Champagne corks are no doubt straining to be released on the red side of Manchester whilst we’re left to rake through the debris of our season today. A season which has already seen us reach the final of the CC, only to lose out to ‘The Perfect One’, then go head to head with the mighty Barnsley in the FA cup quarter final – and lose. See a pattern forming here? Unsurprisingly then, when we’re desperate for a win and find ourselves up against a Wigan side who’ve managed just one win away all season, we come away with a point.
The stats were stacked in our favour: unbeaten in our last 16, winning 6 of the previous 7; no team has a better record against bottom-half clubs this season than us, with 15 out of the 17 games played resulting in a win; add to that Wigan’s poor away form and our unbeaten home run now an incredible 79 games, and it’s little wonder Fergie felt the need to give his old protégé an encouraging call before kick-off. Team selection however, surely put a smile on his face, with Drogba, Carvalho, Ashley Cole and Makelele all unnamed in the squad. A late withdrawal through family illness, saw our most consistent goal scoring threat in recent weeks (Lampard) also miss out.
Against an unimaginative but efficient Wigan side, we hardly extolled our virtues as title challengers in a lacklustre first half which saw us booed off in true SB style. The introduction of Joe Cole after the break for the increasingly lethargic Malouda, injected some much needed pace into the game, rewarded with an Essien goal in the 55th. However, missed chances and a great display from Kirkland would ensure another dogged, yet unconvincing performance were not to be enough as a Jason Koumas cross saw Emile Heskey equalise in stoppage-time. Five points adrift with only four games left to play then, and the fat lady’s loosening her vocal chords.
Just as well we had Avram’s words of wisdom to warm our weary souls as we cried into our coco-pops this morning then. “The result did not help us”, such insight! “We need to win the games against Everton and Manchester United,” admitted Grant. “If not, it will be more difficult”, he kids us not. But hold on, we may well be going out of the title race with a whimper but all is not lost because Uncle Fester Avram tells us he thought “the second half was one of our best performances from the footballing point of view”, good job it’s not too late then eh? I mean, how on earth did we ever cope before we were blessed with such genius? It truly is a comfort to know that even in the wake of our imminent departure from this year’s title race, while Ferguson is keenly urging his players to remain focused, stressing the need for them to continue to work hard, Grant too, continues to motivate his team with pearls of wisdom “This is football though; when you don’t score the other team does.”
Ok, so the sarcasm may hang a little heavier than usual today but rest assured there is one thing Mr Grant and myself are in complete agreement on, he has insisted this week that if the club are not happy with him at any stage then he will walk away, and I feel duty bound to support him in that.
Close the door on your way out.