1. No heart, no passion
I can handle losing. As a United fan I’ve not had to handle an awful lot of it in my lifetime, but I realise we can’t and won’t win every game.
What I think has been and is the most demoralising aspect of this rapidly worsening season, however, is the feeble manner in which we’re conceding games.
There’s a lack of passion, a lack of belief, a lack of togetherness.
Instead of losing our games as a team, I think we’ve been losing as 11 individuals, with stand alone errors, defensive frailties, inconsistency and a lack of quality all evident in our seven league losses so far this term.
Moyes said after the Chelsea defeat that he refused to throw in the towel in the title race but that was followed by captain Nemanja Vidic declaring our title defence over. While Moyes’ stance may be brave but unconvincing, I am at least buoyed by the sense that he’s up for a fight. I’m rather less convinced by the attitude and body language of our players – who I maintain should take the brunt of the criticism this season.
While many fans will admire the popular Serb for his honesty, it’s another incident among many this season where the manager and the players seem to be at polar opposites in terms of spirit and attitude.
With the way things are going, fans will worry more that rumours surrounding Rooney and Van Persie’s futures will become reality, but we can’t panic.
If Rooney, Van Persie and any other players don’t want to be here, the club will eventually have to deal with that, but right now the players need to stand up and be counted, and the fans need to stick by this club we claim we love.
It’s been easy supporting and playing for United when we’re winning, but it’s at times like these when we really need to show our character and play true to the values and traditions of what the club stands for – pride, passion and belief.
2. Oh we do love playing away
It used to be referred to as ‘Fortress Old Trafford’ but this season, as we’ve seen, the almost in-penetrable forcefield that surrounded us while playing at home has disappeared, and we’ve become vulnerable.
Teams have realised this season that they can come to Old Trafford and get something. They believe they can with as opposed to the old days when most teams were beaten before they stepped out onto the pitch.
In addition to the atmosphere at Old Trafford being more akin to a morgue over recent years, you might think the players are even preferring playing away from Old Trafford where the pressure isn’t as intense or the atmosphere so flat and uninspiring.
Ultimately we drifted out of the game yesterday but we began brightly, taking the game to Chelsea.
We belied the pre-game predictions and looked bright and positive, but as soon as we went behind to a deflected Samuel Eto’o strike, we regressed and never really recovered.
Our away support is renowned and a complete mirror image of Old Trafford.
In the opening 20 minutes yesterday, the team looked as if they preferred playing with the pressure off and with the vocal away fans 100 per cent behind them instead of playing under the scrutiny of the expectant Manchester masses.
3. Prepare yourselves for no new arrivals
The murmurs this January have been positive…but only in the sense that it looks like we’ll be busy in the summer.
Moyes has played down our chances of bringing anyone in this month, which seems at first glance ludicrous considering that our season is crumbling away.
Having said that, if Moyes is writing this season off, and perhaps looking to the summer as an intense rebuilding period because he flatly refuses to be ripped off in January, then I do understand and even back that strategy.
The papers can speculate about the loss of earnings should we fail to qualify for the Champions League (we’ll still pick up around £90m for finishing outside the top four) and how difficult it will be to attract players in the summer if that becomes reality.
They’re already doing a stupendous job of casting a shadow over the club in the midst of this difficult period, but the fact remains that Manchester United is still a huge club and a massive draw for the world’s elite players.
In recent weeks I’ve been advocating spending money on someone, anyone, in a bid to help us reach what is becoming an increasingly decreasing chance of reaching the top four.
That view has altered dramatically though. Take Marouane Fellaini, our only summer acquisition, for example.
We dithered over paying his release clause of £23m, then because all of Moyes’ other targets fell off the radar, we ended up going back to Everton, sheepishly, and paying over the odds for a player who hasn’t left the starting blocks yet.
In January, prices are even more likely to rocket and let’s not forget that we have our best two players to come back into the team too, so whereas finishing outside of the top four would be unchartered territory, I don’t buy into the hype that it would be absolutely catastrophic.
That’s not to say I want it to happen of course, but given a clean slate in the summer, I think Moyes will finally begin to believe that this is his club and will be able to start his project.
4. It was a stroll for Chelsea
Yesterday’s defeat was all the more depressing as it was hardly a case of Chelsea’s champagne football wiping the floor with us.
I didn’t think we were played off the park by a vintage Chelsea side by any stretch of the imagination – despite the fact they have a better squad than us and are in better form.
They didn’t have to play particularly well to beat us and yet they still managed to do so rather convincingly.
Their goals came courtesy of a striker woefully out of form and a shadow of the world class finisher he was four years ago – yet Eto’o made netting three goals against us look like child’s play.
5. The return of Rooney and RVP can propel us into top four
Moyes said after the game that his team would not throw in the towel but, realistically, any simmering hopes of United winning the title were doused yesterday.
But, they are only six points off the top four and Moyes and his men really need to regroup and prepare for a charging of the light brigade.
Moyes will be hoping that the return from injury of star turns Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie will ignite an end of season charge to snatch a Champions League place.
It looks increasingly unlikely that any players will arrive this month, and certainly no top drawer names, but let’s not forget that Rooney and Van Persie – our best two players – will both hopefully return from injury soon, and with them back to spark a late rally, you’d not bet against United making that top four.
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