“It’s only Fulham”
It was inevitable really. Lose and further fuel would’ve been added to the rumblings to remove Mourinho from the post of Manchester United manager. A draw would’ve returned the same result. Scrape a win and it would’ve been unacceptable. Batter them and ‘it’s only Fulham’.
As it turned out, we did batter them. 4-1. Should’ve been more. Should’ve been a clean sheet. Dodgy penalty. But, it’s only Fulham, right? The Premier League’s basement club. The team that has conceded more goals than any other at this stage of a Premier League season (except Barnsley).
However, it was only Brighton before them (we lost). It was only West Ham (we lost). It was only Southampton (we drew). It was only Palace (we drew).
The fact is, yes it WAS only Fulham, but every now and then a game crops up which just so happens to be the type of game a team needs at that moment in time. This could be ours. A win seemed a formality even before kick-off, even with the run of form which we were in prior to the game. It was just HOW we won that remained to be seen.
Few can argue that this was most probably our best performance of the season. Full of attacking flair, full of chances and full of goals. If that was a Fergie performance we would be quite rightly lauding it. But it wasn’t. So we didn’t.
The win pushes United up to the dizzy heights of sixth with a trip to Anfield on the horizon. Which is exactly why the Fulham game was the right game at the right time. It let us remove the shackles, attack with pace. Rashford was immense, Dalot even better. Those that played did so like they wanted to play for the club. They played for the badge, and that is the most pleasing thing.
I have no doubt in my mind that Pogba will return to the starting lineup this Sunday. Perhaps he should. He is exactly the kind of player we need when we are up against our biggest rivals. Maybe, just maybe, he watched the game on Saturday and thought “I really need to up my game here”. We can only hope.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not expect to get anything out of the Liverpool game, but Saturday showed us, whether we like to believe it or not, that we are a very capable team. One that can attack and break teams down. One that can create and score goals.
Now, I love a good statistic. I’m a sucker for statistics. So, here it is. I’m now going to quash one of the biggest myths surrounding this Manchester United side…we are not a defensive team.
So far this season, we have had 100 shots on target. In 16 games. That’s more than Tottenham. More than Arsenal. More than Chelsea. Actually, it’s more than Liverpool. In fact, it’s only bettered by Manchester City. How can a defensive team have the second most amount of shots on target in the Premier League?
We’ve delivered 337 crosses into the opposition box. More than Tottenham. More than Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal. Actually, it’s more than Manchester City.
“Ah, yes,” I hear you cry. But we play so many backward passes. Wrong again. So far this season we have played 1,161 backward passes. That’s less than Tottenham (1,269), Arsenal (1,386), Liverpool (1,416), Chelsea (1,775) and Machester City (1,828).
“Well, these teams see more of the ball, so they will play more backward passes.” Correct, but only just. There is just over 5% average possession per game between Manchester City (60.9%) and Manchester United (55%).
Yes, the league position is worrying, but it isn’t through negative tactics. If anything, the argument may just lie with the fact that the problem may well be that the tactics are too offensive. Our defence is poor, has been all season, but we’re creating chances. I realise I am an optimist. I’m not making excuses for our league position. I’m not making excuses for dropping points against teams that we should be beating comfortably every week. However, Saturday showed me that there is a plan. We do have players that show passion, that play for the badge. Something similar on Sunday would please me immensely.
But, of course, it was only Fulham…