Manchester United have finally managed to dig themselves out of sixth place for the first time in what seems like eternity!
The last time we were not in sixth place was when we were in eighth place just after our 0-0 home draw against Burnley. That was back in October! We then beat Swansea 3-1 away and both Watford and Everton lost by a five goal margin: United jumped up to sixth place on goal difference, a position they would find themselves for the next 4.5 months. The curse of sixth place… Oh yea, it was also when it was ‘Liverpool’s year’.
I’m sure we all remember the period of three straight ‘Drosses’ against Arsenal, West Ham and Everton (where Fellaini gave away a penalty in the last minute – followed by Mark’s epic rant).
Man Utd 1-1 Arsenal (Giroud Scored in the 89th minute)
Man Utd 1-1 West Ham
Man Utd 1-1 Everton (Baines Scored 89th minute Penalty)
During this time every team above us were making points and we found ourselves nine points adrift of fourth place. With the recent string of results our position at the end of the season looked ominous. However, as United fans, we know the season doesn’t end in December.
After the slump of three Draws, Man United had a very merry Christmas period winning 6 games on the bounce. Inevitably, the teams above us would be dropping points and we’d at least make some ground. Where were we after this great run of form? … Sixth place…
During the run we managed to win:
Man Utd 1-0 Spurs
Crystal Palace 1-2 Man Utd
West Brom 0-2 Man Utd
Man Utd 3-1 Sunderland
Man Utd 2-1 Middlesbrough
West Ham 0-2 Man Utd.
The next game was against Liverpool at home. With the good run of form we were going into the match confident. Man City also lost 4-0 earlier on that day; so a win would have meant we’d be level on points with fifth place, the closest to fifth since we were last in the top four in mid-September. Unfortunately we didn’t win; we ended up with another ‘Dross’ as we were the better team for the majority of the match.
We also a good chance to close the gap with Man City playing at home to Spurs during the next set of fixtures. We were playing away against Stoke. Earlier in the day Liverpool lost 3-2 against Swansea, so it was a great opportunity to make points on at least two of our rivals. However, another chance goes begging and we clock up yet another 0-0 ‘Dross’ for the season. Yet another Man of the Match award goes to the opposition Goalkeeper.
Just over a week later we are granted yet another opportunity as Liverpool were playing Chelsea and Arsenal had a shock defeat at home to Watford on the Tuesday. Liverpool and Chelsea drew 1-1 so we had a great opportunity to make points on three of the five teams above us and edge closer to fourth spot. However, same old Man Utd find it difficult to pull off a win at home to Hull City and the game ends in yet another 0-0 draw. You guessed it, Man of the Match was Hull’s Goalkeeper Jakupovic.
Here’s how the table stood after the three dominant draws.
The obvious frustrating thing is that had we won those three draws that we dominated and arguably should have won, Man Utd would have been 2nd and potentially in a title race being 8 points off top.
Ce la vie.
Things did pick up in the next two games with a confident 3-0 win over Leicester City, which proved to be one of the final nails in Claudio Ranieri’s coffin. We then went on to win a tricky away match against Watford 2-0.
Man Utd were still in 6th place, one point behind Liverpool and two points behind Arsenal. United had the early kick off against Bournemouth and the 17:30 kick off was Liverpool vs Arsenal. Mathematically, if we won our game then we were guaranteed to finally climb out of sixth place! Sounding like a broken record, Man Utd do the unthinkable and they draw yet another completely dominant performance 1-1 with a controversial penalty for Bournemouth just before half time. Most of the fans were starting to think that any opportunity we get to climb out of sixth place is going to be bottled by the players. Liverpool won 3-1 and another chance goes by.
The Saturday early kick off during last weekend’s fixtures saw West Brom beat Arsenal in a convincing 3-1 victory. This means that we have another chance to finally jump over the line and out of the dreaded 6th position. We’ve come so close before and never managed to finish the job, at this point United fans were just fearing the worst. We were up against Middlesbrough in the Sunday lunch time Kick Off.
True enough, Man Utd started the stronger team. Rashford had two close range chances saved, and Valencia had another one saved. This is very typical in the trend we’ve seen so far this season. Somehow the opposition Goalkeeper turns into world class and pulls off save after save and we end up dropping points as a result. Not this time tho; an inch perfect cross from Young to find the only Blue shirt in the box and Fellaini heads it home. Mark puts on the wig at half time and we’re all breathing slightly easier. We think it’s all over when Lingard fires the second into the top right hand corner, but we’re Man Utd and it’s never over till it’s over. We sit back and try to soak up the pressure by parking the bus and bringing on a 6th defender. It goes to 2-1, it looks ominous that the inevitable second goal is coming from Middlesbrough; just to fit the trend of our season so far. However, Valencia chases a lost cause, never gives up and Victor Valdes slips over giving Valencia an open goal to fire us to victory, three points and FINALLY OUT OF SIXTH!
We know it’s only fifth place, but what a relief to end the curse of sixth! We’ve been stuck there for 4.5 months (since the start of November). We’ve had to put up with the banter from rival fans saying we’re still in sixth place, not any more! We’re now in fifth, and we had to start climbing the table to somewhere. If we win our games in hand over Liverpool we’ll be in fourth spot going into a very tough end to the season.
It really does feel like a huge weight has been lifted from the club, I can only imagine how the players and manager feel. Hopefully now they’ve seen reward in winning matches, United will kick on for the rest of the season and secure a place in the top four. Who knows? We might even win the Europa League too.
Come on United!!