Mason 15, 43, Sedgley 80
Manchester United. . . . . .2
Cantona 71, Scholes 73
DESPITE their commitments and because of the need to keep a rein on Newcastle at the top of the Premiership, Manchester United yesterday paid struggling Ipswich the compliment of facing them with an almost full-strength team. The respect was fully justified and in a hugely exciting match, a full-strength United proved not to be strong enough.
The match turned on the performance of Roy Keane, starting his first league game of the season. He had performed so indifferently in the first half that when Paul Mason gave Ipswich a two-goal lead he was moved to right-back. In the second he provided the centres that got United back on terms, but nine minutes from time it was his attempt to clear a goalmouth shot from Steve Sedgley that gave Ipswich a winner that their courage deserved.
Comparisons should have been revealing. United had fielded a team packed with teenage understudies when they played at Port Vale in the Coca-Cola Cup in midweek, and won. Ipswich had turned out the best side they could raise at home to Bolton and lost.
United have the luxury of worrying about priorities and a journey to Turkey this week to seek European revenge over Galatasaray: Ipswich, until yesterday, were only concerned that by Christmas they could be a long way down the road to the First Division. It was the sort of day on which one hoped perversity would intervene and make a match of it, or Ipswich's new-found foreigners would commune together in some footballing esperanto. The wish came true.
The body language of the first 10 minutes suggested anything but. United quickly made Ipswich's Uruguayan international Adrian Paz look frail; Ryan Giggs and Andrei Kanchelskis stretched their defence until the gaps began to appear and Paul Ince filled them menacingly.
Kanchelskis twice made Ipswich look ready to capitulate, but Craig Forrest dealt capably enough with a ferocious shot from Brian McClair and Giggs shaved the crossbar, both opportunities created by the winger's pace. All this made the events of the 14th minute appear unlikely.
Giggs had swerved and accelerated familiarly down the left side where John Wark suddenly felt his age. Giggs centred deep into the penalty area and Ince's storming header crashed against the bar. Immediately Ipswich countered. Their Danish forward Claus Thomsen took up the running, turned the ball across the penalty area and Paul Mason curled a shot inside the far post.
United's disbelief took a variety of forms. Keane, predictably, lost his temper and was booked; Ince got ratty; the defence that Gothenburg had questioned looked ripe for another inquisition and Eric Cantona briefly lost interest.
Matters soon got worse. Walsh had to push round a long shot from Steve Palmer and though Forrest was also called on to turn a header from Giggs over the bar, the closing moments of the first half saw United defending uncertainly.
Paz, already struggling with a leg injury, was again fouled near halfway. Gavin Johnson's ensuing free-kick found Mason on the far edge of the area and after a neat sidestep he struck a fine shot beyond Walsh.
The inevitable pressure that United raised after half-time forced Wark and David Linighan to stand firm. If they enjoyed some good fortune, it was no less than Ipswich deserved. When Giggs found space behind them, his shot rebounded off Forrest. Similarly, when Cantona chested down a superb long pass from Giggs, his shot was within Forrest's reach. United responded by replacing Lee Sharpe with Paul Scholes, one of the midweek successes, and his enthusiasm did much to revive United.
Two goals in three minutes - the 70th and 73rd - showed the depth of United's powers of recovery. Keane was the provider. Twice he hit penetrating crosses into the heart of the area where first Cantona and then Scholes slid in their goals.
Perhaps with another tough job coming along this week United would have been satisfied to leave with a point. Ipswich, on the rack throughout the second half, might also have felt that a draw was fair. But with United committed to getting forward, there was the chance of a final thrust. With nine minutes left, Frank Yallop sent over a low centre, Sedgley stabbed at the ball and Keane struck out a foot to clear, only to see the ball go into the net.
Newcastle held, page 5
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