No time for a false start
Essential that the reds halt their traditional slow start to the season by Philip Morrissey
‘And all the participants are lined up and ready to go. Months of preparation and training would have gone before them and now it is race time. Pace is set to be key in this endurance event that will see many fall behind, fail to last the pace or even drop out completely. The rewards are clear; trophies and glory but failure is also obvious. The competitors get in position in tense anticipation of what lies ahead. The starter pistol is sounded and they are off. But wait….what a disastrous beginning for one of the favourites!’
A sound that is sadly all too familiar for United fans. For the past five seasons before the start of this one, the run has been patchy at the very best. The hope and optimism that all fans have (hey, this just might be our year!) have been extinguished by the end of October. Instead of aiming at a shot at the title, the team was left clinging on to the coat-tails of those in the European places. It used to be said that under Alex Ferguson, that whoever finished ahead of us were likely to win the title. Now it became that they were able to qualify for the champions league. Not good enough. The beginning of the ‘chosen one’ earned a mere 7 points from the opening six game. Two defeats and two draws in that same period under Van Gaal saw them drop ten points in the same time.
But surely the season is a long one and it is all about finishing well rather than finishing well? And wasn’t there poor starts to campaigns that ultimately proved successful under Sir Alex? Yes to both. Top teams will have periods of difficulty in every season. Getting through patches when you are not at your best has always been the sign of champions. Grinding out scores and results is perhaps a greater boost than a resounding battering of relegation fodder. It is that statement of intent for the year that an opening day win provides however. Of the potential title contenders, ourselves, City and Leicester would be expected to win. Arsenal and Liverpool face each other whilst Chelsea face a tricky West Ham side.
Not that we can expect to have it easy at Dean Court. The 2-1 defeat there last December was just one of a series of dropped points before Christmas. A tight pitch, spirited opposition and a promising young manager all combined to make a decent premiership side. It was perhaps a surprise to lose Matt Ritchie and Tommy Elphick to teams that were relegated but they did good business in picking up Brad Smith and Jordan Ibe from Liverpool. A fit Calum Wilson will allow for greater options up front to complement former red Josh King and midseason recruit Benik Afobe. An experienced centre-half is perhaps needed to shore up a defence that were opened up at times last year.
The attention is on Jose and co. after the spending spree during the pre-season and time for talking has ended. Start well and they could be setting themselves up for a real shot at the main trophy in May. A repeat performance and they could see their opposition disappearing into the distance.