Are There Any Problems At United?
We've said earlier that things look worse than they are. Now I ask whether there's any problem at all.
First and foremost, the most important thing: points. We have 14 after seven games, last season we had 16. Not much worse, I would say. Winning start away from home in the Champions League, against Sporting who are hardly also-rans.
Recent form. Five straight wins without conceding a goal. That's as good as it gets though hopefully it will get better.
Injuries. Owen Hargreaves will play tomorrow, Gary Neville is in full training, Louis Saha and Wayne Rooney are fit and available. I will go as far as saying that we don't really miss Park and Foster... so the squad is OK at the moment.
But is it? Do we have enough strikers? Well, most of you would say no. And it's always easy to bash the club when we know that Giuseppe Rossi scored two goals this weekend for Villarreal. Tevez is too similar to Rooney and won't get behind defenders they say: but didn't he do exactly that to give us the lead against Chelsea?
With players like Nani, Ronaldo, Giggs and Anderson in the squad, our striker shortage is misleading. We have plenty of attacking options and most of them are getting better and better with the more games they play.
Our performances. Oh yes, the weakest link. We spoiled United fans come to expect over the years to win trophies with breathtaking attacking football; something we managed to repeat last season. This season has been hardly classic United so far and I know that a lot of people are concerned that it might indicate a change in philosophy.
Their arguments are quite convincing, actually. Fergie's been experimenting with different methods to contain teams for years because according to his diagnosis that's been our major deficiency in Europe. One might say he realised the team can't have two faces: one in the league, where we tear the opponents apart and one in Europe where we should tactically outwit them. I don't know how could he have realised that, since this attitude almost worked last year (though I must admit that at home we were our league self while at away we were mostly simply bad), until that horrible night in Milan.
But is there a real chance that he might have sacrificed our entertaining value in the league, too, for success in Europe? I doubt it. Fergie's got attacking football in his blood, he suffers when his teams are not positive enough over a prolonged period of time.
It's all well to win the games 1-0 but with the quality of attacking players we have and more importantly, with the attitude our manager have, it won't go on forever. Somebody once wrote that it's dangerous and difficult to modify the DNA of a football club. Arsene Wenger was successful in this at Arsenal but I'm sure Fergie has no intention to do the same. We're off-colour at the moment, that's true but hey, play the role of the optimistic fan: let's say it's just proper timing of our real form, not to run out of steam by the end of April.
'Winning while not playing well is a good sign'. That's an old cliche but usually they contain some truth. I still expect United to start playing decent football at some stage...
Debts. I'm not an economic expert so I'm sorry but I can't really do anything else than believe David Gill who says the Glazers have a sound financial plan. Peter Hill-Wood, Arsenal's chairman said Chelsea's dream of being the leading club in the world in terms of revenue is simply bullshit. And he's right: our popularity, and the subsequent income from merchandising and like is a very solid foundation, along with our 76,000 stadium and Champions League prize money and TV money. The Glazers should really, and I mean REALLY mess it up for a serious financial crisis. And they still look much cleverer than Abramovich.
Oh, and to answer my own question: yes, there is ONE problem at United. That is the left-back position. That's trouble now.