Two different results, two different performances.

United's fixture in Wales last weekend was pretty much like what we've been treated to in the past few weeks---a laboured show largely devoid of flair but with some grit at the back that has seen us on a run of five straight clean sheets. That run was also accompanied by the return of Captain Nemanja.

On Tuesday, against Benfica, the flair and mojo was back in the side and saw us post our best performance in over 2 months but the result was undesired. Vidic was suspended for the tie but seemed the grit of our game went with him cue the two gifts of goals the Portuguese outfit scored. The manager and coaching staff have to work out a way to keep our flair upfront without compromising the grit behind--you know, like its always been.

It has to be said that United deserve the position they find themselves in. At the conclusion of the Champions League draw, I thought, and indeed blogged here that we could have won the group by the end of October. Looking back now, I couldn't have been any further from the truth. It seemed the fact that the group was a plum one did get to the heads of those at the club. Sir Alex has so far, chopped and changed his side for Europe so much so that he himself has admitted that it has had an unsettling effect on the side.
It is sobering that we now have to go to Switzerland to book a place in the last eight and even then, we can only finish second.

The real punishment will be realised around February 2012 when you can surely expect a second round tie to look like this United vs Barca/Real/AC Milan/Inter/Bayern. . . when its not expected that such potential final fixtures should not be subject of a second round show.  

Back home, we've got Newcastle United in the league this Saturday. We've been moaning about how City have not really had a rough run of fixtures but they go to Anfield on Sunday---a day after we play. This is the part where no other result other than three points will do. We've had our est start to the league since the 1993/94 season but like Chelsea did in 2005, City have raised the bar so we have no choice but to either step up or watch them buy our title.
Newcastle United have done well enough to have us worried for this one, but I do hope that the players understand that if we are to be where the manager wants us to at the start of the new year, we cannot afford to drop any further behind the leaders for that will give them room to recover fro whatever blip we're hopping for without doing much to their title challenge.


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