Manchester United fans’ spirits were temporarily buoyed by an emphatic 6-0 win away to Tranmere on Sunday. The away fans had arrived at Prenton Park in subdued spirits. The memory of last week’s home defeat by Burnley was still fresh in their minds.
When the covers were removed from the pitch, it did little to lighten their mood. The pitch had been heavily rolled, but its surface was patchy, to say the least. A patchwork quilt of mud, sand and grass was revealed — not the sort of surface to facilitate quality passing and good ball control.
With Tranmere having just knocked Watford out of the competition, the signs didn’t look promising.
But to their credit, Ole Gunnar Solskjæ’s men put it all behind them. In a superb first-half display, the Red Devils put their suspect Premier League form behind them and smothered any speculation of a Cup upset by scoring five goals courtesy of Harry McGuire, Diogo Dalot, Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones and Anthony Martial.
It marked the first time in 19 years, when United beat Arsenal 6-1 in 2001, that the Red Devils had scored five goals in the first half. Incidentally, a certain Norwegian striker – Ole Gunnar Solskjær – got on the scoresheet that day.
In the second half, United understandably took their foot off the pedal and scored just the one goal. Mason Greenwood put the ball in the net from the penalty spot in the 56th minute.
Although there has been plenty of debate in the media about Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s future as manager, the fans left no doubts about their sentiments. They sang and chanted uproariously in his favour. Clearly, he is still a hero to the Manchester United faithful, but the same cannot be said about the hierarchy.
During last week’s defeat by Burnley, the fans gave full voice to some controversial songs involving Vice Chairman, Mr Edward Woodward and the Glazer family.
Within half an hour of the kick-off against Tranmere, the songs rang out again, including “We want the Glazers out.” Behind the scenes, the fans are clearly not happy bunnies. A plan for a mass walkout is on the cards at Old Trafford for the game against Wolves this coming Saturday.
Having said that, United’s supporters are a loyal bunch and the loudest and longest chants at Prenton Park were about getting behind the team and continuing to support it. It was only in the last few minutes of the game that the Woodward chant surfaced again.
After the game, Solskjær said that United have some good footballers who give their all during a match. He went on to say that in the absence of Marcus Rashford how important it is to spread goals out throughout the team. The players demonstrated that perfectly. Six goals by six different players, including two strikers. An excellent confidence booster.
The win and the style in which they took it will be good for the players. They have a difficult period ahead; travelling to the Etihad on Wednesday for the second leg of the game against Man City. They trail 3-1 from the first leg; a home game against Wolves in the Premiership on Saturday, followed by an away trip to Stamford Bridge.
United are fifth in the Premiership table on 34 points along with Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers. If they lose their next two league fixtures, they will slide down, and the pressure will be right back on.