You had to chuckle at the Taggart-faced cheek of Alex Ferguson’s comments at the weekend. As Berbatov grabbed that rarity in football, a late winner at Old Trafford, to lift his underlings to a shaky win Ferguson took no time to gloat. ‘It could have been a cricket score’ and ‘I thought it was going to be ten’ are just two of the inaccurate comments attributed to the Man United manager following his team’s latest attempt to self-destruct. He might have said his defence are currently as porous as a sieve or his side looked mediocre against a consistently mediocre Liverpool team. Quite an achievement. Instead he put the boot in to their local rivals either as a barbed insult or in gloated delusion. Either way not pretty but, as we are fondly aware, these are the way the Fergie mind games work. My own theory is that this particular piece of hot air was used to try and get some wind in the sails of his players before they flounder in the doldrums. Free-scoring Chelsea can hit four in every game? Well his United side were going to hit ten! Only they didn’t. Not even once did they remotely look like hitting ten at any point in the entire ninety minutes. Chelsea on the other hand really should have had ten later in the same afternoon. Carlo, ever the gentleman, didn’t feel the need to point that one out and left it to the fanzines.
What can we say about this start to the season? Emphatic? Imperious? Faultless? My superlative dictionary is quickly running out. Also getting worn out by the continuing glut of Chelsea goals must be the statisticians. The twenty one league goals and solitary one conceded has them scrambling for the record books. Meanwhile the rest of the media are as slow as ever to give the side any begrudging credit. The fixture list has been patronisingly labelled as generous and, although it could of course have been harsher, it just means we have an even tougher period ahead. Has anyone in the media had a quick look at our fixture list around Christmas? With City away on Saturday the team has the perfect opportunity to show why they are champions and dent a rivals ambitions in the process. The last three games we’ve won at a canter and visibly relaxed in the second half. The game at Eastlands will be full of intensity for ninety minutes, thankfully we look on top of our game at the moment and hopefully can carry on the ruthless start to the season.
Manchester City will be a real test. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that Roberto Mancini has a somewhat conservative approach to the game. Three holding midfielders(!) will try to close down the gaps in midfield, so Drogba, Malouda and Anelka will have to work hard and smart to create openings in front of City’s backline. Milner and Tevez will try to harass our centre halves and Mikel off the ball and into mistakes. Mikel has been absolute fantastic so far and his performance is key to us shifting the ball quickly. His composure will be crucial particularly if Mancini opts to play Yaya Toure up against him. In Adam Johnson City have a pacy outlet to exploit behind Cole’s impressive forward runs, again Mikel and Malouda will have to be mindful. A priority will be to prevent a repeat of us getting caught out on the break as frequently we did at the Bridge last season. We may need more patience to break down a stubborn looking outfit but there’s so much movement and guile in the side right now they are more than capable of claiming a big win. The media might then have to start revising their outlook on our fixture list and performances but don’t hold your breath.