Boredom and motivation is something Manchester United have been battling with, funny to say, for over a month now, with the Premier League title well secured for quite some time. Robin van Persie, making a return to a stadium he played at for eight seasons, against a hostile crowd, was the only one with a real reason to put on his best.
He didn’t. He did score, via a penalty, making the most of a Bacary Sagna mistake and another awful slide, but the rest of the match, was quite unmemorable. Alex Ferguson said his team won’t be handing out points in the final weeks of the season, and it’s true. But motivating them not to lose and motivating his players to win when there’s no real need to do it are two different things.
Maybe Ferguson cared about the record of most points ever in a Premier League season (now unreachable), but his players didn’t look too disappointed by not winning. Wayne Rooney was quite active from the first moment, mostly supplying dangerous passes to breaking players down the flanks, but the most dangerous players for United were Patrice Evra and Phil Jones. There wasn’t any real effort to come away with three points they didn’t really need.
For Ferguson, who always thinks about the next title, these are opportunities to test who he takes to battle with him next season. Van Persie is an easy choice to make, and so is David de Gea despite a performance that wasn’t one of his most confident between the posts. Phil Jones is someone who’ll be around for many years, and should Rafael and Jonathan Evans.
But there are Nani and Antonio Valencia and Rio Ferdinand to think of. Someone gave Ferdinand a spot in the PFA team of the year for some reason, but he doesn’t have a contract for next season with his current club. Alex Ferguson can talk all he wants to about how much he appreciates his veteran centre back, but if he was that good, he would have already been signed for at least one more season.
The rumors keep talking about those leaving (Rooney & Chicharito) and those that will be coming, like Robert Lewandowski and others. Strengthening the midfield, that currently only has one player that has no ups and downs and isn’t a tactical liability once every two or three matches (Michael Carrick), must be the first thing on the to-do list for Ferguson and his crew.
An unimpressive championship it might be, but full of characters, and a lot of pride, especially because this isn’t one of the United’s most glamorous squads, yet still clinching the crown about a month before the end of the season. Robin van Persie is the top scorer for a second consecutive time, while the team scored more goals than anyone else in the league. There’s plenty to be proud of, but there’s also plenty that needs improving and fixing, especially if the eyes are on more lucrative prizes.