Not for the first time this season, United didn’t manage to see out a game from a comfortable position against Everton on Sunday. With a two goal lead in the 80th minute, the game seemed to be won. However, lackadaisical defending let Everton waltz back into the game before it finished 4-4.
It had been 53 years since United scored four goals at Old Trafford and didn’t win the game and SAF was rightfully frustrated with his team.
We have thrown it away, there is no question about that. It is hard to imagine but it has happened. We were extremely poor defensively. Whereas some of the football we played today was magnificent and we didn’t deserve to not win.
The same sort of performance, if not worse, happened in the Champions League earlier in the season against FC Basel in a fixture that epitomised our dismal campaign in Europe. From winning the game at a 2-0 canter, we ended up being saved by a dramatic Ashley Young injury time equaliser to bring the game to 3-3.
The ability to close out a game has always been one of Manchester United’s greatest strengths as a team yet we have seemed almost vulnerable at times over the previous two seasons.
2010/11 – Brede Hangeland’s 89th minute equaliser at Craven Cottage. 2-2
2010/11 – Somen Tchoyi’s equaliser to bring West Bromwich Albion a draw. 2-2
2010/11 – Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta’s injury time goals at Goodison Park. 3-3
2011/12 – FC Basel’s three goals in a row from 2-0 down to gain a point in the Champions League. 3-3
2011/12 – Fellaini and Pienaar’s late goals to snatch victory from United. 4-4
These are only ones that immediately spring to mind but we definitely don’t seem to be the domineering force that we used to be. It is there for all to see, at any stage in a game. We’re shit and we’re top of the league has reverberated from the walls of Old Trafford many a time and comical as it may be, it is a bleak attempt at humour in the face of reality.
Call me pessimistic ahead of Monday against City but I am just not filled with confidence. I am more filled with dread as to what can happen to us at the Etihad if we don’t sharpen up and close up the loose ends. Although our defensive displays recently have been absolutely fantastic (five clean sheets in a row), the defensive performance against Everton was dreadful. Players weren’t closing down the opposition, Evans, Rafael and Evra were all out of positions on separate occasions for the Everton goals and we invited Everton to play football.
If you ignore the attacking prowess we displayed against Everton Sunday, we have been relying on persistence rather than creative penetration to break teams down and score goals. If we are going to walk away from Etihad without our tails between our legs, we simply cannot do that. The attacking trio of Tevez, Aguero and Silva will rip us to shreds on the counter-attack.
The game on Monday really is a title decider. Although City have a tough away day at St James’ Park the following gameweek, the ball will be firmly in their court if they walk away from the Etihad with all three points. United, on the other hand, will have to play some of, if not the, best football of our stuttering season in order to all but clinch the title in the lion’s den.