If you believe in omens or things that are ‘just meant to be’ you perhaps wouldn’t have been surprised to see the enigma that is Wolverhampton Wanderers conjure up another barnstorming victory under the Molineux floodlights.
For the rest of us mere mortals though, living in a world of £50 million transfers, unbeaten records and defensive howlers, it was a win for the old gold that frankly seemed impossible.
But on the day the Premiership officially went bananas, it appeared fitting that Man United’s reign as ‘invincibles’ should hit the skids against the league’s bottom club.
Five minutes in, that scenario looked ominously out of reach. By this time, Nani had already skipped inside to lash home the opener and Fergie’s boys were asserting their authority with consummate ease. A sense of normality had taken hold. Order had been restored.
Or so it seemed.
Cue neat interplay, quick-thinking, a short-corner, a pin-point cross and the most accurate of headers from George Elokobi. Suddenly Molineux’s rocking.
Enter Ronald Zubar. The mercurial-villain of Wednesday night.
Not content with wrestling the ball back on the edge of the Wolves’ box, he sets off on an exhilarating 80 yard dash, leaving Wayne Rooney in his wake and culminating with some neat trickery to draw the foul from Nemanja Vidic.
Fellow Serb Nenad Milijas obliges with the most perfect of deliveries that a Doyle/Elokobi sandwich bundles passed a stranded Edwin Van Der Saar.
Suddenly it’s the very best of Mick McCarthy’s Wolves.
Hennessy kicking and handling impeccably.
Christophe Berra throwing his body on the line to deflect Wayne Rooney’s goalbound effort over the bar.
What a night for the Scot. Much-maligned but a player I’ve grown to admire greatly for mammoth performances such as these. He was ably supported once more by the ever-improving Richard Stearman. Our two centre-backs were colossal and ensured United’s red-hot strikeforce were unable to fire.
Then there were the full-backs. Talk about Jekyll and Hyde. Night and day. Will you ever see two such contrasting performances inside the space of a week?
The crowd sang Zubar’s name from the start, cheered loudly when his name was announced and he rewarded that faith with a long-overdue return to form. The Frenchman was notably touched by the gesture and will no doubt look back on the night as one of the finest of his career.
Henry struggled to find his footing in the game but grew in stature and was a key-figure in the second half, tracking back and making more than one important interception. His distribution is often criticised (rightly in my opinion) but don’t ever underestimate his contribution to the cause.
With Milijas and O’Hara, the midfield suddenly looked exciting, mobile and capable. O’Hara on his home debut, showed glimpses of brilliance and fitted into the side superbly after a hit and miss opening twenty minutes. He rode his luck with a reckless challenge on Darren Fletcher having already been booked, but his energy and touch of quality have already established him as a fans favourite.
What about Adam Hammill too? This is a guy whose made the step up from the Championship and already looks at home amongst the elite. I think his pace and trickery add a dimension to the side that was lacking with Hunt on the opposite flank to Jarvis.
Speaking of Jarvis, he was another who improved immeasurably from Wednesday. He made up for that squandered chance at the Reebok with a perfect cross for Elokobi’s equaliser and certainly benefited from playing alongside another livewire in O’Hara.
Kevin Doyle was man of the match by some distance though. Alan Shearer was even purring over his performance on MOTD. The Irishman bounced into Vidic and Evans all night, holding the ball up superbly, twisting and turning into space and causing United headaches with his exquisite movement.
Whether or not he can rightly lay claim to the second goal is an irrelevance. Selfless performances like this, for the team, is the reason we hold him in such high regard. What a talented footballer he is.
How about a word or two for the manager? Criticised, battered and hung out to dry so often this season. Perhaps no more so than after the Bolton game seemed to suggest we’d fallen through the trapdoor.
But once again we’re back from the dead and that’s because Mick McCarthy got his tactics 100% spot on. Every single decision he made last night was correct and make no mistake about it, he outwitted perhaps the greatest manager of all time.
It was a stark reminder that we should all show a little bit more faith in our manager and our team.
They certainly deserve it.