Having been the better side for the majority of the game only a blinkered Scot in a beanie wouldn’t admit that an equaliser, albeit a very sweet and late one, was the least we deserved from this game. With Fergie Time running out Caulker competed with the United centre backs for Benny’s unsubtle cross, De Gea’s poor punch fell to Lennon who rounded off an excellent performance by keeping his composure and taking a controlling touch before squaring to Dempsey eight yards out. The Deuce still had to beat the men on the line but did so adroitly – cue bedlam in the stands and on the pitch. An injury time goal for us? That never happens.
Another surprise was that Foy didn’t find a way to shovel the points back up north even though time was all but up. His was as usual a perplexing display of inconsistency and incompetence. If my list of bad days at the office were as long as his I’d have found my desk contents in a bin bag long ago. Rooney and his manager may have moaned about Caulker’s challenge on the former but most of the frustration at his decision-making came from those in white shirts. Evra’s off the ball challenge on Lennon for instance should’ve been his second yellow and that’s just for starters.
The game started in a subdued almost surreal atmosphere as though everyone was surprised that there was actually a match to watch. The stands filled late as people remained huddled together for warmth in the concourses until the last moment. Both sides started slowly, struggling with their first touch and passing but there was more space than we’re used to seeing which was a welcome relief. United’s tactics were cautious and clearly designed with Bale in mind but they were no Stoke or QPR. They were narrow; all their wingers were wrapped up in duvets on the sidelines. Van Persie’s presence was unctuous and peripheral until he found space at the far post after twenty odd minutes and headed Cleverley’s cross past Hugo. You could almost see the “Here we go again” thought bubble rise above the crowd but fortunately the players had other ideas and were resolute in their efforts to keep probing and prodding until something happened.
United spent the remainder of the game mostly on the back foot as Parker, Dembélé and Dempsey worked non-stop down the middle and Lennon gave Evra his usual run around down the right. That the players had to wait so long for their reward was mostly down to the good fortune of De Gea and the inability of Defoe to get accurate and timely shots away. Bale and Dempsey went close a few times as well as our diminutive leader of the line whilst United were restricted to a couple of breakaways none of which troubled Lloris even after Rooney had been brought on to add more weight to the attack.
It’s not news that we need more quality and imagination up front, he won’t like it but Defoe’s performance was once again that of a supersub being given a start whilst we wait for someone to come along who can make more of a consistent impact on games. That United felt capable of starting without Rooney highlights the contrast in our attacking resources. With someone up front causing more trouble there’s a good chance that the good work of the outstanding Dembélé & Lennon would have seen profit much sooner.
Elland Road next week in the Cup and then Norwich the following Wednesday. By then Assou-Ekotto should’ve been fully restored to the side and we may also be welcoming some new blood from elsewhere. This performance showed the good work that’s been done so far, with some additions in the right places there’s much to look forward to.
Have something to tell us about this article?