For a second or two....or three, last night felt every bit like one of those we endured under David Moyes. The effort was there, the will was there, but the luck was not quite forthcoming. It's a no brainer that under Sir Alex, United would have found that elusive winner last night. Maybe that's because we would have been awarded the penalty we deserved to level it 10 minutes before full time, or perhaps that chances like the late RVP volley that struck the frame of the goal would have nestled in the back of the net. None of that however, came our way on a typical MNF night.
West Brom took full advantage of their modest pitch to defend tight and deep with the option of hitting United on the counter at will. Credit to them, it worked. They had to ride their luck a few times, but you get the feeling they were comfortable defending what they had in the knowledge that United's leaky defence would oblige if they needed another. Indeed, they collected themselves after conceding the first equaliser and made a rare foray into the United half, and easily found a high way to De Gea's goal.
Not unlike the defeat on the opening day to Swansea, United again allowed themselves to be vulnerable to a couple of counter attacks from a game they totally dominated and perhaps should have won. There is still a solemn lack of responsibility when we lose the ball. Too many times the midfield is caught so far away from the defence that its easy to run at our box unchallenged. It is a discipline that has so far proved to be the obstacle to a would be title chasing team.
Swansea, Burnley, Sunderland, Leicester City and now West Brom have benefitted from this deficiency to cause us uncertainty of Biblical proportions whe we do not have the ball. Points dropped against that kind of opposition are often the difference between achieving a season's target and not.
On the plus side, it was great to watch Fellaini and Blind open their accounts for the club in the league. Already, the number of goals from midfield is encouraging given the over reliance on strikers in the recent past. Indeed, this term, goals will not be the problem as we are averaging 2 per game lately. The question has always been if we can keep clean sheets. At the moment, it's proving hard to out-score opponents on a weekly basis. One hopes that deficiency is corrected before our rivals slip further away from us.
Depending on which paper you read, doom is finally upon us ahead of the next fortnight. Personally, I was more worried about last night than I am about Sunday. Games such as the ones we shall play over the next two weeks take care of themselves when you win the 'easier' ones like last night. That's largely because none of our players will need motivating for Sunday. Skysports will do enough alone to motivate them by Sunday if any of them need it. The question is whether the same amount of dedication, sacrifice and commitment on the pitch will be shown when we play Crystal Palace after the 2 'difficult' games, or whether we shall see the same levels of dedication we've so far displayed at Sunderland and Burnley.
Even so, winning on Sunday and then beating City at the Etihad will count for lkttle if we drop points againat Crystal Palace the following week. It's the simplest formula to having a successful league campaign simply because all games are worth three points regardless of the opposition. Chelsea are not top of the league because they've beaten any top side....no in fact they drew their biggest test yet at City. They are top because they went to Burnley and won, went to Crystal Palace and won. If we beat them next Sunday, they will still be top come the end of the month because the following weekend, they will go to QPR and make sure to win.
That's not rocket science, although everyone else would have you believe they've done novel things to attain their position.
But I digress. United last won away from home in April, and last won three on the bounce in December last year. It therefore makes sense to temper expectations for the season, but this squad should have already done so much better so far.
The jury is still very much out on them.