Rafa’s Mags facing José Mourinho’s Man U at Old Trafford on a Saturday tea time… We’ve had some terrible times in the last decade and some bad results to lesser clubs in recent weeks but this is the sort of footballing occasion that fans of your Bournemouths, Burnleys and Huddersfields will never, ever get to experience. The game is of course televised and whilst we are huge underdogs, this should be a fantastic one for the neutral.
Rafa’s current United squad cost a total of £142 million as of this summer. To be honest this came as a surprise to me as I
thought this figure would be lower but then you have to remember that by today’s standards that’s nothing for a premier league squad. Our opponents who of course never get the credit they deserve have a squad that cost a staggering £690 million to choose from. Only City and PSG have spent more. Divided across a 25-man premier league squad that’s over £27million per player. We’ve never spent close to that on one player and our entire back five cost less than this. It’s mental how far we’ve come from being the highest spenders in 1996.
That’s the challenge that faces us today and mathematically we should get hammered, obviously. However, that just isn’t what anybody can really expect to happen with Rafa Benitez in the dugout. We always have a chance in any game with Rafa’s tactical genius and whilst we’ve had a tough run and turned in some poor performances and results, you just know that Rafa will have a plan for this one.
Firstly, it’s José. I’ve said this before but we should all know that Rafa HATES losing against his peers, in anycircumstances. Rafa and José have plenty of history and Rafa will have plenty to get the lads fired up here. Secondly. We’ve just had another international break. As per my Southampton preview we are always the better side after an international break under Rafa. More days to prepare for any game is a bonus but we are also lucky to not have too many on duty in the current squad so Rafa has had a full fortnight with all of them to prepare for this.
Beyond that we are just due some luck, and whilst Old Trafford isn’t normally the place to get it, we just have to get a cheeky penalty or red card to help our cause at some point this season, why not this one?!
As far as Man Utd are concerned we know what the threat is now. Lukaku and Rashford are likely to lead the line and are a centre half’s worst nightmare for obvious reasons. They have an abundance of options across the midfield and José, like Rafa, will almost certainly stick to the same system of a 3412 with Ashley Young and Valencia on the wings. This will mean Atsu and Ritchie will have their hands full defending and I can’t see them having much joy in behind.
For us to snatch anything going forward here it will have to come through the middle. Joselu has been quiet for some weeks now and we are going to need a huge performance in terms of hold up play and giving us something in their half. If Rafa has faith, then I do though. In games like this it will be 100% about hard work and commitment. We may have some serious shortfalls in quality but we have players with more heart than at any other time I can think of in living memory. In football, that can be the difference and if we get a bit of luck, we can perhaps get something here, and the lads deserve it.
Of course we could get hammered here and if that happens I’d be disappointed if we see a similar melt down across our fan base as to that after Bournemouth. We have to accept that this season is now all about building a platform. If that’s scraping through and keeping our premier league status for a year then so be it. With what’s going on off the pitch there is a long term future there with Rafa Benitez in it and whilst we’ve been through more than our fair share of shit over the last 10 years, perspective is still needed. We should all stick with this group of players as they’ve earned our support and good will for some time yet. Howay the lads.
Prediction 2-2 (Massively optimistic)
SIMON CAMPBELL – FOLLOW SIMON ON @SIMONCAMPBELL11
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