It’s easy to look at the weekend’s derby and point out what was wrong with it. Chris Smalling has a lot of sucking up to do, the wide players decision making needs to evolve past one attempt to take a player on and then lob the ball into the box. Robin Van Persie is not a fast enough front man to operate as a lone striker in a counter attacking formation and the defence needs to get a settled partnership.
There has been one massive positive in it all though. It’s one positive that can’t be substituted for anything else and that is the return of the Manchester United attitude.
In the treble winning season of 1998/99, there was an abundance of late goals. Nearly every second game won was due to a late goal. This came down to the never say die attitude and the relationship between the manager and his players that meant they refused to let each other down. There was that champions league final, that FA Cup game with Liverpool, that penalty save in injury time against Arsenal and that Ryan Giggs goal against Juventus.
For years, everything about Manchester United was epitomised by their inability to die and stop chasing a lost cause.Injury time became widely known as ‘Fergie Time’ because of how often United broke hearts in the dying embers of games.
I’m not saying that it’s back and United will be scoring late winners every week but it’s a start.
Against West Brom, we shouldn’t have been behind but the battle that we lacked last season seemed to rear it’s head once more and Daley Blind snatched a point.
Against Chelsea, the celebration says it all. Written off and cast aside by most in the run up to the match. Another silly error allowed Chelsea to get a foothold. Last season, rather than have a free on the edge of the Chelsea penalty area, our midfield and strikers would have been blindly chasing the ball around their back four with time up.
The fighting spirit is back but it’s not all there. Back then, we would have been leagues ahead of West Brom by the time Daley Blind scored in the 87th minute. It would have been an injury time winner against Chelsea and the 10-men on the field against City might have snatched the goal that they so desperately fought for with time running out.
Some would argue that City relaxed a bit too much but it still has to be capitalised on. The ‘never back down’ attitude has returned but it has to be backed up by a more clinical approach in the early stages. If the game isn’t already in the bag, we should be sneaking last minute wins, not draws.