Cleat Geeks

Manchester United Proving ‘Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining”

Clouds, that is to say of the weather variety, are a bit of a mixed bunch on the whole. Not being versed on the correct nomenclature I am forced to fall back on words like fluffy, red, dark, grey, black, thunderous, and wispy in describing them.

Clouds are used as portents of things to come such as in the phrase “red sky at night, shepherds delight, red sky in the morning, shepherds warning.” Human beings are also adept at using clouds as metaphors, perhaps the most common one being “every cloud has a silver lining.”

StormyUnitedIt implies that however bad things get, however difficult or hard, sooner or later something good will come out of it. Whether it is a true “philosophical argument” or is much nearer the family of “horoscopes and wishful thinking” is up to the individual to decide.

Given his use for the word ‘philosophy’ it is more than likely, at this moment in time, Louis Van Gaal would favour the former classification. The surrounding clouds around Old Trafford recently could be fictionally named ‘Europa’, ‘FACup’ and ‘Premiership’ and the silver lining “Rashford.”

The precursor to the silver lining metaphor was a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of the Europa Cup match against FC Midtjylland in Denmark. Van Gaal and Manchester United then faced three matches in three different competitions which many critics and journalists argued would define United’s season and perhaps seal Van Gaal’s fate.

The first match of the trio was on Monday February 22nd away at lowly Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup 5th round. In truth it was more like a training session in which Shrewsbury Town seemed in awe of their opposition with United easily running out 3-0 winners on the night.

United’s reward in the next round is a quarter final tie at home against West Ham United. That will be a sterner test of the Old Trafford men with the eventual winners then going through to a semi-final play off at Wembley Stadium.

The following Thursday evening, the 25th of February saw the return leg of the Europa Cup tie against FC Midtjylland at Old Trafford. Midtjylland already leading 2-1 from the first leg took the lead in the 27th minute through Pione Sisto leading the tie 3-1 and the clouds of darkness surrounded the home stadium. However that was when Van Gaal’s silver lining began to emerge from an unlikely source out of the ominous atmosphere.

In truth it was difficult to understand how a team such as FC Midtjylland could in reality be leading the tie so convincingly. However when in the 32nd minute a Midtjylland defender sliced the ball into his own net, the dark clouds began to part. United’s silver lining came on the hour in the form of United understudy Marcus Rashford who had not expected to play at all.MarcusRashford

Rashford was on the bench because of the number of injuries United have at the moment to their 25 man squad. Anthony Martial, United’s main striker with Wayne Rooney out with a long term injury, sadly injured himself in the pre-match warm up. Rashford the youth academy player therefore had no time to ponder his big night and was thrown in at the deep end.

As ‘deep ends’ go it was one to remember as he netted twice in the 63rd and 75th minutes to put United into a 4-3 lead. Later goals by Ander Herrere (87) and Memphis Depay (90) saw United qualify with a 5-1 home win, 6-3 overall.

United were then drawn to play Liverpool in the next round of the Europa Cup with the first leg away at Anfield and the return at Old Trafford. Once again, as if mirroring the FA Cup draw, the opposition will be more formidable in the next round.

There was no doubting the formidable opponents in United’s third game of the trio, a home match against Arsenal on the 28th February in the Premier League. For the first time for a long time Arsenal were favourites to beat United at Old Trafford because of United’s present injury list. Van Gaal who never tires of announcing 10, 11, or 12 injuries to the present squad, had ‘kids’ on the substitute bench. To be fair to the manager most clubs results would suffer with so many injuries to thier key players.

So the scene was set presumably for an Arsenal triumph which would put their team close on the heels of leaders Leicester City. However once again the clouds parted for Van Gaal and once again it was the youngster Marcus Rashford who inflicted the damage. Twice, in the space of 5 minutes between the 29th and the 32nd minutes, to be exact, Rashford fired United ahead with a powering strike and a deft header. To quote the Humphrey Bogart line in The Maltese Falcon, for Rashford it must have been “the stuff dreams are made of.”

Ander+Herrera+Manchester+United+v+Valencia+MTbbPJJ4WyjlArsenal managed to get a goal back though Danny Welbeck in the 41st minute to make half time more interesting for the non committed observer. However a goal from Herrera put United 3-1 in front in the 65th minute and although Mesut Ozil managed to get a goal back for Arsenal in the 69th minute, (after Welbeck had his shot kicked off the line) there was no sense that Arsenal would prove the pundits right and go on to win the match. And as if fate had once again taken its hand, it was the man Rashford who made the assist for Herrera to score the 3rd and decisive goal on the day.

In the week following the defeat at FC Midtjylland in which the clouds of doom surrounded Van Gaal and his team, three wins and a new star appeared in the heavens around Manchester. The silver lining that Van Gaal might have prayed for came along in the unlikely shape Marcus Rashford, an 18 year old novice from the youth academy.

For Van Gaal and Manchester United in a season of turmoil and vast underachievement the dark clouds surrounding the club might not have been vanquished for good just yet. However, at least this week, of all weeks, the United squad have made significant progress in three competitions and perhaps, just perhaps, they have found a new star in the face of overwhelming adversity.

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