Manchester United’s win against Middlesborough can be turning point

Paul Pogba on fire

I feared that Manchester United’s huffing and puffing would not be enough to blow the opposition away. Middlesbrough, who played the waiting game for much of the tie, took the lead through a Grant Leadbitter strike in the 67th minute. Having been away in college with remote access to TV, this was not the way I wanted to celebrate my first night back home.

A disallowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal in the first half had already fuelled my anger. A year of ups and downs was about to draw to a disappointing end. The streak of four consecutive wins before this? Who pays heed to such numbers at such a stage?

I had begun to lose faith. It was then that Zlatan paved the way for Anthony Martial to equalise in the 85th minute. In the very next minute, we took the lead. Juan Mata, finding space on the right, whipped in a ball to Pogba, who nodded into the top corner of Victor Valdes’ net. Wow, happy holidays to you too, sir!

As the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson formed part of the audience at the Theatre of Dreams on what was also his 75th birthday, it was a perfect birthday gift for the Scotsman, under whom such remarkable comebacks had become a regular feature.

After a sound thrashing at the hands of Chelsea and points dropped against the likes of Burnley, Stoke City, Everton and West Ham, Manchester United have long fallen out of title contention, but this win was still a necessity. Over the months, and perhaps ever since Sir Alex Ferguson bid adieu, the team’s football has lacked a cutting edge. Goals have come at a premium. With Ibrahimovic, Rooney, Martial, Pogba, Mkhitaryan and Rashford, they should be coming by the dozens.

It’s not like Jose Mourinho’s men have not been dictating play. They always dominate the possession stat, but ask Arsenal fans what good that does.

However, they have come good recently. In the last three weeks of a packed December schedule, Manchester United have picked up five wins in a row to pull closer to the upper echelon of the table. Buoyed by the induction of Mkhitaryan to the starting lineup, the Red Devils won at home against Tottenham and Sunderland with the Armenian finding the net in both games. Crystal Palace and West Brom were seen off away, with Ibrahimovic scoring the crucial winners there. And then this win against Middlesborough. Five in five! Now these numbers do sound exciting…

Perhaps optimism can be drawn from how this win was manufactured. Sometimes, even when a team is on a good run, they fail to turn up on certain occasions. Think about how Arsenal, sitting on top of the table at this time last year, saw their season fall apart in a shocking 4-0 defeat against Southampton. It is not always about the pretty, free-flowing football. Sometimes, you just have to find a way to get the three points. It seems like Mourinho has found that recipe.

January will see Manchester United involved in a double legged league cup semifinal, as well as a tricky assignment at the Britannia Stadium and a big game against Juergen Klopp’s title-hunting Liverpool. Time to feign illness in college?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *