I cover the ‘Manchester United latest’ five days a week and, as usual, I undertook the task yesterday of compiling yesterday’s news stories relating to Manchester United.
In the wake of the clash with the Gunners there were ample soundbites and quotes relating to Robin van Persie and his return to his former club, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s ‘disappointment’ with the home fans’ ‘disrespectful’ reception for the Dutch ace, and even an amusing video of Van Persie walking into the wrong dressing room.
There was, however, not a thing mentioned about the newly crowned Premier League champions failing to achieve their objective of 96 points this term. Not one thing.
Contrast that with the week prior to Sunday’s fixture – all week I quoted United players’ ambitions and targets of achieving record-breaking status, along with Ferguson’s assertion that if United could break the record, no one would ever beat their record after that.
So, what happened, then? It seems the cat caught everyone’s tongue all of a sudden – not just United players and staff but established members of the press, the media, pundits and commentators alike. The points-record just disappeared off the face of planet.
Meanwhile, as tumble-weed drifted listlessly across Manchester and United fans whistled and looked elsewhere, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but, just in case you missed the ‘story’: Manchester United can no longer beat (or match) Chelsea’s record-holding 95 points in a Premier League season. There, I said it.
United can now claim a maximum of 94 points this term - if they win all three of their remaining fixtures they will add 9 points to their 85 total at present.
I don’t want to come off as a negative Nancy but I think it’s only fair – when United won the title last Monday, everyone was in agreement that they are deserved title-winners, the majority of their first-team have been exceptional all season long, their manager is the best in the business without a shadow of a doubt and their star striker is world-class.
When it goes their way, I’m the first to hand it to them but when they come up short, I also think it ought to be open for discussion. Yesterday, it was as if the record-points tally story had been put on mute, which implies that Manchester United are exempt from criticism or even analysis of any kind. They are not.
Arsenal’s goal from Theo Walcott was offside, quite clearly, and should not have stood. However, were it not for Bacary Sagna gifting Van Persie a penalty, Arsenal may well have won the game.
United were poor - Ferguson stated they had the better chances, despite the fact United had only 10 shots over 95 minutes of which just 5 were on target compared to the Gunners’ 19 over all and 13 on-target.
Ferguson bemoaned referee Phil Dowd’s handling of the game but the official booked 5 United players and 2 Arsenal players – there can be no ‘we was robbed’ Nani-esc complaints.
Arsenal were the better side in the first half undoubtedly and, as the game drew to a close, it could have gone either way and the fact that it didn’t means that United cannot be record-breakers this season.
We all rush to congratulate United when they’re good and there should be no excuses when they’re not quite as good. They’ve set themselves high standards and they must answer their critics when they don’t attain that level of quality. It’s only fair. You can’t just sing when you’re winning.