After rollercoastering through the first month and a half of the season, it was no surprise that October had its share of bumps.
However, despite ending the month farther behind Chelsea than we were entering it, there’s actually good reason to feel markedly more upbeat than we might have been about a month ago, even with our star presently sidelined for perhaps at least another few weeks.
We came into October fresh off of a Champions League win at Valencia, but apparently winning in Spain is easier than winning at Sunderland. The draw itself wasn’t what surprised me, but it was the fact that after having no issues with finding the back of the net away from home, we were unable to score even one goal against a side that, as it happens, just gave up five goals to Newcastle yesterday.
I held hope that the international break would be just what United needed, that we would see a refreshed and revitalized side right out of the gate.
Unfortuantely, I didn’t account for the Wayne Rooney drizzle to turn into a full-fledged deluge in the span of several days, and I also didn’t account for United somehow contriving to throw away a 2-0 lead at home to West Brom. Sure, West Brom are better than they have been in their past Premier League campaigns, but they’re still West Brom (as shown by today’s defeat at Blackpool). Then again, if a 3-1 lead can be tossed away in the final few minutes of a match, then the sky’s the limit for what can happen to a 2-0 lead with 45 minutes left.
We didn’t really have time to stew over that defeat, and I call it a defeat in the very sense that it felt like one and might as well have been one, thanks to the news that our #10 wanted out.
If the kick in the gut of an inexplicable home draw against West Brom didn’t wake the team up, then having to show their mettle in the face of the Rooney storm was, or perhaps it was Paul Scholes knocking a little sense into him with one of his classic tackles. Whatever it was, since it broke that he wanted to leave, we haven’t lost, and we haven’t drawn either.
In the midst of beating Bursaspor, Stoke City, Wolves, and Tottenham, all by one goal (‘cause if you’re from North London, well, the White Hart Lane-ish part of North London, then that second goal didn’t count), we not only uncovered a new hero in the form of our pesky and punctual little pea, Javier Hernandez, we, or at least I, learned a lot about just what a difference a few weeks can make.
Oh, and as an added bonus, ol’ Roo’s not leaving the nest, and he might have also earned Fergie a nice new, fat transfer kitty. All’s well that ends well, at least for the time being.
Are we where we need to be yet? Not close, not by a long shot. Along with holding on to leads still being a concern, the injury bug repellent seems to not be working either.
However, barring anymore injuries coming up (knock on wood…), we’ll be in a much better position in the depth department going into some tough matches.
Of course, a lot does hinge on what happens once Rooney returns. There’s no telling what will transpire months down the road, but I feel that we’ll see more of the Rooney we should see when he comes back from his injury layoff, and if we do, that can only serve to help our chances of success for the remainder of the year and on into the second half of the season. The chances are high that he’ll miss at least the Manchester derby, but he’ll be fully fit by the time that we face Valencia, Arsenal, and Chelsea in a key stretch in December.
As for the side that Fergie is currently putting out there, it may not by pretty, and the performances may not be either, but we come into November with four wins in a row in all competitions, having broken our run of away draws, on top of our Champions League group, and fresh off of a win in a game that, even a few weeks, prior, we would have very well found a way to give away.
It speaks well to the team’s resiliency, to their spirit, to be able to navigate through a difficult period on and off of the pitch. The matter of quality will sort itself out in time, but without the right attitude, our trophy hopes could have been in serious doubt coming out of October.
There are some testy matches ahead, with league trips to City and Aston Villa and Champions League trips to Bursaspor and Rangers. But I enter November with far more confidence than I’ve had at any point thus far this season, and if we can build off of a current fine vein of form, we’ll soon be close to where we want and need to be.
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