There’s something quintessentially United about snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with the last kick of the game.
Unfortunately, there’s also something quintessentially United – at least as far as the class of the 2013-14 season are concerned – in snatching victory from the jaws of defeat only to extend the agony and ensure that the blow, when it’s finally delivered, is even more painful.
The last time Samuel Eto’o thwarted our hearts, Manchester United were playing their second Champions League finalin 12 months and things looked rather different.
Back then, United boasted a superb squad capable of taking on Europe’s finest, while today they crumbled against aChelsea side which, while looking solid, never got out of second gear.
Feeling excited after what would have been a routine win until six months ago speaks volume of how far United have fallen this season, for a 2-0 win over Swansea isn’t anybody’s idea of heroics nor would the scoreline, in normal circumstances, be something to remember and behold for too long.
And yet, in this miserable season, today’s win is far from routinely and while it’d be foolish to believe United have turned a corner, they have made their life a little easier ahead of what would have been an excruciatingly difficult week before next Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge.
It’s a season of firsts, this. Unfortunately, as far as Manchester United are concerned, the novelties we have been treated to this season are all things we could have, quite plainly, done without.
And so, after a first defeat at home to Newcastle since 1972, after Everton’s first success at Old Trafford in two decades and after having gifted Swansea their first ever win at Old Trafford in their history, United, having not lost to Sunderland in the last 20 meetings between the two sides, thought well of capitulating against Gus Poyet’s men.
They say that when it rains, it pours. As far as Manchester United are concerned, this season is shaping up to be a downpour of biblical proportion, rather than some traditionally insistent Mancunian rain.
Transition, decline, widespread ineptitude. Call it which way you want, but whatever it is it’s not going to go away anytime soon. Not now, not tomorrow, not until the end of the season. Not, in fact, for a while.
Amid the festive mood that has embraced us all in recent days, it would have been easy to forget that, even at Christmas, United simply don’t do things the easy way.
And why would they? After two days spent eating and drinking, they probably thought we ought to experience some less enjoyable feelings but, in the end, they took a long hard look at themselves and delivered a belated present.
Getting excited about beating West Ham at Old Trafford might be a damning verdict of how far the mighty have fallen this season but, on the other hand, the current campaign isn’t one for people who like to cherry-pick moments worth celebrating, therefore we should all sit back and enjoy today’s positives before getting on with the Christmas shopping.
For there were positives aplenty today.
Manchester United are unquestionably better than Lionel Messi and they proved it last night.
For years, the Argentine’s sheer brilliance has been somewhat slightly overshadowed by fans questioning whether he’d have what it takes to do it on a wet night in Stoke, and while that question remains unanswered, United proved that they can indeed negotiate the Britannia Stadium on a cold, windy night in the Potteries.