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Well, well, well. As the old saying goes: the devil is in the detail. Beating the Red Devils is all about detail and we very nearly pulled off the unthinkable. Hell, if Traore released the ball instead of shooting, we could’ve been talking about a memorable three points. Nevertheless, a very, very credible point which was all about one man and one man only. Yes, you can talk about the work rate of every player on the pitch, but that’s not quite who I’m referring to. Of course, I’m on about Nuno Espirito Santo. Nuno to me and you. While it’s nothing new, it’s still as infectious. His belief in his players and the system, It works. Ultimately, that was the difference between us and United. We had a plan, United didn’t.
It Seemed Like It Was Going To Be One Of Those Days
In the preview of the game, I referred to our trip to Old Trafford in 2003. You know, the one where Henri Camara missed countless chances after United scored an early goal. It was not too dissimilar this time, asides from the fact that our chances came before Fred put United in the lead. Jimenez had the first chance which was all down to his own work. Costa, forever a threat, got to the byline, pulled it back to Raul who still had a lot to do. With his back to goal, he produced a wonderful one hundred and eighty-degree pivot and forced De Gea into a save.
Bennett was next up on the chance list. A wonderful delivery from Moutinho was met by the head of Ryan Bennett who peeled away from Paul Pogba. In essence, it was a free header. Scrap the essence, it was definitely a free header. Don’t get me wrong, Pogba impeded his view slightly, nonetheless, it should have gone in. Just over the bar. Moments later, Moutinho was putting in another majestic corner. This time, Boly met it. On target. Goa-, no. Goalkeeper. De Gea thwarted us. Again.
Unsurprisingly, United took the lead not too long after Boly’s header was saved. A delightful deft touch from Pogba set Fred up on the edge of the area and he just passed it into the bottom corner. I’m not saying it was against the run of play, but it was against the run of play. Typical Wolves. Well, it would be typical of the Wolves of old. As stated, we are a different animal under Nuno.
Rui Kept Us In It
Fred very nearly doubled United’s lead just before the interval. Right on the stroke of halftime, Doherty committed a daft foul on the edge of the box. It was going to be one of Fred or Pogba. Fred. Rui pulled off a marvellous save and the referee sounded the whistle for halftime. After the break, it was yet again an even encounter. Not too long after the break, we were level. Neves pinched the ball off Pogba in the middle of the park and we were off. Costa, again, pulled the ball back to Jimenez and instead of the Mexican trying to fashion a chance for himself like the first half, he put it on a plate for Moutinho. PING. 1-1.
Fellaini moved from almost a third centre-back to a centre-forward as United, once one of the most feared teams in the land, resorted to playing an almost Tony Pulis brand of football. Lump it to the big man and hope for the best. To be fair, it almost ended up working. Our back three of Coady, Boly and Bennett stood firm and restricted United to no chances of any real note, though.
Despite only being on the pitch for fifteen minutes, Traore had the most shots, three. He was a constant menace down the right and forced De Gea into two saves and blazed another over the bar. One of the reasons why Nuno persists with Costa and Jota over Traore is largely down to Traore’s decision making. Or rather, lack of it. In the dying embers of the game, Traore was central with Gibbs-White and Jimenez either side. He should’ve passed.
On the whole, it was a game we could’ve easily won. It could be argued that if anyone other than De Gea was in goal, we would have. One of the biggest sticking points of United’s season so far is Alexis Sanchez. He hasn’t got anywhere near the levels we saw of him at Arsenal. Just to give you some idea, here is a comparison of him and Traore from this season.
Considering that Sanchez has played two hundred more minutes, the stats don’t make pretty reading for the Chilean. Traore has 2.2 more dribbles per game than Sanchez and also has one goal in comparison to Sanchez’ zero. Admittedly, Sanchez has an assist and Traore doesn’t, but for the amount of time he has spent on the pitch, is Sanchez really doing enough to keep his place in the starting XI? I think not.
That’s enough about United. More about Nuno and his magic. We will continue to grow and continue to improve and considering our next four games are certainly more favourable than our last four, who knows what points haul we will yield from them? Twelve! As long as we don’t get ahead of ourselves and take it a game at a time, the sky is the limit. This time next season, we will be having it large in Baku in the Europa League. Fingers crossed.
Until the next time.