To paraphrase @dianekristine, there’s a tendency, in football (particularly football), to draw permanent conclusions from temporary situations. The media cycle is so rapid, the readership’s hunger for ‘expert’ opinions so ravaging that amidst the rush to generate the rowdy conversation that echoes in our pubs, bars, classrooms and living rooms, nuance is often the sorry victim.
This past weekend, Manchester United set out a perfect example. At Old Trafford, Manchester United spanked a strong West Ham side. 4 goals, a comfortable clean sheet and goals from players who, for varying reasons, needed them. In the aftermath, the reaction of the so-called experts has ranged from “Manchester United laid down their title credentials” to “Were Manchester United that good or West Ham were that bad?”
On one hand, you get an unequivocal statement and on the other, a statement which necessarily, for media purposes, provokes the sort of incendiary debate that obscures what is evident. What is evident then? That Manchester United played a very good game from 30 minutes onwards. For the first 30 minutes, there was a lack of cohesion and fluency – West Ham held a solid shape, allowed very little space between the lines and it looked like 16/17 again. However, Lukaku’s opener was symbolic of what this new United represents – pace and power, with the ability to punish teams on the break. With the goal, confidence flowed and the team played with greater panache. 4-0 was hardly flattering, notwithstanding that the final two goals in the dying minutes.
Was West Ham bad? Are oranges orange? It’s like asking to see heads of a coin expecting tails. It’s not common, in football, or any sport in fact, to be good, to execute properly and be properly trounced. As good as Manchester United was, the first 2 goals could be ascribed to lapses in concentration from West Ham players. Doth two individual lapses a narrative create? Perhaps not.
Taking a step back as a supporter that has been burnt by optimism in the last 4 seasons, a 4-0 win to begin the season is a strong start. But it’s 3 points – that’s all. United travels to Wales this weekend to face Swansea – that’s another match, another opportunity to pick up 3 points. A poor performance (or worse, a poor result) will have the murmurers murmuring again, jumping to conclusions.