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The Manchester United spirit is still alive!

On Saturday, Manchester United beat Bournemouth and proved the old United spirit is still alive. That never say die attitude which used to be such a huge part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s great United sides has been evident in the past few weeks. By no means am I comparing this current United side to any of Sir Alex’s great teams because they are a long way off, but what this current United side have shown is a great spirit to come back from very improbable situations.

At the start of the season, there were big question marks about whether the United players had downed tools and stopped playing for Jose Mourinho. A horrible 3-2 defeat at Brighton and Hove Albion, coupled with a bad 3-0 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur raised huge questions about whether this United team were fighting for the manager. Further questions were raised when United had yet another abject away defeat, losing 3-1 to West Ham United.

After this game, the jury was well and truly out on the whole United team and manager. Had Mourinho lost the dressing room? I must say I had my doubts. The response since the West Ham game has been emphatic. Not only have the results changed, but the way United have got those results has really made everyone believe that the team and the manager are fighting in the same direction.

Two-nil down to Newcastle United at half-time, the way the season had panned out previously it would have been easy for the team to lose heart and also give up on Mourinho for good. What we saw in the second half was the complete opposite and has proved to be a turning point for United and some individual players in the team. Anthony Martial was one of those players. Before the Newcastle game, he was in an out of the team.

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He seemed to be sulking about not playing and even when he came on the field he seemed to have a chip on his shoulder. Suddenly in the second half against Newcastle, it was if a light had switched on in his head and he became the Martial we all recognise and love. He was running at defenders, committing them and looking as menacing as we know he can. He won the free kick from which Juan Mata scored from and scored a brilliant goal when he linked up with Paul Pogba.

United rallied and won the game in Fergie time! It was like the old days. Similarly, against Chelsea, United were 1-0 down and looking bereft. Again in the second half, the players gathered themselves and put in a brilliant second-half performance, which almost resulted in taking three points. The French connection of Martial and Pogba stepped up to the fore again, as they did against Newcastle. Pogba drove United on and Martial scored two superb goals.

Again any sign that the players were not playing for Mourinho was not evident in this game. A team lacking spirit would have folded at Stamford Bridge. Most recently against Bournemouth, United were absolutely woeful in the first half. They could have easily been two or three nil down. As in previous games though, United hung in there and got a goal back before half-time through that man Martial and in the second half peppered the Bournemouth goal.

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Finally, United reaped their rewards with an injury-time winner from Marcus Rashford after a delightful dribble and cross from Pogba to spark wild celebrations. The interesting thing about all these games has been the Pogba and Martial axis. At the start of the season, it was rumoured that Pogba and Martial had fallen out with Mourinho. Yet here they are when United’s and Mourinho’s backs were firmly against the wall providing the inspiration and moments of brilliance to win as points.

Even the Everton victory at Old Trafford, Martial won a penalty which Pogba scored and Pogba assisted Martial with his sublime finish. All these instances point to the fact that even though Mourinho may have had problems in the past with these players, everyone is pulling in the same direction now. Hence, this is why United are showing great character and spirit in the last month.

We saw signs last year of the Manchester United spirit still being alive. At the back-end of last season, United were behind to Chelsea at Old Trafford and came back to win 2-1 with a late goal from Jesse Lingard. Also we were 2-0 behind to Crystal Palace and scored three goals in the last 30 minutes to win the game 3-2. Who can forget the game at the Etihad against Manchester City, when United were 2-0 down and fearing a cricket score, but came back to win an incredible derby 3-2!

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Lastly the FA Cup semi-final against Spurs, United were 1-0 down early, before turning the game around with a goal from Alexis Sanchez and a goal from Ander Herrera to win the game 2-1. It has been wonderful to see in the past few games the Manchester United never say die attitude return. As Manchester United supporters, some of the most magical moments in our history have come from unbelievable comebacks.

One of the reasons United are loved around the globe and catch the imagination of so many is because of the last minute goals. Nothing beats the emotion of a last minute goal. It doesn’t matter how bad United play if they can somehow muster a last-minute winner from somewhere, the emotion takes over and the performance is forgotten amongst the mayhem. Take Saturday, against Bournemouth for example.

United were all over the place in the first half. They got the equaliser and kept pummelling at the Bournemouth goal until it opened. When Rashford scored the injury-time winner, the unbridled joy on all the players, managers and fans faces cannot be beaten. It is the best feeling in the world. Yes, United will need to improve their overall performances if they are going to get anything against Juventus or Manchester City this week.

What we do know is, whatever the circumstance of the game, United will keep fighting till the end. Love him or loathe him the Manchester United never say die attitude is still prevalent under Jose Mourinho.

Written by Ross Struel Clarke

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