Jose Mourinho guided Manchester United to a 1-0 loss against Feyenoord in the opening group stages game of the Europa League. A lot of people were surprised. Many more are upset. I, however, am cautiously optimistic as always.
Yes, United lost. Still, Feyenoord is atop the Eredivisie so you know they must be a very good team. They also boast world-class talent like 36-year-old Dirk Kuyt. Mourinho fielded a weaker back line, but Rojo, Smalling and Darmian all combined to keep that amazingly impressive striker Dirk Kuyt off the scoresheet. I don’t want to call their efforts “Herculean.” But, conversely, I also don’t want to say their efforts were “not Herculean.”
Also, if you’ve read anything about soccer statistics, then you’d have noticed that United dominated possession. Yes, Feyenoord had more shots on target, but United kept the ball better. Mourinho’s 4-3-3 really brought to mind the “constipated possession” glory days of the LVG era – I lost count of all the completed sideways passes between the outside backs and centerbacks. In fact, I’m still dizzy from trying to keep count!
The biggest positive was Memphis Depay: he won a free kick in the 99th minute and played almost a half hour of soccer. A half hour is thirty whole minutes and quite a big chunk of time. If you left a bag of popcorn in the microwave for thirty minutes, you’d have a smoking, burned mess on your hands. Not Memphis Depay though. Thirty whole minutes. For you math people, you can just fathom how many seconds that may be. A lot. That’s how many.
And maybe this winning a free kick will inject some wind into his sails in time for his next throwaway domestic cup appearance?
Of course, it was not all amazingly great fun. United’s attack was overly vertical in the start and way too slow near the end. If you look at the expected goals statistics, not a lot of chances were created. However, if you also take into account a metric I just made up – unexpected goals – things are a bit better. Basically, when you score a goal and it’s unexpected because your team is playing really shitty, it makes that goal ten times *cooler.
Like that goal United scored vs. Barcelona in the Champions League final all those years ago? That thing almost blew up my unexpected goals chartometer. I’d like to see one of those again, but I guess this metal flask will just have to do until the next life.