Matty Longstaff stole the headlines following his sensational performance and stunning winner in Sunday’s 1-0 victory over Manchester United.
He deserves it. It was a magical moment and the sort of story that makes you fall back in love with the beautiful game, however there were several other players who played invaluable roles in that monumental win last weekend.
Allan Saint-Maximin made a huge impact and transformed us in attack. Joelinton struggled to get into the game and Almiron was guilty of missing a few big chances, but the Frenchman’s pace, skill, fearlessness on the ball and ability to carry it from one half to the final third was brilliant. We’ve struggled to get teams on the back foot this season and have lacked that spark and match winning ability to unsettle teams, but he changed that on Sunday.
Keeping him fit could be key to our survival hopes. Hopefully his presence can lift Joelinton and Almiron, with the pair likely to get more space as a result of the attention he’s likely to demand.
That said, Almiron’s part in our winner has gone unnoticed, with his break out of defence and ball into Saint-Maximin being key
Sean Longstaff was back to his best in the middle, looking calm on the ball, picking the right pass 9/10 and screening the back four intelligently, but the back five really stepped up to the plate in this one – and they needed to after that humiliating hammering at Leicester.
Starting with the wing-backs, I was very impressed by Jetro Willems.
He patrolled that left-side expertly, linking up with Saint-Maximin in attack and playing a huge part in the goal – showing impressive footwork and a calm head to cut-back it back for Matty Longstaff to lash home – but he was also very solid at the other end.
Man Utd didn’t throw a great deal at us, but he never left Ciaran Clark exposed and showed his quality on the ball to get us out of some potential sticky situations in our own half.
On the other side, I also felt it was an impressive return to action for DeAndre Yedlin.
He’s often been guilty of switching off defensively, but there was none of that on Sunday, being quick to react to the danger as he did a job on Man Utd’s Daniel James.
His pace was also a weapon on the counter-attack and something we’ve missed, with neither of Krafth or Manquillo capable of breaking into space like the athletic American.
Then to the three centre-backs, who deserve real praise. Lascelles marshalled the defence well and barely put a foot wrong, Schar made a goal saving challenge or two to deny Rashford and Clark came in and did a very solid job – and he needed to after many were critical of Bruce’s decision to drop Dummett.
Martin Dubravka was also a reliable presence between the sticks, responding well after his error at Leicester.
He didn’t have a great deal to do, with this being nothing like that 1-0 game that featured several key saves on his debut 18 months ago, however he was always quick to take the pressure off his defence, claiming several dangerous crosses convincingly.
This can only be the start of a potential turnaround under Steve Bruce, but after several hopeless displays which featured little other than worrying signs, it was great to see players back in form and us playing as a team once again.
There’s a long way to go, but football fans may no longer be looking which bookies you can sign up to to put money on us going down if we continue to perform with the fight and discipline displayed on Sunday.
Roll on Chelsea a week on Saturday!