November is the focus so, naturally, it’s worth looking at a game played in December. The 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane was a disappointment, though, yes, it doesn’t much sound like one: but, given the points Manchester United dropped prior, a win was as necessary as one can be around this point of the season. It was also frustrating because United struggled to build on their win in midweek, the particularly pleasant 5-0 at Bayer Leverkusen – a game that was definitely played in November.
Even after great things happened in Germany, Patrice Evra couldn’t help but rue a little: “We didn’t make the most of the Arsenal win and that was why we were so disappointed about the Cardiff draw.” The Frenchman had a point, as usual: Arsenal, along with Leverkusen, were two of Manchester United’s most satisfying performances under David Moyes to date. They were a lot different from each other, but pleasing anyway. It was unfortunate, then, that United failed to build on them.
Moyes, as expected, is settling into the job by the month. United’s football hasn’t been irresistible, and probably won’t be by May, but they’re certainly more than ‘resistible’. If that’s not a recognised word, it would have been by now had United’s September carried through. The Arsenal game saw one of Moyes’ less-appealing-but-appealing qualities shine through, a well-drilled United side as obdurate as possible in denying the league’s in-form outfit from scoring.
If edging past Arsenal didn’t come us a complete surprise, the mauling of Bayer Leverkusen did, perhaps to Moyes most of all. “We’ll be trying to win it,” he would tell MUTV pre-match. “If we end up with a draw then we’ll take that if that’s the case.” The Scot just wanted qualification: another 1-0 might have sufficed. To put the win into “perspective” after the game, Moyes couldn’t help but point out Leverkusen’s standing in the Bundesliga, sandwiched between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Playing Shinji Kagawa off Wayne Rooney proved to be a masterstroke – though not as much against Spurs – with the two wide men, Nani and Antonio Valencia, achieving the rare feat of having good games whilst both on the pitch. Some night.
It might have asked a lot to play as well against Spurs, but, given where United are in relation to others (though still not a crisis), it’s perhaps fair to ask of more. The draw at Cardiff, for example, was clearly avoidable, though it was what United deserved. But deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it, and United should have won. Dropping points is to be expected, but not expected often. There was also the Champions League group stage game against Real Sociedad, one of four away trips that month, ending goalless, United failing short once again. The midfield, though barely present, took most of the blame. (Like they had in Cardiff, actually; there, you would hope, should be better news where that’s concerned in two monthly reviews time.)
Before Sociedad, United won 3-1 at Craven Cottage, the hapless Fulham giving up after just 20 minutes. Shame, then, that a draw had followed it. From November 2 (Fulham) to December 1 (Spurs), United’s form guide reads: WDWDWD. Evra deems it fair to ask of more.