The French CalvaryBonne Année!
Middlesbrough’s visit to Old Trafford came at the back of a comfortable win against David Moyes’ Sunderland team and seemed like it would be a walk in the park. But this here is the Premier League; there is no walk in the park. United definitely had to earn their points in this match despite dominating once again, at times even seeming as though the streak of unlucky matches would restart after Martial and Pogba hit the uprising, and Zlatan’s goal was controversially cancelled. If not for the United’s French revolution we would have seen our past efforts annulled.
The team Mourinho lined up for the visit from the Boro had 5 changes with Mkhitaryan, Martial, Bailly, Smalling and Fellaini replacing Mata, Lingard, Rojo, Jones and Carrick. Most changes seemed to be in anticipation of the journey to London where we would face West Ham on the Monday, 2nd January. However Carrick was out due to illness, while Rooney and Luke sure remained sidelined by injury. Here’s a few of what I picked from the match:
United is Back!
It had little to do with the gameplay; there was just that nostalgic feeling of the Manchester United team of 5 years ago. The tenacity, passion, determination and most of all fight back. Having gone a goal down by Leadbitter thanks to Smallings poor defending it would have been a bad way to celebrate Sir Alex Ferguson’s 75th birthday, but the resurgence added a Happy New Year wish to it. United had gone behind in the 63rd minute, 22 minutes later Anthony Martial drew level through a pass from Ibrahimovic in the 85th minute. A minute later the game was buried by Paul Pogba when he put Juan Mata’s cross in the top left corner of Boro’s post.
If you put aside the numerous misses and shots hitting the bar, or the referees denying Zlatan’s chance to equal Diego Costa on the top goal scorer’s table, you’d get a feel of that hope that has long eluded the club since ‘the chosen one’, David Moyes, took the helm at Old Trafford. This game was a definite reminder that we’re not there yet but it was the right kind of win coming on the back of the dispelling of Moyes’ spirit from the club.
I can tell you for a fact that Mourinho’s sideline tactics is working. Since his arrival at Manchester United Jose Mourinho has been particular about performance, any slack and you’re out of the team. That was the case for Martial and Mkhitaryan at the start of the season when they brought little beyond lackadaisical to the pitch. They both admitted not being picked was frustrating but challenged them to do more and today they were the very players creating problems for the Middlesbrough defence with their pace and penetrative runs.
It goes without saying that, due to the lack of world class wingers in the team, every player on the wing is in a battle for their position. Last game Miki came in for Mata and scored a goal to earn his place, today it was Mata who came in to assist the winner. With the lack of games to spread across everybody, – everybody but the midfield triangle of Carrick-Herrera-Pogba, add Valencia and Ibra to that – every player has to earn his position at the moment. You’ve got to give it to Fellaini though, he proved me and many doubters wrong (I still have doubts), but Mourinho obviously understands his players well enough.
All in all United’s run of wins in the premier league continues with 5 consecutive wins. Consistency is key here because at the moment win, lose or draw we remain 6th… We can only wait patiently for the men at the top to set the stage for our resurgence. Liverpool have done their bit by pulling us 3 points closer to Man City (Muahahahaha), and Chelsea and Tottenham will be at each other’s necks on Wednesday when they have their derby.
While the top 5 battle each other, we’ll be waiting for our chance like..
Till then we just hope more players hit top form and referees turn their favour towards United. Mourinho’s got a hell of a busy schedule ahead with West Ham, Reading and Hull on the 2nd, 7th and 10th respectively, before we face Liverpool on the 15th. Being the only English team left still fighting on the forefronts it is to be expected and precisely why Mourinho is against selling/loaning out players… Fatigue is slow poison.
Happy New Year Manchester United faithfuls!