Just over a week ago, we were eleven points behind Chelsea, six behind United, and with a tough trip to Anfield looming, some were predicting that Villa, City and even Spurs would rise above us while our injury situation careered from bad to worse.
Fast forward three games in nine days. Chelsea have picked up five points from a week containing two home bankers and a trip to struggling West Ham, United have lost twice, City were humiliated by Spurs and have sacked Mark Hughes, and Spurs themselves managed the comedy moment that is losing at home to Wolves.
In the meantime, we’ve won at Anfield, drawn at a Burnley side who are formidable at Turf Moor, and avenged last season’s home defeat to Hull. All while, apparently, ‘not playing well’. Quite frankly, if we lose that many players to injury, not play to our best and still emerge with seven points from that trio of matches, we must be doing something right.
After all, United have lost a bunch of defenders to injury and as a result got their backsides handed to them on a plate by Fulham at the weekend. On Match of the Day they were said to have legitimate reason for a 3-0 drubbing. Funnily enough, those same pundits aren’t as understanding of our absentee list.
The match itself took a while to get going. Hull worked hard and nullified us for almost all of the first half, and we lacked urgency, until Nasri decided to sneakily tread on Garcia’s foot. The Hull player dramatically and embarrassingly tumbled to the ground, and a melee ensued. From that moment on, we took control.
Moments later, on the brink of the half time whistle, we were awarded another free kick. Missing all our specialists, it was left to Denilson to show that Brazilians have an uncanny knack for the spectacular, burying it in the bottom corner exquisitely.
We looked to be taking control after the break, until Steve Bennett awarded Hull a penalty that was not just soft, it was outright bizarre. Silvestre was found guilty of pulling Fagan to the floor when it reality it was the Hull player who did the tugging before collapsing in an heap. Remarkably, Bennett fell for it, but fortunately Almunia defied his recent form to parry the spot kick.
Soon after, the game was dead, after a flowing move that ended with Diaby squaring for Eduardo to tap in. The Croatian had nearly scored a superb goal in the first half, shooting wide after a delightful turn, and hopefully the strike will do his seemingly shot confidence the world of good.
The icing on the cake arrived when Diaby surged past defenders to power home after a one-two with Arshavin. For all the criticism levelled at Diaby, he is a force going forward (when he puts his mind to it), and this was his fifth of the season, not a bad haul at all at this stage, especially considering the number of games he has missed.
We now have a much needed rest ahead of the Villa game after Christmas. With so many injured, there is always a danger of burning out those who remain, so here’s hoping they get wrapped in cotton wool this week, safe in the knowledge that despite all the writing off, we are very much in this title race.
Long may it continue.