Pete Sixsmith’s dispatch from Manchester United 2 Sunderland 0 was accompanied by the message: “Here it is. No photos, no anger, just nothing. A poor day out; won’t be going there again.” What on earth can he mean? …
At 3.20pm, after conceding a goal, seeing the ball thwack the post and bar and admiring three splendid saves from the excellent Craig Gordon, I would have settled for a 2-0 home win – which is exactly what happened in this non-event of a contest.
If you concede early at the Theatre of Prawn Sandwiches, it’s very difficult to get back into the game.
If you do it with a seriously depleted side, consisting of a winger playing at right back, a right back playing at left back and a Paraguayan playing his first game since long before the latest Ice Age descended on us, then you can write the game off.
So we did and stood back and allowed Manchester United to play some exquisite football for 20 minutes until we gave ourselves a shake and began to mark up, tackle and stop giving the ball away quite as much as we had previously.
Had I known that we were going into this game minus Cattermole, Mensah and Richardson I might have stayed at home – although there was no football to watch in the North East.
As it was, I could have stayed in the Wagon at Uppermill and supped Dobcross Bitter and Robinson’s Old Tom rather than sit through this dull, dull game.
Old Trafford was once a byword for passion, but there was more passion in a Mary Whitehouse TV schedule than from this slumbering crowd. At times, early on, the football was reminiscent of Arsenal at their best and I can see United emulating The Invincibles and going through the whole season unbeaten. And, like the Highbury Library of old, the crowd, bedecked in their green and gold Norwich scarves, slumber away and refusing to get excited.
Not that we gave them anything to get excited about. I strongly suspect that the mood in the camp was: “Right, let’s not do anything silly today; Blackpool and Blackburn are far more important than this.”
It allowed us to see that Elmohamady is not a full back, that Riveros is neat and tidy but is probably not going to cut the mustard at PL level and that Darren Bent should have refused to wear the vivid green boots that his mum had bought him for Christmas.
Some positives can be taken: the keeper was outstanding, Ferdinand and Onuoha did well and stuck to their difficult tasks and Henderson covered a lot of ground and looked a very decent player.
The rest were poor and the midfield especially so. Zenden and Malbranque looked slow and lacking in inspiration and until Bent dropped in to make a midfield five, United’s outstanding Anderson and Park had complete control.
Anderson looked brilliant at times and the ball he played to Berbatov for the second goal was brilliant. He looked one way and passed it the other – a bit like some of our players but ours was unintentional.
After the second goal, they preserved their energy for the rest of this very intense Christmas/New Year period and we ran around a lot and actually had a shot on target.
The crowd began to disappear 10 minutes from the end and by the time the 93 minutes was up, there were almost as many empty seats as there were at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in mid afternoon. A job well done for United and an afternoon that barely appears on our radar.
We need to make up for this waste of £50+ by winning these two upcoming games, or there shall be a venting of the spleen on this site