I was at the home game against Palace last season, it was entirely unremarkable in all ways, there’s only two things that remained in my memory to this day:
1 – Januzaj had a Thundercat like eye of Thundera eye for a pass, and the bravery to deliver it (he did then at least.) B – Ashley Young was less worthy of a United shirt than Jimmy Saville was of his knighthood.
When I say he was woeful I don’t mean it in the polite sense of he tried hard but it didn’t quite come off, that brand of woeful is reserved for TC23 in my opinion, I mean he was without a single redeeming factor, time and time again he was put in behind the Palace full back and his final ball was weaker than my morbidly obese willpower, add to that his growing desire to dive as the game progressed to avoid even trying to play the game and I left Old Trafford convinced he was the weakest link in a very flimsy chain of a squad that Moyes was “defending” the Sir Alex’s final title with.
Mentally reviewing the remainder of the #MoyesThat season, aside from a beautiful finish at home to West Ham later in the season, he offered nothing to wipe out any of the doubts raised regarding his ability to help United stop the post Sir Alex slump, LVG taking him on the pre season tour was purely a means of getting him in the shop window to interest a Europa league level side to take him off our hands, that was my theory and nothing was gonna change that.
Nothing at all, his performance against LA Galaxy was a fluke, they’re worse than league 1 standard, he’d be found out against the bigger opposition when we played Roma & Madrid, no way he could be as effective against them.
His performance in both games went to prove why I’m destined to be the worst player of football manager ever, he was immense, he linked play beautifully, helped the players around him retain possession and when he attacked he displayed huge improvements on the previous season, given a chance to shoot he used it wisely, just as he did when presented with the opportunity to deliver a pass that mattered, he was starting to show off many a hint that he could be a winner rather than a weakness as LVG began his attempts to return us to higher echelons of domestic and European football.
Much to his credit throughout 14/15 he’s maintained his drive to build on the new lease of life the new manager’s given him, he’s delivered as a wing back and as a winger, he’s played with a commitment to the badge that’s endeared him to all at United, his celebration of his late winner at Newcastle was one of my favourite images of the season, he was the human equivalent of mintos in diet coke, the energy and excitement born of playing the major role in turning 1 point into 3 couldn’t be contained in the size of human he is, as a fan that’s what I love to see, someone who takes the passion of the fan in the stands and puts it into their shift on the pitch.
The part of me that gets paid to be analyst looks at this season and can’t see beyond Spanish Dave for the clubs player of the year again, without him during Louis’s teething phase with this squad we’d be crossing our fingers and hoping for a late season push to achieve the glory of mid table mediocrity, but the romantic looks at how far Ashley’s come in one season under Louis and thinks it’d be very fitting to see the lad end the season with an accolade few could argue he doesn’t deserve.
His performance against Villa was just about shady enough for some to question whether Di Maria should start ahead of him in the Derby, I was delighted when I saw the starting line up and that he was still in it, I was sticky crotch levels of euphoric watching him deliver his best performance yet in a United shirt, he tore them apart, a brilliant run and composed finish for a momentum shifting equaliser, and 2 superb assists at just the right time to allow United to put a score on the board that was a fair representation of their dominance on the pitch.
If the club can go through another successful summer of culling the weak members of the flock, and the likes of Ashley Young, Fellaini, Smalling, Herrera, Blind & Carrick can continue to improve as they have through the second half of this season, then with the right additions made to this squad, a genuine threat to push this season’s champions elect much harder next season is much, much closer than many of us ever thought it could be as the 89th minute was arrived that night at St James’s Park…..