Last Saturday’s win over Hull City bore several similarities with a game at home to Swindon Town last December.
Then, United had just lost 1-0 at home to Walsall and at Bolton Wanders in the FA Cup the previous weekend. Was this a mere wobble or the beginning of a decline? When United dominated Swindon in the first half but couldn’t score, the nerves amongst the crowd were palpable. Were we going to blow it again? Chances were missed early in the second half but then Mark Duffy scored, and the cork was out. Goals two, three and four followed and United were back on course.
This season United lost at QPR. Was this a mere wobble or the beginning of a decline? Then when United played OK but not great in the first half against Hull and were one down at half time, the nerves amongst the crowd were palpable. Chances were missed early in the second half but then Leon Clarke scored, and the cork was out. Goals two, three and four followed and United were back on course.
United also scored two goals in that game against Swindon that were virtually repeated against Hull. The third came when Billy Sharp hung out on the left, received a pass from John Fleck, made space and sent in a superb left-foot cross to the far post, where Duffy knocked it in. For the final goal Ethan Ebanks-Landell – the right-sided central defender – overlapped down the right, collected a pass from Fleck and crossed low for Caolan Lavery to score.
Against Hull, Enda Stevens passed to Sharp on the left and his cross was headed in by Clarke at the far post for his hat-trick. Clarke’s first was from a low cross by an overlapping right-sided central defender. Could it be that Wilder is plotting a carbon-copy season, even going so far as cultivating identical goals? He keeps saying that United have a way of playing and all the players know both their roles and those of their teammates so well, but does this mean that they can re-create goals from a year ago? At this rate a reprise of last season might well be on the cards.
By the way, I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but name me another team that plays with overlapping central defenders. Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Spurs? No, none of them. Perhaps, unlike Wilder, none of their managers are brave enough.
Finally, we know that Keith Edwards (my second-favourite Blades player ever after Tony Currie) was the last United player to score four in a match back in the 1983/84 season. In fact, that season Keith scored two hat-tricks and two fours. You’ve still got a way to go to catch him, Leon!