Manchester United continued their poor run of form this season with a unexpected draw with relegation possibles West Bromwich Albion last Saturday. After comfortably controlling the first half and scoring two unanswered goals, they inexplicably gave up two soft second half strikes which finished up as another two point loss for the former League Champions. What is worrying is not so much their point total, or their slow start to the season. Traditionally, United get out of the blocks slowly but build to a storming spell after the turn of the New Year to challenge for honors. It is the way they have failed to win these games and the manner in which they have surrendered leads that leaves cause for concern. Yesterday showed us just how poorly they are playing right now.
If we look at Saturday’s performance, bear in mind it is not unusual for United to struggle at Old Trafford against weaker teams. Many come there and fight for a point, but in doing so, they have weathered attack after attack, and with luck, have kept the home side at bay. The fans drive United upfield and the players respond likewise. Saturday was different. With 20 minutes to go, Sir Alex Ferguson introduced Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes into the fray, which under normal circumstances, should have signaled a cavalry charge like atmosphere with United playing 3 strikers. Nothing of the sort. The crowd were quiet, and the players hesitant, and the game fizzled out into a 2-2 draw.
More of the same came earlier in the season as United surrendered leads at Everton and Fulham and when you couple that with the tame draws against Bolton and Sunderland, it’s not hard to be concerned. The players already look jaded which is hard to fathom so early in the season, although if we look closely at the squad, it’s clear that many players had disappointing and troubling summers. Ferdinand, Nani, Brown, O’Shea and Anderson all had serious injuries. Rooney, Carrick and Evra had nightmare World Cups followed by troubling personal problems. Berbatov,Van der Saar, Scholes and Giggs have all retired from their National squads and Valencia is out for the year. Hardly a positive atmosphere surrounding Carrington these days, not to mention the Rooney incidents.
It looks on the face of it that this could be down year for the club with only 3 wins from 8 League games to date. The possibility exists that come Christmas, Chelsea might be well out of sight, and if this form continues, they might struggle to finish in the top 4, which would be a disaster for 2011. But, one thing I’ve learned about being a United fan for over 30 years, and that is to expect the unexpected, and who knows, the old Scot might just rekindle the club’s passion on the field to where United are still challenging for honors come May next year.