Darron Gibson is no closed book. Apparently, the Irishman, in the aftermath to Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham, was the only United player to applaud the visiting fans. What that immediately suggests is something quite heartening about Gibson and not so much about his team mates. Perhaps, the others were left frustrated by events that unfolded on the pitch; be it United’s failure to score another or, more likely, Lee Bowyer’s controversial goal. Gibson might have been quite peeved too, but looked every bit thankful for Sir Alex’s decision to hand him a rare league start, and dare I say it, pleased with his overall efforts. After all, it was his pass that had set up Dimitar Berbatov to put United in front.
Yet, some were not so pleased. In fact, fans had vented their anger about ‘that podge Darron Blast-the-ball Gibson’ (to quote a Guardian user) in their numbers. In truth, while Gibson’s performance was hardly of the inspired sort, he certainly wasn’t the worst player on the pitch. In fact, and to quote another Guardian user, he was hardly ‘fucking woeful’ at St Andrews. Was he made scapegoat for United’s shortcomings? No, not quite – but he was very close to being so.
His United career so far has many similarities to that of Darren Fletcher, another who was much-maligned at this point. The typical response would be that Fletcher is technically superior, but this is no question about technique, or ability. Fletcher hardly won anyone over in his first few seasons at the club. Heck, the Scot had gone through much worse. There was even a story of how a cheeky fan had put him ‘on sale’ for 10p on Ebay, giving an indication as to how he was perceived by United fans then. Fletcher has since become recognised as one of the best on these shores. Gibson needs time.
The criticisms are not justified. It’s worth noting that Gibson has only made four league appearances this season (and he’s only started that many in the whole of 2010), and so it seems rather bizarre to call him the usual or to ask to sell him. It’s hardly enough games to judge him on. Actually, take the game against Bayern last season, where, if not for a spirited fight back from the German outfit to win the game on away goals, things might have been so different in Gibson’s case.
What might have been his finest hour turned out to be nothing of sort. On that night at Old Trafford, Gibson looked every bit of a Manchester United player. Originally it seemed a bizarre selection to start him in a do-or-die match, but it soon looked an inspired one as he scored inside three minutes and he continued to set the tempo in a blistering first-half. Unfortunately, for Gibson, Arjen Robben had other ideas.
Gibson is practically screaming out for more games. He needs the gift of the time, and probably less of the berating. In a Carling Cup game where United were ordinary, Gibson himself was extraordinary, scoring two (of the trademark long-range sort) in a 2-0 win and paving the way top another domestic cup success. “He’s the one player from our club who can get goals from outside the box,” Ferguson said shortly after. “He’s got tremendous power; the second goal in particular was fantastic.”
The human mind is not complex and is no enigma. The act of being irritated by another is by them having an annoying trait, and in Gibson’s case, that is shooting, well, almost all the time. Even up to a point where United fans even sarcastically cry ‘shooot’ whenever he approaches the penalty area. Games against Bayern, Spurs and Hull City, where he scored a cracker on the last day of the 08-09 season, are examples of what he could do when given time and space. While it’s frustrating at times, it doesn’t justify selling Gibson. He, like Fletcher did in his early career, still has a lot to offer at the age of 23. I know it, Sir Alex knows it and he knows it (just shoot bloody less, yeah?!).
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I’d also like to say Happy New Year to all our readers (and Darron Gibson)!
In times like these, when there are rumours floating around that the Glazers might sell United, it’s easy as a United fan to get carried away and wish for a belated Christmas present – to get rid of the Glazers once and for all. Even if I don’t believe in these rumours, it’s still good to discuss whether it really is that great or not. I’m not very competent when it comes to economics, but I can let you know what I think in terms of ideology.
If we, just for a minute, look past the economics part; the Glazers are pretty good owners, aren’t they? They don’t interfere with Sir Alex, they just let him to what he does best. Sure, there hasn’t been any big signings the past years and that might be the Glazers’ fault. But looking at where we are now, do we really need any?
And then we take a look to the other side of the town, to City. New signings all the time, no patience with managers, and so on… Do we really want that? Do we really want to become City?
Sure, City do have it much better than we do financially speaking. No debts, they can do whatever they want, whilst it’s the exact opposite for us. We have debts and can’t do whatever we want. As always when it’s politics, it comes down to priorities. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have it like we have it now with the Glazers than how City have it with their owners.
United have deserved their success, City have not. United get money through success, City get success through money. If you want a one-sentence description of the main difference between United and City, there you have one. What City (and of course, we shall not forget about Chelsea too) do is against everything I stand for in football. I don’t want United to become a part of that.
Say if Sir Alex retires soon and we have a couple of bad years after that, maybe we finish sixth and seventh for a few years, and we get bought by owners like City’s (not them, but someone like them), and all they would do then is to spend, spend, spend money on players and sack our managers whenever they feel like it. Let’s just say that happens (to be honest, it’s not too unlikely), I’m not sure I would call myself United fan after that. Because, as I said, it’s against everything I stand for in football. And you may disagree, and call me what you want for that, but that’s how I feel.
Regarding the pure economics part with City and United, I copied and paste a summary by @supermomo76 on Twitter (follow him, he’s brilliant):
“You need sustainable success, which means the club has to use its own funds. Look at Chelsea now, no money to spend. Throughout history, no single establishment lasted if wasn’t based on a business model. City has no business model. As for the debt free issue, it’s debatable, because you would then pay taxes around 28% and dividends too. The club’s value is around £1.2b and the debt is £509m (debt to assets ratio %42), which is acceptable. The £23m paid to service the debt/bond would have gone out of the club as dividends anyway.
Having said that, if a new owner comes and pay the debt, don’t you think he would want his investment back too? We have to be realistic. We don’t want to hate the Glazers just for the sake of it. Qataries or any Arabic royal family will destroy United. And this comes from an Arab. The Glazers are astute business family, made their money from scratch they will protect their investment. But others who woke up on oil fields didn’t work for their money and will not care about it at all.”
At last, I want to thank The Gaffer (ManUtd24) for this opportunity to write a guest blog here. It’s been a pleasure and I appreciate it very much. My name is Erik Jonsson and at Twitter you find me with the name “jonssonmufc”.
Birmingham City 1-1 Manchester United: Observations
“We’re still in a good position when you look at the bigger picture. We haven’t lost, we’re in good form – we played well at times tonight, controlling the game – and so we go into the next game looking to keep the momentum up.” Indeed, Michael Carrick, you are right. There’s no need to hit the panic button yet; United remain in firm control of top spot.
They are at the summit merely on goal difference. However, they have played two games less compared to City and so they must remain focused. It’s crucial. Had they not conceded in the very last minute of a somewhat disappointing game, things would have been so, so different. Fatigue might have played a part – rotation is key in this festive period but spare players is not what Sir Alex has a lot of at his disposal at the moment – perhaps why Darron Gibson was left to play on the right. The Irishman, having set up the only goal, endured a difficult game but was wrongly made scapegoat. He was not the worst player in a red shirt by any stretch.
But Lee Bowyer also proved a handful. Literally. United have had their fair share of decisions go their way in the past but they had a right to protest. It was unjust. Bowyer had committed a number of offences in this instance (and in the past, too!) for the goal not to stand. United were rightly peeved.
In the first half, it was all possession but no real penetration for the visitors. United simply couldn’t create and lacked any real cutting edge. Ryan Giggs did hit the post, but apart from that, United struggled. After the interval, things did improve and when Dimitar Berbatov scored shortly after the break after good work with Gibson, United looked comfortable and the inevitable was very much an away 1-0 win. A rare win. And the way Berbatov is playing, there was surprise that he’d find himself on the scoresheet again. Although, Bowyer, credit to him in the sense that he’s still playing at this level, had other ideas. No credit to him as to how he scored, however.
But as controversial as the equaliser was, United need not complain too much. It wouldn’t do them any good. What is vital is that they don’t let this get to them psychologically and go to the Hawthorns on Saturday lunchtime and get three points, although that is no easy task as United have won just one of their travels. That needs to improve – but, remaining optimistic, I’m sure United can reverse their away blues.
Describe Manchester United’s 2010 in two words that sum up the year best. ‘Wayne Rooney’. It was he, and only he, for whom all the talk and buzz was about. From January to April, Manchester’s favourite Scouser (pardon me) had the world, not quite literally, at his feet. Then, to use a well-worn cliché, it went all pear-shaped. A niggling injury greeted the business end of the Premier League season, a forgettable World Cup followed, and then worse went to chaotic worse with all his personal problems.
Some credit should go to Manchester United, who, despite being largely unconvincing this season, haven’t been all that distracted with all the talk happening off the pitch. Teams can easily flounder amid unwanted talk, and although United have hardly played Tiki-taka football and, course, they’ve been held seven times this season, they are, at least, at the summit with the luxury of two points and a game in hand. How did United get there without their so-called ‘one-man’ Rooney? Was it not, only last season, that the media talked of United’s worrying reliance on their star-man and their star-man alone?
Whatever reason you may have to argue why United at the top, it is obvious that they are, and never were, a team reliant on just the one player. Sure, you might say how the league has improved – or quite the opposite. Football is team sport – there is simply no such thing as a ‘one-man team’. In Cristiano Ronaldo’s 42-goal season, this still remains the case. Spearheads are only spearheads because of the men that surround him.
That again rings true, last season. Rooney’s 33 goals did not all come out of his own graft – indeed, he wouldn’t have scored a third of those had Antonio Valencia or Nani been in the rich vein of form they were in. It might be stating the obvious, but believe it, United were the ‘one-man team’ as the hacks and bloggers reported to them being. Having said all of that, when Rooney does return back to his prolific, animal-like best, United will be a force to be reckoned with. You decide if that’s optimism of the deluded kind or not.
And Manchester United will win their 19th title this year. Why? I’ll explain. Nani might have come out and retracted his original statement that Arsenal are United’s closest rivals, this time outlining Chelsea as United’s main threat. Yet, there has been little to suggest why Nani changed his mind – much to Wenger’s disappointment - that Chelsea could get themselves out of this patch; with Lampard’s return to fitness or not. After all, and while his return would be more than welcome at Stamford Bridge, football teams should never be dependent on just the one man. United, having played a game or two less than everybody else, have the chance to extend that lead. Chelsea might just challenge United all the way until May, or even Arsenal, but do mark my words. This is United’s season.
Nani, probably asking Santa to make sure 2010 never ends, is having an excellent year. He has ten assists for the season. Elsewhere, Dimitar Berbatov’s goal tally has also reached double figures – Park ji-Sung, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic have many reasons to smile too. ’1′ man team? Do us a favour, Mr Hack – add another 1 beside that.
Conspiracy theory? Bah – get off it. Chelsea intimidated? Get off it. Well, maybe so to an extent. But let’s put everything aside – forget the paranoia and think straight; the game was postponed because of fears for health and safety. Sure, as fans, many won’t be pleased. You’d be infuriated even.
The general reaction on social networking sites is that of disgust – the hastiness of the call 24 hours before kick off, the fact that the forecast were to improve and such. However, London and the south had more snowfall than most of the country. While it was rather questionable to call the game off (read the excellent blog by Stretford End), the calls by some to dock points are certainly not justified. Chelsea, with consultation from the police, were told not to go ahead with the fixture amid all the panic and disruptions.
It turned out to be the wrong decision, sure, but we must remember other games around the country were postponed; even the other Premier League games on the Sunday, the afternoon kick off between Blackpool and Tottenham Hotspur and the Midlands derby between West Brom and Wolves. Arguably, all three decisions were made out of haste, the day before, – but by docking points off Chelsea, the Premier League might as well consider doing so for Blackpool and West Brom. Not to say the League will, they probably won’t, but the actual plea to do so it a bit needless. Cut Chelsea some slack – the decision might have been put into question but they’re as much to blame as everyone else.
And as United fans, we’d rather win the championship by grinding out results as opposed to the misfortunes of others…
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To get into the festive spirit, and with a little help from the good people on Twitter, I’ve devised a Christmas themed XI (and some subs)…
Christmas XI (incidentally, in a Christmas tree formation 4-3-2-1):
- Pepe Reinadeer (Liverpool)
- Steve Harkness the Herald Angels Sing (Liverpool)
- Away In Nemanja (Man Utd)
- Mistle-Tony Adams (Arsenal)
- Zat ‘O Holy’ Knight (Bolton)
- Baby Jesus Navas (Sevilla)
- Rory Delapland (Stoke City)
- Peter Santa’s Beard-sley (Newcastle)
- David Eggnog (Liverpool)
- Craig Jingle Bells-amy (Cardiff City!)
- Holly Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United)
Bench: Jim Sleighton (United); Christmas Carol Poborsky (United); Paul Ince Pies (United, again); A Bebe is Born in Bethlehem (er, United); Sledley King (Spurs); St. Nicholas Anelka (Chelsea); Ryan Bauble (Liverpool), Ruud-olph Van Nistlerooy (Hamburg); Alan Mulled-winery (Spurs)
Manager: Elf Ramsey
Assistant Manager: Gianfrankincenseo Zola
Many thanks to @GHTT_ for whom provided some (most of these) excellent suggestions on Twitter, as did many others of my lovely followers.
Welcome to the tenth issue of The Red Report, the round table discussion of all things Manchester United by your favourite United blogs: The Busby Way, Stretford-End, Bangalore To Old Trafford, ManUtd24, United Youth, and Red Force Rising.
With Christmas less than a week away can we’d like to take this opportunity to wish our readers a very merry Christmas. It looks like it might even be a white one! On to the footballing matters…this week we’re discussing an unsung hero, the Boss and a Champions League tie.