1. Complacency bites again. Quite how we didn’t walk away from today’s performance with all three points is beyond me. We played our best attacking football in a long time but were found lacking the concentration needed to see a game out, not for the first time this season.
Reminiscent of the near collapse against Basel, today was a performance that stops you winning titles. We were two goals up twice today and going into the last ten minutes, had a comfortable lead. Then, two goals in two minutes and the game was turned completely on it’s head. I was scratching my head as to what really just happened, and still am.
The ability to close out a game on top has always been one of United’s greatest strengths as a team, so quite why we have been so vulnerable in the latter stages of games this season has been one of the most worrying aspects of the campaign. If we are going to win the title, it can’t happen again, not least against City next week.
We don’t like to make it easy for ourselves do we?
2. Welbeck and Rooney partnership. I think that Rooney and Welbeck had one of their best performances together today. They just knew where the other was all the time and they just brought out the best in each other.
Pictures and videos speak a thousand words, so I will let these do the talking. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke would be clapping this goal.
3. Substitutions. Why did we not make them? SAF has done it in the past and he did it again today. When he finally threw on some fresh legs, he took off Scholes and put on Jones in the 86th minute when we needed a goal? He only gave Hernandez five minutes to try and make a difference.
We needed Jones on much earlier when we were 4-2 up so that we could close the game out. Tired legs let Everton back into the game and allowed Fellaini the space to waltz into space to score one himself and set up Pienaar’s equaliser two minutes later.
Scholes was being squeezed out of the game and we needed energy rather than creativity for the last 20 minutes. Carrick was not as assured as he always was and nobody seemed to have the energy to stick a tackle in, which allowed Everton to dictate far more of the game than the opposition normally does at Old Trafford.
4. The performance of Nani. Few figures frustrate fans more than Nani but he was fantastic today. He looked a threat every time he had the ball at his feet. In the poor first half, he looked our only outlet.
His superbly taken goal was the least he deserved from today. Young was ousted from the starting line-up because of his recent media spotlight, the right decision, and it gave Nani a chance to stake his claim to wide left and he took it with both hands.
The return of Nani could not have come at a better time. We go to the Etihad next week to face a squad laced with superstars and if we are going to have any chance of winning, our superstars need to perform. Nani is individual at United, nobody is like him.
His game, when fuelled by confidence, is a joy to behold and he seems to play well against City (Community Shield and at home in the Premier League last season spring to mind) and we are going to need a cutting edge if we are to break down City’s defence. Young is too predictable and I would rather the ball be given to Valencia if we are going to be sending in crosses.
5. Breathing space lost. Letting Everton come back into this game has sucked the life out of our run-in and with City away next week, I don’t think it is unfair of me to label us as underdogs for the title now.
If City win, they will go top by goal difference with only two games remaining. I do not see us winning at the Etihad. Although normally the optimist, I am feeling very pessimistic about next Monday. We have not been playing like champions, despite the results at the end of matches, and City are looking very dangerous again.
They have recovered well from their lapse in form and back-to-back wins against Norwich and Wolves away from home will breath confidence back into their team. The return of Tevez has galvanised their mercenary machine back into fifth gear and they will hold themselves as favourites to walk away from the Etihad with three points.
For me, a saving grace is the fact that City have to go to St James’ Park in one of their two remaining games. This could be their stumbling block. I hope it is.
When everyone saw that United were playing City on April 30, it was immediately labelled the title decider. I thought, by that point, it would be wrapped up but now the end is in sight, it looks like they were right.
Last season, we played Chelsea at Old Trafford when we knew a victory would all but secure the title for us. We came out of that game with a terrific victory and the title came with it when we drew at Ewood Park. Here is to hoping history can repeat itself against when the final whistle blows at the Etihad next Monday.