Last season United outplayed Aston Villa at home but lacked the quality and killer instinct to win the game, instead losing it to a brilliant, late Robert Snodgrass goal.
That’s what £60,000 per week gets you. Of course Villa have had big financial problems since then - Snodgrass and John Terry have gone – but they are still a formidable side in this division, especially as they managed to keep hold of the petulant but talented Jack Grealish and signed the best Scottish midfielder around (!) in John McGinn.
So to see United overwhelm them in the first half was exhilarating. Gary Sinclair could be forgiven for getting a bit carried away when the added-time board went up.
Sinclair was one of a few that I’ve heard saying it was the best football they had seen since the John Harris days. The task now for United is to keep it up and prove that the class they produced at Bolton and last Saturday is not a temporary thing. As Chris Wilder said a couple of weeks ago, he doesn’t want the Blades to be a ‘spike’ team.
The transfer window business managed to throw up a few surprises, but then it always does. Sometimes signings are common knowledge well before they occur (Ryan Leonard, Ricky Holmes, Marvin Johnson), but Wilder has this habit of bringing in players who the ‘grapevine’ never gets a hint of, such as Richard Stearman, John Egan and Dean Henderson.
Conor Washington is another of them (all the talk was of Scott Hogan, and Wilder probably prefers it that way), and if he keeps on chasing down time-wasting hoofs upfield and forcing a defender into conceding a corner, he won’t be long in becoming a favourite.
Another – on the face of it – surprising move was the departure of Ryan Leonard, meaning that none of the four January signings remain at the club. The consensus at the time was that they improved the depth of the squad, but not its quality, and so it has proved.
The good news has two faces – one is that United made a profit on Leonard and Lee Evans, the second is that Wilder realises when a signing isn’t going to work out and moves the player on. It’s happened before with Samir Carruthers, Chris Hussey and the first James Wilson.
It makes you think that we’ve got a manager who actually knows what he’s doing.