A result that was expected – but, in the end, disappointing because of all we’d contributed to the game. Even Man United fans know they got out of jail. Pete Sixsmith – here, as at The Observer – looks at the silver lining…
After three anodyne performances where the prospects of visits to Preston, Blackpool etc grew stronger by the minute, we needed a visit from the self styled “greatest club in the world” like Gordon Brown needed a suspect blogger.
Rooney, Ronaldo, Scholes, Tevez and the new Italian wonder kid all pitching up against a defence who can’t mark at corners, a midfield that runs around in circles and a couple of forwards who have as much in common as Perry Como has with Eminem. Disaster beckoned.
There was talk of clear the air talks in the dressing room and various players came out with statements that were a mixture of self criticism, bravado and realism – it’s our fault, we’re too good to go down, we’re in a real relegation dogfight – and did little to calm the nerves of long suffering fans who have committed themselves to another season of anxiety whether it be in the Premier League or the Championship.
What we got was a performance which was a mixture of intense concentration, basic errors, oodles of effort and some fairly imaginative football. It was not the car crash that we had feared and United had to rely on a fortunate deflection to win the game.
It must be clear to all that we can only survive by being bold and that means playing 2 up front. Cisse and Jones are not, and never will be a partnership, but they caused good defenders like Evans (great ovation for him; Sunderland fans know quality when they see it) and Vidic onto the back foot and making sure that we always had a chance. If they can do this to these two international players, surely they can do the same to their counterparts at Hull and West Brom.
The midfield had some width with Edwards and Reid looking for the ball, although I don’t think that either have the guile, the heart or the pace to be top class Premier League players. In the first half, Cisse played two balls down the wing to where he thought Reid should be, only to look back over his shoulder to see a stationary guitar playing Irishman shaking his head. Carlos ran well with the ball, but he is still too timid – he may find an extra yard against the Championship players of our next two opponents.
Teemu Tainio was our best player with a controlled performance which shows how much we have missed him. He won tackles, passed accurately and helped Grant Leadbitter to turn in a performance, which although not in the Paul Scholes class, at least made you understand why Roy Keane was able to see similar qualities there. In addition, our all too often absent Finn did brilliantly to cross the ball for Kenwyne’s
The back four performed well with Davenport looking quick and pacy and a much better bet than the more pedestrian Ben Haim and when Paul McShane came on he won over the sceptical and edgy crowd with a great tackle.
However, we now have failed to win in 7 games and despite the improvement here we are still staring disaster in the face. We have two games coming up where the players have to reproduce this form minus the errors that lead to United’s opening goal. Chances have to be created and taken. In the halcyon days of December we put eight goals past these two – we need a repeat in the dark, relegation dogged days of April.
What of United? They would probably say that they deserved the win and that they had most of the play, but they make it hard to be liked. The ridiculous Gary Neville dive in the penalty area and the feeling at 1-1 that they were looking for a penalty, plus the showpony aka Ronaldo just plain annoys the likes of me as do their idiotic singing fans who chant “Manchistur la la la” even if they do come from Durham and Hartlepool as their banners suggest.
Finally, Rob Styles. Normally I would rather sit through the entire discography of Roger Whittaker than praise this man, but he HAD A GOOD GAME. Never let it be said that Sixsmith does not give praise where praise is due. Here’s hoping he maintains these standards the next time we get him.