So onto the Mancs, under the lights at St James’ Park.
I’d like to first stop and thank the FA for giving us such a wonderfully lopsided fixture list. I’m just surprised they didn’t chuck in a festive match against Cruyff’s 1970’s Holland for a lark.
I understand that there will be fans of other teams, and possibly some of our own wanky boo boys who’d say things like “don’t be a big Jessie” and “you’ve got to play everyone, anyway” but being a bang average / a bit shit and having to face everyone really good in a row, then having the nightmare of playing your relegation rivals in ‘every game a cup final’ mode isn’t the best.
I’m writing this having seen a probable 8 point cushion and one foot into safety-land being halved by goals from Doucouré and Mitro, so if I sound a little testy please bear with me.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has suddenly made a big difference to this fixture. As they meekly surrendered at Anfield a couple of weeks ago, my heart sank. Not for the Mancs, but for us. It was pretty clear that this performance would signal the end of the artist formerly known as the “Special One.” Now, we face a reinvigorated team free of someone this hugely under-performing squad all clearly loathed.
Man U, or just “United” as SKY insist on calling them (as if they are the only team with that name in Britain) suddenly look a different proposition. The Nordic Rob Lee botherer is three games in and has a 100% record with a goal difference of +9. OK, it was against the lesser lights of Cardiff, Huddersfield and Bournemouth but still, the transformation in playing style and overall mood is in stark contrast to what we’d all witnessed before.
Last season’s fixture in February was probably my favourite game of the season. It was also our most important win. There are certain similarities in place prior to this one. Back then, a rare Huddersfield victory earlier in the day had sent us tumbling into the bottom three. On this occasion, whilst it can’t get quite as desperate as that, we’ll probably kick off even closer to the drop zone than we are just now. It’s properly ‘broon troosaz’ time.
What of our chances? With just two wins on the board at St James’ and a paltry seven scored, it’s difficult to make a case for anything but an away win. The bookies certainly think so.
My hope is that we can sit deep, remain solid and frustrate them. Achieve this and we’ll have some sort of chance. If the hilariously hapless Phil Jones replaces the suspended Bailly, our hopes will increase exponentially.
If we can somehow repeat last season’s heroics, the peeve will flow and excitement levels on Tyneside will hit ‘Dora the Explorer’ levels. I’m sorry to say however, I think it will be a narrow away win with a minty dancing accompaniment from that massive ponce, Paul Pagba.
Let’s pray I’m wrong.
NICK CLARK – FOLLOW NICK ON @Clark5Nick