A lot done in nine days – much more to do

As much as many of us ‘lean’ on Sky to keep us abreast of what’s going on in the world of sports, news and politics, there’s no escaping the reality that the organisation is quite thrashy.

Witness how they almost glamourised the encitement of the Capitol Riots by Donald Trump or threaded on egg shells around the ineptitude and incompetence of Boris Johnson while he was Prime Minister.

Yet the same crowd kicked up an outrageous furore just because Erik ten Hag used a few flowery verbals in the aftermath of Manchester United’s astounding victory over Liverpool. Such bullsh**. As Roy Keane, Gary Neville and even Jamie Carragher said after the brouhaha, it was great to see such passion back in and around United after the listless humdrum of the first two outings.

Whatever the new boss’s methods of choice are, he manufactured some turnaround in the nine days since the aboration of a performance against Brentford, but it won’t count for squat if they don’t now back it up.

However, all of that can wait for another day. To anybody either directly involved with or possessing a scintilla of interest in Manchester United, beating Liverpool is about so much more than the bare result of the match. Unlike many, however, from this corner there wouldn’t be the same bitterness towards the opposition.

Not in the most recent past anyway. Firstly, owing to special local connections poignantly forged between Dunboyne and the Merseyside club. More so, mind you, simply down to the attractive style of football mostly deployed by Jurgen Klopp’s men.

Ironically, thankfully from the point of view of a Manchester United fan, the things most associated with this Anfield team, miserly defending and manic pressing, were glaringly missing on Monday last.

Speaking of things being missing, those who were masquerading as Manchester United for the first two weeks of the season also disappeared.

Now, it may be over simplifying it to attribute the improvement to one factor, but certainly, ten Hag having the man parts to belatedly get rid of Harry Maguire didn’t do the operation any harm.

Good things come in small packages: Lisandro Martinez

There was a time I considered Rio Ferdinand the most overrated, over valued player on the planet when United paid £30m to get him from Leeds. But Maguire makes Ferdinand look like the Lionel Messi of defenders.

It could just have been the case that collectively the players needed a good kick up the arse after the Brentford debacle, but, however the manager managed to effect such a turnaround in nine days, it needs to be just a starting point.

Last Monday wouldn’t be a bad template to work off for the rest of the season. What was most obvious most recently was the sense that the former Ajax manager had at least begun to get better play out of characters who’d been in their shells for far too long.

Just to see Anthony Martial in a red jersey again after being more or less dumped by the club. Not to mention others like Rafael Varane, Bruno Fernandez, Jadon Sancho and, in particular, Marcus Rashford, looking revitalised.

Marcus Rashford wheeling away after scoring against Liverpool

However, for me, the most telling change revolved around the contribution of new signing Lisandro Martinez. It will be openly admitted that this corner had never heard of the diminutive Argentine star before he arrived at Old Trafford.

That said, the impression he was at sea in the opening two matches of the campaign was unavoidable. However, so too were inclinations that players didn’t know whether they were coming or going with regard to if the team had a defined game plan or not. Any such doubt was certainly dispelled in their most recent outing.

Simply, I think, out of ten Hag making best – and markedly better than in the first two games – use of the resources currently at his disposal. Primarily by getting rid of Harry Maguire and, whether by accident or design, setting up a system in which Martinez can not only remain at centre half but have a seriously positive impact therefrom.

Dropping Maguire was one thing, but, to look at the bigger picture going forward, it would appear the transfer window will end and Cristiano will still be a Manchester United player. Thus leaving the Red Devils well endowed with firepower in the short term at least.

Even then, however, basing a large chunk of your mission statement around an admittedly superstar 38-year-old forward may not be the wisest course of action. But, while it’s the reality that the journey back to where the club should be is only beginning, beating Liverpool was no bad way to start!

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