‘The manager doesn’t know what he’s doing, picking Shelvey ahead of Longsatff and Paul ahead of Schar’

– Me: 12.37 yesterday in the Forth

‘The manager got it spot on, deserves credit and got the team selection correct’

– Me: Right now

United got a great point against the Champions at SJP on a chilly Saturday. Did we deserve it? I don’t really care but to settle it  If you have 77% possession, only concede two proper chances in a game and still can’t win, I’m not sure you deserve to, so there.

Nearly 50k in attendance (boosted by 3,200 mostly mute fans from Manchester) saw the usual against Manchester City as an unchanged United rom the Monday night capitulation took to sitting deep and getting men behind the ball.

Since their manager has ‘revolutionised English football’ (or so I’m told – we’re still shite despite his revolution) he’s struggled at our place with the previous results being a single goal margin win and January’s mad defeat which had looked to cost them a the title but didn’t.  In games against the other average sides of the PL his side have scored for fun at most grounds but not our place.  That fact may have been part of the general foreboding on social media on in the pubs as many predicted a heavy defeat by more than a few.

It didn’t happen though and despite the brilliance of Silva’s back heel their opening goal was incredibly fortunate and before that we hadn’t looked like conceding.  Everyone grafting, to a clear tactical plan. The opposite of Monday night and further proof that this team has lots of fight on a good day.  The back three threw themselves at everything and won everything in the air.  The midfield two were industrious as captain Shlevey was pressing and running like we’e not seen him before, proving he could be an able defensive partner for the industrious Hayden.

Our equaliser was a lovely if unexpected goal which saw Almiron’s first assist (baby steps) and another goal for the league’s most dangerous left full back (in a wing back formation)  against a good side.  The finish reminded me of Vurnon Anita’s goal against the same opposition in 2016 where he’s curled it across the keeper with his wrong foot.  He’s a bit of an underrated presence is Wor Jetro (sorry, ‘Big Jetro’ as Bruce probably calls him) and despite Matt Ritchie still being hugely popular with fans I think Willems is our number one left back.  He had another good game.

With the front three running and doing their best to get us up the pitch we looked dangerous but created little. Man City’s centre halves looked rattled all day despite not having to often defend anywhere near their own box. They’ll not win much this season when their back line is worse than ours . Mendy had a stinker on their left and we were generally happy to shift to the right to leave him in acres of space.  A good tactical plan from the manager who hasn’t lost a home game (despite some iffy performances) since the opening day (and we shouldn’t have lost that).

The second half was much better from the visitors as they played shorter passes through the middle of the pitch and were more patient in possession.  Our lads will have been delighted in the first half as City constantly tried lofted balls into the area from deep and crossed from wide.  Second half ‘Big’ Martin D pulled off some fine stops and kept us in the game.  Sadly Kevin De Bruyne hit a lethal half volley from 22 yards for the goal of the season so far and while it felt harsh on United, it had been coming to an extent as we’d gotten deeper and deeper as the half progressed.

The game was far from over and as the travelling away support finally roused themselves Manquillo got forward and was taken out by Fernandinho who made no attempt to play the ball and was quite incredibly not shown a second yellow for the foul.  That is probably the worst refereeing decision this season I’ve seen and the hapless lineswoman (who was overruled by the referee on three occasions in the second half for throw in decisions) was looking directly at the foul and surely should have advised the ref it was a blatant yellow.

The ire of the crowd turned to jubilation as the captain smashed home a world class goal to bag us a point. It was a brilliant strike and we’ll probably be watching it for years to come. There was time for one more Dubravka miracle as Stirling ghosted into the back post and should have tapped home for an easy finish or squared the waiting Jesus. Instead the keeper managed to defy gravity and catch up with the ball despite reacting after it was already passed him. I don’t think the tv pictures do it justice, proved by the fact he got a standing ovation from SJP – something which doesn’t happen often for saves.

At the end of that a point.  Is Bruce winning some fans over? Maybe but many will judge after Christmas period when we’ve played everyone once and we get to January and sign some players to improve the squad.  We’ve still only won twice at home, so that needs remedied next week against Southhampton.

As it stands we’re only 4 points clear of the drop and with some of the sides playing three times between me writing this and next Sunday night (we have two games) the league could look very different as we get into December.  We’ve played all of the top 6 now – and gained 7 points.  That’s a decent return. It’s time to start picking up wins against the other 13 teams and we have 6 games coming up you’d expect us to get a good haul of points from.  Now is the time.

Back to yesterday and it was another good day at St James’ Park and good performances have come across the pitch.  Well played lads.

Alex Hurst

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