United continue as comeback kings

Posted by Martin Laurence

Javier HernandezPA PhotosJavier Hernandez heads home Man United's comeback winner at Villa

It is fair to say that reflecting on the weekend's Premier League results, there weren't too many surprises; a round of fixtures that produced wins for table-toppers Manchester United and City was to be expected. However, it could have been so different for a number of sides had they not succumbed to the dreaded late comeback - with United and City both staring losses in the face before fighting back in their respective games.

Indeed, of the nine teams to score the opening goal of their encounters in gameweek 11, only three went on to win, while three failed to pick up a single point.

Everton managed to break a Premier League record by coming from behind in their sixth successive match to pick up at least a share of the spoils, this time ending up with all three points having fallen behind to an opening goal for Sunderland from Adam Johnson.

Swansea and Liverpool both grabbed 73rd minute equalisers this weekend, but Spurs suffered - going down to a second-half revival from champions Manchester City at Etihad Stadium.

Having had a point snatched from their grasp late on in the same fixture last season, it was Groundhog Day for Spurs as Edin Dzeko, who objects to having been branded City's super-sub, came off the bench to ensure the home fans went home happy once again. The Bosnian's 88th- minute winner was the third time in his last four league appearances that he has proven to be the hero in the dying minutes, and his fifth goal from the bench this season.

In an odd game at Emirates Stadium, the first half of which saw all four shots on target scored, both Arsenal and Fulham were leading at one stage or another. The Gunners made a strong start, with Olivier Giroud netting his first home league goal for the club after a precise cross from Theo Walcott. Before long, the hosts had doubled their advantage through Lukas Podolski and looked likely to sail to a convincing win.

A Dimitar Berbatov-inspired Fulham side had other ideas, however, with the Bulgarian netting after more defensive confusion from a set piece as Arsenal conceded their third goal from a corner in the league thus far. The former United man then turned creator for the Cottagers' equaliser, via a long-range headed effort from Alex Kacaniklic, before Berbatov's second from the spot gave the visitors a surprising but not undeserved lead at the interval.

In what many early critics would have deemed an unlikely event, Giroud again netted superbly from another accurate Walcott delivery - an equally shocking scenario to most - to see Arsenal draw level. So often Mr. Consistent for Wenger's side, Mikel Arteta rounded off a miserable afternoon, which that had seen him at fault for Fulham's penalty, by missing from the spot himself to ensure a fair outcome for both sides.

Despite all this, it was the exploits of another Sir Alex Ferguson side that never know when they're beaten whose comeback was the most eye-catching, though perhaps the most inevitable to boot.

Up against an extremely young Villa outfit, United were defending a 16-match unbeaten record at Villa Park, but looked unlikely to do so for long periods. The fact that Lambert's team were even in the game, let alone winning at half-time, may have surprised many, though it needn't have when analysing the stats.

Villa kept a first-half clean sheet for the ninth league game running and have conceded just once in the opening 45 minutes of their last 12 matches in all competitions. When Christian Benteke successfully left the returning Chris Smalling on his backside before pulling back to Andreas Weimann, the Austrian finished with aplomb to ensure the hosts were ahead at the break.

The fact that the home side were in front is even less surprising when you consider that no Premier League team would have more points had games ended at half-time than Villa (19). When Weimann doubled his tally shortly after the break after a neat passing move, however, Villa looked as though they may actually hold onto said lead. But in Javier Hernandez, United have a man who never disappoints in front of goal.

When looking at the WhoScored player statistics for the Premier League, the Mexican unsurprisingly has the best conversion rate of all players with more than 3 goals this season (36%). His second-half brace won the game for the league leaders, who have now picked up 15 points from losing positions this season - unsurprisingly a league high.

It is fair to say that Villa's support will have been wary despite gaining a two-goal advantage, having also done so against United in the 2010-11 season before drawing, and the scoreline is somewhat of a familiar one for the Red Devils in the current campaign. Their successful overhaul saw them run out 3-2 winners for the fifth time in all competitions already, having also gone down by the same scoreline to Tottenham back in September.

While United have always had the tenacity to come back from the brink of defeat under Ferguson, their relentlessness in doing so early on in this season could be the difference in the title race come May.

All stats provided by whoscored.com

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