I'm disappointed we didn't win, which let's face it, in the current climate is pretty much as good a positive as you'll get. Usually I'm throwing around words like 'patience' trying to excuse another game with no goals scored or points. We all wanted to see a reaction from the players and although we got pegged back twice the team looked like a team - playing for each other and with identity. Everyone looked like they wanted redemption after the Eastlands nightmare. Although some dizziness extended itself from that game into the 2-2 draw against Manchester United.
Team spirit was evident for all to see - aided by a variation on formation from Andre Villas-Boas and a massive (and vital change) to the flanks. More of the traditional wing play than the dysfunctional inverted variety - meaning we created chances. Actual chances that had you believing we might see one of those rare moments of joy that follows the ball crossing the goal line.
The formation itself gave us balance and pace when pushing forward. When you've got players running the wings with intent, there's a far better dynamic with attacks. It gives us something to aim for, getting to the byline and crossing it. Almost forgotten what that looked like. Lennon imperative to our play if we continue with this simplistic strategy although his influence has to include telling passes and key moments - his pace, energy and defensive duties bind things together well. Offensively he has give more. Same with Chadli and Lamela (when he's given the chance).
Okay, so we got a little daft with the defending again. Walker gifting the Rooney goal with a brain numbing assist - but I can't find myself dwelling on that too much thanks to his magnificent lungs and his non-stop work rate + the opening goal. Although those lungs reinvented over-enthusiasm with the lead up to the United penalty leaving us short at the back. Last season, his errors we're far too common as he struggled with form. He still has to retain some level of awareness when attacking and the space he leaves open when we defend. He has vastly improved this term. Just a shame we seem to be so generous at the moment at the back - having loved a clean sheet earlier in the season.
The penalty? Don't think Lloris should come out for the dive. Every time I see the goal I wish he'd have stood his ground and waited rather than attacked. Hugo is involved in far too many of these nervous incidents recently. Last thing we need is for him to lose that cool, calm and composed demeanour. Again, gutted we let United back in so easily. Amazing how that goal came to be in the build up. The Chadli misplaced pass followed up by that somersaulted tackle by Walker and after our counter is countered United are back in it from the spot. So was it a pen? Yes, well sort of. I had to re-watch it 3/4 times but I guess they've been given for far less. When you start getting into the technicalities of 'he left his foot' and 'Lloris couldn't pull out of the challenge' it starts to get flaky. The striker will always get the benefit of the doubt, the striker will always seek to win the penalty. Lloris made the wrong call. It happens.
As for Sandro's goal? Brilliant. Encapsulates his beastly goodness, direct and takes no prisoners. Loved the way he cut in and released the power of Thor's hammer with his foot - the keeper not moving as the ball flew past him. Footnote: Soldado placing his hands on his head and falling to his knees in awe of the magnificence of the thunderously placed goal.
The midfield? Dembele and Paulinho, effective - the latter looking superb in more offensive positions and Dembele working his socks off all over the pitch and finally looking comfortable with his responsibilities. If this retains some consistency and we get the trio of Sandro Dembele and Paulinho clicking, they will boss most of the Prem. Physically and technically, we have it all. It's about time we start looking as good as we look on paper out on the pitch.
Soldado was impressive (compared to his usual isolated imprisonment) and involved with some net through balls but couldn't find that finish he desperately needs. Loved his flick to Paulinho and loved his reaction to missing the target when the Brazilian gave the ball back to him. I'd have loved an altogether different reaction had the ball managed to find the net but there's something about angry shouty footballers that I prefer from the more emo-apologetic downward look we've had from some of our players recently.
Any performance coming off the back of a 6-0 drubbing would be a good performance but this could have been a bad day had the players not stuck in a good shift. We even managed to play with more urgency and purpose that we've became accustomed too (especially in home games).
Before United equalised we should have been 2/3 up. Well, easier said than done but at least we're looking like a team that can score now rather than one having difficult remembering how to. Townsend inches away from a Walker cross that might have seen us poke ahead and win it.
The questions we all have for AVB will now shift into the next few games and we hope for the definitive answers we all seek.
Will he retain the same shape with the midfield?
Is the sacrifice we've been waiting AVB to make been he surrender of possession equating to more emphasis on pace and attacking space? Will he stick with this when it appears to give us a far better balance and more of a flow to our attacking?
Will he embrace the traditional wing play? (The inverted roles reappeared late 2nd half)
Spurs still in crisis?
I guess if we are, so are United who sit one point ahead of us. The top four, a monumental three points away.
We've got two away games up next and December will either give us momentum or leave us with an erratic head scratch.