United have bad habits which seem to get passed down through the years. In the past, we’ve been successful despite them, but with tougher competition from Roman and his boys, we can’t afford to make the mistakes we were doing.
After Chelsea’s fantastic start to the season last year, we all knew it was imperative that United were quick out of the blocks. However, a good start is not something United are renowned for, with the most talked of example being the 95/96 season. Back then, there was time to mess up, to have a bad patch, and still finish the season four points away from everyone else. Things are different now.
When looking at stats since the origination of the Premiership, we can see that now United have had a better start to the season than any team in any year. After beating Blackburn last weekend, we matched Chelsea point for point from the season before, but had a superior goal difference. It is important to note that our goal difference after thirteen games now is the best of any team in any Premiership season as well… seasons when we had Mark Hughes, Eric Cantona, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, and dare I say it, Ruud van Nistelrooy, scoring our goals. Seasons when Shearer, Le Tissier, Wright, Fowler, Collymore, Dublin, Owen, Sutton, Henry etc. were putting twenty odd away a season.
So, we can cross off “Slow start” from our list of bad habits. Another frustration for United fans will be our inability to capitalise against smaller clubs when it matters. After getting a three point advantage over Chelsea when they lost to Spurs, there was only one game to play before having them at Old Trafford. Sheffield United away. Now of course on paper this sounds like a great game to have, as they have only won two games this season against weak opposition, but I wasn’t going to get too cocky. Far too often I’ve seen an ideal opportunity for United to make the most of their rivals’ downfalls thrown away. Despite winning our last six games, United’s history in this type of match didn’t leave me with overwhelming confidence.
United showed they meant business, and despite going 1-0 down to a header from old boy Gillespie, they turned the game around with two goals from Wayne Rooney. We completely dominated the game, bombarding the Sheffield United goal. Still, they didn’t let their heads drop despite struggling to get the winner. It was fifteen minutes from time when Rooney got his second, in a game United should have won 5-1.
Another bad habit broken, leaving everything to play for next weekend against Chelsea. Worst case scenario, we lose, and are still top of the league, best case scenario, we win, and are six points clear. After seeing Chelsea’s shaky defence again this afternoon against West Ham, you can’t help but get excited at the prospect of our attack, and I wouldn’t bet against Ronaldo leaving Ashley Cole sat on his arse in the middle of the park again.
We just need to keep ploughing on, not kidding ourselves that we’re never going to have a bad patch, but enjoying the current great form we’re experiencing. It’s been too long since our club has been setting the pace, and I’m thoroughly enjoying being the team everyone wants to beat. Roll on next weekend.
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