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Flat Manchester United lacking fight and passion

By: James Fenton 27 Feb 2014 09:46:41

Flat Manchester United lacking fight and passion

It seems a weekly occurrence now that Manchester United fans are telling themselves that this is the worst that it can get.

A miserable winter saw the Old Trafford club plummet to new depths of despair. In what was foreseen by many as a transitional season, the blind optimism adopted by most supporters slowly made way for whispers of discontent.

With each passing crushing defeat and lame performance, from West Brom to Newcastle, Sunderland to Swansea, the hit-and-hope gameplan in the home draw with Fulham, the whispers grew and grew in volume.

This was before Tuesday night in Greece and the humbling defeat by Olympiacos. Suddenly the whispers are no longer required.

The words so rarely spoken of before on the red side of Manchester can are now being spoken of openly, loud, and not so proud: 'crisis point'.

It speaks volumes that the only person who publicly tried to defend the shambles of a performance was the wife of one of the guilty players.

Lisa Carrick took to her Twitter account to take on former United captain Roy Keane who had just criticised her husband Michael's post-match interview on ITV, claiming it to be 'as flat as his performance'.

The fact is, Keane was right in his assessment. It was a flat interview mirroring the flat performance of Carrick and his flat team-mates.

No doubt Mrs. Carrick was waiting with open arms as her husband flatly trudged up the drive towards the flat they share together before falling flat on his face in the hallway.

"There, there, love, ya must be flat out. Big Bad Roy can't hurt you now," she would have flatly said as she comforted her husband.

With Pancake Tuesday fast approaching, the Carricks will no doubt be aiming to achieve levels of flatness never seen before.

Keane spoke with a passion reminiscent of the days where he covered each blade of grass in pursuit of so many famous Manchester United victories under then manager Alex Ferguson.

Compare that to the squad of 2014. The players who can truly be praised for giving the 110% required in every game under Ferguson can now almost be counted on one hand.

Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, after illustrious careers at Old Trafford will now surely be shown the door in the summer.

Two great defenders of the late-Ferguson regime, and influential characters in the dressing room have now passed their sell-by dates.

Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic can hold their heads slightly higher than that of their team-mates, if that is saying anything at all.

It was telling however that Vidic as club captain didn't come out and speak to the media after the game.

It seems the Serbian's heart left Manchester a long time ago as his imminent departure approaches.

Keane is seen by many as one of the greatest warriors in the Premier League era, one of the fiercest competitors ever to grace an English football pitch.

However, back in his first season at the club when the 22-year -old Corkman was part of a team that won the League and F.A. Cup double, Keane was nearly a splash in the pond of a squad that was brimming with natural born leaders.

As Gary Neville once said, the mark of a great side is when you can reel off the starting eleven without a second thought, and the 1993/94 Manchester United team certainly falls into that category.

In goal, Peter Schmeichel. When the Great Dane wasn't using every inch of his 6 foot 4 frame to defend the Manchester United goal, he was barking instructions out to a central defensive partnership of Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister.

The two rocks at the heart of defence were often seen turning around and telling Schmeichel in no uncertain terms where to stick it, showing a passion and mentality that is absent from today's squad.

On either side of this pair were Paul Parker and Denis Irwin, the former a reliable servant and latter the most consistent performer of the Ferguson era, to use the great man's own words.

Midfield saw the intimidating pairing of Keane and Paul Ince, another fearsome footballer who would sweat blood for the cause, flanked by the flair Andrei Kanchelskis and the emerging Ryan Giggs, a teenager who had his sights firmly set on becoming one of the greatest British footballers of all-time.

Up front, Mark Hughes, a centre-forward of a bygone era who would score as many goals as he booted defenders off the pitch.

And the icing on the cake, the presence of Le Dieu himself, Eric Cantona, who while leading the side to glory in his own inimitable fashion was also inspiring the next generation of Neville, Beckham, Butt and Scholes.

All of the players mentioned would go out on to the pitch and drop dead for Alex Ferguson if that is what was required of them.

What's more, they would all go out to pitch and fight for each other. Each of them were battle-hardened men with a passion for the crest they wore on their chests.

The aforementioned youngsters went onto conquer Europe, in no small part thanks to the goals of Yorke, Cole, Solskjaer and Sheringham, before the arrival of the likes of Van Nistelrooy, Rooney and Ronaldo.

All of these of players showed something of themselves that is missing from today's United side.

A cold-blooded refusal to be beaten, an animalistic desire to become the best and remain the best year after year, even if some years it didn't quite go according to plan.

Ronaldo was often jeered for being a touch emotionally fragile. How many players today would throw a tantrum at being substituted or have their cheeks smeared with tears after an F.A. Cup final defeat?

Most of all, each of these players knew that they were representing the biggest club in the world. A club that quite literally rose from the ashes back in the era of Sir Matt Busby and Sir Bobby Charlton to become the most successful club in the history of English football.

Lisa Carrick may be right about one thing. Sometimes Roy Keane does say things to provoke a reaction but on Tuesday night he spoke more sense then anyone.

In a dressing room filled with the mediocrity of overpaid 'superstars' such as Cleverly, Young, and the increasingly petulant Van Persie, David Moyes must be crying out for a man of the ilk of a Keane, a Cantona or a Schmeichel to teach his players a thing or two about what it means to play for such a prestigious club.

 


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