Tuesday, 6 March 2018

I love our club but United will be the death of me

Where to begin after a rollercoast, harum scarum and topsy turvy 90 minutes such as that. I think I need to get my heart rate checked! We certainly have a tendency to do things the hard way don't we - not that I'd have it any other way! 

Having risen to the occasion and beaten desposed champions Chelsea at OT last time out, United looked in danger of undoing all our hard work as we fell 2-0 down against Roy Hodgson's hard working, organised but limited Crystal Palace side. With the ever atmospheric Selhurst Park rocking to the beat of a two-goal lead, United were ragged, reeling and on the ropes. Make no bones about it: this was not a good performance from our team, at least not until Chris Smalling's header in the 55th minute awoke us from our slumber. We'll certainly need to be much better from the start when Liverpool come to town on Saturday lunchtime. It looked set to be going the same way as recent trips to Tottenham and Newcastle but this time there was a welcome - and gloriously unexpected - twist in the tale.

To paraphrase the October comments of a Watford striker - the Reds certainly did not lack any "cojones." Not one individual stood out, Nemanja Matic's screamer aside, but the team showed stomach for the fight and grabbed the match by the collective scruff of the neck, just as we did against Antonio Conte's side on Sunday, to grab an improbable win in dramatic style befitting of the United vintage.

Jose again got his substitutions spot on - the half-time introduction of Marcus Rashford undoubtedly made a difference and the decision to bring on the pace of Luke Shaw and the craft of Juan Mata, with Jesse Lingard pressed into service as an auxiliary right-back, proved inspired. For the second time in a week, the boss's changes worked whilst his opposite number's certainly did not. With a tiring, lightweight and injury-hit Palace tiring in the face of a grey-clad United onslaught, midfielder Jairo Riedewald was the hosts only sub when he joined the fray with ten minutes to play. It was not enough to stem the tide. Admittedly, Hodgson's options were limited with a wafer-thin squad, but it was clear that an injection of energy and fresh legs were needed.

This was a result secured in strikingly similar circumstances to that Chelsea win, with the obvious difference the trip to a relegation-threatened side rather than a home game against one of the elite. But everything else about this was similar. We started slowly and fell behind, but played much better in the second half - without ever really playing at our best level. Once we got a foothold, the team dug in and showed character and fighting spirit to turn things around and seal an important and hugely satisfying result that will have a potentially pivotal impact on our season. If anyone was in any doubt that Jose's United had lost the ability to dig in and battle, then these last two games will go a long way to proving those critics wrong.
I'm certainly not complaining, but it doesn't do much for the rudimentary health of many a Red.

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