I love Monday night games. I love them. I love looking forward to them all day at work, I love the shininess of the dew on the grass, I love Gary Neville, I love the Monday Night Football music and how it’s the same that it was when I was 13 and had just bought Club Hits 97/98… and I will love it when we beat Southampton, LOVE IT.
As we schlep our asses down to
The Dell St Mary’s to take on Ronald Koeman’s Southampton, we’re facing the first serious test since Arsenal. Hull were utter bollocks and Stoke, though they at least offered some resistance and nearly embarrassed us at the very end, were a bit bollocks. Southampton, though, have a bit more about them and are sitting cheekily in our Champions League spot after West Ham went above them into 3rd by beating Swansea on Saturday.
All the build-up so far has focused on Van Gaal’s apparent feud with Koeman from the two manager’s time at Ajax. You see, this may come as a surprise, but it turns out the two very successful Dutch managers have a bit of an ego on them. And when the two were manager and technical director at Ajax – a job tandem that has always seemed to me specifically designed to undermine the manager – they disagreed on something AND NOW FUCKING HATE EACH OTHER SO MUCH THEY REFUSE EVEN TO SPEAK THE OTHER’S NAME AT PRESS CONFERENCES!
Oh, what’s this? An article by Not Lazy Journalist Miguel Delaney who says that, despite a fairly major falling out at Ajax, they now have a respectful working relationship and simply aren’t inclined to pop over to each other’s houses for *Googles ‘stereotypical Dutch food’* some Edam and a Grolsch.
From what I’ve gathered from Delaney’s piece, the best I’ve found on the issue so far, Van Gaal pissed off Koeman when the latter was manager by giving Zlatan Ibrahimovic some specific instructions, which the striker took on board and promptly used to score, which was followed by van Gaal rather ostentatiously celebrating his own genius, which is a bit off.
Manager feuds are generally a non-story in my opinion, with the exception of really entertaining ones like Wenger vs Ferguson, or Wenger vs Mourinho, or Wenger vs Pardew, or Wenger vs Hughes. Compared to Wenger’s record, van Gaal and Koeman’s feud is, well, a bit shit, frankly. They’ll probably still shake hands at the end as well, denying certain outlets that juicy narrative to dribble over.
The reality is that the alleged feud is, as these things tend to do, overshadowing what should be a cracking game of actual football. We are one point behind Southampton who now haven’t won a game in exactly a month. Their last win was against Leicester at home, and since then they’ve drawn with Villa, been hammered at home by City and limped to defeat against Arsenal.
They’re in a rut, and we have to take advantage. We’re playing them at a time when their confidence is probably at a low, because as so many people wanted, they failed to step up against the big boys after a run of soft fixtures. They were bullied and pushed around by City and can’t really score, with one goal in their last three.
The key for us will be to take the chances that we get. Fortunately, we’ve been playing with a dangerous combination of speed and patience in the last three games but whoever gets the nod up front will have to be clinical, especially against Fraser Forster.
For this one, I really wouldn’t mind seeing Falcao get a start. Yes, he’s been a little crocked as expected, no, we probably shouldn’t take up the option to sign him permanently for £976 billion when he has to ice down his knees after every session, but it would at least be good to see how he reacts to a start, something which – and correct me if I’m wrong – he hasn’t had since Leicester.
Wilson is a cracking young player, though, and the lover of youth that van Gaal is don’t be surprised to see him tell my preference to fuck right off and start the lad up front again.
Elsewhere, Smalling is likely to have his hands full with Graziano Pelle (check out some key battles here by Daniel Feliciano on Fansided) though the Italian hasn’t scored in six. Morgan Sccchhhhneiderlin is missing, he’s quite good. Erm… back to us.
Let’s get this done and we can roll on to Liverpool next week.
Til tomorrow – there’ll be a match report either in the evening or first thing in the morning, and some analysis as soon as I can after that.