Arsene Wenger declared himself “disgusted” at his side’s inability to score against Sunderland and the decisions that went against him.
His barely concealed rage would have been better directed at his own side as they dropped crucial points in the title race and handed the trophy to Sir Alex Ferguson’s football betting favourites if some observers were to be believed.
If football was a computer game, Lemmings may be the most appropriate title.
24 hours later and the crowd have started running the other way. United are a spent force they say. It is a squad that isn’t good enough.
“This is a side producing a growing body of evidence, of which this defeat was the latest example, that it is reaching the end of the line in its current form.” The BBC’s Chief Sports writer Phil McNulty believes.
In a game where knee-jerk reactions are the norm and every action is over-analysed to try and find some insight that simply isn’t there, this is up there with the finest examples of running with the herd.
McNulty’s analysis is flawed as he overlooks the most basic aspect of the game – a good team is the sum of its parts.
United haven’t been about big name signings for some time as Ferguson holds out for the value in the transfer window he covets so badly. While he may frustrate some with his lack of activity as fans look enviously over the garden fence at the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, the policy adopted means an added emphasis is placed on team spirit and other such intangible qualities.
It is easy to pick on the likes of Michael Carrick and question why he has managed to secure a contract extension with the club, but he is part of something bigger. When was the last time a United team was full of big names? Not since the days of Scholes, Giggs, Beckham, Neville and Keane were there big names from 1 to 11.
The likes of Darren Fletcher (whose omission from the Liverpool game was admittedly baffling) and John O’Shea are prime examples of what it means to work hard for a cause and eke every drop out of their talent. Rooney, Nani or Berbatov can provide the flair, but when the cards are down a player willing to put his heart into a cause is infinitely more preferable to a team of show ponies. They are part of new type of Manchester United team, one based on efficiency and work-rate, and so far it has proved to be an effective formula.
There were flaws in the Liverpool game, of course there was. The defence, devoid of both Vidic and Ferdinand, looked flat against the effervescent Luis Suarez, and Rooney’s tumultuous season shows little sign of ending with a bang. There is work for Ferguson to do to secure the title once more, but only a fool would write off a side managed by the Scot – any prediction of his demise has always proved premature as he rebuilt great squads from equally great squads.
Keep a close eye on the reaction to the next three games as United play Arsenal in the FA Cup, before their second leg tie against Marseille, with Bolton the next Premier League opponents. What are the odds that they will be destined to win the title, Champions League and the FA Cup if they win these games in the opinion of the wise old hacks?
The truth of the matter is Man United sit atop the Premier League, three points clear of Arsenal who have a game in hand. No amount of analysis and conjecture off the pitch will change this.
The title has never been in the bag for United at any point despite being favourites with those who place football bets on a regular basis, nor has it slipped out of their grasp because they have a terrible squad. They will continue to fight to win it as they have done all season with the same men who have done so well so far. Save the analysis when all is said and done.
Courtesy of Pete South