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Charlton 1-3 Man Utd

United did not play at their best yesterday, but fought their way back from behind to claim all three points at the Valley. The key to winning the Premiership is to grind out results when you are not on top form, and that is exactly what Fergie’s side did.

I always like London games, for the simple reason that it involves less travel for me. Charlton is an easy place to go; their fans are not especially hostile and you are treated with respect. Reds walked around in United shirts outside without trouble, and we sang in the sunshine outside the ground.

The away stand is old and battered, made from rusty corrigated iron. Apart from the pillar the view is actually quite good, and the noise echoing made the atmosphere from the away fans very impressive.

On the pitch United did not start off so impressively. Forlan looked out of place on the right wing and Beckham’s central role did not quite make its mark. Jason Euell almost scored for Charlton after only a minute, but shot wide, and Bartlett was denied by a good Barthez save. Scholes, returning from injury, was vital for United and had a shot cleared off the line, a Becks free kick also went close.

Minutes before half time Jensen was played in with only Rio and Fabien to beat. Rio couldnt block the shot and it curled into the top corner of the net beyond Barthez’s outstretched hands. When the half time whistle blew United trailed and were playing badly.

It was exactly a year since one of United’s greatest comebacks at Spurs, when after trailing 3-0 United went on to win 5-3. Again on a September weekend in London United now had to turn a deficit around.

The team came out for the second half and within minutes the electrifying Ryan Giggs made a powerful direct run before picking out Scholes in the area who slotted home the equaliser. From that point on there was only ever going to be one winner. Ruud came off the bench to replace Diego, and the game swung even more in United’s favour. A Giggs header from a pinpointed O’Shea cross was inches wide, and minutes later Giggs again was close to scoring when his acute shot was pushed wide for a corner.

The travelling Reds were loud all afternoon, with all of the usual songs being belted out. Two new songs also had an airing:
“This is how it feels to be City, This is how it feels to be small, This is how it feels to see your team win nothing at all”. The other was a John O’Shea tribute, sung to the Beatles’ Yesterday.
“John O’Shea,
All my troubles seemed to be here to stay,
Now I know that they’ve gone away,
Oh I believe in John O’Shea.”

Just as the game began to fade and the United contingent questioned whether there would be a winner, Ruud was played in on goal. His powerful run took him to the edge of the area where he squared to Giggsy. The Welshman seemed to take an age to despatch the ball into the net, but eventually he sent the Red army mad. Mintues later Giggs returned the favour to Ruud, finding him alone at the far post where he headed home the sealing goal.

3-1, and a great day out for the away fans. Scholes was back, as was Ruud, and the first away win of the season was greeted with delight. Four wins in a row is far from a crisis, but United remain six points below Arsenal.

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