Manchester United's Houdini Performance Against Newcastle United in EPL
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Manchester United’s resilience and self-belief shone through in spades during their nerve-wracking helter-skelter of a match against Newcastle in the EPL at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
It was no surprise that United went a goal down after three minutes. After all, giving a team a goal start has been a familiar feature of their season so far.
However, to then fall behind on a further two occasions in the match, before taking the lead for the first and only time as the clock ticked to 90 minutes, was pushing the boundaries of recovery to the limits.
It left Sir Alex Ferguson tempering his obvious delight in gaining three points with the concern that his team cannot rely indefinitely on such Houdini-style responses.
Although they always look capable of scoring, they equally look vulnerable to the quick counterattack, and Newcastle caught them out on three occasions on Wednesday.
Crucially, the mental strength acquired through decades of success is ingrained in the psyche of United’s squad, and they always believe that they will score, however little time remains in a game.
For the fans, Wednesday’s match was an excruciating experience. If we are honest, the ultimate joy of victory was best enjoyed looking back on it on Match of the Day knowing what was about to unfold.
This seems to be the cross to bear for United’s faithful this season.
It appears that this will be no easy ride, no cruise to the title. If they are to achieve their goal, it will be done the hard way, offering glimmers of hope all along to their rivals as they did on Saturday and for 89 minutes on Wednesday.
Maybe the hurt of losing at the 11th hour to Manchester City last season pained them so much that they want to inflict similar agonies on their noisy neighbours throughout the season to gain their revenge.
Some would say that playing the game in the United way does leave them open to the counterattack.
I am pretty certain that opposing managers and coaching staff now believe that trying to defend for 90 minutes against United is futile, and the best plan is to try to catch them on the break as Newcastle did, particularly for their first goal.
It came initially from an error from Michael Carrick, who otherwise had another outstanding match. The mistake was magnified by a poorly directed push out from David de Gea’s save.
Their second was a hotly-disputed own goal from Jonny Evans, which, when analysed later on TV, seemed to just about vindicate the referees' eventual decision.
The final Newcastle goal was a well-struck shot from Papiss Cisse, although he did appear to be given too much room by the United defence.
Each time, however, United provided the necessary response, through Evans, Patrice Evra and Robin van Persie. They never let their northeastern opponents enjoy the fruits of their labour for too long, before Javier Hernandez finally put them out of their misery on the stroke of time.
It was painful, exciting, breathless stuff which gave the 75,000-plus paying spectators and the millions who watched on TV a real Boxing Day treat.
It appears, then, that agony and ecstasy is what we must expect from United this season. We just have to hope that these two emotions predominantly occur in the above order in future matches.
One thing is certain: Supporting United is never an easy ride, but it is very rarely boring!
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