Cole: I’d settle for less drama
If there’s one thing Manchester United have not lacked this season it is entertainment, but ex-Reds striker Andy Cole would settle for fewer heart-thumping, last-gasp comebacks in favour of more solid performances and routine wins.
The Reds top both the Barclays Premier League and Champions League Group H tables, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s team have gone behind 12 times during 17 matches in all competitions this season. There are extenuating circumstances, of course – like a defensive injury crisis that has taken time to clear – but as Sir Alex has said, relying on strikers to bale you out is a risky game.
“The football has been great to watch recently,” Cole told ManUtd.com. “And the strikers we’ve got are always going to grab the headlines and come to the fore. It’s not great for the heart-rate sometimes, but it’s exciting for the punters. And it’s probably great for the neutrals. But I think the manager, with his status, if he could put a finger on the reason why we’re conceding goals, or he had the immediate solution, he would put it in place today.”
Asked if he was pleased – and maybe a little surprised – that United have taken top spot considering the defensive injury problems, he said: “I wouldn’t say I’m surprised because when you have the quality of players United have, particularly in the attacking positions, there’s always a chance you’re going to run into a spell of form. I think we hit form when we had a big performance against Newcastle. I think that got us playing some real good stuff again. That’s always a positive.”
The we’ll-score-more-than-you attitude of recent games draws natural comparisons with United’s Treble-winning side. In a more pragmatic age, however, the risks are arguably greater.
“There has definitely been a sense of we’ll score more than you recently and as exciting as that is, part of me hopes that we don’t keep doing that,” Cole continued. “No matter what you do, if you keep playing like that throughout the whole season, you will come unstuck. Everyone wants to see goals, of course you do.
“That said, if you concede goals then there might be that day, like against Tottenham earlier this season, where you don’t come back over the line in the end. Over the course of 38 games, you have to say to yourself: how many times can you do that? Fingers crossed we start to shut up shop a bit more and close games out. But that will be helped when injuries in defence subside.”
There is a Manchester derby on the horizon in December but, before then, United face four tough Barclays Premier League games against Norwich, Queens Park Rangers, West Ham and Reading and Cole says the United players won’t be looking too far ahead in the fixture list.
“It’s absolutely vital that we do well in this spell, but I always think that in the Premier League every game is winnable and every game has its pitfalls,” he says. “None of those four teams will want to lie down for Man United. We saw how difficult it was going to Norwich last season, while QPR and Reading are fighting for points and West Ham are doing well in the top half of the table. It can be dangerous to look too far ahead. It’s why as a footballer you always talk about the next game.”