With almost a two week gap until United next play and with the much talked about and much dreaded fixture list that saw us play against last seasons top 9 before Christmas (and away after EVERY European tie), it’s an appropriate time to take stock and make an evaluation to see how well we are doing.
On last years equivalent away fixtures it might surprise you (it certainly did me) to discover we have taken exactly the same amount of points – 13. Defeats at Chelsea and City last season have been exchanged with defeats at Liverpool and Arsenal – and while United won at Villa Park and Goodison Park last season but drew at Parks Fratton and Ewood, the reverse has occured this year.
Perhaps a slight concern is that in those 9 games we have only scored 8 times where last year we rattled in 12.
After 16 games last season we had a very healthy 36 points but 9 of those opening games were at Old Trafford as opposed to the 9 away at the start of this campaign. We currently sit on 32 points but Liverpool in first and on 38 with one more game played are not uncatchable.
At this stage last season we had scored 29 goals in the league – the 27 scored so far makes a lie of those who believe United have found it difficult to score.
I would not be being truthful if I said I didn’t have concerns about our chance conversion ration at the minute – and, too, at times, the lack of creativity we offer when we play both Fletcher and Park in the side.
But, for now, console yourself in the knowledge that United have negotiated (on paper, at least) their toughest away games and are more or less fighting on an even playing field despite that handicap. You might even argue that given the difficulty of the fixture list so far that we are performing better. Let’s just hope that the break in Japan will lead to a reinvigorated Red Devils side in time for a packed schedule from the festive schedule and beyond.
World Club Championship
Thursday morning sees us take on Japanese side Gamba in the semi finals of the World Club Championship. This is the first time United have been at this stage since the re-formatting of the competition, as we bid to become the only British team to win the trophy in either format (or, indeed, both, as we won in 1999).
Sir Alex has made his intention clear by sending a full first team squad to Tokyo when before it appeared he may rest one or two.
The prestige of the competition has been questioned by rival fans (cough, Scousers) whose main bone of contention lies in the fact that they have not won it yet.
However, much as I did in 1999, I see the competition as a fantastic chance to prove we are legitimately the best team in the world. If we win I will be delighted, perhaps as delighted as I was when we won the European Cup in May.
In time the competition will surely become more “glamorous” (though don’t hold your breath as I’m pretty sure it will need to be won by Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea before the media will feel excited about labelling the winners the best in the world), and to anyone who’s defying the credit crunch or the Christmas pinch and travelling to see the games, inspire our lads to victory and round off one of the two best years in the clubs history in style.