There are occasions in life when getting the job done provides a sense of relief rather than achievement. There is definitely happiness and elation, but the overriding feeling is more of Thank God It’s Over. For everyone associated with Man Utd, fans & otherwise, no truer words can be designed to describe this last week.
Unexpected Thriller at Old Trafford
It all began with that crazy game against Nottingham Forest on Saturday. The match hadn’t even started properly when it threatened to be over as a contest. United found themselves two goals down inside the opening five mins, first of those goals a counter attack from a Man Utd corner. The fact that Boly didn’t even have to make the effort to score Forest’s second goal summed up United in those opening 5 minutes. At this moment everyone thought that the game was done. Forest will surely sit back having got an unexpected two goal advantage and United in the last few years have been terrible at unlocking low blocks.
However something totally different happened, Man United it seemed were forcibly shaken off their stupor and started playing some wonderful football. The break came from the left with Rashford doing a nifty skill inside the box to supply a neat cross for Erikson to slot home. Casemiro tapped home the equaliser early in the second half after a wonderful corner routine completely flummoxed Forest. Bruno had a man sent off to reduce Forest down to 10 and scored from the penalty spot soon after to complete the comeback. With a goal and a man up, the expectation inside Old Trafford was for United to put Forest to the sword but the tide turned, United sat back and Forest looked the likelier of the two teams to score the next goal. 11 mins of injury time was added and United somehow saw the narrow lead through. There was a collective sigh of relief at the final whistle, jubilation of the comeback long replaced by pangs of anxiety and eventually the feeling “Thank God It’s Over”.
For those representing the club this wasn’t the end, a one hour sit in protest against the Glazers had been planned and successfully executed. Needless to say every minute of the hour was counted nervously by the authorities representing United, fearing the absolute worst.
Champions League Group Stage Draw
This week was also about the Champions League group stage draw and the nervous excitement that comes with it. Manchester United are back in Europe’s premier competition after finishing third last season and Champions League nights under the bright lights at Old Trafford will always have its special allure. United have been drawn in a group featuring Bayern Munich, Copenhagen and Galatasaray. Harry Kane who ironically was Ten Hag’s first choice centre forward will rock up against him in the group stage. Galatasaray generally welcome their guests to Hell so that particular away fixture for sure will be a tantalising prospect. This is a deceptively tricky group and nerves will be at an all time high if United find themselves in a situation where they need something at Bayern or Galatasaray away to progress to the next round. If Man United play to their potential, they will most likely progress through to the knockout stage but stranger things have happened and one should never count their chickens before they are hatched. The Champions League will feature heavily in the coming weeks anyway so more on these matches later.
Transfer Window Shambles
Last but certainly not the least this was also the final week of the Summer Transfer Window. United had started this window really well, three first team players signed before a ball had been kicked and promising avenues to sell some of the fringe players. At one point when West Ham offered 60 million pounds for a double deal of Mctominay and Maguire things were looking really bright. Maybe United should’ve accepted that offer, as things really started to unravel after that.
Glazernomics has always dictated how United operate in the transfer window and this year was no different. After the initial three signings it was sell to buy and Man Utd have never been good sellers. Elanga, Fred and Dean Henderson have been sold for decent amounts but nowhere close to what clubs like City and Chelsea sell their players for. Over the years United have also been very stupid in awarding high wage contracts to their fringe players. Some of these wages are so high that most clubs in the Premier League can’t afford them. Moreover to the discredit of some of our players they are happy sitting on the bench collecting wages at United rather than restart their careers elsewhere albeit with slightly lower wages.
Long term injury to Luke Shaw didn’t help matters at all and the scrap towards the end of the window to sign Reguilon on loan was both uninspiring and shameful. Every year there is at least one energy sapping transfer saga involving Man Utd which really drains fans like anything. This year it was Sofyan Amrabat, a player expected to be signed in early August but finally signed on loan on the last day of the transfer window. It does help when the player really wants to join your club but Man Utd were certainly foolish to keep this hanging till the last hours. The way Man Utd operates in transfer windows is enough to make even the most level minded fan reaching for antidepressants. By the end of it of all you are glad that it’s over and the focus can now shift on football rather than bicker over United signing or not signing players.
Arsenal v Man Utd: The Old Foes Go Again
With the transfer window now shut the focus is fully on the Arsenal game on Sunday. I don’t think anyone has any doubts about this being the most difficult game of the season so far. Arsenal these days are a force to be reckoned with and with a buoyant Emirates egging them on, the young Arsenal team will be out for blood. Manchester United have a terrible away record especially against the top teams and the result against Tottenham did not help at all. United have looked easy to play against in all the three games so far with midfield getting overrun on each occasion. Similar frailties against Arsenal can prove particularly costly with the potential to even turn into an embarrassment.
However things in life are never as bad as they appear from the outside and such is the case here as well. Bruno Fernandes has been the most creative player in the league so far and also tops the chart for Expected Assists. The only thing preventing him turning these numbers from Expected to Real is a proper number 9. This is why I am keenly looking forward to the debut of Rasmus Hojlund. We have all seen the script of young United forwards making their debuts against Arsenal before, if the storyline holds true this time as well we can fully expect Hojlund to have a decisive contribution in this match. Marcus Rashford, Antony and Casemiro also looked sharp in the second half against Forest and with more leg work on the training ground during the week we can expect them to hopefully impress from the start. The disastrous away record against the top teams in the league has to end someday against someone, a result against Arsenal on Sunday would go far in rectifying some previous horrors.