Watching the match against Sunderland you could be forgiven for the odd traumatic flashback. As the final whistle blew, my mind automatically recalled the gutteral primal scream of the name Agüero.
Clearly some events can be glossed over yet remain lodged in your memory bank, especially if you have a Sky subscription. Thankfully, the fixture calendar has been kind and presented the perfect opportunity to avenge the events of last season.
A comprehensive victory against Manchester City would be the crowning glory and go some way to justify the current 15 point gap. However, looking past that dominant league position, drubbings have been few and far between this season.
United only need seven wins from the remaining nine matches to set a new points record. Yet while points have been racked up on a regular basis, the margins of victory have largely remained tight. Clearly, this is a team with goals in them yet have only won by a margin of more than two on four occasions in the league – Norwich, Newcastle United and Wigan.
Do not think this is me being picky. To open up a 15 point gap is a phenomenal achievement. Victories have been secured with either a clinical ruthlessness or by simply doing just enough. Tellingly, United are yet to drop points against traditional rivals (Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea) which goes some way to explain the gap. However, each victory has been by the odd goal in three or five. Exciting stuff but it makes you wonder whether this a case of United being marginally better than the chasing pack or simply more consistent.
While a run of seven wins on the trot since the draw against Tottenham is the envy of the rest of the league, there is the distinct impression that this side is yet to really click into gear.
Last season, goal difference was the deciding factor and though this has been addressed (+39 compared to City’s +29 at the time of writing) the side still have a certain fallibility. Early on this season, the habit was winning from behind which displayed a strength of character but also a vulnerability to concede goals initially. At the business end of the season results are being ground out yet teams are not being killed off.
Sunderland was a prime example. Here’s a team that have not recorded a victory in eight yet put United under real pressure in the second half. Given United’s man for man superiority and ease in getting the ball forward quickly, there should have been a 2-0 half-time lead at the very least.
Then you consider the vendetta factor from last season. As news filtered through of City’s dramatic win the Stadium of Light gleefully celebrated United’s despair. To be fair, their fans have had little to cheer about yet talk was of vengeance and Sir Alex Ferguson’s comments made it abundantly clear it was not going to be forgotten.
“Those Sunderland fans were cheering for City. We won’t forget that. I’m telling you, ” he said at the end of season awards.
The drubbing was there for the taking yet, as has been the case for much of this season, United failed to ram home their superiority.
Next up in the league is Manchester City at home. This time United will kick-off 15 points clear of their nearest and dearest rivals with the tantalising prospect of extending that gap to 18. While a scrappy 1-0 win would suffice, what this season really needs is the sort of drubbing that puts down a marker.
The league title could be secured with a record points total without United really showing their teeth. The vendetta remains and the opportunity is there, here’s hoping United take it on Monday.