Super sub evolution
Manchester United clawed their way through to a 2-3 win at Villa Park against Aston Villa last weekend. Not one of their best nights at the Birmingham club, but it showed once again that the Devils are not dead even if they have no pulse, and that they finally have a replacement for Solskjaer.
It was the eighth time that United had come back from a deficit this season, a clear indication that the fighting spirit at the heart of the club still lives. The same fighting spirit that, 13 years ago, dragged United to a first treble, the second ever in European history. United were champions then after doing pretty much what the present team is doing with the only and noteworthy exception being, back in 1999 United were a better unit in defence.
It is not a coincidence that United have defensive problems at the time where the rest of the league has forgotten to defend. Attack has become the best form of defence, and as more teams continue to implement it, you can be assured that the comebacks will pour in. They have just played 11 games and already hold the record for the most comebacks in the Premier League era. It is crazy stuff.
Back in 1999, the United defence was lead by a big man. He was arguably the best keeper to wear United colours. Peter Schmiechel, the Great Dane, was almost unbeatable for the best strikers in the world. 6’4″ tall, he was the immovable object in front of goal. And then there was Jaap Stam. Superlatives are not enough to describe the Dutchman’s defensive contribution to the Reds. His sale to Lazio was, as Sir Alex admitted, his worst ever sale.
The current defensive contingent has not matured enough to match these greats. The ones who have, Ferdinand and Evra, look past their prime and you can see the shedding of pace and judgement affecting United’s results. United have to improve at the back and have to learn that relying on the team to get the goals at the front is simply too risky. It is at the present still a castle of cards at United.
Talking of goals, a figure has risen at Old Trafford. True, he has already been there for only two seasons, but Hernandez’s two goals and one assist (to an own goal) yesterday showed that United do really have a super-sub in their hands. And so rarely has there been a super-sub of such instinct and talent who, among other things, doesn’t mind being called a super-sub, and is extremely pleased with his position in the club’s structure. The last one that springs to memory was the little Norwegian goal-poacher, Ole Gunnar Soskjaer.
While comparing Herenandez and Solskjaer, similarities are not hard to come by. Apart from the thirst for goals and ‘lethal-ility’ in the penalty area, they have one more thing in common, the instantly likable baby faces. United might just have found a replacement for the man who won them the treble 13 years ago with a winner in the European Cup final and then one against Liverpool in the FA Cup.
Chicharito is the man for the job.