Reaction from United’s shock exit in the League Cup.
Congratulations before recriminations – but perspective, please, at the same time
Before this reaction has even been posted there will be a hundred or so articles around the world, and thousands of tweets and social media posts mocking United’s embarrassing exit from the League Cup. Price comparisons of each line up will be posted ad infinitum. United fielded Lukaku and Pogba and still lost. All of these are worthy criticisms but let us first congratulate Bristol City for a magnificent, deserved win, achieved in style with a stunning opening goal and the thrilling late goal. These are the moments football is made for, the unpredictable moments which define the sport, and even though United are the victims on this occasion, it is perhaps a refreshing reminder of what football is good for in a season where the sporting aspect is being sucked out of it.
Here’s the perspective against all of the criticism that will be levelled at United on and off of these pages; we are 18 months into Jose Mourinho’s reign. Louis van Gaal may have found his way into the headlines again recently but that presence should only serve as a reminder as to where United were two years ago this month, and coincidentally, eighteen months into Van Gaal’s own reign. Then, United were being played off the pitch by Norwich at Old Trafford in a nadir not seen since the club’s relegation season in 73/74.
Manchester United have suffered shock exits in the League Cup. York City won 3-0 at Old Trafford. Eleven years ago a United side with Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney lost at Southend. Ten years ago we lost at home to Coventry City. It is a bad night but hardly the time to jump to over-reactions. Considering how much people have forgotten those trophy wins of last season, this comment is probably as much use as pissing in the wind, but it’s worth saying.
A premature obit…
On the subject of early obituaries. Evaluations of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s performance were not kind, with those who build their careers and popularity on the strength of mid-game controversial ‘hot takes’ having a field day. The Swede looked ring rusty and off the pace but too many were too quick to write him off completely. Some going as far as to say he was ‘finished’. His free-kick was a timely reminder that he may still have something in the tank. It’s too early to say either way but it should serve as a reminder that those prone to spouting such histrionics are usually the ones whose opinions ought to be ignored.
…and some are overdue
Matteo Darmian was selected despite his future clearly being up at United. So what was there to learn? Does he need a shop window? It seems unlikely, as there are Italian clubs lining up. How do United benefit? Well, they don’t. Because Darmian is a prime example of players brought in by previous management who have proven themselves that little bit short of the quality needed at United – of a group of players whose highs never threaten to come close to the likes of the top players of the past, and whose lows result in events like tonight.
Jose Mourinho has largely done a good job of upholding the ‘youth spirit’ of United and his comments on the matter have backed that up. Picking Axel Tuanzebe in front of Darmian might have been the smarter choice tonight. It may have also been a risk. Mourinho is still learning but he will have been educated enough on Darmian, surely, by now. Some conclusions are premature. Others are well overdue.
A mean Gibson
This will sound harsh but isn’t meant to. Not really. Scott McTominay is functional. He is not as bad as Darron Gibson was at his worst; but he’s not as good as Gibson was at his best. Is a standard Darron Gibson good enough for the United midfield?