After a bizarre, dramatic and anxious week off the pitch, it was vital for United to get back to business on it and win on the road for the first time in the league this season. Dropping more points wasn’t an option, especially after Chelsea’s win on Saturday.
The Britannia Stadium isn’t the ideal place to visit when victory’s a must, but far from being intimidated, United lined up with an attacking formation, spearheaded by the ever-energetic Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez. As each game goes by, Sir Alex’s purchase of the young Mexican looks all the more astute. Playing on the shoulder of the last defender in the same vein as Michael Owen, Chicharito notched two vitally important goals that put United right back in the title hunt – the first was a terrifically-executed back header, the second was the archetypal poacher’s goal.
Hernandez was far from being the only United player to shine - his strike partner Berbatov was excellent in link-up and hold-up play. However, it was at the back where the Reds really impressed me. After being criticised this season for leaking silly goals, the United defenders were back to their solid best with Ferdinand and especially Vidic in colossal form. And even though Gary Neville went off at half-time, reaching 600 appearances merits applause - his commitment to the cause is legendary.
The never-say-die attitude shown after Stoke’s equaliser, when the Reds pressed and ultimately got the deserved winner, and the solidarity of the team also delighted me - United look united again. As we celebrated this galvanising result, I was reminded of another last-gasp win at the Britannia on Boxing Day 2008. Beating Stoke then proved to be a springboard in our successful pursuit of the 18th league title. Let’s hope this result has a similar effect in United’s quest for number 19.
The views expressed in this article are personal to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Manchester United FC.