United face one last challenge before the International Break sends us all to sleep, in the shape of relegation threatened
Cardiff City at St James’ Park this Saturday. Since returning from the last set of boring internationals United have won every single game available to them scoring 14 goals in the process and conceding just two. In that time we’ve not just risen to the top of the league but pulled three points clear and opened up a six point gap to third place. We’re on our way.
The Cardiff game has also been dubbed ‘Legends Day’ by Gallowgate Flags. Any of you who read this fanzine, website or
listen to me on the podcast will know true faith have been an integral part of the fan movement and we’re calling on fans to get to the game against Cardiff thirty minutes early on Saturday to witness the unveiling of the twelve (massive) Legends Flags as well as a full flag display behind the goal at the Gallowgate End. The support of the United orientated public has made this possible and while there have been a few individuals desperate to criticise anything that doesn’t involve sitting behind a keyboard from an anonymous social media account, we’d massively appreciate it if you could share the information about Legends Day and encourage those attending to arrive for the game early. There is more information to be found here and here.
Neil Warnock brings his Cardiff side to St James’ having accrued 15 points from their 15 games. Cardiff manager Paul Trollope was sacked just 11 games into his Cardiff career. He left the side bottom of the table and with just seven points. Enter Neil ‘Colin’ Warnock (called that because his name is an anagram of ‘Colin W*nker’) the survival specialist. Cardiff subsequently won their derby with Bristol and then picked up a credible point at home to Sheffield Wednesday. Four points from two was then seven from three and Cardiff were flying after an away win at Forest. Some Cardiff fans had started to talk of a run to the play offs until a defeat last week at home to manager-less Wigan halted his great run.
Warnock’s record against United is poor as is his record against Benitez. The last time the two clashed Benitez’s Chelsea ran out five goal winners at Elland Road. It’s funny then that Warnock seems to dislike Rafa which is explained here. Worryingly some news sources had Warnock as Steve McCLaren’s successor if United had failed to lure Rafa to NE1. Life would be, different, if Charnley had ‘pulled’ that appointment off. Cardiff have won on the road at Rotherham and Forest this season but not kept a clean sheet since the opening day at Birmingham City. United’s home form has been good though we’ve not hit the heights that we have away from home in the league. Like any game involving United the first goal is crucial. We win when we score it, we lose when we don’t. That’s a little simplistic but until it changes it’ll be true.
Cardiff would be over the moon with a point but as I’ve said before there’s a blue print to beat United at home. It’s just risky. You have to play a reasonably high line and press United in the middle third of the pitch. Leave our centre backs with the ball and force them to play long to Dwight Gayle. It’s risky as you leave space for Gayle in behind and risk chances like the ones he got v Huddersfield (missed) and Norwich and Brentford (scored), however by totally crowding out our midfield more often than not the centre backs will go long to Gayle or worse, make mistakes. Ipswich and Brentford didn’t really try this approach in fear of what can go wrong if United get in behind. They were beaten before the game kicked off.
The Preston away game was the first time I’ve seen a team press United all over the pitch. Our centre backs were pushed back and given little time on the ball and Shelvey hardly touched the ball in the first half. I presume this all out approach was made easier for our opponents by the fact they pushed us AND played a high line (well you’ve got to) due to us fielding Mitrovic whose lack of pace compared to Gayle meant they were comfortable leaving them one on one with a centre back. That worked well for them until the first goal, when this was exposed. So Cardiff can get at United, it’s just a risk that we can exploit.
With a fifteen day gap until our next game at Leeds (who’ve sold out a league game for the first time since, forever. Nought to do with us though, apparently. Total coincidence) I can’t see him risking Gayle’s hamstring and therefore Mitrvoic should get the nod. Atsu will come in for the suspended Ritchie and Colback could return for Hayden. I think he may play Anita due to Atsu not being able to cover the fullback as effectively as Ritchie. This is Rafa though so don’t be surprised to see something none of us saw coming like Yedlin playing in front of Vurn.
It’s United, at home, in this division. We should win. Colin Warnock will have his side up to spoil and frustrate, as he should. It’s supposed to be a cold, windy day on Saturday. We should have enough about us to keep the run going into what looks like an incredibly hard game away at Leeds after the international break. Norwich play in form Leeds at home and Brighton go to well-placed Bristol City. I wouldn’t back against them both dropping points and United going into the break further clear of the pack.
Prediction: 3-1 United
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892
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