As the sole representative for the United half of this blog (that’s right, we have given up on hoping we still have a Liverpool and Chelsea contingent), there is much to do in terms of single-handedly carrying this website through its ups and downs. It’s especially difficult to have any ‘ups’ when your team has reached the stratespheric heights of 6th place in the league and is stuck there like shit on velcro.
So it’s as good an occasion as any to crawl out of the woodwork in true plastic fan fashion and croon about winning the 5th most important trophy in an English club’s calendar – because I’m guessing even the Europa League is exotic to British clubs now, given how fast they are at getting out of Europe (yes, I’m looking at you Spurs). Let’s face it, the Capital One Cup / Carling Cup / Milk Cup is confusing enough from the new name every year. That, along with the £100,000 prize money which is basically about 1/3rd of Pogba’s weekly wage, means that it should barely show up on the radar of any of the Premier League clubs that make bajillions off of the telly rights. And yet, trophy-counting as a measure for manager success has got so intense now that anything in the shape of a cup with three handles will do – regardless of whether Wenger agrees or not.
To be fair…
… it was an entertaining game, all joking about how important it was aside. Both Jose Mourinho and Claude Puel sent out their most-first-teamy teams with Southampton especially not set up to sit back and absorb pressure. They were also clearly the more prepared side, having had 2 weeks to focus on this game while United were running around England and Europe from one competition to another. And Southampton did go in front, before having a perfectly good goal disallowed for offside. That, along with the constant harrying by Redmond, Bertrand and Cedric meant that Southampton pretty much beat United at their own game – getting it out wide and putting in unplayable crosses. The better team on the night? Southampton for sure. There, I have put the game above my own personal allegiance thus showing myself to be a fair and balanced writer. And so now…
Zlatan is the first of the machines
There is no doubt in my mind that Zlatan is the first version of what eventually becomes T-1000 in the Terminator movies. He is never panting, never sweating and never not at the exact spot where he should be. Barring the one moment in the second half when Yoshida jumped into his back, causing a minor inconvenience of him having to go down for about 20 seconds, Zlatan did not show any other signs of human frailties. Sure it was a bit poor from Southampton to leave the man who has the most goals of anyone in English football unmarked in the 6-yard box. But that he keeps getting in those positions with so much ease cannot be solely down to others’ errors. It comes from having seen the exact similar situation a million times before, and knowing exactly what the other 21 people on the pitch will do at any moment. Like I said, machine.
Between Zlatan’s late goals in the league, the FA Cup and last night, United are getting pretty close to being a one-man team. Not that there is any problem with that, especially when the summary of his post match interview was basically ‘Yes, I knew I would score so much. That’s why I came here, I won everywhere else, so now I will win here’. If we’re going to be a one-man team, I’m completely fine for it to be that man. For those of us who remember Cantona, or have at least watched the Seagulls-Trawler interview, this must have sent a shiver of excitement down the spine. Finally, panache is back in the land of George Best, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo.
What next for United
The unbeaten runs and the ‘aliveness’ in the remaining 3 competitions feels like we are statistically on some good run of sorts that we should all be happy about. But when we look back at the opponents in this run, and the sometimes-unconvincing way in which we have won some of the games, it doesn’t really feel like we’re back to being the one team that everyone else wants to beat. Maybe that doesn’t exist anymore, with all the teams thinking they can beat any of the other teams because of all the money, and Leicester completely upending it all last season without any of the money.
If we have improved at all over the season, the FA cup game against Chelsea is where it will have to show. United were thoroughly hammered when we played Chelsea last, as has the rest of the entire English league at one point or another. They are truly a juggernaut, and to beat them would be one way to show that United have finally come together as a team. Till then, let’s celebrate the 5th most important trophy of the season!