Monday, 27 October 2014

UNITED PASS FIRST TEST, SALVAGE PRIDE

More than anything, you hope that yesterday's result provides the rock upon which we can build the rest of our season. But that is not the only possible positive from last night. If Manchester United were going to restore the fear factor for teams coming to Old Trafford, they had to stand up to the champions elect and league leaders Chelsea. That in the end the spoils were shared is reward for achieving that.

The news that Falcao, Jones and Herrera would not be involved or start respectively rocked many fans including yours truly, but the cruelty or otherwise of sport is that a door slamed in your face is an open one for another professional. And credit to Marouanne Fellaini for keeping his head amidst all the negativity around him and making the most of his chance. The big Belgian was easily our best player on the night. His man marking role on Fabregas is perhapsna DVD that all footballers might have to take a lesson from. Coming into this fixture, Fabregas was statistically the most accomplished passer of the ball in the entire league with an astonishing total of pass completiton and assists. In many ways therefore, he is the man that makes Chelsea tick despite the change in personnel around him. However, by half time yesterday, Fabregas had completed just 11 passes. By the 90th minute, Fellaini, had run 21.7km, the highest on the pitch, clearly illustrating the thorn he was in Chelsea's game plan. If they didn't feel the pinch up to that point, they certainly did when he met Di Maria's 94th minute free kick that ended with RVP smashing in the equaliser with virtually no time left.
It's a credit to the Belgian that he has overcome the negativity about his role at the club to make a case for himself for a first team berth. What is for certain is that the manager now has a big decision to make in terms of the starting XI on Sunday. So far, injuries and suspension has made that job easy. Unless somone twists an ankle in training this week, it's now become a complex decision.

There's no point blogging about defensive errors and what might have been because enough inches have already been dedicated to that in previous blogs. It's important however that we take lessons and confidence from the game ahead of another equally difficult game this Sunday. Our strength is going forward and I think we need to make the most of that given the inconsistency with which we line up at the back.

We are 8th in the log, not because we didn't win last night but because we've dropped points at Burnley, Leicester, West Brom and the like. Our qualification for a top 4 place hugely depends on how many points we take from the alsorans of the league. The reason they turn out to be tricky games is because of the mentality with which top sides approach those games. I marvelled at the adrenaline with which we went at Chelsea. The question is whether we can match those levels of desire when the opposition is not as strong. It's what league football is all about. Every game, regardless of the opposition is worth 3 points. Consistency is rewarded. Inconsistency is worthless.

Ultimately though, in terms of the here and now, I don't think we could have gone into the game on Sunday with more confidence. If similar levels of desire and commitment to the cause are shown from the collective unit, there's every reason to believe.



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