With Linfield’s season (thankfully) over, it didn’t mean my football watching for 2022-2023 was over, as I headed to Old Trafford, my second visit of the season.
As soon as the title fell out of reach, the goal was now Top 4.
That looked like being a routine exercise, until one point out of nine away to Spurs, Brighton and West Ham allowed Liverpool and Brighton to have ambitions of finishing in the Top 4.
If results away were a blot on United’s season, they made up for it at home. Unbeaten in the League since the Opening Day, United were thankful that three of their last four games, of which they only need to win three, were at home.
The first of those was against a Wolverhampton Wanderers side that had just secured safety from relegation. It would be a game without Marcus Rashford, who was missing through injury.
It was Wolves who had the first chance of the game when Craig Dawson volleyed goalwards from a low corner, going over the bar.
A few minutes later, United had the first real chance of the game when a slip by a Wolves player played in Anthony, who curled wide when trying to place the ball in, when he probably should have ran through and smashed it.
Anthony’s unwillingness to use his right foot can be a real pain in the arse at times.
At the other end, David De Gea looked shot. Wolves weren’t getting enough of a sight on goal to give United a worry. Passes were going out or to a Wolves player, meaning United were giving away cheap possession and territory.
As a result, it felt like his own team mates didn’t comfortable passing the ball to him, which was putting them at risk of losing the ball in areas where you shouldn’t be losing the ball.
Next to be frustrated was Anthony, who headed over from close range after a cross.
I was sat behind the goal at the other end. It was only when I viewed the TV replays that I realised how good a chance it was. He really should have scored. All he needed to do was to get it on target.
There wasn’t long to wait for the opening goal, just a few more minutes in fact.
Bruno Fernandes played Anthony through on goal. As it looked like he was going to score, he squared it to Anthony Martial to put the ball into the empty net to put United 1-0.
You could feel the sense of relief around Old Trafford. More dropped points in this game would leave them with no room for error in the race for Top 4.
It was a race they were helped by Newcastle United dropping points in the lunchtime kick-off, a game that was shown live in the concourses of the stand.
Someone even went to celebrate when Newcastle conceded a late equaliser, starting to clap and then realising that it was Leeds.
Even though the half was winding down, that didn’t stop United, with Martial having a shot easily saved before Bruno Fernandes fired a shot over.
A decent half for United, although the most glaring observation is that they could do with a second goal. It would just make things a lot more relaxing if they could get it.
The second-half continued in the same way as the first, with Anthony firing a low shot past the Wolvers keeper, but also just past the post.
A sloppy pass from Wolves was capitalised on by Bruno Fernandes, who cut inside but saw his low shot blocked.
It felt like it was only a matter of time before United got their second. It would be nice if it could, just to relax everybody.
Jadon Sancho looked like he was going to get it when he cut inside, fired low, Wolves keeper got a hand on it but couldn’t stop the ball, but he did enough to just tip it past the post at the expense of a corner. Flip sake.
Daniel Bentley was having one of those games in his debut in goal for Wolves.
In injury time, he was at it again, getting a strong arm to turn around a shot from Anthony.
Even though Wolves didn’t offer much of an attacking threat, you still had the fear going into the final minutes with only a 1-0 lead. Especially given the recent history of results against Wolves.
The nerves got even worse when United’s clearances weren’t getting as far away as you would hope.
Ironically, a few seconds after I was internally groaning at Luke Shaw clearing the ball with his left foot, United got a second when Alejandro Garnacho was played through and side footed it in off the post to make it 2-0.
And relax, points in the bag. Might as well enjoy the final two minutes.
Two visits to Old Trafford this season and two wins. Feel free to have a whipround for Season Ticket.
Hopefully, two more wins to secure European Cup football in 2023-2024, where United will be aiming to take the trophy from Inter Milan.
I’ll definitely be back to Old Trafford at some point in late 2023, i’ll have to work it around other trip plans, as I will probably be returning to pre Covid of two to three games a season.
Annoyingly, there was a pre-season game against Lyon announced in Edinburgh for 19th July. The previous week would have been so much handier due to being off work.
2022-2023 almost, done, just Northern Ireland v Kazakhstan on 19th June. Then a short break before Linfield’s pre-season and European games.