Not a great night for United. Boscombe. Back of the Net. Twice. Sam Dalling was there for TF.
Newcastle United? Good time to play them. Look, no one can argue it hasn’t been coming. No one can say it wasn’t deserved. Out of breath; out of ideas; out on their feet.
For those persuaded by Bournemouth, it must have felt testimonial-like: “Roll up, roll up, the 2012-13 League One promotion band is back together.”
The ‘Knackered from their Champions League adventures’ corporation presents to you, Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall on the touchline, with a side helping of Matt Ritchie, head down, charging about below the centre of gravity of his fellow pitch dwellers. One night only folks. Miss it, miss out.
A two goal loss could, perhaps should, have been more. Nick Pope was a rather busy custodian, and his interventions – plus some wastefulness from our hosts – prevented mere defeat becoming an embarrassment.
It is a strange result to process. United were missing their spine, yet not spineless. Far from their best but not without mitigation. Outwitted but not really outfought. They simply had no more to give.
It was, by the close, as disjointed a display as there has been under Howe. It felt a little like watching a baby attempting to construct Lego, fistfuls of pieces being slapped together in the hope something clicked. Give it to Anthony, or one of the Joes and hope they can make something happen.
Spoiler alert: nothing materialised. True, several times United were close. But Sean Longstaff tilted back a little too much. But AG shot straight at Neto. From two down, few really believed there was a way back.
Look, bless Ritchie. There is a time and a place for him, but it is not – these days – more than an hour from the right-wing. More chance a kangaroo hopping backward than him creating any meaningful forward momentum. Sorry, Matt, but that’s just where we are at.
And where we are at is not his fault. It’s no-one’s fault United’s absentees can be counted on three hands, or that that the brutal, relentless fixture list has brought this lovable squad to its knees.
To those raging about the lack of a third striker, remember that we could only bring in a second choice left-back on loan. FFP etc.
To those raging generally, perhaps try not to. Life is too short. Yes, a lack of away wins is growing increasingly frustrating. Yes, the top-four feels a little out of reach right now.
But this is not a side “ticking along”, nor one that is not striving to move forward. It does, though, remain a work in progress. And that is ok.
Doth of the cap to Bournemouth. There is very little to dislike about them, really. It was easy from the outside to be critical of their summer ousting of Gary O’Neil. It felt a little harsh. It probably was a little harsh. But the fact they compete at this level remains impressive, and under Andoni Iarola the football is attractive.
They sit in a bracket of clubs benefitting from the practice of dressing the windows from which the real big ‘uns shop. Not sure if a player with potential can cut the Premier League? No problem – let Bournemouth pay £20-odd mill first and, if the lad is any good, offer double in two years’ time. See Lloyd Kelly; Marcos Senesi; Antoine Semenyo; Alex Scott; Justin Kluivert; Max Aarons. It has the makings of a decent side, that.
It was though, a man with a couple of failed digs at the top-tier who made United suffer. For a time, it looked like an escape was possible. But Dominic Solanke has found a happy home on the south coast, and he enjoyed a merry evening.
The positives? Hmmm. Lewis Miley getting a full league bow at age 17. A little nervy at first, the lad eased into it nicely enough for the hour or so he played. It does show what Bruno Guimarães brings, though – even on his bang average days, Bruno demands the ball in tight spaces. Like properly screams for it. Without fail. United’s inability to win without him is starting to measure as a tad more than “mild concern”.
It would take some bairn to come in and do that from the off, so you will find no criticism of young Miley here. At his age, most of my Saturday evenings were spent pondering how much hair gel was the right amount to fool doormen into waving me past (less is more, BTW).
Miley’s replacement was Ben Parkinson. While the loudest “who”-ing was audible from the home fans, many travellers asked that question of the person next to him. Number 60-what? Another one from the Academy, it is an evening young Parky will never forget. And rightly so.
That aside, there was little else to savour. Unless the fact that Sean Longstaff avoided a seriously damaged ankle counts?
The away end was fun, mind. It usually is at Bournemouth – there is something about small allocations. Defiant, too.
Your correspondent confesses to departing early to dash for the station (give me a break, the day started in Amsterdam), and as the whistle sounded, a passing alien – albeit one familiar with the United songbook – would have assumed a Newcastle victory.
The real winners in all this thought are Michael Matthews Jewellers. Who? Why sponsors of stoppage time at AFCB, of course. After all, is it really a proper period of added on minutes without a bit of commercial weight behind it?
This post-Qatar 2022 injury time boom is ideal for MMJ. Six and seven minutes respectively; hopefully someone at the club is upping their rates.
Now for an international break. Praise be.