We’ll just take that one on the chin…
As much as I hate losing to Chelsea (and boy do I hate losing to Chelsea), my focus for a while now has been on qualifying for next season’s Champions League by finishing in the top four – or, at the very least, by winning the Europa League.
So Sunday’s defeat in the FA Cup, while hard to take and quite painful, it’s a certainly a case of… ‘it could’ve been worse, it could’ve been in the league’. I’m ever the optimist, as you know. What’s more, that was our first defeat in 20 matches, and I think the first loss for Bruno Fernandes in a United shirt. That’s some run, eh?
This week is a big one, as you know. We face West Ham and then Leicester in our final two games. Forget the semi-final of the FA Cup, we’ve got two cup finals ahead of us. ‘Scuse the cliche, please.
Also, as it’s United’s final home game of the season on Wednesday, I thought it’d be nice if Dream Team and our friends at Konami offered a little competition to long-suffering United fans – by giving you the chance to win a signed Man United shirt. I’ll pop the details of this competition at the bottom!
TOP FOUR FOCUS
It was a hard game to watch on Sunday. Chelsea had 20 (TWENTY) fouls, yet no yellow cards were given. Disgusting. But what’s worse is that our boys looked absolutely exhausted out there. It’s obvious now that that extra 48 hours of rest made all the difference; it meant that our passing was off and Chelsea’s pressing game was harder, among other things.
I put it down to there simply being no strength in our squad’s depth. That, I think, is perhaps our biggest problem. With games coming thick and fast at the moment, we really need that. Our best players are brilliant; among the best in the world when you really think about it, but their deputies are average. Next season, if we’re looking to challenge the likes of Liverpool and City, then we’re going to need better options when we rotate. It’s a simple as that.
Attention now turns to Wednesday with the game against West Ham. That match at the London Stadium (a game I was at, unfortunately) earlier in the season was one of the real low points of the campaign and a game I still look back on… like a nightmare. But I will say that both teams – us and West Ham – look completely different since then. They’ve gone from potentially fighting it out with Wolves and Leicester as top six pretenders at the beginning of the campaign, to a team that battled relegation up until last week. Whereas we’re a team with a very real chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League. We just need to make sure it happens…
THE END OF DE GEA
At this point, what more can any of us say about De Gea? I’ve already written enough about him and his mistakes this year, and we’ve all pondered whether Romero should be given a chance, or if Henderson should be considered our first-choice keeper when he returns next season…
Firstly, I just wanted to reiterate how bloody sad it is that it’s come to this. De Gea was the best goalkeeper in the world just two years ago and it often made me feel proud that he played for our team. His fall from grace has been terrible and, at best, embarrassing. He’s gone from a game-changing player to… a game-changing player. But from better to worse.
De Gea errors in Sunday’s semi-final were just two of a catalogue of recent gaffes. But while his mistakes have been awfully common this season, these two had a certain feeling of finality to them – or is that just me being dramatic? – I think the fact that they were two errors in the same game made it feel all the more worse and I started to think… this could be the moment that the axe falls for a favourite Spaniard.
Like I’ve said previously, Ole has a big decision to make over the summer regarding the goalkeeper position and Sunday’s game might’ve helped make up his mind completely. As James Ducker wrote in The Telegraph on Monday, United ‘have the bones of a championship-winning team… but no side has won the title without the right defensive foundations and United have neither the goalkeeper nor centre-half pairing to provide the consistency and mettle required of champions’.
Solskjaer will have to make a decision on Henderson’s future at the end of the season following his standout campaign in Sheffield, but I’m intrigued to see what happens in these final two games; should he stick with De Gea for West Ham and Leicester – two games, like I’ve said, that should be treated like cup finals – or decides to go with Romero? Another catastrophic error from our goalkeeper could seriously damage our Champions League hopes and dreams. Everything we’ve been building towards and worked so hard for since Bruno arrived at the end of January. So what do you think?
There is some good news to come out of Sunday’s heartbreak… Bailly seems to be just fine after being released from hospital hours after being taken off the pitch in a neck brace.
Play stopped for 11 minutes during the first-half at Wembley when Bailly clashed heads with iron skull of Maguire. He was stretchered off and then taken to hospital, but later posted a picture of himself giving the thumbs up on social media and wrote: ‘Thank you for all the messages of support. I am ok, it was just a scare. I feel the pain of yesterday’s defeat even more. But we have to get back up and refocus on the two big games we have this week.’
Bailly is a doubt for Wednesday’s penultimate game and that could mean 18-year-old Teden Mengi is promoted to the substitutes bench after training with the first team in recent weeks. Nope, I don’t really know who he is, either.
WIN A SIGNED SHIRT
Let’s finish things with a competition, shall we?
The powers that be at Dream Team have informed me that they’re giving away FIVE signed Man United shirts and balls – courtesy of our mates over at Konami who make the PES series (significantly better than FIFA, if you want my humble opinion).
All you need to do is follow @dreamteamfc on Twitter and retweet the competition post here. Be quick! The competition closes before midnight on Wednesday. Good luck, my friends!