Wednesday, 24th April 2019
Manchester United v West Ham United
Filed: Friday, 12th April 2019
Author: Preview Percy
He's off to Manchester this weekend but before he set off Preview Percy left us his look at Saturdays's visit to Old Trafford. Thankfully, there's no mention of deer droppings this week.....
It’s a second away trip in a row as we traipse up the motorways to visit Man Utd. Kick-off is a visitor-unfriendly 5:30pm which will mean ramifications for those travelling. You see the last train out of Manchester Piccadilly leaves at 8:35 pm, which gives you about an hour to get out of the ground and get on a bus/tram to the city centre. It’s almost as if they actually want a repeat of the dangerous scenes at the same station a few years back. Still, it’s only football fans so who cares, right?
Daisy, the work experience girl with the beautiful smile, has consulted the little book we bought her for Christmas and informs me that this will be the 141st time that the two clubs have met with us having won 44, drawn 31 and lost 65 of the games played to date. The first meeting of the two clubs was surprisingly recent, coming as it did in an FA Cup 3rd round tie played in February 1911. For the record we prevailed 2-1 at the Boleyn.
This season will end up being described as “a season of two halves” once it comes to be written up in little books similar to the one we bought Daisy. The first half took them up to mid-December, a point at which they had won only seven of their first 17 matches. A 3-1 away defeat at Anfield was the final straw that broke the camel’s back and it was Adeus Mourinho. They resorted to former striker Ole Gunnar Solksjaer to take over, initially in a caretaker capacity. 10 wins, one draw and a defeat in his first 13 matches earned Solskjaer the job on a full-time basis and proved a couple of points. Firstly, the current Man Utd squad must really have hated Mourinho. And, secondly, the perception of how good a manager is in direct proportion to the value of the squad at his disposal.
Lest we forget in amongst all the “managerial genius” comments that the press love to bandy about, given a lesser squad and a much smaller budget this was the manager that presided over a Cardiff relegation and failed to get them re-promoted. In the same way as the collective IQ of the people in a room increases every time a Tottenham supporter leaves, so Man Utd were always going to improve the second Mourinho left. Their continued presence in the so-called Champions League owes a hellofa lot to one of VAR’s more iffy decisions – and there have been many of those.
Although their improvement in the league since the “irritating one” left has not been palpable in terms of position - they were 6th then and they are 6th now – the number of points gained since then is the really telling stat. To put it into some sort of context, after the Liverpool defeat they were 8 points off Arsenal in 5th place. Now they are just the two adrift of 5th, and only 5 points separate them from Chelsea in 3rd – and Chelsea have played a game more. However, they are on a slight wobble with four of the last six in all competitions ending in defeat.
The interim nature of the Norwegian’s original appointment meant that major signings during the last window were always going to be unlikely and, in the end, they didn’t bother. Perhaps more importantly, anyone who might have been thinking about lining up a move elsewhere to escape the misery of working with Mourinho elected to stay put, at least until the end of the season anyway.
Somewhat surprisingly (to me anyway) their top scorer in the league is Romelu Lukaku. I say surprisingly as, whenever I’ve seen him on the box recently, he has looked a bit off his game. Perhaps it’s just my imagination. He has, of course, a ludicrous scoring record against us so one wouldn’t rule him continuing on that run, although that will depend on his being selected – there will be one eye on the so-called Champions League trip to Catalonia next week.
The other factor affecting selection will be the suspensions of Luke Shaw (10 yellows) and Ashley Young (only the two yellows but both in the same match). Matic is a doubt with Herrera, Bailly, Sanchez and Valencia all out. That will limit the options to rest players in advance of the Barcelona tie.
And so to the wild and wacky world of this week in Association Football. Up the road, Spurs came within 2,000 of selling out their new ground for the first time for their So-called Champions League quarter-final tie against Man City. Perhaps they’ll sell out for us in a few weeks’ time. Incidentally, where are all the journos who were clamouring for the Olympic to be closed down last season when someone got on to the pitch?
Down in Cardiff, Colin continues to set back the hope of an intelligent debate – his post-Chelsea comments bringing him a charge, despite his attributing some of his more dafter statements to Mrs Warnock.
And Chelsea outcast Danny Drinkwater found himself blowing into a box of electronics after a car crash earlier this week. The resulting “beep” was not good news vis-a-vis the maximum amount of alcohol allowable in the bloodstream whilst in charge of a motor vehicle, and a suitable charge was forthcoming. I’m sure if you give me long enough I’ll come up with a suitable joke based on his name.
And so to us. Well I guess the defeat was only to be expected. Hazard was outstanding and gave the Chelsea fans some sort of idea as to what they will miss as soon as he legs it to a proper football club. What a shame that even with all Abrahamovic’s dubiously obtained billions they won’t be able to replace him. Not.
To be honest we paid them too much respect in the first half. Things changed a bit in the second, though yet again injury messed about with the best laid plans of manager and men, with Nasri pulling up lame in the warm-up. We did at least fashion some attacks and forced a save from Kepa. Having been in the lower tier I’m not quite sure how close Cresswell’s drive was, but he did catch it rather sweetly with that lovely low thuddy noise clearly audible from the away section as the ball left the boot. If I get round to watching a replay I suspect I’ll discover it was miles wide so I’ll probably delete that one before it gets watched so I can a least have some sort of fantasy that we went close.
Injuries? Well Nasri’s calf looks set to keep him away. Antonio had an ankle problem that precluded his contributing to affairs on Monday. That will make him a slight doubt this weekend. The rest of the sicklist is comprised of players we probably won’t see this season or, in the case of Carroll, at all. He must at least be tempering his cursing of bad luck with the thought that at least he isn’t a racehorse.
Prediction? Well it’s rare we get anything up there. To do so you have to both play well and rely on the honesty and competence of the match officials, qualities which go out of the window as soon as PGMOL’s ‘finest’ arrive at Brand HQ. And we’re not playing well in the first place.
If there is a best time to play them I suppose a couple of days after they were made to look ordinary by a coasting Barcelona is as good as any, and their selection may be made with one eye on the glimmer of hope that they might find as friendly an official for the second leg as they got in the PSG match. Their record after European defeats is not great this season so maybe this is as good a time to play them as any.
However, for all that to work in our favour it would require a level of grit and determination that has been all too obvious by its absence in recent weeks. So, for that reason I will but the £2.50 I was going to spend on sending Julian Assange a pair of sunglasses on a home win. So it’s on to the Winstone Turf Accountancy app I will go (when the fun stops it’s time to spend your laundered roubles elsewhere) and put the lot on a 2-0 win to them.
Enjoy the game!
When last we met at Salford: Lost 4-0 (Premier League August 2017 ).
Another opening day where we failed to turn up. Lukaku got his standard brace and Martial & Pogba completed the scoring. Highlight of the day was hearing a gobby home supporter on the train back into the city centre put firmly in his place by one of our more elderly followers who shut him up by asking him why he spoke with a London accent but sang in a northern one.
Referee: Graham Scott
Nearly demoted by PGMOL, he was last seen down at Cardiff where he refused to allow a stoppage for a feigned injury late on. Such a shame he didn’t see fit to do the same on the 8 or 9 previous occasions they used the tactic to break up play. Is supposed to be waging a one-man war on diving. We’ll see.
Danger Man: Romelu Lukaku
Force of habit really. He will be banging on the Norwegian’s door if he gets left out against us.
Ah – I’ve got it: If only Danny had drunk water on his night out the other night he wouldn’t have been in so much trouble. Told you I’d come up with something.
And on to the poser. Last week we visited Surrey News which covers the area in which Chelsea’s training ground is located. Surrey it seems has a problem prompting the following headline from which we nicked some words:
Can we sort out the etiquette for greetings so that people stop accidentally XXXXXXX XXXX
Well done and a “hats off” to Mrs Jocasta Haemoglobin of West Mersea for correctly identifying the missing words as “kissing ears”, something that is apparently something of a major issue in Surrey.
Tempted though I was to stay with the Surrey News in honour of this week’s opponents’ support-base there was a much funnier headline in the Manchester Evening News for whom the following was a major, er, thing:
'I found a XXXXX on my petrol station forecourt, so naturally, I XXXXXX XX XXXX XX XXX XXXXX'
Good luck everyone!