So, in a matter of four weeks, we have gone from fighting on three fronts to just one (although we aren’t really “fighting” for the league). It can happen at this stage of the season.
The problem, for me anyway, was that (stupidly) I thought for a second that the treble might be on after all. After a good performance in Madrid and another for 55 minutes at Old Trafford, the fact Barca looked to be on the ropes in their tie against AC Milan and Chelsea at home in the cup, who wouldn’t allow themselves to dream?
Well, anyone that has watched United this season is the answer.
We have been far from vintage, and the events of the last few weeks have reminded a few people of that, myself included.
Yes, we are 15 points clear in the league, but when was the last time we played well for a whole game? Grinding out results is the hallmark of any great side, but we’ve rarely looked like one. How we are so far clear I am not exactly sure.
What annoyed me most about the recent cup exit (Nani’s red card aside) was the team selection at Sunderland on Saturday.
I don’t know if I mentioned it but we are 15 points clear in the league! Why are Rafael, Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie starting at the Stadium of Light?! They are our three most-used players this season (as well as our three best performers), so why not give them a full rest with Chelsea to play on Monday. Play anyone, get Bebe back from Turkey, put Lindegaard up front, anything. That was the luxury we’d earned with the 15-point lead, we could afford to rest anyone we wanted.
But we didn’t and it showed against Chelsea.
Valencia did okay at Stamford Bridge but we would have been better off with him in midfield, Rafael at right-back and Nani on the left. Cleverley on the left was never really going to work, especially with him, and Evra behind, looking more and more tired in the past few weeks.
The lack of rotation throughout the season has admittedly been down to injuries and form as much as anything, but I think it says a lot about the side at the moment.
Our strikers aside, we are unable to rotate players without sacrificing something, and we have been unable to rotate anyway due to our performances.
Conceding early and often in the first half of the season, and making hard work of nearly every game since, has meant that players have had to do 90 minutes too often. Taking am important player off after 60/70 minutes in a game that is already won is the ideal scenario. Our problem is that games this season have rarely been won after 70 minutes; we’ve either been behind, level, or just one goal ahead.
It seems pretty obvious to everyone except those inside Old Trafford that the team needs a midfielder or two – a creative playmaker and a defensive destroyer. We are also possibly missing a superstar player that can conjure something from nothing, even with RVP in the side.
It is telling that Ferguson was ready to part with £35m+ to sign Lucas Moura a few months ago and I would expect (and hope) that we will target similarly high-quality players in the summer. I won’t mention any names but there’s this bloke from Wales who is doing pretty well in North London…