Things have been pretty quiet for me so far this January as I recover from my Hogmonay expedition up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, still steadily crossing-off the New Year’s resolutions form my extensive list one-by-one.
Having said that, I did actually go for a vegan meal the other day so, although I can’t claim to be partaking in “Veganuary,” I did find the lentil Dahl dish I devoured most enjoyable, and the experience was a lot more appealing than this thing I’ve been told about called: “Dry January,” whatever that might be?
New year same problems
It might now be 2020 but it appears to be the same old story with Manchester United, who continue to take one step forward and two steps back more regularly than me doing the Hockey Cokey on New Year’s Eve.
Since my last diary entry, the Reds have suffered a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal, drawn with Wolves in the FA Cup, been heavily beaten by Manchester City in the League Cup and thrashed Norwich 4-0 at Old Trafford in the Premier League.
The defeat to City was particularly painful as I think we all agree the score could have been double what it was, particularly after the first half, and the fact that United still has any chance of making the final is something of a miracle – though I still believe they have a chance.
In fairness, City played really well and it was fascinating to see how Pep Guardiola set out his team and how they executed the game plan and, in fairness, you could say Raheem Sterling was United’s best defender.
As for Kyle Walker, I thought was outstanding and for someone who was supposed to be playing right back at times, he terrorised United down the flank which shows just what an attacking threat they can offer, obviously another worry ahead of the second-leg.
Old heads needed on young shoulders
The performance against Norwich was much more encouraging and shows just what this United team is capable of when things click for them, especially Marcus Rashford, who is in a rich vein of form right now.
The problem I see is that, with so many young players in the side, they are prone to playing the game of their lives one week and then crashing back down to earth the next, which we’ve certainly seen on more than one occasion this season.
And that’s where you need the blend of youthful exuberance and the wisdom of experience – a role I like to think I played very effectively during the twilight of my career.
Even so, despite the fine win last weekend, I was somewhat surprised after the Norwich game when Olle said that City putting out a full-strength team against United showed they must be doing something right as I didn’t realise that Claudio Bravo was the Blues’ first choice ‘keeper or even their second.
Roles reversed as United travel to Anfield
It might be hard for some of my younger readers to believe (If there are any) after almost 25 years of dominance, but when I first joined United in the late 1980s we often found ourselves going to Anfield with most people writing us off against a team who was brushing all before them in their ruthless pursuit of a league title.
And you could say that history is repeating itself again this season as Liverpool have been fantastic all year and well-deserve their huge lead at the top while United find themselves almost 30 points off the pace; but as I found out on several occasions, there’s no reason to go there expecting the worse, and that’s how United should play it on Sunday in my opinion.
Some of their best performances of the season so far have been against teams that like to attack, as the wins over Spurs and Manchester City in particular proved, so if United can weather the early storm at Anfield then they might be able to find their rhythm and hit Liverpool on the counter to cause a huge shock – as they did at The Etihad before Christmas.
While others might be fearing the worst, I only have to look back at a hard-fought 3-3 draw in my first visit to Anfield in 1988 after being 3-1 down, a well-earned point in 1989 when we were at the wrong end of the table for inspiration.
Of course, I choose to forget a 4-0 thrashing in 1990 and surrendering a three-goal lead in 1994, not to mention losing the title on Merseyside in the spring of 1992!
Until next time,