However, whilst the 4-1 scoreline against Reading kicked things off, I reckon a lot of us looked at today’s trip to Bristol City as the real test of whether progress is being made.
None of us need reminding how grim United’s performances on the road have been for far too long. And it continued in the season opener at Fulham.
But clearly that away form needs to change radically if we are to get out of this Championship.
So today’s result was a massive step forward.
It wasn’t a fantastic performance. It wasn’t particularly pretty.
City dominated for long periods, but couldn’t pierce the United defence, excellently marshalled by Lascelles and Mbemba with Anita and Clark in support.
It was, in fact, exactly the type of “backs to the wall” performance to grind out a result away from home which will be needed this season if we are to be contenders for automatic promotion or a play-off spot.
The goal came from Dwight Gayle after a great long-range ball from the returning Diame. Gayle’s fourth goal in three games.
Rafa Benitez said: “He [Gayle] has good movement, he is a clever lad and he can score goals. We saw all of that today. It was a good movement, a good pass and a good finish”
“Dwight Gayle can play in the Premier League for sure. He has played there before and, hopefully, he can play there for us in the next two years or so.”
Rafa was also delighted with the spirit and work-rate shown by his side. “We knew it would be this kind of game and we had to work really hard as a team. We knew there would be a lot of high balls into our box. We showed character and spirit today and will need that for the rest of the season”
“We have to keep working as hard as we did today and then show our quality. City had different options, different ways of playing and they will do well this season”
“It is important to be able to attack and score goals, but we also need to show spirit and be able to play this way. This was a big step forward.”
I would imaging our top class manager is also quietly content tonight that the team delivered a clean sheet!
What do you think? As ever, we would welcome your comments, opinions and views below.
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