Opinion: How the crowd became United's fourth sub
Following Manchester United’s battling stalemate with Liverpool at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer passionately declared his team's supporters were the “12th man” and no wonder.
Minutes before kick-off, I commented in our official app that the atmosphere inside Old Trafford was "raucous" with the home supporters producing a level of noise that I hadn't heard at the stadium for some time. The pre-match sounds were to set the tone for what was to come.
It was a bizarre first half in truth, with four substitutions - three for us, one for Liverpool - all being made within a 25-minute period. Battered and bruised, United were forced to make a triple first-half change as Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard, himself a sub, were all injured.
The visitors lost one of their fabled front trio, Roberto Firmino, but it still seemed that the second half would be more arduous for our heroes given we had no more reinforcements to call upon. We needed a boost - and the home fans provided it.
Our "12th man" most notably rose to roar Paul Pogba’s sliding tackle on 49 minutes, before the excellent Luke Shaw nullified the Premier League’s top goalscorer Mo Salah yet again with a crucial interception on the left and the crowd again showed their appreciation. Pogba then went close to scoring with a header before Alexis Sanchez did likewise minutes later which only helped add to the build-up of noise.
Just short of the hour mark was probably the time when we all realised what an awesome atmosphere we were experiencing. Following the spell of pressure described above, Alexis had just acutely turned away from two Liverpool players deep inside his own half before setting up his side for a typical United counter attack. Unfortunately, nothing came of it on the field, but just off the pitch, via a little bit of orchestration from the hands of first-team coach Mike Phelan, a statement had been made. The Old Trafford crowd was alive and the visitors seemed engulfed by it.
The crowd was so loud that at one point, Solskjaer seemed to struggle to get his instructions across from the technical area to Luke Shaw who was only yards away.
Many pundits and journalists commented on the notable increase in decibels inside Old Trafford. New York Times reporter Rory Smith said on Twitter:
Remarkable difference in atmosphere in the second half: Old Trafford in the kind of jubilant, energetic mood you'd expect if they were 2-0 up. Genuinely seems to have lifted the players, too. United look much more purposeful now.— Rory Smith (@RorySmith) February 24, 2019
United legend Rio Ferdinand simply posted...
Atmosphere at OT 😍— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) February 24, 2019
The support did not go unnoticed by the United players either with Victor Lindelof and Marcus Rashford both thanking the fans after the game on Twitter.
The fans had previously been praised following last Monday's away win over Chelsea in the Emirates FA Cup, with Michael Carrick tweeting: “To every single one of you behind the goal last night. Non-stop from start to finish. The noise and energy was incredible. Would have loved to be in there myself. Thank you. Same again Sunday please.”
The United supporters certainly answered Carrick's call and nobody would be surprised if the faithful deliver yet again on Wednesday evening, when we're back on the road to take on Crystal Palace.The views of this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily represent those of Manchester United Football Club.