Things Look Both Great And Terrible For United
Chelsea dropped points again; we won again; in terms of points lost we are now better off than them. That's great, isn't it? Well, sort of.
Win our game against Boro tonight and then those in hand (against Fulham and Wigan, both at Old Trafford) and we are ahead of Chelsea whom I consider our main rivals for the title, even though Liverpool currently top the table.
The bad thing is, however, that United are bad. I must put it this way, so bluntly because I must be honest. Our Boxing Day clash at Stoke was as terrible as it could get: a slow, disjointed display, without any pace, penetration or drive.
Scholes, Giggs, Fletcher and Ronaldo were all very poor, Rooney was frustrated and instead of channelling it into good football, he chose a less plausible way of anger management and was very close to a sending off all game. Carlos Tevez was our best attacker by far - and he was nowhere near the level he's capable of reaching.
And quite simply, no detailed tactical analysis could show us what's wrong. New signings can't be blamed - with the exception of Tevez, this team that played at Stoke could have been fielded in January 2006. If we take both Vidic and Tevez out then the remaining nine players are here since at least 2004.
Different formations, different line-ups, different tactical and individual instructions yet one thing remains: the slowness, the lack of penetration and the obvious lack of desire to fight. This is a minor miracle that we are within touching distance of the leaders after such a dismal autumn where the general mediocrity overwhelmed the occasional moments of brilliance.
Many blame Dimitar Berbatov's integration into the side for our woes but the fact is that the Bulgarian won the game for us at Stoke. The move was fine but it would have broken down but for his exceptional first touch which allowed him to get away from the defender and play in Tevez who made no mistake from close range. Of course it's only one substitute appearance, but were we better off without him? So many cried for the Rooney-Tevez partnership but did it improve the team? Not one bit, in fact, Wayne looks a much better player with Dimi than with Carlos.
Tevez is liberated a bit with Rooney in the side, that's true - but what's more important, the happiness of Tevez or the performance of the team? I like Tevez but he's the type of forward who thrives when the team's playing well, otherwise he's reduced to a workhorse. Berbatov, on the other hand, is capable of disappearing entirely when does not get enough support - but also capable of deciding games with a simple touch. And that is very important for a side as disjointed as United are at the moment.
The shining beacon of hope, if there is one, is that nothing's been lost yet, indeed, we are in quite a good position, thanks to our rivals who are dropping points everywhere. And there's the argument that players of this quality can't play so badly for an entire season and when the business end of the campaign draws nearer, they'll find renewed hunger and motivation in themselves.
I can only hope this will prove true as in our current shape it's difficult to imagine that any of the major trophies will end up at Old Trafford. I won't complain if good, entertaining performances fail to yield trophies or if the current brand of terrible football brings us another Double. However, if terrible football brings no trophies - which looks the most likely at the moment - then I'll be unhappy. Yeah, I'm spoiled but these players owe - not me but themselves and their status. They must start playing well for their own pride.