The impact of the loss of Paul Coutts for the rest of the season is yet to be seen, even after the wacky defeat to Fulham, in which it was more a case of daft mistakes at the back (an underhit back-pass, a slip at a crucial moment, and ball-watching respectively for the first three goals) than any lack of quality in midfield.
Plus the fact that Fulham were the best team we have played this season, despite being 17th before kick-off and winless in seven. With three fast, inventive players up front and the impressive Tom Cairney in midfield you wonder how they have been so poor up to now. But the sight of several Fulham players laid out in exhaustion and the acknowledgement of the Blades players by the crowd tell us what a momentous effort it was to try to get something from the game.
Nevertheless, the grim fact remains that there is no other player in the squad capable of doing what Coutts does. The possible replacements, Chris Basham, John Lundstram and Samir Carruthers all have their merits, but none possess the range of passing of Coutts. If John Fleck is asked to do the job of collecting the ball from the back and delivering it forward it would blunt some of his other qualities. But we know United will cope, they’ll find a way to remain as effective as they have been all season, even if that means a purchase in January’s transfer window.
It was great to see pictures of Billy Sharp visiting Coutts in hospital, handing him first a copy of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s autobiography and then an issue of a magazine only on sale to adults! There was also the heartwarming story of John Brayford staying with Coutts in hospital until 1.00am. Top man John.
Coutts came back from a dreadful knee injury a few years ago and although it took him a while for him to show us what he can do, it also shows he has the mental fortitude to overcome such misfortune.
We look forward to his return - in the Premier League!