Paul Dummett scores a dramatic late equaliser as Manchester United draw 3-3 with Newcastle United
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Where were you? Where were you when the Berlin Wall fell down? Where were you when the very first iPhone was announced to an audience in California? And where were you, humble reader, when a football match broke out at the Sports Direct Arena on Tuesday night?
Do not adjust your screens: your eyes do not deceive you. For 90 minutes in the middle of the season, the Uniteds Newcastle and Manchester decided to wake up from their slumber and play an actual game of football. Fast paced, exciting, full of goals and drama and, most importantly, entertaining, the game may go down as one of the best of the season so far.
There may be some lingering disappointment that such a spectacle only brought home another lone point, but that’s not the story. For the first time in what feels like a lifetime, Manchester United felt like Manchester United again – for better and for worse.
When you attack, you score.
To find the last time that the reds scored three goals, we have to go all the way back to October against Everton. If that doesn’t seem so long ago, it’s worth noting that United have since drawn eight games, lost four and only won five in all competitions. Times have been tough, but all hope is not lost.
It turns out, after weeks of turgid, dull, uninspiring play derided by everyone from a bored Paul Scholes to a cold and bored Paul Scholes, playing attacking football actually produces goals. The talent is there: Wayne Rooney, absent since mid-2015, was all over the pitch, every inch the captain as he guided the ball into the net from the penalty spot (a dubious decision from referee Mike Dean) and blasted the third goal from range in the way that a young Rooney may have, ten years ago.
Even the second goal, a sublime slotted ball from a confident Jesse Lingard was created by the skipper’s overlapping pass. His performance was typical of the team, playing quick on the counter to prevent the home team from tightening up as most opponents do these days. With Newcastle opened up a little more, Anthony Martial, Lingard and Ander Herrera found more space and took their chances, uncharacteristic of the team we’ve seen Louis van Gaal field over the last few months.
It just goes to show that maybe United don’t need a new striker after all. Perhaps, a switch in philosophy is all that’s needed to tap the unlimited potential. What’s the worst that could happen? That they score?
Van Gaal’s #squadgoals for January
It wouldn’t be an article about football in January without touching upon the transfer window. It’s known that some of United’s best business has happened mid-season, with such inspired incomings as Juan Mata, Nemanja Vidic and Manucho. This year, with the pressure heating up on Van Gaal to improve on last season’s performance, a couple of new signings may be of the essence to spur a resurgence in the team.
Ignore the press on Gareth Bale. He’s not coming now and he probably won’t come for a few more seasons. Equally, Cristiano Ronaldo is more likely to head towards Paris than return to the Rain Capital of England. At best, we could snag Vidic back on a free now that his contract at Inter has been terminated.
The key to all of this is that Van Gaal needs to decide where his squad is most lacking in quality. Most would argue up top, but we’ve seen what can happen with an ounce of freedom to move forwards with the ball. Midfield is almost an embarrassment of riches, a sentiment we’re close to taking for granted after years of central bewilderment.
For me and me alone, the holes are most evident at the back and it’s here where I’d focus on a big signing. Chris Smalling, an early contender for our player of the season, needs better support than he gets in Daley Blind. We can’t underestimate how important Smalling and De Gea have been for the team, but there has to be balance and when United attack they seem to lose all composure when under pressure.
Who would I want to bring in? Honestly… I don’t know. I’m copping out, okay? In a dream world, someone like Kurt Zouma or John Stones would be ideal, but let’s be realistic about our chances. But United always had a solid back four and with Luke Shaw still rehabilitating and the Smalling-Blind partnership lacking the dynamism that empowered Vidic-Ferdinand or Bruce-Pallister, some fresh blood at the back is a must.
If the addition of Bastian Schweinsteiger has proven anything, it’s that a steady and accomplished hand makes all the difference for those around him. Apply that logic to our next defensive signing and we may just have enough in the tank to push across the finish line.