Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Rotated Reds head into derby in buoyant mood

In-form United head into the derby in buoyant mood as the Reds came from behind against CSKA despite only needing a point. With United 1-0 down and victory not essential, thoughts could easily have turned to the looming spectre of Manchester City at the weekend.

Not a bit of it. The rotated Reds - with six changes from the Arsenal game as Jose shuffled his pack - procured a fourth successive win and eleventh in a row at home with a stirring fightback. The character, desire and spirit that we showed at Arsenal shone through again as we turned the game on its head with two goals in two minutes in a rousing comeback. It was further evidence - if it was needed - that this evolving United side are on a huge upward trajectory. It might have been 'only' CSKA and we were all but through anyway, but the refusal  to accept anything but victory - when there are bigger hurdles around the corner - was again reminiscent of the United of old and filled me with immense pride. 

Of course, we've lost games under Mourinho and will in the future - that's football. But what's different is the mentality. Under David Moyes and to a lesser extent, LVG, you felt that there was no way back when United went behind. Under the former, the squad didn't trust their manager and looked they didn't know what they were doing. With the latter, it was a turgid and timid two years when the players seemed to live in fear of their rule-by-clipboard manager with a reputation for being a dictator. The difference that Jose has made in a little over a year since he arrived has instilled in this squad is remarkable. He's made it his own, thrown in a large dollop of team spirit, instilled confidence and belief and the results are coming to fruition for all to see. We might not win this league this season, but one thing's for sure, the players will run through a brick wall for the manager and won't give up without a fight. 

The team were also determined for the Russian side not to be the opponents to end our 40 match unbeaten run at home. That might look like only a stat, but it's a huge achievement for any side and it must be a proud one that the players will stop at nothing to keep intact. 
This was a highly satisfactory night for United -  and not just because of the result. Luke Shaw got 90 minutes under his belt, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford starred whilst Academy graduates Axel Tuanzebe and Scott McTominay both got further tastes of European football (but apparently the manager doesn't play youth...). Jose was able to rotate his squad to good affect and give several of his key men the night off to prepare for the derby on Sunday. 

United now have four days to freshen up, focus and head into the derby on the back of a fine run of form with two of the most precious commodities in football: confidence and momentum. 




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