Manchester United showed at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon that a little positivity can go a long way after they ended their precarious record of draws in the Premier League with a 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur, who suffered their second defeat of the season. United had previously done well in the cup competitions; beating Feyenoord 4-0 at Old Trafford in the UEFA Europa League, West Ham United 4-1 at in the EFL Cup and Zorya Luhansk 2-0 in Odessa in the Europa League on Thursday evening. The league matches surrounding these mid-week fixtures were mainly 1-1 draws with United suffering late on with the opposition scoring a late equaliser, apart from the case of West Ham United, who scored in the first two minutes of the league match only days before the two sides faced each other against in the EFL Cup.
United were still in the running to end their season on a high, but it would be difficult. This weekend, Manchester City were punished by the fallen reigning Premier League champions Leicester City, who scored four goals before City got two back in the late stages of the match. The result was 4-2 to Leicester, seeing Pep Guardiola’s side drop valuable points. Liverpool drew 2-2 with West Ham United also, meaning they had dropped valuable points also. That added to Spurs being defeated at Old Trafford, carved out a very important weekend for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho. United now sit three points adrift of Tottenham Hotspur who occupy fifth place in the league, six points behind Manchester City in fourth and seven behind Liverpool in third place. With each of these teams still to face United once in the league this season, there is a massive chance that United could find themselves back in contention for a better finish than was first thought a few weeks back.
United face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Wednesday evening, and it is imperative that Mourinho’s side leave the capital with another three points. This weekend, United visit West Bromwich Albion, where another three points will be required. Both matches will be tough, as they were last season, but United will need to use their seven-match unbeaten streak to inspire them to get what they require from the matches. United then have eight days off between matches, facing David Moyes’ Sunderland on Boxing Day, the former United manager’s first visit to Old Trafford since his sacking in April 2014. Three points will be necessary, helping take Sunderland out of the Premier League, hopefully, getting a Championship team who might have more aspirations to succeed in the Premier League. On New Year’s Eve, United, again at home will face another North East side with Middlesbrough coming to the Theatre of Dreams. Speaking to the official Manchester United website after the victory over Spurs, Mourinho spoke about the important victory, saying:
“We have been playing so well but not getting results. We needed the result today, even if the performance could be not as good as the others. But that was not the case. I think the performance was even better than the others because we were playing against a very good team. A team that, for me, is the one that I prefer in the Premier League because of the way they play football, defensively and offensively. So even more credit to the players for that.”
United have been playing well for weeks, showing their ability in the cup competitions, playing some attacking football, taking advantage of their opposition. In the league though, United were dominant, but despite scoring one goal, could not secure their lead and then were unlucky to concede late goals, which turned their wins into draws, lumping more discontent on the side with the media and the fickle fans mocking the club, some calling for Jose Mourinho to be sacked. Funny how they don’t seem to say anything when United win – makes me think they only do it because they cannot handle their club losing, which is piss por support right there as not team is guaranteed to win every game, yet that seems to be expected by many supporters who clearly know nothing about the game or the club, yet expect everyone to give them what they wish, week in and week out. That is not going to happen though. Fans like that will never get what they want and should really find a club that fits their needs a little more, as United clearly is not the team for them if all they can do is criticise when things do not go in the right direction.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a player that has risen to the challenge over the past few weeks, being involved in half of the eight goals United have scored when he has been involved, scoring twice against Zorya Luhansk and Tottenham Hotspur, assisting twice against West Ham United in the EFL Cup. The Armenian, the first from his country to score in the Premier League is a big player for Jose Mourinho to have in the team, a player he wanted for his time managing the club. The media, at the point Mkhitaryan was dropped in September, suggested that the player could be sold, at a loss, as he has failed at United. Poor journalism. All the player needed was a little time to adapt to his surroundings, which he seems to have done. The upsetting things is that the player received an injury against Spurs, which will keep him out for the foreseeable future with Mourinho giving an update during his press conference ahead of the clash with Crystal Palace, saying:
“Hopefully, Mkhitaryan can play at Christmas. We believe it’s possible. When I saw him on the stretcher, I thought it was more difficult; when I watch the tackle on TV, I was a bit scared, but no. It’s a pity, because he’s going to miss matches in his best period, but at least we won’t lose a player for so long.”
I am sure United will get through the next few matches. After the Spurs match, Mourinho suggested the player could be back for the Boxing Day clash with Sunderland, meaning he would miss two matches, but time will tell. After the double-header this week against Palace and West Brom, United have eight days of recovery, so time is in the Armenian’s favour ro be fit and raring to go just after Christmas, but wouldn’t it be great if all of a sudden he was fit to play, maybe not against Palace, but in time for West Brom at the weekend.