This morning I’m recovering from the disappointment-hangover of Liverpool going through last night, and ever so slightly increasing the odds on us winning the tournament despite Louis van Gaal’s insider tip. Bolton’s fitness was absolutely appalling towards the end of the game – Eidur Gudjonsen in particular looked like someone’s dad – and some idiot got himself sent off after 60 minutes which ruined it. Great goals from Liverpool though.
The other reason I’d prefer Liverpool to get knocked out as soon as possible is that if I hear the words ‘Gerrard’ ‘Birthday’ ‘FA Cup’ and ‘Fairytale’ in the same sentence again, the flatscreen TV on the wall of my workplace’s gym canteen may find itself in need of repairs. (That’s where I write, I don’t just hate them in there).
Anyone listening to Mark Chapman on 5Live last night might have heard the United fan sneakily throw in this while talking: “We’ll praise and eulogise Gerrard in a minute, but…” which was as funny to me as it will be infuriating to Liverpool fans. The drivel being spouted about how it brilliant it would be for a player who, though undoubtedly loves Liverpool, seriously considered going to Chelsea and has now hot-footed it to the land of moolah as fast as his ageing legs with carry him, is now officially reaching fever pitch in the search for yet another Hollywood narrative.
Even Gerrard himself must be laughing at the whole thing. I would imagine he preferred winning the Champions League nine years ago than winning the er, FA Cup on his birthday.
Anyway, back to us. Things have been a little quiet since our brave boys decimated the mighty Cambridge Tuesday night, though a couple of players have been piping up. Maroune Fellaini gave the mother of all interviews to the official website yesterday, spouting tasty morsels like, “the most important thing, in the end, is we won the game and we are through to the next round,” and “In England, the FA Cup is a very big competition so it’s good to be there” and finally, “when you don’t concede a goal and you win, it’s good for the confidence”. Jolly good, Marouane.
Meanwhile van Gaal has been charged by the FA (the FA absolutely love charging people, they love it) for having a go at Chris Foy after the 0-0 draw away at Cambridge. It’s all a bit daft, though, considering that his command of English probably means that he simply meant he didn’t get the decisions he wanted rather than Foy was wearing a Cambridge shirt under his gear, but there was probably an element of the ‘small teams always get the favour’ in his words.
Normally we get that sentence where someone says, ‘the FA has called upon van Gaal to explain his comments…’. I haven’t heard that yet, which is a shame because I love the image of a panel of four FA suits scratching their heads and frowning as van Gaal says things like, “Yuh. Er, I think… you are… er…. wrong [steely glare], end I hef nothing more… to say. OK?” OK, perhaps he’d be unfailingly polite, but I like the idea of him finishing like that, flipping the table and striding out with his cape blowing in the wind.
Someone who did say something interesting last night was Jonny Evans, who was talked to the Guardian about the players adapting to van Gaal’s style:
“The lads have taken a lot on board. At times it has been tough and it takes time. We’ve been used to playing a certain way for a number of years then the change [of manager] happens and he wants us to play a certain way. So it does take time for those things to become second nature. But you are starting to see that now. The fact that the formation has changed a lot has taught the lads an awful lot. Coming into games, if we do have any changes in formation I think it is a big plus for us to have. The fact we are using different formations against different teams can only benefit us in the long run.”
It makes it fairly clear, for anyone who hasn’t yet grasped the concept, that van Gaal will never settle on particular formation, but rather chops and changes depending on the opposition. The ‘at times it has been tough’ line suggests that the players have struggled in training and games to adapt to the new system, but that’s completely natural.
Of course we want to see United play fast-paced, flowing attacking football but van Gaal was never going to come in and adapt his methods to United’s traditions. That’s not what United pay him to do; they pay him to win using his experience. I read a comment the other day that the Glazers would sack him for not playing attractive, brand-friendly football, which was a good one. But those desperate for a more intuitive approach to United’s play, rather than a rigid system, can pay heed to Evans:
“When you get as many attacking players on the pitch as we’ve got you are always going to entertain. But the manager has done a lot of work in trying to steady the team and making sure everyone knows their jobs. Once we get that nailed on, and everyone knows their defensive jobs, then I think we’ll be able to push on from that and be really entertaining again.”
Evans then went on to point out that Untied are conceding far fewer goals of late than they have been, which is absolutely the case. Only Chelsea and Southampton have conceded fewer goals than us at this point and as Evans points out, things have been much better since we shipped 5 away at Leicester.
Right need to get to work. Until tomorrow.