There are a lot of things to be annoyed about Manchester United in the last decade, and even though not being able to do the double over Burnley in six attempts is quite minor in the grand scheme of things, it’s still fucking annoying.
I’m beginning to see Will McKenzie’s point of view.
Ole is still at the wheel, but it’s a bumpy journey. United want to get 1st but need to take a detour to 4th. Chelsea keep slowing down to let them pull in, but they seem hesitant to put the speed on and go for it.
Chelsea’s latest fluff was a home draw against ten man Arsenal the night before, presenting United with an opportunity to reduce the gap on 4th place.
January had been mixed so far, and not an even balance.
The very first day of the month saw United become the first team to lose to Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal.
Even though there was progress in the FA Cup via a replay against Wolves, there was a League Cup exit to Manchester City and defeat to Liverpool at Anfield. Sandwiched inbetween that was comprehensive 4-0 win over Norwich City.
I’ve travelled to midweek games in recent years as they’re easier to get to and cheaper in terms of hotel rooms, heading over Tuesday to Thursday. However, even midweek fixture lists are having games moved to Thursday night, I might not be able to do this if i’m going to be held to ransom by TV schedulers.
TV schedulers had their fun with this game, making it a 8.15pm kick-off. Yep, you read that right.
United started off well and their first chance came when Aaron Wan-Bissaka crossed for Anthony Martial, who sliced it with his left foot when he should have smashed it with his right foot.
Juan Mata was next to miss for United from a similar position when he also went with the wrong foot.
Wan-Bissaka was enjoying a lot of space down the right, and United weren’t slow in getting him on the ball at any opportunity they could.
United were given a reminder of why they had to take their chances when Chris Wood headed a free header wide from a few yards out. It was a major let-off for United.
Daniel James was next to be denied for United when his stretching header was saved by Nick Pope. It looked close on the TV, but it was a save that Pope should have been making.
Anthony Martial then had a big chance to give United the lead, but a heavy touch allowed a Burnley player to get in and make a tackle. All he had to do was take one touch to set himself up and then smash it into then net.
As the half neared it’s end, it was Burnley who took the lead when Chris Wood hooked home from close range after a long free-kick was flicked on. It was a poor goal to concede and against the run of play.
As United players gathered to restart the game, you could sense in the body language that United’s players didn’t believe they could get the two goals now required to win the game.
Even at this early stage, it was clear that this game was calling out for Mason Greenwood. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saw that, and brought him on at half-time.
After a brief flurry at the start of the second-half from United, it was Burnley who got the next goal from a first time effort from Jay Rodriguez.
As with a lot of goals United have conceded in recent years, there were a lot of questions to be asked, even if it did look spectacular when you saw the TV footage.
First, it cam from a throw to United, two headers lost and Burnley were in on goal. Maguire beaten first to the ball when he should be winning it and De Gea being beaten too easily at his near post.
There was a late flurry of pressure from United, but it became clear that United were a team in need of inspiration, but a team without inspirers.
Most often an attack was ended by Nemanja Matic or Fred being unable to use their right foot. Both are good at what they do, but what they do isn’t what United need.
That late flurry brought about two incidents that were a match going first for me, VAR calls in the flesh.
One was for a possible red card for a Burnley player who had been booked, and a check to see if a United goal would stand. Neither decision went in United’s favour.
My own experience was that it was very quick, and it was clear what was happening as an announcement was made over the Tannoy, although the announcement sounded automated.
The previous two seasons, United had come from 2-0 down to draw 2-2. In last season’s match, it was two late goals that secured the point. It was not to be, as Burnley secured a 2-0 win.
It was a result that left United 5th in the Premier League, allowing Chelsea to extend their gap in 4th, and allow Tottenham Hotspur to pull closer and failing to take advantages of defeats for Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United.
It was a match which highlighted United’s deficiencies over the past seven years.
As soon as Burnley went 1-0 up, it was clear which way this match was going to go.
United’s players have a weak mentality and don’t know how to respond to adversity. When they fall behind, more often than not, they don’t know how to respond. Games against Watford, Arsenal, Bournemouth and West Ham are examples of that.
Even the League Cup game against Manchester City saw 0-1 escalated to 0-3 very quickly, which ultimately cost them, regaining their composure far to late, rendering the result at the City Of Manchester Stadium nothing more than heroic failure.
And when they do, such as games against Sheffield United and Aston Villa, they threw away the initiative immediately. They haven’t got the ability to close games out and always give teams a hope.
Also weak in mentality in terms of going away from home to bottom half teams. It’s their biggest game of the season and you have to be up for the fight before you can play football.
Don’t tell me United still aren’t a big deal. If Solskjaer gets sacked, the papers will clear at least ten pages to cover it.
They also seem unfit and don’t seem capable of playing two games a week. You could see the result against Bournemouth coming a mile off after a run of away games. You could see the result against Arsenal coming, after a busy run of games over Christmas.
Even this match, United’s seventh in January, looked like it was one game too far.
If you want to challenge for trophies, especially this side of Christmas, you had better get used to Saturday-Wednesday.
It wasn’t just this game that United bemoaned missed opportunities. It’s missed opportunities in general.
2016, missed opportunity to finish in the Top 4, shamefully allowing themselves to be intimidated by a West Ham side who had just lost 4-1 to Swansea.
2017, another missed opportunity to finish in the Top 4. It didn’t matter in terms of European qualification as United won the UEFA Cup. However, they could easily have finished 4th (dropped points to Everton, Swansea, West Brom and Southampton from April onwards) and killed Liverpool’s momentum. Typical of United in recent years, they didn’t know what they wanted to do. They could have finished 4th and won the UEFA Cup.
2019, 4th place was there but they threw it away.
Every summer has seen an opportunity to push forward missed by United.
2014, to prove the Moyes era was a blip.
2015, back in the European Cup, now to get back to winning titles.
2016, a lot of big clubs in a state of flux at the shock of Leicester winning the Premier League.
2017, three trophies in two years. Now to push for the big prizes.
2018, highest Leaguue position in five years. Now for the title.
2019, self explanatory.
The whole mentality of the club needs. From the day Sir Alex Ferguson retired, United have allowed themselves to be gaslighted. It should have been a case of business as usual. It started when David Moyes began complaining about a difficult run of opening games. He should have been saying it was a great opportunity to get points on the board and let rivals try to catch us.
The attitude of “Oh well, we had a good twenty years” needs to stop. Let’s have another good twenty years.
United beat every team in the League in 2017-2018 and allowed people to tell them they’re shite.
United beat PSG and Juventus away, and allowed people to tell them they’re shite.
It’s amazing what a bit of positivity can do. Liverpool scraped 4th, stuck a slogan on the side of a bus, and now everybody is afraid of them. The biggest grift job in history.
You’d think people would be careful about believing what they see on the side of a bus after the Summer of 2016.
The attitude of patting themselves on the back for pushing Liverpool and Manchester City all the way isn’t good enough and has to stop. Winning is all that matters.
No amount of Chicken Noodle sponsors will change that. If the decline continues, the Chicken Noodle sponsors will disappear. Chicken Noodle sponsors shouldn’t be dictating change. Results on the pitch should.
It’s true that United have missed key players through injury this season.
That should not be an excuse. That is why you have a squad.
Roy Keane missed most of 1997-1998 and United lost the title by a point. Nemanja Vidic missed half of 2011-2012 and United missed the title on goal difference.
Players get injured, you get on with it.
One of the few highlights of this season has been the emergence of young talent such as Brandon Williams, Mason Greenwood and Scott McTominay.
McTominay is a proper nasty wee shite. The day he gets his first red card, he’ll have a reputation. We should savour these days.
United have finally got themselves into gear, sort of, this Transfer Window, but why has it taken until the last week? They had three months to prepare themselves.
In is Bruno Fernandes, the greatest player ever or an overrated fraud, if you’re one of the millions of Twitter users who watch Portugese Football on Freesports.
Odion Ighalo is a stopgap, but United should have already had the squad in place to cope with Marcus Rashford getting injured, instead of dipping into the loan market.
Next for me in football trips, I might be going to the West Ham game in May.
I’ll definitely be staying in Bray for the Euro 2020 Last 16 game in Dublin in late June. There are League Of Ireland games on the Monday night so i’ll take in one of them.
There was a revised League Of Ireland First Division fixture list, but there’s no home game for Bray that night.
I’m still looking to go away over the July holidays. Tallinn is a hope but looking unlikely. I might go to Waterford that weekend. Waterford are at home on the Friday, but there’ll be other stuff i’ll be doing as well.
I’ve got a random urge to do a Newcastle/York double header towards the end of the year. Not for football, but for exploring somewhere I haven’t been to for a while. Oh course, as soon as I even consider visiting York, they get an outbreak of Coronavirus.
Wherever I go for my next football trip, hopefully the action on the field (I actually enjoyed my visit to Manchester otherwise) on the field is a lot better.