By Rasheed Abu Bakar
It seems to me that something is just not right at Old Trafford. Not that I’m ungrateful that United have a 15-point crater at the top of the league table or that they are eight games closer to recording their 20th Premier League title, but since the loss to Real Madrid last month, United have looked rather ‘tired’.
Emotionally drained, I mean.
Just before that fateful Champions League second leg at Old Trafford, United swept four past Norwich City with Shinji Kagawa grabbing his maiden hatrick. After that emotional loss to Real Madrid, United allowed Chelsea to force a draw in the FA Cup and then recorded 1-0 wins over Reading and Sunderland.
A win is a win, yes, but I’m not used to these sort of wins. I’m used to the 3-0s, 4-0s or the 5-1s. It is hard to say United don’t have the firepower – Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck are all certain starters if they were not at United. They are established match winners.
Discipline won United the game at Sunderland. The defense and midfield kept to instructions and saw the game out. The attack however, looked rather tepid. Apart from Titus Bramble’s own goal, Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet was quite the bystander.
Against Chelsea, United looked tired and the lack of urgency is alarming. Apart from a central defender and possibly a central midfielder, United desperately need a creative wingman.
Nani’s crosses barely got past the first defender and who’s that in United’s number seven jersey? Surely not Antonio Valencia, the Sir Matt Busby Fans' Player of the Year and Players' Player of the Year in 2012? The Ecuadorian was sensational last season, but is strangely a different player this term.
The goal drought Van Persie is currently in is something all strikers go through but when you play for a club as big and as demanding as Manchester United, your lack of goals is often blamed for losses, draws and slender victories. Whether he scores again this season or not, Van Persie has done more than enough – has everyone forgot his goals that snatched victory at the jaws of defeat?
This ‘emotionally’-drained phase United find themselves in may continue even till the end of the season, but hopefully the 15-point lead is enough of a cushion to see them through.
It has been a long season and Michael Carrick, that instrumental player who links our defense and attack, has not had a proper rest in “a very long time”. To make it worse, Paul Scholes has also been injured.
With City next to visit Old Trafford, Ferguson’s soldiers needs a quick ‘pick me up’ to make sure that there is no more drama in the remaining games of the season.
From the Treble, to the Double, United now only have One trophy to play for.