Mid-season (sort of) thoughts

I don’t write about United often enough to convey just how much of my life they actually consume.  I also venture a guess that every season following a World Cup is a topsy-turvy one, as the teams with the most talent have the players who are the most tired.

At any rate, the season is just over the halfway mark with 20 games now played.  The chant “We’re shit and we’re top of the league” that was sung this past Tuesday probably sums up most supporters’ feelings towards this season.  United miraculously remain unbeaten in the league though, and have been plenty lucky to avoid a few losses this season when a draw was eked out in the end (most memorably against Aston Villa).

Yet despite the lack of any real bite in performances, no other team looks remotely like challenging for the title.  City sit in second place and look just like the New York Yankees:  a bunch of overpriced, overhyped talent with gigantic egos who can’t get along.  Arsenal are in third and have yet to prove they can compete against men (beating Chelsea the other week doesn’t really count when Chelsea’s current form is taken into account).  Tottenham are in fourth but seem to lack the bite necessary to win.

And then there’s Chelsea.  What can be said that probably hasn’t been written by other United supporters?  Probably not much but I’l give it a shot: 

The defending champions sit in fifth place, lost yesterday to (at the time) the last place team in the league 1-0 on an own goal.  Going back to the beginning of November, they’ve played 11 league matches, have drawn four of them, lost a staggering five, and won only two.  They sit 9 points behind whilst United have a game in hand, not to mention that United have yet to play Chelsea, which should at this rate put further distance between them.  With any luck the Rent Boys will find themselves out of European competition even while Captain Douchebag Extradinoire John Terry still claims that they’re the most successful club in the premiership.  Look at the table dick!

But enough about the competition.

The players that have impressed the most this season are :

  • Javier Hernandez – the guy just seems to find ways of scoring, even in limited playing time and mostly as a sub.  I wish he got more playing time over Wayne Rooney (more about him later).
  • Anderson – looking more and more like Scholes’ long-term replacement.  Just last season it looked as if his time at the club had come to and end, but he’s put in some fantastic performances this season.
  • Park – despite a slow start to the season he’s had a few game winning goals when it looked like another draw was in the cards, and he continues to work hard every match he plays.  Surely he’s been missed over the holiday period and it seemed to me that the matches against Birmingham and Stoke were matches where he could have made a big difference.  Not the most creative player, but sometimes that’s just not what’s needed.
  • Raphael – he seems intent on making up for his red card against the Germans last Spring, and for me has done it.  He’s routinely shut down his side of the pitch, receives fewer and fewer yellow cards for stupid fouls, and has even started getting forward more frequently.  Clearly he’s first choice starting right back now, and that at just the age of 20.

Players that frequently impress but perplex me are:

  • Berbatov – one match he scores five goals and the next he barely gets a touch.  A little consistency would be nice, though it has to be noted that he never complains or publically questions his role at the club.
  • Nani – if he ever gets his head sorted out he’ll have successfully replaced Ronaldo.  His decision making is suspect at times and I could do without the “flair” that he brings when he goes to ground, though in that respect he’s got nothing on Ronaldo.  His assist count is up though, and his game winning goal against Stoke the other night was nothing short of brilliant.

Those who have failed to impress me are:

  • Rooney – I’m in the camp of supporters who feel that he should have been let go.  I don’t get the mid-season pout over his contract, the threat to leave the club for City and the club then making him the highest paid player on the island.  His goal scoring drought has been unbearable to watch, his decision making terrible, his touch has left him, and he’s just not a red through and through for all the trouble and expense he brings.  He scored his first goal from open play this past Tuesday since March, but isn’t that what strikers get paid to do?
  • Gary Neville – it’s hard to get on his case for all he’s done, but clearly his time is up.  Surely there’s a role at the club for Nev, but it’s no longer at right back.

All in all things are looking up.  Park will return soon enough from the Asian Cup, Scholes will hopefully return from injury, and Valencia’s miraculous recovery from a broken leg in September most likely means he’ll be back next month. 

Surely it’s a little premature to start celebrating the title now, with 18 matches to go, but there’s reason for optimism.

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