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Match Review: Manchester United 2-2 West Bromwich Albion

I have long come to grips with the fact that, for better or worse, I’m an eternal optimist.

It could be that I’m just a glutton for punishment, but it’s never hard for me to find something to laugh about or fill the glass halfway with.

And with that, there are a handful of positives to take from Saturday.

1) We sure don’t make draws boring.

There have been the goalless draws against Rangers and Sunderland, but Saturday marked our third 2-2 draw of the season, and there’s also the 3-3 draw aft Everton.

And more than the goalfests and the near-heart attacks, there continue to be some memorable goals, which brings me to #2.

2) Nani, Nani, Nani.

He still frustrates, and he likely always will to at least some extent.

But give him an inch of space, and the world is his oyster. His work to set up and then score the second goal was the latest wow moment in what’s shaping up to be his best individual season by far.

3) For 45 minutes, we produced, for the most part, the kind of performance that we needed to coming out the international break.

4) For all that we’re doing to give Chelsea, Arsenal, City, and perhaps Tottenham a chance to establish significant breathing room, they sure are doing a terrible job of taking advantage of it.

If someone had told me that United would already have not only more draws than wins through eight matches, but one more draw through eight games this season than in all of last season, and be all of only five points behind, I’d have had a good laugh.

However, as glass-half-full as I’d like to be, I’m not fooling myself.

1) Another day, another two points thrown away, simple as that.

Before, 9 times out of 10, if United had a 2-0 lead at halftime, you could all but call it three points signed, sealed, and delivered.

Now, even when there’s a two-goal lead with minutes left, the lead isn’t safe until the final whistle.

Excuse my language (it could be worse, just be glad it’s Tuesday morning and not Saturday afternoon), but what the hell?

How things happened in the late going at Fulham and Everton wasn’t easy to take, but the results themselves could be looked upon at least somewhat positively, considering how tough it is to come away from Craven Cottage and Goodison Park with victories.

But regardless of West Brom’s win at Arsenal, and regardless of this Baggies side looking like one that could well avoid the usual relegation dogfight, there is no sugar coating throwing away a home win against a markedly inferior opponent.

But alas, such is the pattern that appears to be developing, and with that, it’s segue time.

2) We could not seal the deal again.

Giggs’ injury late in the first half made a difference (especially given Gibson’s, er, impact), but that is no excuse for letting a 2-0 lead slip in the span of five minutes. I’d like to know what was said in the dressing room at halftime, because if it was about warning against complacency, it fell on deaf ears.

Just as United could have had more than two in the first half, West Brom could have had at least one. With that knowledge in mind, and with Fulham’s, Everton’s, and Liverpool’s comebacks in mind, the last thing the team needed to do is come out in the second half with an attitude that the match was already won.

3) Just as this could be chalked up as a missed opportunity for our title rivals, it’s an even bigger one for us.

If Nani puts that penalty away or Fulham don’t promptly score an equalizer, there’s two points.

If there’s no last-minute capitulation at Everton, there’s another two points.

If not for the two colossal mistakes on Saturday, there’s another two points.

And that’s without mentioning the miscues that played a part in both Bolton goals in the draw at the Reebok.

United should be at the top of the table, no two ways about it. To be at the top of the table right now, even with that giant Rooney cloud hanging over the club, would be a sign of the team’s cohesiveness, their mettle.

Unfortunately, that’s not the situation we find ourselves in, and it’s disheartening, to say the least.

But I don’t like to dwell on one match too long, positive or negative result, and I’m not going to waste anymore time being frustrated about Saturday than I should.

And as frustrating as the season on the whoe has been thus far, we’re still only two months into the season, and you don’t start panicking in October and inexplicable results, controversies, and all, only five points behind.

But even though there’s plenty of time to right the ship, this is the time for the team to lift themselves up, to become united in the face of adversity, to prove something to themselves, to the supporters, to the detractors out there…and to a certain striker who has his head in all of the wrong places.

Tomorrow’s match against Bursaspor is not only a must win, but there needs to be a quality performance from kickoff to the final whistle. Not 45. Not 60. Not 88 or even the 90 minutes of normal time.

It won’t be the cure-all, but there needs to be a discernible step forward, one that carries through from tomorrow to the weekend at Stoke and beyond.

Will we see it? Well, perhaps I’m not as much of an eternal optimist as I thought.