Aside from Juan Mata’s opener, and some early signs of dominance from the Spaniard and Anthony Martial, United faltered against the Rams.
Time and again under Jose Mourinho, United have failed to kill off teams when they are in the ascendancy. And so it proved on Tuesday evening, with goals from Harry Wilson and Jack Marriott giving Derby a 2-1 lead.
This time, however, United fans saw something that was commonplace under Sir Alex Ferguson but appears anathema to Mourinho: an injury-time goal.
Marouane Fellaini’s 95th-minute strike did not ultimately changed the result, with Derby winning 8-7 on penalties. But it at least showed United fans that their players have not completely lost their fight.
There was a time when United made late goals the norm, battering opponents in pursuit of a winner or an equaliser. And time and again they succeeded, through sheer perseverance.
Mourinho’s United is a different beast. They pump long balls up to Fellaini and, more often than not, fail to generate the energy required to pummel an opponent into submission.
On this occasion it worked. However, gone are the days when injury-time against United struck fear into the opposition.
The £27million midfielder’s late goal and the excitement it generated was worrying rather than celebratory. After all, United’s draws and defeats too often fizzle out.
This was a reminder of how far we have fallen in recent years. The United way is to fight until the end. Not once every few months, but every single time.
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