It has been a long wait since our fantastic battling performance at Tottenham and, courtesy of that precious point, we have all relaxed, content in the knowledge that we are out of the bottom three. For now.
And today, we kick off the Premiership restart in a game that is simultaneously of mega importance and of no import at all. To survive, we have to win three more games, and the opponents on the radar are Sunderland, Blackburn, Wigan and Villa. Win three of those and it almost certainly doesn't matter what happens at Upton Park today. In fact, there's almost an argument for doing a McCarthy and an Ollie, keeping key players out of the battle to avoid injury.
The trouble with that is amply shown by the league table at the moment. Ollie picked his stiffs at Villa and Villa are only above Blackpool by virtue of the 3 points they secured in that game. Yes Blackpool secured a point at Upton Park too, but at that stage of the season, a team of blind, disabled, menopausal women would have picked up a point at the Boleyn because of superior passion! Had Ollie reversed his plan, fielded his first team at Villa and his stiffs against us, Blackpool might be 5 points better off now! But I digress.
Back to today. If we lose, everyone will nod sagely in a day or two's time and say, "No matter, it's the six pointers we have to win." And that is true; but just imagine the effect of a victory. For a brief window in the season we would be up to 13th in the table; lose it and we will almost certainly be back in the bottom three at 5 pm today. Win it and the confidence levels will surge ;lose it and the despondency will return. Win it, and suddenly we only have to perm 2 wins from 4 to survive instead of 3 wins from 4 as per the present survival plan. Win it and we go to Bolton next week with a jaunt in our step; lose it and we travel North with a sense of resignation, a feeling of, "Well we always lose here anyway!"
There is too much false confidence around at the moment, based on the collapse in form of Blackpool and Blackburn and a goal difference that doesn't look so terrible all of a sudden. But imagine how the pressure grows if we lose 3-0 to each of Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea. Look how desperate the situation comes if those three games and next week's game at Bolton "go to form". Imagine the horror of a dropped home point against Blackburn or Sunderland.
The margins are tiny. Today even a point would give us a tiny glow worm of hope within the deep darkness of this traumatic season; and would probably be enough to keep us out of the bottom three for another weekend into the bargain. A victory would fill even me with confidence. And momentum and confidence are so so so important in a situation like this.
Personally, I would take the point if it were offered before kick off. True this Man Utd team are not unbeatable but the United team that takes to the field today will be much stronger than the stiffs they fielded in the League Cup so all the talk of that result is silly; it will just make Man Utd the more determined to put the record straight.
Today's game means nothing. So why, exactly, do I feel sick with tension and worry?