The love of my life was only days old when Meath won the Leinster Senior Football Championship in 1986. Their first time to reign in the province for 16 years at that stage. To a certain extent, darling’s arrival on the big ball was overshadowed somewhat!
You could hardly blame The Royals for getting a bit carried away. Were it not for Ger Power’s freak goal for Kerry, who knows what might have happened. That day and for the rest of that season. As it was, that Leinster win was the launchpad for the greatest five years in our football history.
In contrast, Gary Neville encouraging Manchester United fans to get carried away having returned to the top of the Premiership for the first time since 2013 was foolhardy at the very least.
Gary of all people should know the risks of getting carried away. The former full back is a better pundit than he ever was a footballer. But he was still found to be woefully out of his depth when did venture into the world of management with Valencia in Spain. That is not to say that he wouldn’t be worth another go at management but he should know the perils of kneejerk reactionism at its worst.
United’s ascent to top spot is as noteworthy as it is unexpected. That said, they haven’t become world beaters over night. No more than title holders Liverpool can have regressed so significantly in the same period of time. However, given the near perfection of their productivity last term, aspirations of sustaining such untouchable standards were hardly likely to be upkept.
The loss of Virgil van Dijk to Jurgen Klopp’s team cannot be overstated. Add to that a perhaps understandably mounting injury list and continuing conjecture concerning Mo Salah exposed the fact they may, in fact, be human.
Very gifted ones at that. For that reason, bookmaker Paddy Power’s decision to push the 18-time champions out to 3/1 looks reactionary in the extreme. Ditto Tottenham’s odds drifting as far as 17/1. To my mind, the perceived regression in Pep Guardiola’s charges (Hardly that drastic) can be best attributed to the departure Vincent Kompany from the club.
Now factor in that Sergio Aguero is most obviously on the wane and the additional loss of the exceptional David Silva and in fact their recent form has been commendable in the utmost. However, what is beginning to look like an extreme dependence on Kevin De Bruyne may eventually become their undoing.
Mention of commendable efforts must bring us then to Old Trafford. The beginning of Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s time in charge was such a whirlwind of wins that it simply couldn’t have been expected to be maintained. However, that realisation doesn’t explain how or why every time Mauricio Pochettino’s name was mentioned it seemed to be in connection with taking Solksjaer’s job.
Rarely if ever have the following words been used on the same page, never mind the sentence, but, in fairness to Ed Woodward, he resisted repeated calls to defenestrate with the services of the man from Norway. Something that is now paying handsome dividends and may indeed go on to do so to an even greater degree.
It would be very easy and indeed even more justifiable to identify the signing of Bruno Fernandez as the catalyst for United’s almost ghost-like climb up the table. However, I feel the improved application and contribution of Paul Pogba in recent weeks must also be acknowledged.
To call the French midfielder an enigma would be akin to opining that he cost a fair bit when being bought back from Juventus. However, his accreditation as one of the finest footballers on the planet is equally as merited. Where the oprobrioum overload often directed at the languid midfielder often originates from a sense that he doesn’t always put it all in.
If that is the case – and this corner doesn’t subscribe to the theory – it could be just that, like a lot of supremely talented athletes, he needs more of an arm on the shoulder rather than a kick up the backside.
Whatever the reason, Pogba has been on top form of late and the results speak for themselves. Slow and steady might win the race.