It felt like deja vu when Matty Longstaff netted to put us 1-0 up against Man Utd once again, but basic errors and poor defending meant there was no big win over the Red Devils this time. Far from it.
We couldn’t have wished for a better start. Man Utd were moving the ball too slowly, we were pressing well and trying to hurt them on the counter with pace and forward runners. When Gayle smashed over after some great work from Joelinton I thought we’d missed our big chance, but that was cancelled out just moments later.
Joelinton got in behind, held the ball up well and laid it on a plate for Matty Longstaff, who finished calmly once again to make it two in two against the Red Devils this season.
I thought we had them exactly where we wanted them, but how wrong was I. Let the self-inflicted capitulation commence.
Firslty it was Dubravka at fault (a rare moment after several months of superb form). He was beaten far too easily at his front post to give Anthony Martial a goal out of nowhere.
We steadied the ship, but only momentarily, with Schar then the next NUFC player to make a costly error.
A horror pass in an awful area fell to Mason Greenwood, giving him a chance to score from 20-yards – and he did so emphatically (albeit via a deflection off Federico Fernandez).
2-1 down from 0-1 up thanks to TWO avoidable errors, and it got worse before half-time. Some will say the game should’ve stopped because of a head injury to Matty Longstaff, but we were being overrun in midfield and giving them too much of the ball in areas around the edge of the box – and we were punished again. Wan-Bissaka’s cross evaded Schar and Rashford headed in from point-blank range to make it 3-1.
To go in at half-time not only losing but by two goals was a real shame considering how well we’d started.
I thought the errors would dry up in the second half and we’d either have a go or see it as damage limitation, but another awful mistake was made barely 5 minutes into the second half. This time it was Sean Longstaff, whose woefully under hit back-pass allowed Martial to score.
The game then died down, with Atsu, Yedlin and Krafth appearing in the second half to help give us some extra legs. It’s quite telling that Jonjo Shelvey, Isaac Hayden and Andy Carroll were all left on the bench, with all three clearly being rested for the visit of Everton in 48 hours.
We’ve been spirited, organised and defensively very solid (from front to back) in recent months, but it was a real capitulation today and performance of a side who’d missed training and ate too much Turkey.
Man Utd were clinical, but we gave them the Boxing Day gifts they needed to get back into the game and never recovered.
Let’s hope we’re much better against Everton on Saturday – we’ll need to be.