ONLY since the final whistle blew at Old Trafford on Sunday have we seen just how important their win over Arsenal was to Manchester United.
Players such as Wayne Rooney have admitted that defeat would have been a terminal blow to their Premier League title hopes, even at this early stage of the season. Losing to Arsenal would have left them 11 points adrift and been a huge psychological blow. While they are now far from favourites to retain their crown, they’re certainly not out of it.
The win was by no means comfortable but a lesson in togetherness and by far the best performance since David Moyes took over in the summer.
Nothing will have pleased Moyes more than the resurgence of Rooney. The striker, a troubled figure in the last days of Sir Alex Ferguson, looks desperate to have a great season. He may not be wearing the armband but he is playing like a captain.
While a huge lift for United, the result won’t have dented Arsenal too much. A win would have capped a dream week for the top flight leaders, but two wins out of three isn’t bad.
Of greater significance were the slip-ups by other title pretenders.
Chelsea missed Fernando Torres against West Brom and only scraped a draw through a joke of a penalty; David Silva’s absence hit Manchester City’s title chances at Sunderland; and Tottenham’s scoring problems continued against Newcastle. The worry is they will lose confidence in front of goal, making them more vulnerable to these narrow defeats.
Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who now works as a media commentator.