ManUtd.com journalist Steve Bartram admits football hasn't been much fun lately - but now's the time to take stock and get set for a sprint finish...
Let's not skirt around the issue; the last 10 days have been a nightmare. From a position of being able to put Liverpool out of the title race, we now find ourselves with sweaty palms.
Suddenly you can’t switch on a laptop, TV or radio without hearing about United's 'stuttering' bid to retain the title. We just have to deal with it.
You can’t blame the media for whipping up a frenzy; they now have a genuine contest to cover as opposed to a seemingly inevitable United canter.
It’s obvious that they’ll seize on any slip from ‘The Untouchables’ – a tag semi-coined by Arsene Wenger and perpetually recycled on Fleet Street as the Reds strode to the top of the table with 11 straight wins. After two bad results, it’s a moniker which would now haunt the Reds, had anyone at Old Trafford actually come up with it.
Granted, nobody realistically expected United’s last two results, while Liverpool’s previously uncertain form has commendably stepped up a couple of notches. The momentum, for now at least, is with Benitez’s side, with Gerrard and Torres in form and the shackles of caution seemingly cast aside.
United, with two defeats and three sendings-off thrown into the bargain, have given the Merseysiders a glimmer of hope of an unlikely first Premier League title. It hurts to say, but that’s where we stand.
Perhaps it was naïve of us to expect United to get straight back to winning ways at Craven Cottage after the demoralising nature of Liverpool’s win at Old Trafford. When a horse clips a fence, it doesn’t carry on regardless in an unremitting sprint. When a boxer takes a roundhouse full on the chin, he doesn’t just cock an eyebrow and resume throwing his own punches. It takes time to recover.