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Has Old Trafford lost its fear factor for opponents?

Southampton put in an enterprising performance against Manchester United on Saturday, getting a 1-1 draw.

Over the Sir Alex Ferguson years at Manchester United, he legendary Scottish boss instilled an excellent record of winning games at home.

Many Premier League teams arrived at Old Trafford with damage-limitation instructions, with the Theatre of Dreams a cause of nightmares for many opponents.

However, since David Moyes has taken over from his countryman, United’s home performances have not been anything to write home about.

With Crystal Palace unlucky to lose there and Chelsea rarely troubled, West Brom showed the footballing community that Old Trafford may well not be the fortress that it once was.

The Baggies showed that the aura around Old Trafford could be broken with a forward-thinking and determined showing, and although Steve Clarke’s men rode their luck at times, they were good value for their 2-1 win.

Despite the late nature of Southampton’s equaliser on Saturday to secure a 1-1 draw against the champions, few would begrudge Mauricio Pochettino’s side something from a game that they were arguably the better team.

From the first whistle the Saints showed United little respect and discarded reputations. They pressed the home side’s defence and midfield from the front, never irked a 50-50 challenge and took the game to the hosts.

There are three key components to the potential diminishing of Old Trafford’s fortress status. The first is the opposition. Teams are now travelling to Manchester believing that they can get something from the game, where five years ago they would have dreaded the fixture.

As such, Moyes’ men can expect tougher tests for the remainder of the season on home soil, as teams that were previously beaten in their head before stepping out onto the pitch are now getting bolder.

The second component is the United players. Regardless of whether or not opponents fear Old Trafford, the home side’s starting XI need to firmly believe in their ability and the favourites tag that they have traditionally always had.

Finally, the fans will start to question the team and the manager should inconsistent home form continue. The Old Trafford faithful have become accustomed to baying for blood rather than praying for a 1-0 win, and the change will take some getting used to.

United’s current state of affairs is not good, with the club in transition and struggling. The first thing they need to remedy is their form at Old Trafford, as if the inconsistency continues the club could well lose the fear factor that has become commonplace amongst domestic opponents.

image: © Paolo Camera

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