1. It doesn’t matter how many times we do it, winning games in the last minute feels fucking fantastic on every single occasion. To go behind three times, at home, was ridiculous and infuriating. Every time we clawed ourselves back in to the game we messed it up and let them take the lead again. In the first half, the players didn’t even seem that bothered by the fact we were getting outplayed by a poor Newcastle team. But in the second half, things clicked in to place as has so often been the case this season, and we created chance after chance. We’d seen this before though, our defeat to Spurs, so whilst we looked like we had a win us, it wasn’t guaranteed. With twenty minutes or so left to play, with the score at 3-3, our lads started to look really hungry for the win, with tackles flying in everywhere. The fans, riled by the officials and our performance, were so up for it, cheering when Jonny Evans got his boot to a ball first after a 20 yard dash and urging the players forward. The great thing about this team, as has been the case for so many of the teams that Sir Alex Ferguson has assembled at United, is they always believe they can win. They never give up. The benefit that comes with this is not just the impact it has on our players, but on the opposition too. How many teams face United, hear how many minutes of added time will be played, and are thinking about us scoring a late winner? It’s a brilliant advantage to have and Wednesday’s result showed that brilliantly yesterday.
2. It is a worry how many goals we are conceding, whether from bad mistakes like Michael Carrick’s which lead to the first, or just poor defending like for their third. We’ve already conceded more goals than we did all season when we won the league in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and we’re only half way through. Our midfield didn’t have a terrible game but there’s just no pace there which leaves the back five horribly exposed. Players like Gabriel Obertan shouldn’t be ripping us apart but he did with ease. We’re getting away with it in the league but when we come up against good sides in Europe it could get embarrassing.
3. The biggest talking point of the game was Newcastle’s controversial second goal. Three minutes after Jonny Evans equalised for us, he put Newcastle 2-1 ahead, after turning the ball in to his own net. Papiss Cisse, who the ball was intended for, was stood in an offside position when Danny Simpson played it forwards. Evans got a toe to it but the linesman had his flag raised, cutting short the celebrations of the Geordies. The players crowded the ref, presumably letting him know that it was Evans who scored, not Cisse, so it couldn’t be ruled out for offside. The ref had a chat with the lino and allowed the goal to stand. If you look at FIFA Law 11, you will see you don’t have to touch the ball for an official to rightly award a freekick to the opposition for offside. Cisse was guilty of “interfering with an opponent” as he “made a movement which distracts an opponent.” If Cisse wasn’t there, Evans wouldn’t have been struggling to get in the way of the ball to stop it reaching Cisse. Evans was distracted by Cisse, therefore Cisse had interfered with play. On Match of the Day, Alan Shearer, unsurprisingly, thought the goal should have stood, but made no reference to the Laws of the game, other than acknowledging that Cisse could be considered to be interfering with play. So yeh, top analysis as usual.
4. Carrick showed how important he is yet again and more than made up for his early mistake after receiving a heavy pass from Chicharito. Robin van Persie scored our third equaliser of the game after Carrick played a brilliant ball over the top to him. It was also an inch perfect Carrick ball to Chicharito which set up the last minute winner. The goals should have come earlier though, with Carrick playing a ball over the top to Van Persie who stretched out a left boot and watched the ball roll agonisingly close past the post. Then there was the fantastic pass to Ryan Giggs who crossed to Chicharito, whose header then went straight at the keeper. Carrick covered 6.83 miles, more than any player on either team, as is typical for him this season.
5. Another top performance, although it was more of a surprise, came from Giggs. He wasn’t at the races in the first half, like the rest of the team, but he really turned it on in the second half. It’s bit of a piss take that a 39-year-old is still tearing defences apart, but what he lacks in speed, he made up for with his ability to trick the defender and send him the wrong way. Giggs has been dreadful this season but against Newcastle we saw a flash of what he is still capable of. Ferguson has today said we shouldn’t criticise Giggs because he’s given 20 years to the club. Nobody wants to have a pop at Giggs, a United legend, but he has been awful in pretty much every game he’s played. He can’t do a job in the centre of midfield but maybe, when needed, we can use him on the wing. With Nani injured (and likely to be sold) and Antonio Valencia looking like a shadow of his former self, we might be needing Giggs to play more than we’d like, so it’s encouraging to see that at least he is still capable of putting in a decent shift.
6. We’ve scored more goals than any other club this season, which shouldn’t come as a huge surprise when you consider we have last season’s top two scorers in our squad. However, whilst Van Persie has an impressive 13 goals in 17 starts this season, we have other players who are significantly contributing. Patrice Evra has scored as many goals as Eden Hazard, Yaya Toure, Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud, whilst Jonny Evans has scored as many as Clint Dempsey, Hatem Ben Arfa, Ramires and Steven Pienaar. Evra and Evans have 7 league goals between them this season, which is more than double all their league goals combined that the pair of them had ever scored for the club before this season, 3. Our defenders now have 10 goals between them whilst our midfield has scored 9. Maybe our defenders could score fewer goals and concede fewer goals, and our midfielders could pick up the slack going forward? Crazy concept, I’m sure.
7. Hernandez has scored a goal, on average, every 85 minutes he’s been on the pitch this season, which is an incredible feat. The vast majority of these goals have come as a substitute and after his contribution at Aston Villa this season, he has now scored more goals away from home after coming on as a sub than any player in Premier League history. He struggled to make an impact on Wednesday and had some great opportunities to win the game. By the time he finally did score, he really should have been on a hattrick. I think he’s a great little player but I still think he’s best used as an impact sub. He got the winner so I’m not complaining. His movement to get in to the positions he does is brilliant and as soon as that ball came over the top from Carrick you knew he’d bury it but I think Welbeck, in Rooney’s absence, should be getting the nod, now that he’s not poorly.
8. I’m not foolish enough to think that getting away with it again doesn’t mean we haven’t papered over the cracks here. For a couple of years now we’ve been saying the team isn’t good enough and if you think being seven points clear means that we should be content with this current squad you’re foolish. When you compare the quality of the 07-08 team to what we have now, they are leagues apart. For one, we still have the same central midfeld we did then in Scholes and Carrick, but with them now five years older. Is this team good enough to win the league? I’d say so. There’s no point ticking off 20 just yet, with half a season still left to play, but we’re in a fantastic position to win the league and our present fighting mentality bodes well. But can you imagine our team squaring up to the best sides in Europe right now? Cleverley and Carrick has proven to be our best midfield pairing this season but plenty of weeks we’ve been taken apart in the centre of the park by inferior teams. However, being entirely honest, I’m not overly concerned. That’s not to say I’m happy to see us play badly or week after week see us go a goal down and have an uphill battle, but winning that title back is so important, that I’ll take conceding 3 at home to the 15th best side in the country as long as we come away with 3 points. I’ll live with taking teams apart as we did against Arsenal, only to score 2 goals, as long as we win. Winning the league is the priority this season and I don’t care how we do it, as long as we do. We’re not as good as we used to be but we’re at least 7 points better than everyone else in this league, and long may that continue!