Cardiff 1 - 5 Man Utd. Comment

Last updated : 23 December 2018 By Michael Morris

Sport would never be the attraction it is for billions all over the world if the best individual or team always won. I’m not going to guess what percentage of times the individual or team that is inferior on paper ends up winning, but it is a fairly common occurence and that is why so many supporters of underdogs keep on coming back for more when their team is beaten by their “superiors”

As to why favourites end up losing, there are all sorts of reasons. Bad luck, controversial decisions by officials and individual errors spring to mind, but these are included in what happens out on the pitch, court, track etc over the course of the contest – there are other reasons which are more psychological that often have their roots in the, much longer, periods when the people involved are not out there in the spotlight performing.


It could be that there are problems at home which effect performance or the there may be an issue with the everyday working environment. That last one would, from the outside at least, be the thing which best explains why the Chelsea team of 2015/16 and the Manchester United side of this season were so often beaten by their inferiors in the first half of those campaigns – to have Jose Mourinho in sullen, defeatist and introspective third season mode is quite a handicap for any team to carry, no matter how much talent there is on the playing staff.

In both of these cases mind, Mourinho could look at the contributions of important members of his teams and legitimately question their effort levels (he’s not the first manager that some of Chelsea’s big names have downed tools over in the last few seasons either), but one of the great managers of this century also has this strange third season problem which sees him as very much a short to medium term fix, but definitely not a long term one.

If City had been in the Premier League in 15/16, I would have been confident we could have taken something from a match with Chelsea at home before Christmas, but not after it because that was when Guus Hiddink had taken over as their caretaker boss and results began to perk up for the Londoners.

Last Sunday as Manchester United’s players slinked off the pitch at Anfield beaten by 3-1, but far further behind Liverpool than that in terms of morale, vibrancy and wow factor, I thought to myself that it was almost as if they would be underdogs coming to Cardiff six days later to play a side which had won four out of it’s last five home matches.

Player for player, Manchester United were far better than us, but that appeared to count for very little because, even from the outside, it was easy to see that there were serious problems at that club.

I know I was not the only City fan quietly confident of getting at least a draw, because there were so many who had told me this over the past five or six days. However, in almost every case, they would then qualify what they were saying by adding something like “until they sacked Mourinho that is”!

I was listening to the radio on Tuesday morning when the news broke that Mourinho had been dismissed and, whereas everything I was hearing after that was about “where do United go from here?”, my immediate thouights were along the lines of “well that makes things much, much more difficult for us next Saturday” – I’m pretty sure that I was only thinking what thousands of other City fans were at that exact same moment as well.

I’d remarked a week or two back on here that we have not been having much luck in terms of what’s been happening to upcoming opponents at Cardiff City Stadium recently. Obviously, the helicopter tragedy at Leicester put things into perspective as far as the importance of a sporting event at that time, but City were placed in an awkward position by the whole thing and were, seemingly, affected by being very much supporting cast on a day when the eyes and thoughts of not just the football world were on the Leicster team and their fans.

We coped better with the challenge of facing a Southampton team playing their first match under a new manager, but today threatened to be a completely different matter as Manchester United came here under the charge of a caretaker boss who was very much a club superstar – indeed, I’ll use that much overused and undervalued word “legend” because he had done enough during his time as a player at Old Trafford to have truly earned that title.

The fact that the Manchester United legend happened to be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who just so happened to be a complete failure in his eight and a half months as manager here at Cardiff, might have have been seen as something to get City fans into an optimistic frame of mind, but it was never going to happen in this case in  my opinion.

Even if Ole is really as bad as he looked at times down here, he was always likely to make a positive start in his second managerial job in this country because, firstly, he had so much goodwill behind him and, secondly, simply because he wasn’t Jose Mourinho!

In the event, a final score of Cardiff 1 Manchester United 5 could not have come as a complete shock to anyone really and, fair play to them, Ole’s new team played some lovely attacking football at times as they completely controlled most of the game.

Their third goal especially was a thing of beauty which I couldn’t help but compliment with the words “cracking goal” as the ball hit the net.

I’ve not seen a Manchester United team play like that going forward for quite some time (since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement maybe) and when the favoured team plays as close to it’s potential as they did tonight, the chances of seeing one of those upsets I mentioned at the start diminsh dramatically.

However, many of the basic rules when analysing a sporting contest still apply – for example was the outcome more down to the brilliance of the winners or was it because the losers were so poor? Sadly, good as United were, I think there is a case for saying that it was more, or equally at least, down to the ineptitude of the losers tonight.

What I found most concerning about City was that, just as at Watford last weekend, our opponents found it so easy to pass their way through us. For the second weekend in a row, our goalkeeper kept the score down with a series of saves that, once again, probably earned him the City Man of the Match award.

In saying that, Neil Etheridge, according to this week’s Elis James Feast of Football podcast he may well only miss the Gillingham FA Cup tie while away on Asia Cup duty with the Philippines next month, did seem to me to possibly be at fault with the first goal scored in the third minute by Marcus Rashford. I say this because the shot from the free kick went past the wall and into the net with our keeper motionless. I’m writing this straight after getting home from the game, so have only seen the goal once, but it just struck me that something seems wrong when a goalkeeper doesn’t move and the ball goes past a wall like that – one or the other of them must have been wrongly positioned surely?

For the second consecutive match, City were too often chasing shadows. Frustrated fans first attempted to make referee Michael Oliver the villain of the piece, but, while there were some odd looking decisions by the official at times, he was never the reason for Manchester United’s overwhelming superiority through much of the first half.

The stats show that City, the fifth “cleanest” team in the Premier League apparently, only picked up the two yellow cards and no doubt this will lead to charges by some fans that we are being too nice for our own good. I think there is something to that point of view, but would say that, for all I know, the intent might have been there to rough up our opponents a bit tonight, but we never got close enough to them to do that.

Ander Herrera, apparently with the help of a slight deflection, made it 2-0 around the half hour mark and, embarrassingly for City, we then saw the first signs of something which was there for much of the match – it had the look of a training game at times.

Therefore it came as a surprise to see Rashford carelessly concede a penalty for handball which Victor Camarasa put away in a manner that makes you think he’ll be able to convert any more spot kicks we are awarded this season.

Against Mourinho’s United of this season, that goal might have been the signal for a fightback and, perhaps, even a point or three for City. However, instead, the visitors responded with slick passing which sliced us apart completely as Anthony Martial provided the finish a superb move demanded.

The game was as good as over twelve minutes into the second half as Lingard slotted in a penalty awarded after he had been fouled by Sol Bamba. So, even the period when City finally offered some attacking threat, this may have been down to a certain amount of easing off by the visitors. Nevertheless, it did offer evidence of defensive frailties which better teams than City could still exploit in the coming weeks – even if Ole turns out to be just what Manchester United need at this time, there is nothing in his managerial CV which says he will be able to transform what is a very ordinary defence without significant specialist help.

David De Gea had to make a few saves as City finally gave the crowd something to get excited about and there was a Bamba header that flew just wide, but the only further scoring came from the visitors late on as Sol was robbed of possession and Lingard waltzed through a tired and demoralised defence to make it five.

City have been completely outplayed in their last two matches I’m afraid and, although Manchester United might develop into one in the coming months, neither of the teams responsible for this can be called members of the division’s elite.

We seemed tired and somewhat devoid of that spirit which was seen to good effect in our last three home wins tonight and we need a performance soon to set aside a nagging doubt that we have been “rumbled” – the aggregate score in our last two matches has been 3-8 and I’d say that definitely flatters us,

Trying to find positives, I thought Greg Cunningham, who replaced the injured Joe Bennett, did pretty well, there were touches of class from Camarasa and Kenneth Zohore’s half hour contribution off the bench was, unquestionably, the best we’ve seen from him this season. As mentioned earlier, Etheridge again made some fine saves, but there was little else to offer hope – Bruno Manga was as poor at right back as I’ve seen him, Harry Arter was something of a headless chicken, Gunnar struggled, Junior Hoilett offered little, Josh Murphy flattered to decieve again and Callum Paterson battled manfully, but to little effect.

It really was a night where City’s limitiations were exposed. Manchester United were responsible for much of this, but as I listend to a succession of their supporters, basically, saying encouraging but it was only Cardiff on 606 as I drove home, I was forced to, reluctantly, agree with them – Ole’s former team really did give his new one the most gentle of introductions to that club’s new managerial regime.

At least there was better news from the Under 18s as they headed into their Chrstmas break with a 2-0 win at third placed Millwall to consolidate their place at the top following their home defeat by Ipswich last weekend. Three weeks ago, Millwall had the better of a 1-1 draw at Leckwith between the teams, but this time they had no answer to a couple of Dan Griffiths goals in the first quarter of the game as City extended their lead over them to six points – we are now three points ahead of second placed Ipswich and have a game in hand over them and Millwall.

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