Expectations are high at Manchester United and rightly so.
Stirring comebacks are seen as mere indicators of the spirit ingrained in Sir Alex’s teams and are no longer viewed as remarkable because they happen so often. Without even glimpsing at past results, it is possible to plunder the memory bank for the Reds’ incredible powers of recovery.
Some teams take months to turn around poor form or overcome costly mistakes. United take minutes.
There was nothing poor about the champions’ display at Chelsea despite facing a heavy beating with 40 minutes still to play. Many have found themselves in a similar position at Stamford Bridge and staring down the barrel. United were hammered 5-0 in 1999 and a Joe Cole-inspired 3-0 defeat clinched the title for the Blues in 2006.
United did not deserve to be losing and yet it was turning into an embarrassing afternoon. With a 3-0 reverse at Newcastle fresh in the minds, it would have been easy to write this off as another bad day at the office. Instead, Sir Alex took action, throwing on Javier Hernandez, later admitting he should have started with the predatory ‘Little Pea’. Paul Scholes was also introduced to provide another reminder of what a wonderful footballer he still is.
Once a foothold in the game was established, momentum was maintained and Chelsea were pegged back to level terms with Hernandez’s header. Surely this was a point gained rather than two lost, even if some fans questioned how United were in such a position against a home team shorn of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ramires, Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba.
The manager may have complained that his side deserved all three points but nothing should be taken away from a team that picked itself up from the floor and retrieved the situation so impressively. It was only the second time United have hit back from three goals down to force a draw in the Barclays Premier League. Eric Cantona helped inspire a similar fightback at Sheffield Wednesday on Boxing Day 1992. Of course, a 3-0 deficit at Tottenham was famously transformed into a 5-3 win at Tottenham in 2001 in another memorable game.