Praying for a Miracle
Since last week`s defeat I have been feeling semi-detached from the goings-on at Molineux, considering that nothing can save us now. Of course, TC and the players have argued that there are still thirty points on offer (now, twenty-seven) but, if we continue our current form, we are not going to pick up a single one. We are by a long way the worst team in the PL. Even Wigan picked up a point against the Baggies yesterday (and should have won).
While I had posted responses to the various threads over the course of the week, I had been operating on auto-pilot. I just about managed to summon up the energy to have a half-hearted swipe at johnwolf but that didn`t take much effort. Even the prospect of the MU match did not excite me. Having discounted the result, I did not even suffer from the usual mixture of anxiety, gloom and dry-throated anticipation.
Fortunately, I had something else to look forward to this weekend, with Wales going for the Grand Slam against France. At least one of my teams is capable of winning matches. I watched both that game and the Scotland-Italy fixture at a local pub and, while I was elated with the outcome, my Scottish friend wore the same expression as I have noticed on the face of WW supporters. Even so, as both of us had sunk a few pints by the end of the afternoon, nothing seemed to matter as we wove our way home.
Incidentally, Wales`s victory over France has ensured that the forthcoming wedding of my elder daughter to a Frenchman will be an amicable affair. I still have not forgiven Les Bleus for beating us in the semi-final of the World Cup last year and, as a result, threatened to withdraw my consent if they had won yesterday.
I would have preferred to view the MU match 'in situ' but, as it was Mother`s Day and I had rolled home rather worse for wear the previous day, there was absolutely no chance of being allowed to travel to the ground. Like the salesman selling dresses to Julia Roberts in 'Pretty Woman`, I knew that a 'major sucking-up` job was necessary (stop tittering!).
In effect, I had to act as a surrogate daughter and take my wife out for a morning stroll, followed by Sunday lunch at a nearby pub. Bolting my food, I might have managed to get back to the house for the 1.30 pm kick-off, had my wife not sussed out the reason for the speedy dispatch of the food. It took the promise of yet another expedition to find shoes to match the wedding outfit to placate her ... and a pudding, coffee and liqueur at the restaurant.
Arriving home at 2.20 pm, my wife kindly rewound the clock so that I could watch the game from the kick-off. If I had known that we were already three goals down and a man short, I don`t think I would have bothered.
Having viewed the whole game in its entirety, I find it difficult to assess our performance, given Zubar's dismissal. Sure, we got stuffed but we did not look that bad for the first 20 minutes. We started quite brightly: Zubar made a characteristic run, Jarvis looked like he meant business, Fletcher put a glancing header wide and we were closing down MU players reasonably well. Davis made a great sliding tackle in the 8th. minute. Of course, our passing was still sloppy, a weakness which the slickness of MU`s distribution of the ball brought into sharper relief.
It couldn`t last and in the 20th. minute we gave away a typically stupid goal. From a corner, no-one picked up Carrick beyond the far post and he was able to slide it through to the similarly unmarked Evans to tap home. Once again we had thrown away all the hard work with a schoolboy howler of a mistake.
If MU were dominating the play, we were keeping them out and the match was still redeemable. Then, in the 39th. minute, Zubar, who had already earned himself a yellow card for a late tackle on Rooney, repeated the trick and was immediately sent off. This was a pity. Not only did it reduce our chances of getting a result to vanishing point, it also opened up the flood-gates. And we also lost the services of Zubar and his galloping runs down the flank (and more to the point for another three games).
Now MU could cut open our defence at will and the only question was the scale of the defeat. In the 42nd. minute, a MU counter-attack caught us napping and Valencia (perhaps aided by the withdrawal of Davis through injury), drove forward before cutting in from the wing and unleashing an unstoppable shot into the far corner of the net. Three minute later he cut the ball back to the unmarked Welbeck to fire past an unsighted Hennessey.
In the second half MU relaxed and we only shipped a further two goals. In the 55th. minute woeful defending allowed Hernandes a free header, which he duly converted. Five minutes later great interplay in and around our penalty area ended with Hernandes scoring another easy goal. We couldn`t get anywhere near the players on the ball. The gulf in skill, movement and speed of thought merely underlined our technical inferiority.
We never gave up and might have scored a consolation goal from one or two chances. For a heady few minutes two-thirds of the way through the game we put MU under pressure. Kightly, who had replaced Doyle in the 56th. minute, woke up and gave us a glimpse of the flyer who used to terrorise Championship full-backs. Why do we play Doyle out of position? If he plays, he should be operating in tandem with Fletcher. Again, flick-ons went begging.
By now MU were strolling and were primarily intent on giving their younger players a bit of match practice. Smalling came on, sporting a scrum cap that made him look as if he had spent yesterday on the field at Twickenham. We withstood a couple of scares and the match quietly tip-toed to a close.
It could have been worse, given the circumstances, but it could have been a helluva lot better too. We would probably have lost, whatever happened, but we keep on making basic errors. Why can`t we defend set pieces and pick up men in the box. Why can`t we pass the ball to a team-mate? And, if a player is on a yellow, why does he not think before committing another reckless tackle? So, that`s another player out for a few games.
If I am beyond caring now, for a few minutes at the start of the match I thought that a spark of life remained in the team. I began to contemplate a miracle, daft thought it seemed, even at the time. Of course, we soon pressed the self-destruct button and I regained my now customary state of nirvana. Perhaps Championship football next season will rekindle my sense of excitement. At least, we might win some matches, that is, if we tighten up our game.