Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Good Night Dampened by Trademark United Comeback

The search for silverware might soon be over, but the the Premiership title still looks a lofty goal.

Alex Ferguson's Manchester United have an aura and a character that transcends the limitations of the players who wear their shirt. You were not surprised that Blackpool could take a 2-0 lead against a team featuring players like Darron Gibson. Nor were you surprised at the comeback, because that team is Manchester United.

Blackpool outplayed the league leaders for one half, but lost to the aura in the second. By the end they were frazzled and ragged. They lack the cynicism of more experienced Premiership sides who would accept 2-2 and sit back; United's winner, though scored as late as the 88th minute, was the result of a simple, though well-executed, through ball from Scholes, that found Berbatov completely unattended. Though the Bulgarian's lumbering stride gave the covering defender a chance, he accelerated through and bashed in a massive goal with his left foot. United's celebrations were suitably raucous.

Surely if Berbatov continues in this fashion, he must join the likes of Nasri and Nani in the running for Player of the Year.

A first defeat of the season for the Red Devils would have given hope not only to Arsenal, but to Man City and Chelsea aswell. Instead, United struck a psychological blow. A routine United win would not have been too devastating for the chasing pack. But a win after trailing by two goals is always symbolic. When it is achieved by Manchester United, at this time of year, it's ominous. It will inflate their belief and deflate that of their rivals.

Arsenal appear to be gathering momentum (although momentum is a fragile thing) and should not be too disheartened. United showed their vulnerability yet again. If Aston Villa and Blackpool can build two goal leads against them, chances are that sooner or later, a better team will do so, and will not so easily crumble.

After such a dramatic win, some in the United camp must be considering the possibility of an unbeaten league campaign, but there remain five particularly difficult looking games. Two of those are against Chelsea, who can only improve on their mid-season form. Kenny Dalglish would relish the chance to dent United's title hopes when they visit Anfield. A league trophy for United this year and they surpass Liverpool's total. Arsenal will hope to avenge recent embarrassments against Ferguson's team at the Emirates. And the Manchester derby will not be straightforward, although Roberto Mancini probably lacks the adventure to set his team out to win at Old Trafford.

Whatever the fate of their attempt at an unbeaten season, it is hard to imagine any team other than United lifting England's premier prize in May.

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