Manchester United cannot keep relying on comebacks to get results this season.
It’s not a sustainable way of playing, nor does it bode well ahead of games against bigger clubs like Liverpool, who are unlikely to be as forgiving if they take the lead on Sunday.
United made winning from losing positions a habit throughout the 2020/21 campaign and already in 2021/22 have taken points after conceding first against Southampton, West Ham, Villarreal and Atalanta – the latter three have been United wins.
Going behind and having to fight back is draining, both mentally and physically. It is likely no coincidence that United ended last season poorly and the current campaign will be no different if the players are burned out early just trying to be competitive at this stage.
The ability to come back from losing positions should be celebrated. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is right when he speaks about ‘United DNA’ – and he knows it better than most because of 1999.
Indeed, some of the club’s most celebrated, iconic or important results of the last 30 years have been comeback wins: Bayern Munich and Juventus in the Champions League in 1999, Tottenham in the Premier League in 1999, 2001 and 2009, Aston Villa in 2009, PSG in 2019 and so many more.
But it is not something to rely on as frequently as it has been in the last couple of years.
What is alarming about this United side is that they seem to feed off the shock of going behind in order to switch on. There is no arguing about the quality of the squad that Solskjaer has assembled and they clearly can perform at a very high level – but 45 minutes here and there isn’t enough.
Paul Pogba bluntly said that things need to ‘change’ following the collapse against Leicester last weekend. They did against Atalanta, to an extent, but only in the second half.
Performances need to come from the start of games and not just after a setback.
They have to start against Liverpool the way they finished against Atalanta. Solskjaer preaches the ‘United DNA’, but intensity and high tempo football from the first minute is also a key feature of that.
If this team can do that against Liverpool, there is a good chance they will emerge victorious and take the three points because the players are good enough.
If it is another slow start, coming from behind against the Reds, just as it would be against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City or a giant in the Champions League, could be too much.