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United almost set for a Homage to Catalonia

fans viewsPaul's new article reviews the masterful performance in Rome and looks ahead to the Boro' game on Sunday I am currently in bed, nursing the mother, father, brother and cousin of hangovers. Drinking pints of cider, a drink I have nothing but disdain for and never drink, with sambuca shots has left me feeling as if someone has slowly reversed an articulated lorry over my head. I keep expecting to open my eyes and see my whole family surrounding the bed, holding candles in hushed silence like in those old fashioned westerns, weeping into hankies and shaking their fists toward the sky, berating God for taking me so young. However, all the pain in the world can’t take the spring out of my step (when I finally master walking again) caused by the events in the Eternal City last night.

I order you to be excited. Go on. Jump about a bit, punch a fist in the air (make sure there aren’t any low-flying birds first), and if you’re in company and don’t want people to edge away from you in fright, just smile, because to watch Manchester United last night was to watch the finest team in Europe, nay the world, at this moment in time. Our performance was one of maturity, patience and overall technical and tactical nous. Bar a shaky quarter of an hour after the break, we were completely in control of the game, sharp in the tackle and equally as sharp on the ball. The first goal was a masterpiece borne of poise and movement, and all those boneheaded “fans” who boo when England try to keep the ball instead of raking 50-yard balls into touch should watch the patient build-up and retention of the ball evinced by us as we probed and pulled Roma out of position before the bulldozing rapier thrust of Ronaldo’s header from Scholes’ dainty cross. In Europe and at international level, you do not regain the ball with anything like the frequency you do in the Premiership, and as such you should guard the ball with the same degree of vigilance as you would your bare arse in a prison shower whilst there is a bar of soap skidding around the floor. A mistake from Doni then led to Rooney tapping in the second from close range and from there we passed the game out for a famous victory, with a performance that will live long in the memory.  

Barring a Devon Loch type catastrophe at Old Trafford, United must surely now make the semis, where it seems most likely that Barcelona will lie in wait. I for one am not all that concerned about the Catalan giants, as they seem rickety at the back, out of sorts form-wise and even though they have more shining attacking weapons than Attila the Hun I feel their defence could not live with our movement, power and pace.

Another plus from last night was Paul Scholes, who was simply brilliant in midfield, buzzing with energy and always open for the pass. Ever since Giggs and Scholes have returned from their injuries, I felt that Giggs has been markedly off the pace. Scholesy however seems to have wound back the clock, playing with the verve and proficiency we have all come to expect from him over the years. He can’t tackle granted, but who cares? Rooney worked hard and showed great positional discipline (for once), Ronaldo was his usual bothersome self, Rio seemed assured after a shaky start, Michael Carrick showed Capello what a penis he was for not selecting him for England, and overall we had an air of authority and experience that I haven’t seen in a European performance from us for a long while. Other good news included the fact that the Roman police this time decided against beating the living shit out of the English fans under the mildest of provocation, and the ubiquitous Stanley knives of the infamous Ultras must have been put to use chopping prosciutto or picking stones out of the soles of very expensive leather boots bought in Milano as there was no fan trouble. All in all, it was bloody lovely of them to not bash, stab, slash or cosh any of us this time, and we thank them wholeheartedly for this show of Anglo-Italian “friendship”.

 The only blot on the night was Vidic’s injury, sustained after landing heavily on one leg. We await news on the big Serbian today with baited breath such is his growing importance to United. On reflection, it has to be said that this team is maturing nicely together, and if this is the work in progress the idea of them at full fruition is enough to make me want to do joyous, naked handstands, although that is more a reflection on my admittedly precarious mental state than anything else. We have a solid back-four, enough quality midfielders to stock the entire top four, and some of the most potent attacking options in Europe. If we were to add an out-and-out goalscorer to the squad during the summer, someone of David Villa’s ilk perhaps, I believe it would lead to us becoming the best thing in the entire world ever, even better than bubble-wrap or Maltesers.

We come back to what I consider the cup of primary importance on Sunday afternoon with a delightful trip to Middlesbrough, where grey was invented (probably). ‘Tis grim up north indeed, but Middlesbrough are a strange side in that on their day they have the beating of anybody, it’s just that those days are rarer than instances of Kerry Katona eating a salad. We need to stay focussed on the job in hand, as a good lead at the top can evaporate if concentration wilts to any degree (just ask Arsenal). We need not worry about playing Arsenal or going to Chelsea, such is our form, but if we can sustain our lead into these games it puts the pressure on them to come and win against us, making them more vulnerable to our thrusting counter-attack play. That’s the plan anyhow.

This is the best part of any season, when everything starts to come to the boil. Watching certainly the best side I’ve ever seen wear the red shirts every week is a pleasure and a privilege, but teams in history are judged on silverware, and if we were to not win anything this year I think I would set a new world record for someone banging their head against a wall, if that is a record at all. If not, I just set it, with one, so beat that. Here’s hoping that we don’t freeze at ‘Brough (read it out loud, that’s golden punning) and it can be seen that there are all the good portents that this could be one of the great years for Manchester United FC.


Come on United.


Paul M :)

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