You're only as good as your last game

Wednesday 06 December 2023 23:13

They say you are only ever as good as your last game in football.

Maybe in the world we live in of 24/7 coverage of the sport, and opinions flying around constantly on social media, this is particularly true of Manchester United, the club everybody loves to talk about.

The reaction to the performance at Newcastle United was as though the Reds had slipped into the relegation zone and been in a prolonged slump.

United 2 Chelsea 1


Scott McTominay is at the double as the vibrant Reds pick up a huge three points in the Premier League.

The reality is the display in the north east, in my view, warranted criticism, for sure, but the response felt hugely over the top.

As Erik ten Hag pointed out, very few teams have beaten the Magpies on their home patch in the Premier League, I think I'm right in saying only three have managed this since Eddie Howe took charge - Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City.

Okay, so it was more about the performance than the 1-0 scoreline, as United struggled to impose ourselves against in-form and fired-up opponents on their home patch, riding a wave of positivity. 

That was a very fair point.

Yet the context of the defeat was clear. It was a Saturday game on the back of a very late night in Turkey, virtually Asia, on the previous Wednesday. The time is three hours ahead in Istanbul and United had to fly the players back straight afterwards to arrive in Manchester in the hours of Thursday morning when nobody should really be awake.

When I interviewed Erik at RAMS Park, he hinted at a little displeasure at the fixture schedule, which is unlike him and you always sense he is never one to look for any excuses.

However, I would argue the energy levels on Tyneside from the team were not down to a lack of effort but a degree of fatigue, naturally caused by having to play three games in six days, the middle one of which was well over four hours' travel away. Yes, Newcastle played on Tuesday, albeit in a much closer city of Paris, but, for me, as a fan, I'd been enthused by the attacking output against Everton and Galatasaray.

The showing at St. James' Park was not in keeping with that.

There's no such thing as a free pass when you turn out for United but I think most people were looking for a response at Old Trafford this evening, and a sense of the real Reds. The manager believed there would be and he was proved right, even if the bookmakers had the inconsistent Blues down as favourites.

The pressing was exceptional, there was no denying the home side thoroughly deserved our victory, and it could, and probably should, have been even more convincing in the end. Scott McTominay deservedly takes the plaudits for two more goals for the homegrown midfielder but there were fine performances all over the pitch. Harry Maguire was immense at the back again, Sofyan Amrabat showed why we brought him to Old Trafford and Alejandro Garnacho was fearless and just as entertaining as we all want our wingers to be.

And Old Trafford appreciated everybody's efforts. The place was buzzing, just how we love it to be. There was no turning on the players, no sense of any crisis engulfing the club. Just a silencing of all that external noise. The victory leaves us only three points off Manchester City, a team lauded as the best on the planet.

Maybe it's easy to be overly positive after a win but, as most folk within football will tell you, those involved in competing should not get carried away with the highs or too despondent with the lows. The noise around this club dictates that we're always big news and, let's be honest, it's fantastic that people have so many opinions on United. We all do and, as supporters, we just want what is best and to see the team play with passion, pride and skill.

Failure to beat an in-form Bournemouth will spread negativity all over again. You really are only as good as your last game. But if the Reds can play like we did tonight, hopefully the overriding negative vibes can begin to change, with huge tests against Bayern Munich and Liverpool to come.

The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.