Four points and six goals from two away matches is about as much as could be wished for against two capable teams.
If there’s anything to quibble about it’s the way United were opened up too often, especially at Rochdale, but that’s a symptom of the way Chris Wilder’s team plays. Kieron Freeman and Daniel Lafferty get forward so much that there’s always going to be plenty of space behind them.
The manager’s positive attitude has rubbed off on the players, who seem to have the attitude that if the other team scores two, we’ll score three. It was therefore slightly surprising at Oxford to see Chris Basham replacing Mark Duffy in midfield, but when Jake Wright was hurt Wilder saw it as an opportunity to make a positive move by bringing on Samir Carruthers and moving Bash back. It paid off with a much improved second-half performance.
Bash’s recent performances both in defence and in midfield have earned him the nickname of “Franz Bashambauer”, so reminiscent is he of the way the great Kaiser played for Bayern Munich and West Germany in the 1970s. Bash’s sidestep and cross for Billy Sharp’s goal at Rochdale was high class stuff. In fact, Basham is much better in the air than Beckenbauer, but let’s not stretch this analogy too far!
Wilder has proved he has many qualities as a manager, and two things he does stand him apart from other managers. One is that he does not do the pre- and post-match interviews when United are playing one of his former clubs. I’m not sure if this is out of superstition or respect, but it’s an unusual method that has worked. The second is how he always gives credit to the opposition, unlike, for example, Phil Parkinson, who dreamed up a wild excuse or two to explain away his Bolton team’s comprehensive defeat. Wilder knew United were a bit fortunate at Rochdale and said so afterwards, heaping praise on Keith Hill’s team and the manner in which they performed. What a breath of fresh air Wilder has been.