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"United played with great freedom with Nani and Valencia causing chaos on the wings..."

- Stewart Gardner, MUTV

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12/12/2011 12:50, Report by Stewart Gardner, MUTV
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OT pulls together

United are well used to life under the microscope but the scrutiny of Saturday’s performance against Wolves was always going to be intense. The football world wanted to know how Sir Alex and his players would respond after their Champions League exit and the Reds passed with flying colours.

It was a good effort from everyone at Old Trafford – fans, staff and players – to lift themselves after such a shocking night in Switzerland. It seemed to me that the whole club pulled together. The atmosphere at OT has been criticised this season and a home game against Wolves can sometimes lead to a bit of a soporific afternoon in terms of crowd noise. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, the supporters got right behind the players just when they needed it and the team responded. (Incidentally, my co-commentator Paddy Crerand called for a better atmosphere in his regular column for the match programme - and then claimed the credit for the increase in noise levels!)

United played with great freedom with Nani and Antonio Valencia causing chaos on the wings and Michael Carrick once again showing his critics just what a valuable job he does. Phil Jones continued to demonstrate what a talent he is and it was great to see Wayne Rooney back amongst the goals.

Of course, everything with our club is exaggerated. Last Wednesday night was a "disaster", United were "in crisis", the young players were "not good enough" etc, etc. Then on Saturday, the champions were "flying again" and "back on form." As ever, the truth lies somewhere in-between.

One man who doesn’t lose the plot in these circumstances or get carried away by any of the headlines, good or bad, is the boss. He would have been hurting at going out of such an important competition as the Champions League but he still defended his players against United’s many critics.

Secretly, I’m actually quite looking forward to the Europa League. There could be some interesting places to go and some different teams to play. It could be a fun ride and who wouldn’t want to get to a European final in May? Don’t get me wrong, I love the Champions League and it will be agony when the knockout games begin in February and United won’t be playing in them. But we might as well embrace the Europa League

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