The last time United approached a game in April in such relaxed fashion, Marouane Fellaini was probably elbowing kids in his local nursery and the Glazers had never heard of English football, let alone Of Manchester United.
A trip to Newcastle did not offer much to get excited about, apart from the fact that silencing the self-appointed “best fans in the land” in their own ground is always a pleasant activity, just as is reminding them that Ole Solskjaer cost a lot less than Alan Shearer. There isn’t a finer sight that a United end in full voice, and the traveling fans were absolutely fantastic today as they’ve indeed been throughout the whole campaign.
And yet, despite – or perhaps because – of the minimal expectations, United produced an excellent performance in the second half. Composed, quick on the ball, inventive and inspired, this was a million miles away from the turgid, dull and soulless football we’ve seen all season and that we had to endure in the first half today.
With Wednesday night in mind, Moyes, predictably and rightly, rang plenty of chances, treating us all to the sight of Antonio Valencia at right-back – how can a club like United not have a back-up option in such a crucial position? – while the human big brush took his place in midfield.
The fact that TClevz23 didn’t get anywhere near the starting line-up is either extremely good news or a nightmare set to unfold, for the former means he can no longer get a game even with a second string XI on the pitch, while the latter suggests he might start in Munich.
Not that he’d be so much worse than Fellaini, who was his usual, inept self. Nobody thought we were signing a world class player when he arrived on deadline day, but he’s regression has been spectacular – incidentally, so has United’s.
Thankfully, Juan Mata is starting to assert his influence onto the team and after opening his account against Villa last season, he was superb again today. As if scoring a stupendous free-kick and adding a second showcasing the sort of composure and class that got United fans so excited when we signed him weren’t enough, he put the fourth on a plate for Adnan with a wonderful back-heel flick.
Whisper it, but Mata might turn into the goalscoring midfielder we’ve craved since Scholesy packed it in. Furthermore, Mata’s presence on the pitch seems to get Shinji Kagawa to perform above his usual average standards and some of the link-up between them and Januzaj was simply exquisite today, particularly considering how well they supported Hernandez up-front.
Chicharito was excellent in a role, that of a player leading the line, that normally isn’t too suited to him and his second goal in two games will have boosted his morale, particularly ahead of the return in leg in Munich, where he could well get a chance given Rooney’s injury.
And so onto Wednesday and the gargantuan task of knocking the Champions of Europe out, whose 53-game unbeaten run came to an end today, while United boast the Premier League’s away record.
It probably won’t happen and our season is likely to end there and then but, oh well, who knows?