After nine minutes at Villa Park it seemed that the results of the previous few weeks were going to continue, but this time much worse.
Less than 20 minutes later it all looked a lot brighter thanks to two top finished by our bargain basement striker, the first after a misjudgement of the flight of the ball by Mile Jedinak, the second after an embarrassing error by the same player. It may just be that the creaky bones of an ageing stand-in centre-back is what has got our season back on track.
Then United brushed aside a woeful Sunderland team who, on this evidence - and despite the appointment of Chris Coleman - are destined for consecutive relegations. There wasn’t much to beat, but there’s always the chance of conceding a sloppy goal, a set-piece goal or a wonder goal, as we have seen a few times recently. John Lundstram’s influence is growing game by game, and a goal can only swell his increasing confidence, and two more assists for Mark Duffy take him to the top of that particular chart. It was good to see goals from other sources too - George Baldock must have been getting some tips from Kieron Freeman on how to arrive in the penalty area at exactly the right moment.
Talking of Freeman, there has been no news lately of his progress. If he’s going to be a while, maybe Chris Wilder might look again at bringing in Joe Riley on loan until the end of the season. It’s no secret that Wilder is chasing Ryan Leonard, but he might also return to Charlton with another offer for Ricky Holmes. A longshot might be Walsall’s Erhun Oztumer, whose small size must have put off a lot of bigger clubs but who isn’t called “The Turkish Messi” for nothing, and he’s always given United plenty of problems.
Another player worth a look is Peterborough United’s Marcus Maddison, a left-footed winger/striker who hits a mean, swerving, Ronaldo-style free kick. If there’s one thing the current United squad lacks it’s someone who can be relied upon to shoot directly from a free kick and give the goalkeeper palpitations. Both Oztumer and Maddison would bring this option to the team.
If Wilder’s looking to strengthen up front, it would be no surprise if Lee Gregory of Millwall is someone he would consider. Gregory - born in Sheffield and at United’s academy as a teenager - is 29 but - like another Sheffield-born striker now playing for England - he was a late starter in the professional game, only signing for Millwall from Halifax in 2014. His 29 is more like 25 in footballing terms. Although Gregory has scored just four times this season, he’s an industrious player who was excellent against us a few weeks ago, scoring one and making one with a chase and tackle of Jack O’Connell.
But it could be that Wilder is looking higher up for his squad strengthening. Whatever he comes up with, you can be sure he won’t bankrupt the club doing it.