has been a grinding soullessness about their play. Where has the early season effervescence and exuberance gone? Manchester United as a football club has always been about more than cold, clinical ruthlessness. Shock and awe, seek and destroy – these are the principles that define the institution, yet they have been gradually swamped by a tide of turgid functionality.
There have undoubtedly been positive aspects to take from the league campaign – chief among them, David De Gea’s rapidly growing assurance in goals, Jonny Evans’ remarkable composure in defence and Antonio Valencia’s devastating surges down the right wing. The latter two players were scandalously overlooked in the PFA awards nominations.
Unfortunately, the negative aspects of United’s season have been numerous. While certainly a marvellous story, the total reliance in central midfield on the previously retired Paul Scholes is a huge worry, and the regular tepid play from Wayne Rooney another hindrance towards flowing football. Add in Javier Hernandez’ surprising loss of form, Danny Welbeck’s inconsistency and Dimitar Berbatov’s perpetual exclusion from the starting 11, and a bleak picture is painted of United’s centrally creative options.
United must learn from their mistakes this season and finally fill the vacuum that has existed in the attacking midfield area at Old Trafford since Scholes assumed a deeper midfield role in 2006. This is an absolute necessity in order to rediscover that panache and verve the club are famed for. Tom Cleverley may yet prove the answer in this role, but an addition like Athletic’s magical Oscar De Marcos should be imperative.
Sir Alex Ferguson simply has to fill this pivotal void, regardless of expense, to enable Manchester United’s repentance from the footballing banality so grimly evident at Old Trafford since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2009. United fans have always expected, nay, demanded, lavish footballing decadence from their team, yet this inherent requirement has sadly been subdued by a tedious need to accumulate trophies.
A season defined by Ashley Young’s contemptible cheating, a 37-year-old retiree and three seminal defeats – would we really have taken all that?
Posted by Manchester United fan Ali Walker
Follow Alistair on Twitter @AliWalker24
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