Why United's late clinchers provide a perfect boost
Under Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United made scoring late winners an art form and there is arguably no greater thrill than celebrating snatching the points at the death.
The Reds did it so often, piling on the pressure and causing defences to buckle as the clock ticked down. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have generated a number of these late highs, the two wins at Paris Saint-Germain leap to mind, as does the Bruno Fernandes penalty at Brighton & Hove Albion, some 10 minutes into stoppage time and after the final whistle had been blown!
Yet there have been more signs of the stamina the boss demands from his charges by killing games off in the closing stages - and this is something that also provides a real adrenaline rush for supporters.
Whether it is simply a case of the last memory of a game being a positive one, I feel, for me, my mood is disproportionately affected by a coup de grace being added at the death. It happened with the win at Everton before the international break, and was extra pleasing because Edinson Cavani got off the mark, and was the case again against Istanbul Basaksehir.
Maybe the feeling was boosted further by seeing two substitutes eager to show they are pushing for inclusion combining to great effect but it provided a real lift and a much better buzz than would have been generated by winning 3-1 after holding a three-goal lead at the interval. And there was still time for Mason Greenwood to almost add a goal to his assist for Daniel James!
The point is, in the overall scheme of things, aside from improving goal-difference, these clinchers arguably are not hugely important.
However, they really do matter to me. I view them as a big positive to set things up nicely for the next game, end things on a high and enhance morale within the camp. They are almost like a final flourish, the killer blow to a vanquished opponent and, as I've mentioned, it shows we can keep going for 90+ minutes and crucify teams on the break. Maybe it's even a warning that, if you attack us in numbers, it will be at your peril.
United have certainly left it late plenty of times already this term and I think this is something that warrants a bit of attention. Some 13 of our 31 goals in 2020/21 have been scored in the 80th minute or later.
Luton Town were seen off in the Carabao Cup with two goals in the last couple of minutes securing a 3-0 triumph. Paul Pogba's free-kick sealed qualification in the next round, at Brighton, with 10 minutes or so left. We only went ahead with Bruno's 85th-minute gem at Newcastle United but still punished the Magpies further with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford getting in on the act. RB Leipzig were put to the sword in the closing stages to rack up a 5-0 victory.
So on to Goodison Park and the Cavani goal lifting spirits into the international break, which felt extremely important. There was no late clincher against West Brom last weekend which is perhaps one of the reasons why even the three points did not provide the adrenaline boost all successes in the Premier League should really supply. Ole was right after that game - the manner of victory is not really important but this late sting in the tail against Istanbul Basaksehir brings extra impetus for the next match, renewed confidence of beating Southampton and continuing to climb the table.
Maybe I do put too much stock on what essentially are nice-to-have additions to a fixture already won. As a supporter, though, it is these late clinchers that keep the mood high and can be considered as vital contributors for building the momentum required to improve our league position.
The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.