Monday, September 23, 2013

Worse than 6-1

      I am not a football analysis enthusiast. Lets just say that i lack that instinct to analyse sport. You will not find me engaged in a protracted debate dissecting the nuances of that oh so well timed pass that created that god awesome goal. I would rather chalk that down to exquisite artistry borne out of a well oiled machinery that is both elegant and sheer genius at the same time. One such machinery is Manchester United, of whom I have been a supporter for the past decade. I do not intend to wax eloquent on the club's legacy and the wonderful players that have plied their trade in the theatre of dreams en route to becoming footballing success stories. To do so with the limited knowledge at my disposal would be both farcical and a gross excess. 

     But what spurs me to depart from lurid, contrived fictional pieces , as is my wont, is the shocking capitulation to Manchester city in last night's derby. Anyone remotely familiar with United's style of playing would have been stunned with whatever happened in those traumatic 90 minutes. It all began well enough , with Welbeck pouncing on a possible opening just outside the  penalty area within the minute; united's famed spirit and grit on display. But then, things steadily went downhill from that point on. City donned the mantle of well oiled machinery, and before long began creating problems for the united back 4 with wily, deft and often cheeky footwork by Aguero and co. this was not entirely unexpected, but what was worrying was the regularity of such infiltration s in the united area. United looked woefully out of sorts to match up to city's rhythm; they were unsure of themselves and were not able to get the ball for a good part of the first 10 minutes: a sinister combination that portended bad news for the united faithful. And our worst fears were confirmed when Aguero consummated a fluid move to put the hosts ahead. 16 minutes. Of course, the match was still in its infancy, and United were no strangers to such tight , dire situations. Many are the times when the Red Devils have shaken off tardiness and turned tables. And thus the fans consoled themselves. But then, the next five minutes yielded little by way of promise. United continued to be wobbly, laggard and unsure. No menacing runs by Valencia, no darting runs by Rooney down the centre, no pin point passes from Carrick, and no physical domination in midfield by Fellaini. Again, nothing to worry about. Half time was nigh, and sufficient faith had been reposed  in Moyes to tweak something somewhere and get the mean warhorse that is united up and running again. Just like his predecessor. But then came the second goal from a set piece at the stroke of half time, and united fans found their faith ebbing away. United now had to move a boulder, and more,  to head back to Old Trafford with a point. 

   Nothing however could prepare even the most seasoned of United's faithful for the nadir that was reached in the second half. The intent and the sense of urgency that one has come to be expected of United when they have their backs against the wall were conspicuous by their absence. Sure enough, City smelt blood, and before united could even begin to prepare for the worst, fired 2 past a hapless De Gea. The score line was 4-0. Surely even the greatest clubs couldn't have clawed their way back from this god forsaken abyss. But the mark of a great club lies in their ability to fight to the death nevertheless. To play for pride , as they say.  To redeem themselves. And United have always done that. It is in that never say die spirit that United holds sway over the football loving junta. They have always fought viciously for an open ball, they have been sure of themselves, the opponent would have to work to wrest possession, to stop those enticing balls that were threaded through to the front line by an ever enterprising tireless midfield, to stem those lightning fast runs down the flank, to fend off balls lashed in dangerously from the flanks, to defend set pieces. In short, the opponent would normally find it very difficult to stay in the lead. But that was not the case. City dictated terms with amazing ease. It was almost as if the spirit of United had been sucked out on the pitch at the city of Manchester stadium. They had meekly accepted defeat. 

   And that was what stung like a million bees. I am sure there would not have been a single United fan who didn't watch the match with jaw constantly dropping to the floor in dismay and disbelief. There was no manager on the touch line, arms wildly flailing, exhorting his players to a better performance. There were no probing runs, no questioning crosses, players constantly lost the ball cheaply, De Gea spilled easy balls on quite a few occasions, silken touches and deft passes were nil, set pieces were dealt with with surprising  ease, Fellaini's towering physique was overshadowed, players kept running into each other, there was no urgency or motivation, the list is endless. The pallor of defeat was writ large on the united camp. And that is what is most worrying. Resignation to defeat. 

    Two images stuck on a long time after the match. Navas' unchecked run for almost the entire length of the pitch that culminated in a goal, and Evra's accusatory glance at Fellaini after one of the goals. Sure ,United has lost 6-1 to City and 4-1 to Liverpool in the recent past under Sir Alex , but for me, this ranks worse than either of those humiliations. Probably because they played so well against Leverkusen midweek. They gave them a tough time, attacked with intent, and barring a few occasions, defended well. Was van Persie's absence alone responsible for this ignominious defeat? If yes, has united ever been excessively dependent on one player? The answer as far as I can see is no. And that is another remarkable thing about united, it's not about a person, it's the team. Welbeck was grossly disappointing in a game where he could have so convincingly demonstrated his prowess, without the Dutchman's shadow on him. In fact, not one of the players was above blame. All of them seemed like fishes out of water; that grit and passion was missing. City played really well, point taken, but they were not extraordinary; they were made to look extraordinary by a lacklustre  rusted united. One couldn't even bring oneself to be awestruck by Rooney's insane free kick. He himself seemed a shadow of the  Rooney from last week. 

   It's early days in the campaign , and to write off United as being pushovers this season would be an exercise in foolishness. As an ardent supporter of the grand old team that has won 20 premier league titles , I firmly believe that we have the wherewithal to rise from yesterday's debacle , sort out chinks in the armour and restore that fighting spirit that we have all come to love, adore and worship. In United we trust. 


totalliemeh said...

Meh. In case that didnt register the emotion correctly, MEH. But this did help in my GRE prep.

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