Following the draw on Saturday, it appeared that Luke Ayling was the latest in a long line to be hounded on twitter about how poor he was (and much worse). This follows attacks on pretty much all the team within the last 12 months from ‘fans’ who think it’s their right to actually tag the players in to ensure they see the messages of hate. I’m sorry, but I just cannot get my head around that mentality. Here we are, sat in an automatic play off position, with a squad that was expected to finish mid table. The players (with the obvious help of Bielsa) are out performing to a ridiculous level. They have bought into everything that the manager has asked – extra training, gruelling drills, analysing recordings of their performance and so much more. We are having the best season, and playing the best football since we were relegated, and still these ‘supporters’ have a go. This is the one time we should be absolutely together. Us against the world as rival managers, the EFL, opposition fans queue up to have a dig. Now more than ever we should be United, but few morons seem to want to alienate the players. I don’t get it, I really don’t. What is it going to achieve? How is it possibly going to help? I’m not suggesting players should be except from (constructive) criticism, but there’s a line and a few seem intent on crossing it. We, as fans, have a massive part to play – and the vast majority do it – packing out ER, selling tour away allocation all the time – lets not let a few idiots spoil it.. and if you are one of those idiots…belt up, unfollow and have a word with yourselves.
A couple of days after the event, and a good time to reflect on the Norwich game and ask, was it really that bad? The answer, for me, is yes and no, or actually, no and yes. The first half was all about fine margins, with some if’s and and’s thrown in. We started very brightly – 4 shots in the opening 12 minutes, and we looked right up for the fight. Nothing clear cut, but Alioski’s volley was the nearest we came… a deflection on that and we would have taken a deserved lead. However, two individual error’s were to turn the game on it’s head. First, Jansson was caught in possession – that happens with the style we play. The bigger error though, was getting frustrated and giving away a foul when there was plenty of cover around. A deflection on the free kick and suddenly we were a goal down. We kept pushing, but Norwich are good sat on a goal lead, and the second mistake effectively killed the game – this time Forshaw caught on the ball – again, I accept that happens, but he lost his shape completely, dropping 10 yards behind the defence, and sod’s law – a lucky deflection fell to the striker who easily scored – when he would, and should have been yards offside. Forshaw has had some stick, some deserved, some harsh. I believe Bielsa played him over Phillips to keep hold of the ball better – his ball retention is second to none, and I imagine Bielsa didn’t want to give a creative Norwich too much possession – with hindsight, a mistake – Phillips has been arguably our best player this season, and he was missed. The rest of the half saw a penalty appeal incorrectly turned down for Leeds, a yellow card for Krul that could have been red, and Ayling’s goal incorrectly chalked off for a foul – we were 2-0 down, but on another day, could have been 2-0 up.
The second half, however, was poor. We lacked shape and ideas, and Norwich soaked it up and hit us via a third deflection – Bamford’s late goal just a consolation.
Whilst incredibly frustrated afterwards and still without a cat to kick, I’m more optimistic now. I don’t think we were blown away by an amazing side – we didn’t get the rub of the green first half, and panicked a bit second. WBA are still, IMO the only team that has turned us over.
Onto Middlesboro on Saturday – and it could be all change, or just tweaked. Corps and Jansson are nailed on, as is Pablo (if fully fit). After that, there are some choices for Bielsa – Shakelton or Ayling at full back – Jamie is pushing for a start with ailing not looking good for a while now, but against a physically strong Boro, with the ball in the iar none stop, I would expect Ayling to hold hios place – at let back, Douglas or Alioski? Alioski for me… In the middle you would expect Phillips back in the place of either Forshaw or Klich, with Forshaw favourite for the chop. Wingers and number 10 could be any 2 to partner Hernandez, but again, wouldn’t surprise me to see Harrison and Roberts kept in. Up top, Roofe or Bamford? Plenty of strength in depth now the injury situation is easing, but personally, only see Phillips coming in for Forshaw, with the rest given another chance..