Updated: Jul 5, 2019
March looked like the month in which relegation would be all but sealed, with games against both Manchester sides, West Ham and Liverpool to come. Brighton were also hot on the heels of Terry Blog’s Huddersfield Town in the relegation scrap, so let’s find out what happened…
Manchester United (A) ?-?
“Perhaps I can escape with a draw?” I thought to myself before this game as I set up with a truly cynical 5-4-1. My plan was simple, defend with numbers as deep as possible and maybe try and pinch a goal from a corner or even a long-throw.
The only problem with a deep defensive line is that it opens you up to a lot of shots from distance, and after 30 minutes my team had been punished by 2 such efforts. Firstly Nemanja Matic found top bins before Anthony Martial curled one in from an acute angle to seemingly put the game out of reach.
I tweaked my tactic slightly and encouraged the team to hold a higher line, attack down the wings and play with more creative freedom. 16 minutes after Manchester United’s second goal and I was in wonderland!
Elias Kachunga halved the deficit after 36 minutes with a delicate chip over the onrushing David De Gea before levelling the scores in the 44th with a thumping effort.
Before I could compose myself I was thrust further into wonderland as Alex Pritchard edged us ahead in the 1st minute of stoppage time with a placed effort. After being largely anonymous for the first half hour and falling 2 goals behind, we somehow went into the break 3-2 up at Old Trafford.
We continued to push and harry in the first 15 minutes of the second half until United began to muscle their way back into the game. For the next half hour of the game Ben Hamer repelled wave after wave of United shots, crosses and volleys.
Just when it looked as though we were about to hold on for an incredible victory, Nemanja Matic scored his second of the game. The usually defensive minded midfielder hit another long range blockbuster to level the scores at 3-3 in the 86th minute.
That goal gave United an added spring in their step, but somehow we managed to hold on for a point. After leading for so long I was naturally disappointed not to have claimed the 3 points, but a draw at Old Trafford was a great result considering our precarious league position.
Manchester City (H): ?-?
We couldn’t have wished for a worse opponent than Manchester City after our heroics at Old Trafford. My players were well and truly exhausted so I only had one real option ahead of the visit of Pep Guardiola – to steal his tactics.
I decided to match up the league leaders like for like and look to monopolise the ball, hoping that we could bore them into submission and chalk up another valuable point. After just 30 seconds my decision was vindicated as Isaac Mbenza scored from a Tommy Smith cut back to send us into the lead.
That was our first shot of the game, and we would only have 3 more over the next 90 minutes as City looked to fight their way back into the tie. Unfortunately for them they only mustered 3 shots on target, none of which unduly bothered Jonas Lossl.
Somehow we had beaten Manchester City at home, who it has to be said, had a terrible game. We didn’t care one bit about their performance though, we were delighted to have claimed an unexpected victory and a vital 3 points.
I had previously looked at these 2 fixtures as exercises in damage limitation, yet here we were with 4 points. For the first time in months there was a bit of breathing space between us and the relegation zone as we moved onto 30 points.
Only 10 more needed with 8 games left, surely this was going to be a piece of piss from here on in?
West Ham United (A): ?-?
Caution was certainly needed for our trip to the London Stadium as the Irons had hammered us 4-1 at home earlier in the campaign. In the first-half of the game we bored the packed crowd into tears, offering nothing in attack and staying firm in defence.
Everything was going swimmingly until Tommy Smith took our clever little plan and shit all over it in the 56th minute. After picking up his first yellow just 1 minute into the second period, Smith claimed his second when he hauled down Marko Arnautovic in the box.
Great, a penalty to the opposition and a red card to our right-back, there goes the containment idea! Incredibly Jonas Lossl managed to save the resultant penalty from Mark Noble and it looked like we might still be able to escape with a point.
Unfortunately just as my defence were reshuffling to accommodate the sending off, Arnautovic pounced to score the only goal of the game. It was infuriating to concede so quickly after being bailed out by a penalty save, but there was something very ‘Town-like’ about the way we played at the London Stadium…
Liverpool (H): ?-?
I’ll tell you exactly what we need to finish the month – the visit of title chasing Liverpool... After 11 minutes it did actually seem like a good idea as Isaac Mbenza scored for the second home game in succession to fire us into the lead.
We managed to hold onto our lead until the 72nd minute, but something never quite felt right. Unlike the Manchester City game, it always felt like we were on the precipice of a massive collapse. Time after time Liverpool players wriggled free from set-pieces and seriously threatened our goal.
Then BAM! Jordan Henderson headed the equaliser in the 72nd minute with Xherdan Shaqiri scoring a free-kick 4 minutes later to send the Scousers into the lead. It all felt very predictable, but as I prepared for a dull 15 minutes to end the game something shocking happened.
We began to claw ourselves back into the game. Pushing Liverpool further and further back. An equaliser looked almost certain! That was until Joel Matip headed home from another Liverpool corner, and so did Fabinho, and so did Van Dijk...
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK! In 5 minutes Liverpool scored 3 replica goals to turn a flukey 2-1 victory into a comprehensive 5-1 thrashing. It felt as though my game had realised the error of its way in letting me beat Manchester City earlier in the month and brutally brought me back down to earth with this wholly unfair result.
With that the month ended and my brief moment of hope had been dashed, we were right back in the relegation scrap. The teams around us had picked up points and we returned to 17th, just 2 points ahead of Brighton.
Click HERE for the story of April and to see if we could grab vital points from the games against Burnley, Palace, Cardiff and Arsenal…