Once again, Manchester United had to come from behind to win it. It is getting to the point where United only burst into life when the clock ticks into its thirtieth minute and the opposition are a couple of goals to the good.
Their last three home games have followed a similar pattern; a clumsy and careless start is followed by an opposition goal which stuns the crowd. From that moment, United slowly click through the gears and find an equaliser. Then, as if the first third of the game is erased from their memories, they go on to control the match with ease and effortlessly cast aside the opposing team. Obviously, the 3-2 defeat to Tottenham didn’t the trend. However, Tottenham will be the first to tell you that they were fortunate to leave Old Trafford with their three points intact.
Last Saturday, Stoke silenced Old Trafford with a second minute opener. They then should have capitalised on United’s dreadful start by going two up, but Jonathan Walters was foiled by David De Gea. A few minutes later, Robin Van Persie’s inch-perfect cross found the forehead of Wayne Rooney who guided it into the back of the net. The game was as good as gone after that for Stoke save for a Michael Kightly goal that was swiftly ruled consolatory by another Rooney goal.
Likewise, the first twenty minutes of last night’s Champions League match against Braga was a similar affair. Alan handed Braga the perfect start with a header after less than two minutes. It was Braga’s first attack of note and they benefited from poor marking in the Man United box. Eighteen minutes later, Michael Carrick was turned inside out by Eder on the left flank, and a low drive into the box was directed in by Alan once more to make it 2-0.
The second goal seemed to have awoken the giant as Braga’s strict and rigid defending was undone by Van Persie and Kagawa before Hernandez headed home. Normality returned to Old Trafford with that goal, and when the referee blew the whistle to signal full time, the score-line read 3-2 to the home side.
That Man United have trailed in eight of their twelve games this season is no coincidence. There is no single root cause to explain the issue. Rather, it is a combination of factors.
Firstly, defensive errors have riddled United’s start to the season. Last night, Alex Buttner failed to press Alan when he headed in the opener, and then Michael Carrick showed that he is no centre back when he allowed Eder to turn him and cross for Alan with ease. Rio Ferdinand has been labelled as ‘over the hill’ by large sections of the media, a decline that Gareth Bale highlighted when Spurs won at Old Trafford just under a month ago. Patrice Evra has also come in for criticism recently, in that his advancing years is having a dramatic effect on his marauding style and his ability to deal with pacy wingers.