United fans, let’s forget about last night. I’m going to tell you why it’s the best thing that could have happened to us. But just a little rant to begin with:
Well done to West Ham, they were magnificent, but no team wearing the United colours above the age of 16 should be humiliated by a second-string bottom of the league side, let alone a United team featuring the “future of the club” and three seasoned pros. Ryan Giggs, Anderson and Darren Fletcher should be ashamed of themselves, as they were in that side to take control and guide the others through what was always going to be a difficult tie. They didn’t, they were simply abject.
The youngsters, meanwhile, looked utterly non-league, and all our budding foreign talent could do once things started going against them was hurl themselves to the ground at every opportunity and roll around looking for help from the referee. Pitiful.
Right, that’s that out of the way, and if any United fan can think of something I’ve missed, please point it out.
But, no more despair – this is the best thing that could have happened! Everybody connected with the club has woken up this morning having been taught a very valuable lesson:
1. Alex Ferguson was shown that, despite the undoubted promise of his youngsters, there is still much work to be done; they are not ready to take over from Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. With that in mind, Fergie has only one option to give the youngsters more time to develop: he must buy big this summer.
2. The young players, particularly Chris Smalling (who until last night had not put a foot wrong) have been shown that they are not guaranteed a place at Manchester United; if they want to play for the biggest club in the world, they have to work for it. Time and dedication will pay off, and it will also weed out those who don’t have what it takes.
3. The experienced players in the team last night were given a similar lesson: just because they are part of the first team doesn’t mean they don’t have to earn it every single game.
4. But most important of all, for the whole club, it has left them with nowhere to hide: Manchester United can no longer claim the Carling Cup as evidence of silverware and a successful season.
The club has become too accustomed to missing out on the trophies that matter, and now if they want to win anything, it will have to be something that actually means something. The 7-1 demolition of Blackburn at the weekend harkened back to an almost forgotten era at Old Trafford, when high-scoring results like that were always expected and often delivered. The United of years gone by would never have accepted the Carling Cup as a good-enough achievement, and now neither can this team. Three choices, lads: Premiership, FA Cup or Champions League.
So come on United fans, let them have their worthless cup, and let’s support West Ham in (hopefully) humbling Arsenal just like they did to us.
We want bigger and better things. That’s all that counts.