Morning all, as I look out over the bright lights of Stockport.
I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about City’s comeback last night. You think they’re pants, and the next minute Aguero’s done it all himself as per usual. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they stole a win away at Roma – desperation will be high and if they actually show up like a decent chunk of them did last night, they’ve probably got a shot. *Emits Marge Simpson groan of disapproval*
Back to us. While reflecting on Rooney and Fellaini’s performances from Saturday, I remembered reading one of the Observer’s season previews a few years back where a fanzine editor, or one of the paper’s readers, would give a potted preview of their club’s prospects. One of the questions they were asked was who would be the “boo boy” of the year. The answer was dismissive: “United fans don’t boo their own players.”
At the time that was certainly true but Rooney, and subsequently Fellaini, have since managed to do enough to force sections of their support to break their own rule. You could argue Rooney deserved it after his flirtations with Chelsea and City and the subsequent lightning-quick new-contract-please-thank you turnaround, but there are two reasons I think they should have kept that noise to themselves.
For one thing I don’t think there is nearly enough attention paid to the role of Paul Stretford, his psychologically unsound agent once described by his former client Stan Collymore as “deeply manipulative”. I wouldn’t insult Rooney for suggesting he doesn’t have a mind and ambitions of his own, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that there was some serious puppetry going on at the time.
Secondly the sudden acceptance of Rooney as the hero on Saturday is of course another testament to the fickleness of us fans. We probably won’t be hearing much booing for a good while after the whole scoring-against-Arsenal thing. Essentially if he scores, and we win, some people change their principles remarkably quickly (I should probably point out that in May last year, I did write a piece about why United should consider selling Rooney, as it seemed pretty clear he was desperate to leave. May have been hasty.*Whistles nonchalantly*)
The key for him seems to be being valued and trusted as a captain and striker, something that van Gaal has clearly recognised. After all, upon arriving in Manchester the manager ignored all the crap that went on before he arrived and handed Rooney the captaincy, and in the last couple of weeks Rooney has finally played in the manner that his manager expected of him.
As for Fellaini, the return of his bully-boy confidence has now seen him relegate Herrera to the bench. The bovine clowns who jeered his every touch during the preseason game against Roma should now be suitably embarrassed, as van Gaal’s tight, disciplined approach plays right to the Belgian’s strengths.
I’ll admit that during Fellaini’s awful period under Moyes I had my moments of exasperation. I’m also still unsure if he’s worth the amount of money we spent on him – that’s all on Moyes and Woodward anyway – but to put it bluntly, his qualities of being able to annoy the shit out of players and throw himself about seem to be working rather well.
It’s certainly not pretty, but for the last few games it’s been effective. He was excellent during the 1-0 loss against City last month, for example, and would have been able to have even more influence had Smalling not gone and done his “it sometimes used to work in Fifa 98” goalie block and “I’m a massive bellend” second yellow.
Meanwhile, the good news is that Jonny Evans played 64 minutes for the reserves against Blackburn last night during a 5-0 away win which also featured goals from Herrera and Januzaj. Those two and Mata are really struggling to get a game at the moment, as LVG favours the more workmanlike central combination of Fellaini, Carrick and Fletcher.
It will be interesting to see what happens with that trio of temporary outcasts. I wouldn’t want to lose Mata (he writes a blog that signs off with “hugs to all of you” for goodness’ sake) but he certainly isn’t LVG’s cup of tea right now, so it seems.
The next couple of weeks really need to rattle through without anything disastrous happening. I for one would suggest that the players are literally (and I mean ‘literally’ – none of this “and then I literally shat myself, it was lolz” crap) wrapped in cotton wool for Hull and Stoke, especially with Ryan Shawcross skulking in the shadows.
We’re approaching an important period where we have to use the Arsenal win as momentum to carry us through Hull and Stoke, two completely winnable fixtures. Having Evans in the back line will help that, no doubt. He’s no anointed heir of Vidic but he’s still makes me less nervous than Smalling, even after the MK Dons fuck-up.
That’s that for now. Hugs to… no, I can’t do it. I’m more into the Charlie Brooker-style sign offs.
Track of the Day: Midlake – Roscoe (The Trials of van Occupanther, 2006)