So the Sunderland post mortem continues. Did United take a valuable point from a tough opponent? Did two anticipated points go begging from the fourth successive Premier League away draw? The debate continues and even those involved cannot agree. Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar laments the lost points saying “We can be happy that we had a clean sheet, the second in a row after Valencia on Wednesday but I think it was two dropped points because we dropped too many already in away games.”
Yet manager Sir Alex Ferguson thinks that it was a point gained rather than two lost when he declared on Sky Sports “I think you’ve got to give Sunderland credit, their home record this season is fantastic. We’ve had to defend really well and that is the pleasing thing for me.” Ferguson went on to say that “The back four were fantastic. I think we have had difficult games away from home but the consistency of not losing is something we can take. The most important thing from today was not losing a goal because that is the area we have been weak. I am satisfied.”
There can be little argument that United could not have been happy with their display but coming on the back of their Champions League trip to Valencia on Wednesday night it was perhaps understandable. Like so many other clubs, United have struggled in post European fixtures. Five of the seven Premier defeats suffered last season followed mid week Champions League matches while two others produced draws. “It is always more difficult for teams that play in Europe during the week but we have experienced that many times” Sir Alex added.
So Ferguson may well be right when he insists that under the circumstances, the result if not the performance with which it was obtained, was as good as could have been expected against a competitive side that had previously downed Manchester City and avoided defeat against Arsenal and Birmingham in their previous home matches.
It must also sound a warning that there could be unexpected danger ahead for United when they play Stoke, Wolves, Blackburn and Arsenal immediately following their remaining European group matches. At least Arsenal will also be faced with having the same challenge.
One last thought. Would I have started with Berbatov? Absolutely. Would I have used Hernandez with him? Most definately. Would I have started Evra if he was completely fit? No doubt at all but hey, I have never won eleven Premier League titles, two Champions Leagues and God knows what else. For all any of us know, United MAY have got all three points at the end of the day, OR they may have got absolutely nothing instead of that one precious point.
Are League matches more difficult to win following European mid week fixtures?