It’s been a while hasn’t it? It’s always frustrating when we end up missing a week of action due to unavoidable circumstances which means it feels like an absolute age since I last wrote an article.
And, indeed it is. In the time spent between articles I have officially become a year older, yomped to the UK and back and become an uncle all in the space of two West Ham matches, one of course a terrific win against Southampton and one a disappointing defeat to Everton. Looking back though to the match against Everton was anyone else as disappointed as I was at the way the team was set up?
It was a team designed to stop Everton and possibly try and nick it on the break or settle for a 0-0. Not the most adventurous and dynamic of tactics and a little deflating considering the previous four consecutive victories and consistent scoring. It felt that even Sam had no confidence in the team, convinced that the quality of our squad was simply not good enough to give Everton a decent match on their home turf.
The Stoke match proved to be similar but all that is in the past and we look forward once again to another crucial Saturday afternoon at the Boleyn. I’m sure everyone is aware of our tricky run in to the end of the season and thus the importance of securing at least four points out of the quick fire home double header we are facing this week.
After the Hull match on Wednesday, our last seven fixtures still see us having to face Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City. Add in a tricky away tie against Sunderland and it’s clear to see that every point is going to have to be fought for with maximum effort. So let’s assess our chances for the match this weekend against United. It has to be said that the away tie just before Christmas was not a particularly happy one.
We’d gone into that with some hope, despite our league form being far from good enough, after dumping Tottenham out of the Capital One Cup midweek.
Factor in Manchester United’s home form being particularly poor, having lost two on the bounce before our visit and there were grounds for optimism. It was a poor performance, however, with United coasting home to a 3-1 victory but one plus out of that day was the first start for Adrian in the Premier League and although three goals were conceded, who could have predicted his terrific rise in reputation to where he stands today?
Impressive stuff, indeed. Fast forwarding three months then from that ineffective display and United are still, it could be said, in turmoil but our fortunes have upturned considerably. Barring our first team being decimated by injuries when training this week, our injury situation is fine. Marco Boriello and O’Brien excepted, we are pretty much running at full strength. We were told in this season’s dark times not to judge the manager, the performances, or the results until we had the majority of the injured players back.
Well now they are, so what better team to be our opponents today than a considerably ‘out of sorts’, ‘transitional’ or however you want to describe them, Manchester United, to judge exactly where we stand in terms of our Premier League credentials.
I don’t wish to rain on the parade of our ‘four in a row’ February but we did carry a lot of luck in at least two of those matches, including the previously mentioned Adrian proving why his stock has risen so markedly. On the flipside it could be argued that was just luck evening out after a particularly shocking run over the previous few months and we deserved to have that little bit of good fortune shining on us.
Either way we are still needing a good few points on the board to ensure we are where we need to be next season and this weekend will give all of us a much clearer indication of who we are, how healthy the squad is and whether we are still in for some ‘heart in mouth’ moments as a quite incredible season plays out its final quarter.