You could argue that three of the last four results Manchester United have posted are in sync with expectations this season. The point at Anfield, the win in Benfica, and progress to the last 8 of the League Cup that was secured in Wales on Tuesday night. The one unacceptable result was the defeat at the John Smith stadium last Saturday. That is as good as the case for the defence can get.
Because the flip side of the coin holds that United have been on a gradual and yet consistent decline in performances this side of the International break. The counter attacking plan at Anfield wasn’t executed in a way to hurt the opposition whilst the Champions League game in Portugal was devoid of the ingenuity we’ve seen in games past. A script writer would probably have anticipated the performance at Huddersfield.
Thankfully, United had a trip to Swansea so soon after the weekend debacle to file a rejoinder. And they did. A professional performance that was very much what the doctor ordered. And yet you wonder how much of the early season momentum has been recovered.
Because whilst it’s easy to lose, momentum can be very difficult to build. United’s mild start to the season in terms of fixtures was meant to build steam ahead of October and November when the real tests would come around. Having picked up one point from the last six available, they can I’ll afford another poor result at a time when a summit rival is visiting.
Forget Liverpool. Spurs on Saturday will be our first genuine test in the league this season. Being a home game (the only one of the month) , Old Trafford will expect United to go for the kill and yet how the manager sets up for this one will likely remain a mystery until kickoff.
United won this fixture 1-0 last season but at least then, they had a relatively bigger complement of players to pick from. The current injury situation would have to improve drastically between now and Saturday lunchtime to turn the odds in United’s favour.
Mauricio Pochettinho, for whom Saturday might be a secret audition for ‘the job’, has moulded his team into a fine attacking unit with a touch of defensive discipline. It is, one might say, an upgrade on what Conte, Someone and Mourinho preach. Not that it’s without faults. Spurs simply add the one element the aforementioned managers would rather not—- risk!
With full backs pushing up high and a very high press, the space left behind can be exploited with equally fast paced and precise counter attacking. Where United were slow to build up attacks at Huddersfield, they need to be quick about it, more-so if they have to get back in the game at some point. Where United needed motivation to beat a promoted side, they shouldn’t require the same against a genuine title rival. Everything about the past week or two will be shelved if United put in a performance and or post the desk result.
Titles are never won in October, moreso before the clocks go back, but they can be lost. United’s fight this weekend is about retaining relevance in the question that is who will win the premier league title this season. It’s a fight they have to go about as men with the right attitude and not the pussy-footed effort we witnessed the last weekend.