?LOCKED IN A PERIOD OF DECLINE'

Last updated : 23 January 2006 By editor

‘Yesterday, United were supposed to roll over and abandon the forlorn pursuit of Chelsea to Liverpool.

They were expected to provide the proof that Liverpool have overtaken them in the race to be second. They were expected to give more evidence that in the great sweep of Premiership history, they are locked in a period of decline.

But these United players are the condemned men who refuse point blank to walk to the gallows. They do not hear the executioner's song because they are struggling so furiously against the dimming of their glories.

They did not deserve to beat Liverpool yesterday, but they did it anyway.

It was a classic United moment, a last-minute memory for their supporters to savour.

Their team spirit may not be quite what it was but there can't be too much wrong with it if they can muster a show of defiance like yesterday's display.

Much of the credit for that must go to Sir Alex Ferguson. Much of it must go to new captain Gary Neville, too. Giggs was named the man of the match yesterday for his ceaseless running and his relentless determination.

But Neville pushed him close. He flung himself into every tackle and launched himself into every header. He and Giggs are the last of the old guard. And they are now doing everything they can to spread the memories of the years when United were a team who never knew they were beaten.’