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Pete Shaw gives his MUFC Players' End of Season Report... you'll disagree or maybe agree...

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  • Pete Shaw gives his MUFC Players' End of Season Report... you'll disagree or maybe agree...

    You can read the forthright Pete Shaw every Red News in the printed mag. Order a printed sub or digital pdf sub at http://www.rednews.co.uk/subscription.php - we’re different and so is he!


    It is strange that a season contested over 38 games should be drawn towards seconds - the 420 that United failed to defend a lead at home to Everton, the 300 that turned the title on its head in the Manchester City-QPR Game.


    It was that kind of season; surreal. And a bit of a head fuck.


    So that you look towards specific moments - when it was won, lost, celebrated, expected, resigned and then clutched from an unusual grasp - but it is across the season that defines the team and its individuals. And whilst it is mad, a few days on, to think that 89 points was not enough, equally many Manchester United supporters though spoilt expecting too much success on any occasion, are not without their rights to argue that though the points total should have been enough, certainly in any other season, the actual type of football we played, and saw, much of the time, was not enough.


    We demand better then, not to eye more points, or wins, but just, better football. That may seem mad, and spoilt, after just querying a table that loses us a league not by seconds, as such, but by eight goals - a four goal turnaround in one Derby ffs, but the unit out performed itself, its members did not on a one by one basis. That is the story of our season. Whilst we annoyingly scratch heads at 'what ifs' - if Evra's header had gone in instead of against a post at 4-2 up against Everton we'd be Champions now, but that does us no good, life is shitty 'ifs' - if I was shagging Kelly Brook right now, I wouldn't be writing this, would I?


    So how did each player, perform then?


    Well, whilst Robin Van Persie collected personal accolades and awards which were out of reach for his actual team, it's strange that the man in our kit just behind him in the scoring stakes wasn't a shoe in for his own MUFC Player of the season. 27 league goals and he was nowhere near.


    In fact the RN readers' poll (http://www.rednews.co.uk/forum/showt...Season-2011-12) is led by a player - however gifted, and great the gamble paid off - who only played half the season he's winning it for as a whole, not damning praise upon his little gifted Ginger freckled shoulders, but possibly for those around him.


    It says much about Rooney's performances - good, but not regularly great - and our team itself that there has been no stand out performer. Antonio Valencia finished the season well, but did not start it in that vein, via injury and pushed out of position. The votes cast online by RN readers for POTS telling; Scholes ahead, however satisfying that return, yet still only back for half a season, and it the grit and dime players up there rather than the creative sparks who usually walk it, who won the votes this time.


    We knew this season was one of 'transition', it became almost a motto for the team when we were chasing in the title race as if to justify our position, or excuse the poorer times, and though you can't ignore the incredible run of bad luck with injuries (now such a recurring theme each season, no wonder Fergie keeps praising the fitness and physio staff, or should that be questioning them!) so that all things considered, with the Polo Mint hole in our midfield barely covered by the tarpaulin of Carrick's resurgence and Scholes' saving of the day, we did as well as we could have what with the young additions. It the failure to sort the issue that has been an issue for so long now, it's almost ignored as an issue. Experience was needed last summer. It did not come. We waited for Godot and paid for it. The midfield banshee screams, Medusa like, its glare and impact on our team will not go away until we sort it. Few are the Florida voices who hear it. Or want to.


    However good Jonny Evans has been, and as much credit for coming back from the brink of really shite performances the season before last (though he improved near its finale last Spring, showing what we'd see this season) to the consistency we see now, that he was a real contender for the main prize says much too. Was he really that good? I mean, top quality good that United should be? The team did perhaps as well as they could, many individuals did not, Evans not one of them but he and they have much left to give, and whilst that is pleasing that they nearly all have more left in the tank, it has you head scratching as to when exactly they will show this, many now here for several seasons and can't just keep being tagged as 'ones for the future'; when will they actually deliver? Also, you can't keep hoping that Sir Alex will get more out of the collective than the individuals are actually giving him back because that over reliance on his skills could bite us. The failure this season might heighten awareness once again to what is needed - its silence never uttered within Old Trafford not hiding the leon bright light each game shining on our midfield for a Modric, or whoever - because not winning the league this season will not paper over the cracks what triumph might have - 'all is good with what we have and the world as there's no frigging value anyway', etc - a line that has reached its end point.


    David De Gea arrived under a dodgy bit of white linen to have his medical. It didn't stop the world and his dog seeing that it was him about to sign, and at times over Christmas, his defences looked as shaky as that holding his linen, but thankfully, as the season wore on, the only sheets we remembered were clean ones. We kept 20 this season, the most by any team, and quite a record. The title was lost in the games we let in too many goals. We always knew DDG had it, we just worried if it was too soon for him, too much expectation. Certainly Fergie made an error thinking that keeping both him and Anders happy (an able deputy and no bad thing to have his supreme self confidence thinking he's much better than that, only when he gets the hump as a bit part player will that become a problem when he realises for much of the time at United he really is just here to 'pick his nose') with rotation, rotation, rotation made sense, when a keeper under the microscope right from the off, just needed a run, and the confidence that brings. To deny DDG his run, cost him confidence.


    The press went for DDG after his first league game, at West Brom, one tabloid with a headline: 'Error-prone Manchester United keeper'. What the fuck!. As Peter Schmeichel said: "I think he had unfair deal with the media, they thought 'finally we have a decision that Sir Alex has made, that we can have a dig at him', it was more them trying to have a dig at Sir Alex, but the thing is I knew he could play at the highest level, but even before that 1st game the press said he's not very good, but he's 20 years of age, that's bound to get to you, nerves come in, I think Sir Alex rested De Gea a little bit too much which didn't do him any favours because the other one came in, and that was more fuel on the press fire. He's now had a consistent run and he's proving himself capable of the job." I did wobble about him a bit around the time of the Blackburn game, and he still needs to bulk up and command himself from crosses - but that seems his only real weakness or concern and the key is whether a keeper not only saves you points but help wins them, From Chelsea onwards he did that. In a new league, language and culture (where it's not acceptable to have such bum fluff, so get that sorted), and at 21, he's done brilliant all things considered. He's the least of our worries, if you accept this is a 10 year plan where mistakes early days may happen, but the rewards over that decade will far outweigh the negatives for a goalie who could be a world best, until Barca or Madrid start tempting him with 'his dream' of course.


    Rafael is one step forward, one step back. Brilliant at Blackburn, seeming to cut out the rashness (but still a member of that boy band, the Rashalettes), and then a nightmare at Everton as if he were a kid at primary school who didn't know how to defend (just boot the ball into row Z), and though youth on his side, his progression isn't as brilliant as we'd like and Utd need. You can't say for certain he'll be automatic right back next season, an Anderson-esque that you know something is there but why does it go into hiding? Against Bayern and now Everton he's made costly errors on massive occasions, that is the price you pay for having young kids not making these mistakes in just the League Cup, but in chases for trophies, and I am not as certain as most that he'll make it. One good game in two is not good enough for Manchester United, even at the age of 21, and I still have reservations over the pubic twins. Because Fabio is even less certain, the one thing they do have in common is both struggling to last 90 minutes as if going off injured at some stage is hereditary, it comical in the same game earlier this season. A loan may do him good, but both were over hyped as our full backs for a generation, and neither, still, gives me such hopes on an individual or collective level. I don't care that they are going to miss each other when separated this summer, they need to strengthen up mentally and physically. Quite mad to think that Fabio was felt good enough for the Barcelona Final a year ago, but next season, what? A loan at Norwich?


    State the bleeding obvious statement arrival time. Any Utd team from any season would miss Nemanja. His six league games provided 5 wins, 4 clean sheets and only two goals conceded. The 20 clean sheets as a whole show when the defence had an off day, it was a FUCKING off day. Since his injury, we've let in over 3 goals on seven or more occasions, almost unheard of for any United side. Jonny Evans and Rio thankfully recreated something of a partnership that came together as best they could, it worked well for long periods but something about the whole defence for the nightmare games suggested there's something not quite right there. They do not fight as a unit. I have said before that Rio was entering that last phase of a career where he could be considered a liability, at that uncertain point when you don't know when he's going to cross 'that' line (as John Terry already has!), but Rio made me eat those words, but that doesn't mean he'll continue doing so, and with a bad back that you recoil whenever he looks twitchy, and Fergie being quite blunt - and getting a response in return - by admitting that he could no longer use his pace for his game, we can't rely on him anymore. If Rio wasn't a United player, nobody would be really surprised that he's not playing for England. There's only so much left in the tank, especially after a season when he's had to go out when injured because he had to, what toll will that take? He may keep this run going, but we have to assume the future is Vidic and A.n.other. And then plan for Vidic reaching 'that' line.


    It's whether Evans can maintain that level, or whether he was merely playing out of his skin and comfort zone because he was in last chance saloon. But I've been impressed. Not quite as much as Fergie though: "He is now arguably the best defender in the country." No, I don't think so. But for those who are too easy to moan and groan at games, does it serve a purpose? Fans went for Evans, but it did not do any good, it didn't help him. Look what Evans said of that criticism: "Sometimes you can feel the crowd are getting on your back. In the end it was a case of 'stuff it, what have I got to lose'" How many had written him off? Will you give the next lad a chance? Save your moaning away from games. Like here, for example!


    I still think Smalling is the most naturally gifted defender behind Vidic and don't think he had as many bad games at the back as the others, but injury and circumstances prevented more games in the finale. Whereas Phil Jones was unfortunate in that our early season start coincided with the ejaculation of some Reds as they labelled him the next Big Dunc. It's all just idle pub chat, unless the player starts to believe the hype and when the Guardian started asking him how it all felt, the comparisons became a problem, it's bound to affect a kid, go to his head. Add to the fact he was moved around more than Michael Gordon Peterson at Her Majesty's and he was unable to find his feet by the season end. Sad that some Reds who'd over-hyped him started talking of a loan move to help him when he needs no such thing. It's his first season after being at Blackburn, he's learning about the game as much as himself and United, so I do hope SAF doesn't go tinkerbell mad with him - Mike Duxbury like which didn't help him over a career - so that he has no idea like us where his best position actually is (though he himself says centre-back) when a run somewhere - anywehere! - will be better for him, and us, to see. Players aren't stupid either, despite all our jokes, they do see what we see. Jones knows he dipped: "I need to hold down a regular place in a regular position."


    How Patrice Evra gets away with his inconsistencies these last 18 months I do not know, if it were any other player, especially one who United fans like to scapegoat (Carrick, Berbatov), you'd imagine the torches would have been bulked purchased from B&Q to begin the witch-hunt but however much we like the man, and what he says (though a bit too often for my liking nowadays, especially when we've lost), all that matters is what he does on the pitch. Still good and positive going forward, that's not actually the tilt to what he's paid to do; defending is, and at that he's looked average at best, laxidasical tracking back, some bizarre hand motions when trying to stop a cross and time and time again not just targetted by opponents, but successfully exploited by them. I didn't despair at Fabio going out on loan - makes sense - but I did when I heard Fergie say it was due to Evra's consistently good form - you what? "It would have been difficult for anyone as second choice because Patrice Evra has been such a consistent performer over the last five years. " Having no real challenge can also aid whatever complacency or whatever it is that has happened to Evra (one of our own POTY remember a few years back) and if burnt out, what good having no back-up?


    So you hope we have a Plan B, like a Leighton Baines back up idea; as United should not just be about having two world class players vying for every position (I know, dream on), but certainly having one who, for now at least, is living on past glories. And as club captain after the Bilbao defeat whilst saying this: "They have the right spirit, better than us. That's why they won." should perhaps be going round each and every player under him and asking why our spirit was lacking. He certainly talks better than he plays at the moment. Before city: "If you play for Manchester United, if you’re a leader or a captain, it’s to play in a match like this. You have to accept your responsibility." Did you Paddy? Really? The end of season DVD will confirm just how many goals have been scored against us exploiting his side. Roy Keane also noticed this: "I’ve got my doubts about Evra. He’s been captain since Nemanja Vidic was injured but he needs to stand up and be counted in big games. One or two players were going past him too easily against City and he has to get the players around him playing more than they do." The #askevra hashtag created by a Utd staffer after the Derby for a Q&A and the responses to it from Reds shows how many have lost patience; for admiration for a person does not cloud the fact that Utd carry nobody. 'TRACK BACK ,TRACK BACK', I feel like shouting every match in Alan Partridge like tones at him ('Dan, Dan'). Oh, and he's still waiting for a fucking apology, Suarez.


    If Anderson, as Fergie seemed to suggest at the end of the season, is here next season to once again iron out his patches of form because 'we know he has the ability', it will drain me of blood much like baby seal slaughtering; ignoring the fact that he'd have then been at OT longer than say Eric, whilst we know he has something, the question has always been what exactly? Early season we see the odd good game, but it's never enough, and then he gets injured. It's not a particularly pleasant beat of rhythm I have patience to repeat - let alone him partying back in Brazil which is as daft an idea to send him back to rehab for as trying it on poor old Amy - and persisting with him sums up the malaise in our entire midfield. He's young, yes, right, so is Justin Bieber, what does that matter, it's what they actually do with any talent, and for that amount of money, around the same time we could have got Yaya Toure, which makes me squeal louder than a seal in fact. Whilst he and Tom Cleverley looked to have something when partnered together, sadly again because of injury and then Scholes' return, it was more about TC23's engine off the pitch (his marketing) than on it that we'll remember for now. Tweets like he was the second coming were a bit of a grate, a hairstyle more Take That than take that Scousers, but we know there's something there, and not in a 'neverneverland' way like Anderson. He needs to chill it off the pitch and just get his head down so next season doesn't pass him by on it.


    Ji Sung Park had as little an impact as a North Korean missile, and whilst I appreciate his land is more south, that's where his United career seems to be heading as his use as an impact player began to be reduced as the success of Rooney and Welbeck meant his chance as coming in as a 5th player in the midfield rescinded. I appreciate his workload and all that - tries his heart out - and has done well at places like Arsenal in important games but I still don't get him really; effort over essence and whilst there's no harm having him in the squad, I doubt he'd see himself as some 'fluffer' role at United only used sparingly when the bigger names need a rest. Again, if offloading him and Anderson bought in more able additions, go for it, but he sells shedloads of credit cards so despite the denials from dear old Comfortable that that is what his role now is, no chance he'll go, that is unless we replace him with Kagawa and a new credit card starts to print. But lay off the abuse blaming him for the city game, that was Fergie's bizarre choice, and the first game in ages was never going to produce a Park spark; though just why he fell on his arse so many times when actually doing nothing baffles.


    Maybe Paul Scholes needed a rest and re-charge, maybe he just maintained a level that hammered home how poor the alternatives were but his return wasn't just a poke in the eye fill-up for the Cup game when we were feeling low, it actually became almost essential to our chances so a signing none of us ever re-considered, apart form him and Fergie, became so telling to what he has and what the rest haven't that when it naturally become a question of when to rest him - and just getting it right as to where - at 37 years of age, his absence provoked that costly bum rattling defeat at Wigan. It was a joy to see him slot back in; the goals, the passes, what we haven't got or had. But also sad in that it should have left some of the others ruefully averting their eyes, shuffling at their feet, at what his return said about them. And how long can he carry it on for? We talked all last summer of not being able to replace Paul Scholes, so fair enough, whilst still admonishing the money men, we did the next best thing, getting him back. But there's only so long that enjoyably smokes and mirrors trick can last, shame as it is as we wish it would last forever. He's just class. As Giggs said this week - he just has more time on the ball than anyone else. He finds the time.


    Certainly Michael Carrick did improve. He doesn't quite split fans as much as Berbatov anymore, quite possibly because those that don't get him keep their counsel as they know he's both been good, and there's no other alternative, but I wouldn't quite go as overboard as some with all this Xarrick nonsense. His passing ratio is good, as it should be when they are as short as many are made, and whilst I'll never understand why it takes so long to get him going each season as if he's some cherished old sports car needing attention before it hits the ground running, he did do what he does well; consistently reach a level good enough, but not great enough for many, myself included. I still want him to grab games by the scruff of the neck, impose himself more, do a QPR away which almost seemed un-Carrick like in its execution and belief, but after this long we have to accept that it's not him, to ask that which is not possible makes no sense. Something his detractors might well notice; we play well in long bursts and runs usually when he is playing, and playing well. Good, but not great, in fact what any United player here for as long as he has been should reach as a bear minimum, not overflowing gushing praise because he's done his job at a big club and that's what he is here to do but certainly worthy of more praise than poison. But I want more, it almost annoys me because it clouds what he's given. But there you go, that's his enigma I suppose.


    Nani was yet another one cursed by injury, and looked better come the end of the season, but not enough wow moments and a revert back to irritating 'pass the ball' curses. He is more of a team player nowadays, but whilst he can go around saying 'please don't compare me with Cristiano' in a manner which is beaming 'no, go on, please do', there are none to be made, which is why none of the big boys have asked him about his own dreams. Now is his time to make the leaps that Ronnie did, for we need more than by his own admittance that: "Sometimes I play a nice game, sometimes I play not such a fantastic game, but I think everyone knows me and what I can do." We know there are displays like Arsenal away last season in his lock up, too often like at city he shows no real progress from 2/3 years ago - are you worth your own hype? Not often enough - and even he admits it. Must do better, especially after doing so well last season. But only ever patches, like a quilt that needs a good whack after washing.


    Whilst we were crying out for a midfielder so that some balked at the signing of Ashley Young ('not another winger'), I saw it as no bad thing, again creating real challenge for positions, the shame that we didn't also add to the middle. Young is a strange one, he started well, drifted towards many thinking 'that's an Aston Villa player not a United one we've got there', but a knack, with us and England, to score even when he's been shite. He is an impact player and that's no bad thing, he's just there, that knack, at the centre of things, but Spurs away showed something more, it's just how far he can progress that I maybe have doubts about. The diving needs to be binned but I sense more negativity towards him than there should be, give him a chance and all that and he's not had the worst of first seasons; what did people expect?


    Darren Fletcher sadly seems the one player behind Vidic who we quietly missed, who wasn't great in terms of natural ability, but could be great on occasions for us, and the potential to do great things when needed, and we missed that, even though some people devalued his contribution by thinking we didn't or failed to give him much mention once 'we knew'. Influence or drive is what he gave the side, and the cynic wants you to ask why we gave him a new deal and blustered about his condition when it was well known his career was in doubt a while back, but no time for churlishness, you hope he can just keep control and ahead of his condition to live a normal life, coming back as a player, and certainly to former levels, not even worth talking about right now.


    People forget how long a pesky achilles injury can take to recover form - hell, Neil Webb never even did - so Antonio Valencia took a while to get his mojo back, especially when (without complaint) he had to put up with all that shit filling in at right-back, but when he did get it back; fucking hell, who gives a fuck about his other foot when he can do that with one! A constant menace, he's actually one of the only players in the United side right now who gets you up off your arse in excitement when he has the ball, and the Blackburn goal (and even a smile) showed his form has probably bolstered a lacking self confidence to believe he actually has the making of any full-back he wants to beat if he wants. Because he does have them, so do it more. Lowkey in personality, high in assists, I bloody love him, as you suspect Rooney does, and whilst binning Rafael for city after Everton made sense, with so few players going into such a crucial game in form, playing Valencia, in the form of his life, in a fixture we had to get a result in, didn't just make perfect sense but the only sense. Instead Valencia was on the bench. He was the players' player of the year; you wonder if anyone of them saw the teamsheet at the Boo Camp and asked why our best player at the time wasn't selected? It still makes no sense.


    So from the perfect pro. to Paul Pogba. If he's as good as his agent and he think he is, we've got the next Zidane, Pele and Maradona let alone Vieira! And we're just about to lose him. You'd have hoped he'd have got more chances, but then he started acting the cock so I stopped giving a shit until it's sorted one way or the next. I don't mind players wanting what they think their worth, but when he (and Rooney) do it during the season it pisses me off. Ravel got the boot for the same so there must be something (and of course without all the shite that went off the pitch with Morrison, many of which still hasn't come out) in Pogba that Fergie wants to persist in if he did actually stay, when usually he'd show him the door outright. For certain if he chooses Juve this summer over us he'll regret it; not least because Turin is a shit hole and no youngster is half as good as they think they are; that's the problem, from Van Persie to Ronaldo, it takes years to nurture into the finished article, and then they still can leave, which is why United's young ethos is always admirable, but buying players at the dreaded Gill banned age of 27 when they are ready made there makes as perfect sense as the financial cheaper ones the owners want to set as a cast iron policy which might not work, or leave when they finally do reach their very own perch.


    Good but not great was how I described Rooney. Great that he can now be like that though, whereas before his inconsistencies would see large groupings of games with no goals, now he'll play badly and still score one or two. I don't quite agree with Fergie saying: "When the game gets to that casual bit, he's worse than the rest of them. He gets really casual." but he does drift in terms of space on the pitch, in terms of during a game and then on the pitch as he tries to chase the ball and involve himself in the action when we need him up front, simply put at the end of a move (and why he take corners?). But any criticism of him - wanting world class rather than Premiership class - is offset that however angry I still feel about his cow and fields strop that Autumn, he did have a point, thus now proven.


    Whilst his wages gave way to bigger expectation of what he should produce, he's still, on the whole, been surrounded by less ability and ambition which must get on his tits. He's still young, that's crucial, especially when he himself plays down performing to these heights in his 30s, but we're running out of time to see a real Ronnie like win games every single week single handed as by his own level of ambition as well as what he asked of the club to match his, meant that's pretty much what we should be seeing - a player who can win games on his own. By the end of the season we got more stroppy arm actions frustrated at others, Ruud like, and whilst partly understandable considering the lack of feeding him, and he having to hunt the ball so deep makes no sense, he should be worrying as much about his own efforts as those around him.


    Maybe I'm looking too closely when I think or see he's fed up, but that strange subbing at Wigan suggests that something is still 'there' deep down between he and Fergie, or certainly the latter in what he had done to him, needing all his reserves to win that battle, with one of his own, and it's bound to still stew even subconsciously. Nothing would surprise me with Rooney; where he'd end up, or what he could still achieve at United. But when you're criticising a player with 20 goals in 20 odd games you know he's nearing the world class level you so want to see all the time. A positive enigma rolled into a player in goal return that keeps improving, if not in actual week in-week out performances.


    Dimitar Berbatov on the other hand is a paradox in an entirely different realm/universe. We've seen this way its ended all before of course; for bigger heroes like Ruud, Beckham even. But once the slight of not even being on the bench for Wembley last summer had sunk in, what point was there for either side to carry on this sorry last dance knowing we were going to separate ways at the end of it, no grand last tango, instead this season being a request for the Birdie Dance. He deserved after helping us to 19 to play more, elsewhere if needs be, but Fergie had run out of patience as many Utd fans had, not with his ability, but for crunch time, say those chances against city in the Semi Finals, where you don't get a second chance to linger. But we owed him better than this, as if Fergie was almost teaching him a lesson, so unforgiving that anyone would get on the bench ahead of him. It became an Unrequited love story, he had the few with him outweighed by the many who didn't get him, seeing only work rate and end product ahead of his gifts, but those who took him on face value game by game still saw too many lapses to give hope that he could change. He needed to, to win the majority and Fergie over, his game a gift but not enough, it was alright at Spurs, this level, but this was no Eric, it wasn't all worthwhile because of the gifts and goals, it's not that we've moved on, simply Eric always involved himself in a game, with good or bad results. Whereas Berbatov in his last home league appearance was criticised for slowly plodding back from play, you wondered what exactly went wrong; should it never have been, did we expect too much, did we ask too much or he not bothered to give enough?


    Who knows, some loved him, some didn't, right from the off almost and it should be more productive than that, taking him on face value rather than taking sides… but it certainly needn't have ended like this, off to Coventry like all the others, never properly forgiven until a handshake and real story comes out, in 5-10 years time. His run of goals at Christmas showed that someone will get a belter of a player; but United is more than just ability alone, sad as that may seem to the few believers, this story from Danny Taylor in the Guardian sort of summed it up: "In a game last year, one of Berbatov's team-mates took issue with him for not running hard enough. Berbatov pointed out that was the way he played and he didn't need to go faster. "You do at this club," came the reply, expletives removed."


    ‘Ill hold my hands up and admit I didn't think Welbeck had it in him to be as good as he's shown. And he will get better. Still too gangly at times, and cumbersome with his Bambi legs going this way and that, that will be ironed out with age but the loan to Sunderland clearly worked, the self confidence in abundance started to graft a player to go with it and this year that loan has benefited us. And he's still only 21. He's developing all the time, so be patient you fickle fuckers out there in the stands and give him a chance, local lad not withstanding, there's something exciting he has. For now it won't come off every game, but if you can turn your blinkers off for Evra, persist with Welbeck as I think he really has it in him for some future. And we need more of this mentality and produce: "Playing on the streets in Manchester you would do things in the little games and think, “I’ll do this at Old Trafford”. Now it’s finally happening - it’s the stuff that dreams are made of". I think he could be really something special.


    Whilst Michael Owen just lives in the past. As one RN reader put it: 'what a waste of a dressing room peg'. With yet another injury, he showed an almost miracle like ability to actually gain another (groin) injury when already out, and whilst he'd pop up from time to time, back from the dead if you like, in between seemingly wanking off horses, to say he'd dreamed he had an important goal still to be scored this season, probably is right as it could only happen now in his head. We knew this was the gamble, but that goal withstanding, I don't think it has actually worked. We'll celebrate anyone scoring in a game like that, against them, and yes there were a couple of others but overall it's been slightly embarrassing that a club like United took on such a gamble to reduce the wage bill and maintain a false wall of 'everything is ok and still respectable, look we've signed a once world classs has-been'. I never liked him, took to him, he's not one of us, he played for them and that should have been that. 'You'll eat your words' I was told. Hardly, it took some doing to out injure Owen Hargreaves and even under the Gimps there's no way they'll extend this contract as otherwise they may as well give it to you or I for all the playing time they'd get from it. Then we can just try and forget about it. He'll talk of '98, and every once in a while we'll talk of 4-3, and that would have been that, from him and us. Wish it never happened, of course loved that goal, but as pointless a relationship as many of us told you it would be; and possibly stopping a 4th striker who may well have scored more 'vital' goals this season. Even Fergie seemed to finally run out of patience in April: "As we know when he gets an injury it's never an easy one". Understatement.


    I'm not quite so sure if Javier Hernandez's dip is down to 'second season syndrome', too easy a tag to plant on someone. A cliche if you may. You never hear of 'third season syndrome'. He certainly provided some crucial point winning goals during the season, tipped at the start, but did that head injury do more damage than mere bruising and scans alone, especially after an equally significant injury back in Mexico? I don't quite think there's something we don't know about what's been going on but maybe a dent to head, pride and confidence, together with trying to cope with the endless rotation of partners for Rooney, then Welbeck's form made it hard for him to find his own rhythm. His clinical goalscoring technique has actually improved, think headers, that blast at Wolves, but his first touch needs a lot of work and he has struggled with the ball pinged at him when we're moving as a counter attacking unit, fast. He's young, he'll grow, at what speed to become the next Rooney, or not, we will find out. Of more worry is him accounting for 50% of all our offsides, something that must get sorted if our ploy is to feed the ball to him on the break. He needs a rest this summer. Thankfully he's getting it.


    Which just leaves shagging/playing/trophy winning when he wants, Giggsy. Certainly he regained that irritating tendency to start the season well and decline for its finale that he possessed a decade or so ago but that in itself when you're looking at patterns over 20 years tells its own story of how we view Giggsy as a talisman and the expectancy that goes with it. His goal at Norwich could have been a turning point, and whilst he has been patchy, I doubt the team see that, or feel the same as they look to him as much or more so than Scholes as the 'go to man'. For that alone, all he's done, what he represents, what he offers, how others perceive him, he has that almost unique ability to have a free hall pass at United to do what he wants. Not to advocate for anyone else, he deserves his almost habitual extension not so much for what he still has to offer, but what he has. Sam Pilger in his enjoyable Best XI Manchester United talks of Giggs finding medals all over his house in a clear out in 2010: “I had no idea they were there in the back of drawers, I had forgotten about them." Pilger writes of the 24 winning medal man: 'While the Chelsea and England captain John Terry built an entire annex to his house to display his medals, including mannequins behind glass dressed in his old shirts, Giggs has never had any interest in creating such a shrine to himself, and instead donates most of his medals to be displayed at the Old Trafford museum.' That he is our talisman and Terry theirs is telling on field as much as what they represent and what each club is off it, and whilst his twilight renaissance somewhat stalled this season after a good run of seasons - and 900+ games! - you put nothing past what may come next for a player who is still not revered as much as he should be by all United fans.


    When we learnt Vidic was out for the season, we all felt like Fergie: "I must admit my heart sank a little when I learned just how long Nemanja Vidic was going to be out." That we managed to cope with not only that, but all the injuries, plus city's spending and owners whilst we are restricted with ours, is incredible even if the football wasn't. We always strive for better and I suppose it's a good thing that we know there is so much more room for improvement. It is both proud inducing for what United's loyalty represents, and scary (as well as spelling out this 'no value' era) that we relied on a 37 and 38 year old as the go-to's in our biggest game at the Boo Camp. That can't go on; it won't. They won't. Key though is that whilst many can improve, others might not, so whilst we got away, again with 'no value' ringing in our ears as Gill plots an 'interesting summer' (which I suspect translated in bean counter talk as 'quite dull'), it's accepting that maybe, yes, this was one of transition but don't stop there, squad fine tuning is all well and good, but improving it is more crucial this summer than it was last. And that midfield issue has to be dealt with. Otherwise we'll all go bloody mad.


    Phil Jones asked last week of himself: "There is definitely a bit of personal intimidation. You always raise the question to yourself. Am I good enough to be here?" - but perhaps it's better to aim it to the squad as a whole Phil. Many are, some aren't, and some may or may not be - but not many lived up to their billing and it isn't a question of 'they can do better'; they simply, must do better. The Words of the RN Ed also ring true, as he praised Fergie for working his magic with pebbles, instead of granite. It's now time for a few diamonds. Or we'll have to start getting used to this feeling of the past few days.


    Enjoy the summer. Here's to some value.


    Pete Shaw. 2012. Red News


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