Another match of falling behind and making a feverish comeback, this time not even needing goals from Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney. Manchester United keep on winning despite playing only 20 minutes of good football each match. It has nothing to do with tactics, and it’ll make them fall and stumble down the road.
Alex Ferguson was probably a little bit proud of himself, a day after the unveiling of his statue outside Old Trafford. That all changed during the first 65 minutes of what should have been an easy home match against QPR. Once again, that sluggish attack simply refused to show anything during the first half.
Wayne Rooney, Van Persie and Danny Welbeck all congested into one area of the pitch, with no width to speak of as Ashley Young disappeared on the right wing, failing to allow Rafael space for his breakthrough strides down the flank; Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher struggled to create any sort of pace or push. There were hardly any embarrassing moments as QPR played in tortoise pace themselves when holding the ball, but Rooney played terribly and with him the entire team.
Second half? Not much of a change, or at least none until Jamie Mackie slotted in the goal everyone saw coming. It’s been comeback after comeback for United this season, but it has nothing to do with good football. It has everything to do with overloading strikers against teams simply happy to come away with a draw against the Red Devils. Only after Djibril Cisse ruined a perfect chance to go up 2-0 did the tide finally change.
Seven minutes, that’s all it took. Anderson for Young, Chicharito for Paul Scholes. Gung-Ho all the way, as QPR, still without a win in a disastrous season, simply gave up on their attempts to find another crack in the fragile United defensive game. You get a goal at Old Trafford, never ever spend the rest of the time trying to defend it.
Wayne Rooney dropping back to attacking midfielder changed a lot, and finally gave the team a person who can pass and put players in good opportunities to score. The goals came from corner kicks and scrums inside the box, not fluent play, but the change in the United attitude did the trick. First it was Jonny Evans, then it was Darren Fletcher, making everyone extra happy to see a player that was on the brink of retirement back on the scoreboard.
It’s hard to call it a comeback win without Javier Hernandez scoring one of them, this time the finisher. Not his usual tap-in, perfect positioning goal. This time, a wonderful moment of football: Anderson showed why he was considered such a big talent ages ago with a fantastic dribble and assist, while Hernandez used a splendid first touch on the edge of the box to set himself for the final goal. His development from “just” a goal scorer into a true striker, who can provide in more than just his positioning, is one of the more important things in United’s mountain of comebacks.
This is and isn’t how you win a title. Showing “clutchness” and the ability to win when playing bad is always good to have in your arsenal, but not when it’s your only way of winning. If a true change doesn’t come along, the slip ups (like this week was) will come more often, and the league title will be a distant dream, despite the impressive goal difference.