Day 248 – Another defeat

United lost again last night and the situation is looking rather grim.
This season is going to be a slog.

So I thought I’d clear my mind a little by putting some thoughts on here.

Firstly, there’s no point in my reading any more match reports. In fact, if you’re a match reporter, you might as well get them all written up now. Save yourself some time in the long run. Because last night was exactly the same again:

– Unlucky to lose.
– Deserved at least a point.
– Just couldn’t take their chances.
– A great performance by the opposition keeper.

You just need look at the stats:
23 crosses, 21 shots – 18 of them inside the box – 17 chances, 81% pass completion…
to see that there just needs to be a small change in our luck and we’ll be on our way.

Those are the numbers of a top performing team. And we are performing well – the ball just won’t go into the net. And sadly, that’s the stat that matters. It’s no wonder Chris Wilder is “scratching his head”. We all are.

We’re missing the crowds. Sure, so are all the teams, but a packed Bramall Lane gives us an extra two men. We’ve known that for a long while. I think we miss that more than most.

We’ve had some really bad luck: look at Haller’s goal for West Ham last week, for example. A thunderbolt of note, sure, but look more closely at how the ball got to him via an intricate series of fortuitous rebounds, and you soon realise that in any other season, it simply wouldn’t have been there for him to hit.

We’ve had some horrible decisions go against us:

(clearly not a foul)

And then that John Egan red card in Birmingham. Another Villa Park travesty.

We’ve got injuries to key players. Those are all BT Sport and Jurgen Klopp’s fault, obviously.

Yesterday, two of our infamous back five were unavailable again (the first matches that Enda Stevens has missed since September 2018!!) and even one of our replacements was injured. We can’t afford to buy top internationals six-deep like the big clubs. And yes, it would have been nice to bring a few more players on, but apparently you make a rod for your own back sometimes.

Sure. That’s exactly how the decision was made, Jurgen. That’s how all the decisions are made: The Premier League and Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder.

Sir Jurgen is fast becoming the Donald Trump of the Premier League, deposing Sir Alex and then Sir Jose. All fun and smiles until something doesn’t go his way, then suddenly it’s Mr Mardy Bum. (Sorry, TA – but my view on this isn’t new to you.)

But I digress. Often.

There’s no need for a change of manager. I don’t think that would make any difference. Unless it’s actually him that’s cursed (because someone around Bramall Lane clearly is). He’s doing a great job.
And there’s actually no need for panic. We’re good enough to get out of this and we just need that one break to get us on our way. How that happens, I don’t know. But yes, it really does need to happen fairly soon.

I’ve been a United fan all my life: forty[redacted] years. I’ve seen some wonderful highs (not least last season) and some desperate lows – I will never overlook the fact that I’ve seen us relegated to Division 4. But I don’t ever remember seeing a run like this. Especially not when the belief is clearly still there, the performances are still really good and the effort is almost tangible – yet the results just won’t go our way. One or two games would be “just one of those things” that happens to all clubs. But ten games in a row? It’s bizarre.

I’m at peace with the situation now. That’s not to say that I’m in any way happy about it.
But while the 100% effort is there – and it clearly is – I’m not going to complain. The lads are doing their best and that’s all we’ve ever asked from any Blades team.
This is the Premier League: this is the exactly the league we want to be in. We’re playing the best teams in the land – some of the best teams in the world – and we’re just, just off the pace.

I still believe. And so should you.

Day 192 – Crazy football

Spurs put six past ManU.

Liverpool 4-1 down at Villa at half time. (Edit: finished 7-2 – ridiculous!)

We lost – again.

We didn’t really deserve to – again.

They should have had a sixth minute red card – but it didn’t happen.

At least we got a goal. We might even have got a point – but it didn’t happen.

Thankfully, it’s international break time now, so there’s no chance of anything happening for a while. I’m going to enjoy the time away from football. My love affair with The Beautiful Game is currently in tatters.

Day 185 – Sad start

Not much to say today. The drive back from Agulhas was better than it could have been – we cut over the Highlands Pass instead of joining the hoards going over Houw Hoek and saved ourselves a couple of hours.

But United lost again. Three from three now and that same comment from those watching: “They didn’t deserve to lose”.

Sadly, while that may be true (I was driving home and didn’t watch so I can’t say today), you don’t get points for deserving to win. And when you’re playing well and not winning, you wonder what can be changed to make a difference.

I’m tired this evening – physically and mentally. Early one tonight, I think.

Day 161, part 2 – Hidden scaffolding

I spotted this image on Brian Micklethwait’s (new) blog – a photo he describes thus:

I mentioned the relatively recent phenomenon of buildings covered in scaffolding, and the scaffolding then being covered with a picture of the building.
Last night, I came across an example of this in the photo-archives, dating from 2013

And here it is:

This isn’t something that I’ve seen much (any?) of in South Africa. It could be that I haven’t been in the right place at the right time, of course. Or it could be that we just don’t do that when historic buildings are being repaired.

Norway, though – definitely. I remember being fooled (from a distance at least) when visiting Bryggen – the old wharf in Bergen – part of which was being renovated.

I mean, now you know it’s there, you can zoom in and have a closer look and yes, there is the temporary false facade. Bingo.
But if I’d shared this image without context, you’d surely never have known that two of those seventeen colourful buildings weren’t genuine.

Go closer (by walking around the harbour to the end of the row) and the requirements of sheer functionality make it rather more obvious:

Somewhere out there, there is a company (in fact, possibly more than one) that manufactures bespoke scaffolding covers like this. They’re probably the same ones who have been making the massive decorative tarpaulins that have been covering the empty seats in football stadiums during lockdown.

It does seem an awfully specific product though.┬áPresumably, when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic or repairing historic buildings once every 100 years, there must be some other use for huge specifically-printed pieces of fabric.

But right now, I can’t think what that might be.