RAF

Afternoon all,

After managing to get through the horribly depressing experience of sitting down to watch United on Match of the Day knowing full well what was coming, there are a couple more points to add from yesterday.

Firstly – the embarrassment of our second half implosion is matched only by the embarrassment Mark Clattenburg should feel at awarding Jamie Vardy that penalty.

Vardy performed very well, and his story may be the footballer’s dream of lower league progression, but it leaves a bad taste in the mouth when you watch him fling himself to the floor like he did. I didn’t hear a single peep about that after the game, though knowing media’s love for a great narrative, it was probably too much to expect.

It wasn’t dissimilar to Arjen Robben’s swandive against Manchester City, the kind of Platoon-style death fall that some players have turned into skill in itself, where they manage to make minimal contact into looking like a shoulder barge from the 1980’s.

You get the feeling that the very second that Rafael got up from Vardy’s shove, Clattenburg had his number. Vardy knew it too, because Rafael had that ‘I’ve just been wronged and I’m going to set it right’ determination in his step. All it needed from then on was Vardy to sell it, and Clattenburg bought it.

Still, watching the (very decent) analysis from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink I couldn’t but think that one player’s time might be limited among others. Chris Smalling has never looked a player who has the composure to follow Ferdinand and Vidic and should, if he is not already, be on borrowed time.

He is so nervous in possession that it seems to affect the players around him. Tyler Blackett, who at this stage just doesn’t quite look ready for the big time, does not need someone like that alongside him. Phil Jones, though far from perfect, needs to get back quickly.

If Louis van Gaal was happy to say publicly that Danny Welbeck couldn’t cut it at United, it’s difficult to see his patience with Smalling lasting when other, Strootman-shaped options become available. Between Jones, Jonny Evans and Smalling, the latter is surely headed for the block first.

As I mentioned yesterday, there remains a real lack of leadership at the back, the vacuum caused by the departures of Rio, Vida and Evra having not been filled.

We are now three points behind Manchester City who have played Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool already. Let’s hope the mess at the back can be sorted out at training before we come up against the big boys, or there are going to be more embarrassments to come.

That’s all for now – more tomorrow.

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