Date: 30th March 2008 at 11:52am
Written by:

Ok, managers can’t win. Whatever they say and whatever they do, one of us will criticise. To come home from a long, wet, disappointing day and read that the manager saw things to take heart from saw the red mist descend for me. It was a pathetic, insulting and throwaway comment from someone who should no better. There is nothing to take from a thrashing and yesterday was exactly that, a thrashing.

The day started well, a bit of sunshine in Redditch and a few good mates to pick up and set off to Old Trafford, lucky pants and all. The sexy lady who guides me, unfortunately on sat nav not in person, told me to turn left and then right and off I went. It goes without saying as we headed up the M6 and got closer to Manchester the rain started, I’ve never been to Manchester when it hasn’t rained, it is a life ambition of mine to do so. It seems the Pennines have a lot to answer for!

We cut the timing a bit fine to be honest as we got there at 1:30 (kick off 5:15!) so off for a pizza and a couple of drinks we went. The bar got fuller and the Manchester United fans proved they do have voices as they were all talking perfectly normally – they must have talked themselves out I think as they fell silent at Old Trafford, even when 4-0 up.

Yes, can’t avoid it, I was going to talk about the journey there and back, the pizza we enjoyed (ham and mushroom, no cheese or olives for me, hmmm!) but I guess I’d better at least attempt not to go off on a rant and talk about the football. Hopefully Glensider will also provide a report later as he is more balanced than me!

I think most went there with little to no expectations, my one mate who has been for over 20 seasons described his optimism and ‘underground’ for this game after the poor showings v Boro and Sunderland. I heard others say they’d be happy with a draw and a few fans laughing at the suggestion we’d even get that. Sadly they were proved right.

Now as I say, managers can never win. We tell them to shake it up and change things – and Martin O’Neill for this game did just that – then we question whether going to Old Trafford and changing the formation is the right thing to do! In this case I’m not sure it would matter who played where and in what formation, Manchester United just outclassed us.

It was a mystifying to see Zat Knight on the bench, Olof Mellberg back in the centre and Nigel Hokey-Cokey playing at right back. Yes, the Hokey Cokey all of a sudden is a right back apparently. That said, he was probably our best player on the pitch but – and this is no criticism of him – he got caught for position a couple of times where you’d like to hope an experienced right back wouldn’t.

Villa started brightly enough and had a good share of possession through the game, especially the first half and to be fair, no one did that badly, it is just no one did that well. Carson pulled off a good save early on and I don’t think can be blamed for any of the goals, well no more than the defence who were cut apart more times than any of them would like to remember.

Ronaldo’s goal came from a corner, unclaimed, Barry missed the clearance and Ronaldo did what possibly only Ronaldo can do and back flicked it in. 1 chance, 1 goal and after Villa had started to so brightly. Tevez then added to the woes after being given far too much time and space. They were playing with us and still hadn’t had to get out of first gear. Villa aren’t really good enough to play the passing game like this, so what we surely have to do is what Boro and Sunderland did to us, stop us having time on the ball? But no, time we gave them and fun they had. It could have been worse, Rooney missed a few chances and hit the upright, Ronaldo hit the bar and they also had a goal, rightly disallowed for off side.

Rooney hadn’t scored at home since October, so naturally Villa obliged and ended that poor run, just as they had the week before v Sunderland (who’d not won away from home all season). I hope Bolton don’t have any hoodoo’s they need to bury next week as we are sure to help, we always seem to end the bad runs for other teams and players, goodness knows why! Like a bus, he got one and then he got another. He still looks like Shreks long lost brother but that is scant consolation!

Shaun Maloney had Villa’s best chance, one on one with the keeper he pulled his shot wide. He very nearly made up for it later with a superb curling shot that their keeper had to parry just over.

So, I think most travelling up expected a loss, I’m not sure many expecting a mauling or a lesson in football, sadly once again that is what we got. Sorry Nigel, maybe next year eh mate?

Oh, and I’ve always been told the police and stewards are awful at Old Trafford. I experienced the opposite. I was right at the back and the police were behind me. Not once did they ask us to sit down, in fact the one told some kids they could stand on their seats so they could see (advice would have been kinder to hide behind their seats so they couldn’t!) and they even had a laugh with us. When we were 4-0 down I told the one I was starting to lose my confidence that we’d win the game!

I am not sure it would be constructive to mark the players, lets give it a go and see. Feel free in the forum and/or front page article comments to add your own and slate mine!

Player Ratings

Scott Carson 5.5
No real idea how to score that, he let in 4 goals but I’m not convinced he was to blame for them. He also saved another that would have added to the scoreline.

Olof Mellberg 5
Too much space for Man Utd players who carved us open at will.

Martin Laursen 5
As above

Wilfred Bouma 5
As above. Also apparently furious to be brought off and stormed off to the dressing room. Didn’t see it myself.

Nigel Hokey Cokey 6.5
Got caught for position but did put in a great effort in a position he isn’t used to.

Gareth Barry 5
Gave the ball away too often and really isn’t firing on all cylinders at all for us at the moment. Might have done better with the clearance.

Stiliyan Petrov 6
Put in the effort, had a couple of shots. Still not convinced he is good enough but did try.

Ashley Young 4

John Carew 1
Total waste of space, showed no menace, had one shot off target, went down like a deck of cards and used none of his strength and speed. When the midfield looked to pass forward, he was nowhere near the box where he should have been. Then he went off injured.

Gabby Agbonlahor 4
Nothing at all of note. Not one shot that I can remember. Take off the red boots, re-adjust your attitude and get back to the menace that you were.

Marlon Harewood 5
Tried but nothing came off.

Shaun Maloney 4 (on for Carew 41)
One big miss, one great shot. If he gets some self belief, he could be a great player.

Isaiah Osbourne (on for a furious Wilfred Bouma 80
Not enough time to rate.

Manager Rating
MON. Strange time to change tactics but I guess you might as well try something rather than lay down and do sod all! Really not sure what to think at the moment, hopefully a summer of spending and all will become clearer next season.

Opponent Rating
Sir Chewalot. Nice easy day for him, must be a bit of a nightmare for his jaw though.