This is Manchester United this season, and most of the time as well: A team that doesn’t need a great match or even to get more chances at home to mount yet another comeback victory and extend their lead at the top of the Premier League. The hero this time wasn’t Robin van Persie, but Wayne Rooney with a quick first half double.
This was the 12th time they have conceded first in a league game, but United turned it into their ninth comeback victory of the season. United are seven points clear of Manchester City, gaining 27 points from losing positions. Conceding early, having a weak midfield, a goalkeeper that not too many people trust and problems in the defense, all that doesn’t matter.
Maybe it says something about the strength of the Premier League when United needed only 30 good minutes and were probably the inferior side against Southampton at Old Trafford nonetheless, but there’s more to it than that. In those 30 minutes, that seemingly only United have the ability to conjure in the league this season, four, five or more goals could have been scored. Patrice Evra may not be the defender he was in the past, but it looks like his attacking skills have been honed, or he simply feels more comfortable displaying them.
Wayne Rooney has been in and out of form this season, but his positioning and match-smarts haven’t disappeared. He has now scored 9 goals in 16 appearances, not letting all the penalty misses get to his head. Shinji Kagawa is looking better after a long injury, which means more good balls to Van Persie and Rooney in the box, as Rooney has to adjust a bit in order for the Japanese player to get more comfortable. Robin van Persie? He’s been doing the same thing all season, yet sometimes it isn’t enough for a goal in the tight scoring race between him, Suarez and Michu.
But then there are the problems; just not enough good teams in the Premier League to make the most of them. Or maybe it’s simply the hunger and resolve Alex Ferguson casts on his players and instills in them that’s the true wonder. David de Gea doesn’t look confident, and his defense follows suit. Phil Jones is being moved all around the pitch and not looking extremely comfortable in any position. Nemanja Vidic hasn’t enjoyed the best of communication connections with De Gea since day 1, and that continues to be a problem.
The midfield is another issue – Michael Carrick has been doing a massive job this season no matter where he’s place on the field, but he needs someone next to him that’s reliable. Alex Ferguson has a lot of names he keeps changing on the team sheet, but none of them are capable of locking down a midfield and barring a team like Southampton from pressing United for almost an entire half to their side of the pitch.
This is the 2013 Premier League. A limited team like United, with extraordinary finishing ability, is enough to dominate and so far win the league without too much of a fight. Robin van Persie is that good; Wayne Rooney is that good. Enough to cover up the frailties in the squad. Enough to cover them in the Champions League as well?