It is also one of the reasons why I tend to stay away from the press and online media for a few days after a stinging defeat. What I guess will be going on is criticism of Fergie’s tactics, the media being stunned by the fact that the 3rd placed team beat the league leaders, Wenger being smug about the ‘validation’ of his methods, a United player talking about bouncing back and of course, as is customary, the prophecy of doom.
What I want is less rhetoric and more concrete results.
I have never thought that United players lacked the desire and the drive to go out and win trophies and I certainly don’t think that the determination has diminished in the wake of a loss, which, to be fair, is not exactly a shock of epic proportions. Maybe it’s only shocking because Arsenal didn’t buckle under pressure towards the end or maybe it’s shocking because we crushed Arsenal in the same fixture last year. But the reality is that Man United have won only 5 away from home all season and have drawn 9 with even Blackpool having won away more often than United have!
The driving force behind our league-topping season so far has been our almost perfect form at home where we have won all games, except for a (stupid) draw against West Brom. So, taking into account our dire away form and the fact that Arsenal are not exactly a poor team, a defeat is not astonishing, is it?
That’s not why United fans will be gobsmacked though. The uncomfortable and sickening feeling in the midst of faint optimism is that United might be bottling it, something we don’t usually associate with our team.
United players are gladiators who can fight and win against all odds. Of course, the season isn’t over yet and we would still rather be where we are than be in Chelsea’s or Arsenal’s position. Even if we lose all our away matches now (I mean, the one we have at Blackburn) and continue our brilliant home form, we will be English champions again.
If we lose at home to Chelsea, then perhaps we did not deserve the title. But what we have to remember is that coming so close to the title and losing it will never be remembered by anyone in 50 years’ time. Winning a record 19th title would be creating history. As the great Bill Shankly once said: “If you are first, you are first. If you are second, you are nothing.”