I didn’t see the trouble after the match last Saturday so can’t really comment on what went on, except to say that the policy of penning people in for ten minutes, as we were in the Riverside coach park, only encourages mobs of idiots to gather either side of the separating fence goading each other.
If everyone was let out together, then the few braindeads who indulge in this sort of activity would be dispersed and diluted amongst the many thousands of sensible, civilised fans who just want to go home. But what do I know that the police don’t?
I also shake my head in bemusement at those who stand about in the concourse under the stand drinking (plus others in the toilets smoking) and looking at their phones while the game is going on after paying £30 for a ticket and probably the same on travel. But to say they must have more money than sense is stating the obvious I suppose.
As for the match, after a good start for United they barely kept their heads above water for the rest of the first half. The second was much different, and by the end United had mustered more possession and shots on target than Boro. Such stats don’t tell the whole story, but they (and what we saw) suggest that United can maybe live with the best teams in the division. The disallowed goal was as inexplicable as people who have paid for a ticket not watching the match, but then it was never a foul in the first place. Nevertheless, it’s gutting when something like that happens so late.
However, another defeat to a team not considered by those who consider themselves experts to be one of the best in the division (but which now has a 100% record) suggests there is a lot of work to be done. For a team that isn’t accustomed to losing to lose two in a row must be difficult to compute. So too must be the fact that the opposition keep the ball better and generally do things that opponents last season weren’t capable of doing.
Footballers tend to improve by absorbing the things that happen on a football pitch. This is called experience. As in any walk of life, when you know what to expect you can try to plan for it, a skill that comes through experience, whether it be in football or in a factory. The difference is that in football the ability levels rise sharply as you go up the divisions and some players will never improve enough to cope, regardless of experience. If United have any players in this category, you can be sure that Chris Wilder will replace them at the earliest opportunity. Sentimentality won’t come into it.
As I said last week, it’s highly unlikely that the Blades team that started the season will be the same as the one that finishes it. In fact - as it did last year - the team might even change markedly before the end of August.