Despite still looking vulnerable on occasions, United’s line-up against Crawley was much better balanced, with players playing in their correct positions, unlike in the first two matches, says Matthew Bell.
We also saw a reprise of the flexibility of last season’s performances as Jamie Murphy – who had his best game yet – and Jose Baxter exchanged positions seamlessly.
Nigel Clough said earlier in the week that just one player – Mark Howard – had nailed down a place but I think he’s now gradually discovering which others deserve this plaudit. To my mind Craig Alcock and Ben Davies are at the top of this list while others have yet to entirely convince.
Davies was regarded as a ‘fill-in’ player who would appear 20 or so times on the right of midfield or defence, often as sub.
But last week the unanimous verdict was that he was the best player on the pitch, driving the team forward on the right and helping out at the back. He has ‘nailed on’ his place for a few weeks at least.
The reinvigorated team showed its new-found mettle in the League Cup at West Ham. Not being a Premier League cognoscento I don’t know whether the Hammers fielded a load of reserves or not.
But for United to hold them to 1-1 in 120 minutes was a stout effort. We have also discovered that another thing Cloughie has done is make his players proficient at penalties.
When the draw was made the ‘revenge factor’ didn’t enter my head, but after the victory, if anybody wants to call it ‘revenge’ that’ll be fine by me.