1. When Manchester United are winning 4-2 at home with seven minutes remaining you assume the points are in the bag. There is always the possibility the opposition might be able to claw one more back but a team of United’s experience, at this stage and the season, can be relied upon to get the job done, right? I would have put my house on us winning at that stage and it’s beyond comprehension that we somehow managed to throw it away. It was so important that we went to the Etihad with a big enough points advantage that even a defeat against City would have kept us top of the table. Now if we lose there we will be second in the table with them having at least a +7 better goal difference than us. We can bleat on as much as we like about us taking this position after 6-1 or at the turn of the year but the point is that a couple of weeks ago we were eight points clear and after that shambolic ending to yesterday’s game our advantage is ever so slight.
2. The full-backs were a massive disappointment and their inept positioning cost us badly. Rafael is only 21 and the only way you improve is with practice but after Smalling’s bright performances pre-injury I’m surprised he wasn’t able to walk straight back in to the team. I’m also baffled as to why Sir Alex Ferguson is saying Fabio, who was first choice for our Champions League final against Barcelona less than a year ago, is being shipped off on loan, when Patrice Evra, who has been substandard since the World Cup, is picked week after week without any pressure. United were incredibly naive at the back, Evans and Rio included, and that is desperately disappointing. A back four of that experience should not be leaving men unmarked with a few minutes to go and I can’t get my head around how that was allowed to happen.
3. Phil Jones was ready to come on for United just before the equaliser was scored. This substitution should have been made at least five minutes earlier with the scoreline still at 4-2. Paul Scholes, for all his ability, was not tracking back with the energy he would in his youth and it was apparent he needed to come off. Like we needlessly chased the game against City at 3-1 down earlier in the season, United continued to attack at 4-2 up. Why? And why wasn’t Fergie on the touchline telling them to get a grip of the game. We didn’t need to play defensively or sit back but there was no need to attack with the gusto we were. Conserve energy, keep possession, and if an opportunity to score another arose, great. Wayne Rooney was bellowing at his team mates to sort themselves out at 4-2 but it wasn’t enough. Giggs could have come on for Scholes, Jones could have come on for Welbeck, and we could have seen the game out. Naive defending and naive tactics.
4. This should have been a match reactions which focussed on the great attacking display. To score four goals against a team of Everton’s quality is pretty good going and it could have been more. Antonio Valencia wasn’t as keen as taking on Distin as he has other left backs this season but he was still great to watch. Nani looked better than he did last week and took his goal so nicely. There’s no one on the pitch I’d rather those chances fall to. His goal against Everton, the goal against Villa, and the goal against City in the Community Shield, show what confidence he has when one on one with the keeper. Great stuff. Danny Welbeck was all over the pitch, like always, working hard to win the ball back and attacking with speed. His goal was a lovely finish and the way he linked up with Rooney for the last goal was brilliant. Rooney grabbed two and has now equalled his all time highest Premier League goal tally which is a great achievement. If you were interested, he has a goal every 98.96 minutes this season, compared to the one goal every 113.37 minutes of PFA Player of the Year Robin van Persie.
5. Credit to Everton. Pienaar, Fellaini and Jelavic earned their team a point and fair play to them. To not let their heads drop at 4-2 says a lot about their mentality and we can complain about our mistakes all we like, because Everton capitalised on them and we can’t take that away from them. Fair play.
6. For what it’s worth, I still think we’ll win the league. These nerves and frustration will make it all feel better too. But I am angry with the team because five points in a couple of weeks is a ridiculous amount to throw away. It’s not like we were playing away to top teams or facing title challengers at home. Wigan away and Everton at home should have been six points on the board. For all the praise I have heaped on this team for managing to compete despite our ridiculous injuries and lack of investment in midfield, it will all be for nothing if we don’t win the league. The title was there in our hands and if we don’t win the league this season the players will have no one to blame but themselves. Roll on Monday…
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