Defender Aaron Hayden wore the captain’s armband for the first time in a league game on Boxing Day, and it was a day full of highs and lows as the lads battled hard without quite getting the rewards they deserved.
“It was very frustrating and the lads came off the pitch feeling it was more two points dropped than a point gained,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things it is a point gained and we haven’t really got time to dwell on it as anything else.
“The games come thick and fast in this division and we’ve got a tough game on Tuesday night, so we have to focus on that.
"When you look back you see there are a lot of positives to take from it but there’s definitely a need to bring in better game management.
“It’s also about taking our chances. We could have had four or five in the first half and we’d have been well out of sight. Them getting the goal just before half time gave them some impetus but, look, it’s gone now and all we can do is learn from it and make sure we tuck teams in going forward.”
Trying to take those positives he mentioned into this week, he added: “It’s just a punch in the belly, but that’s life. You’ve got to take these hits and push on.
“At the end of the day we haven’t lost the game, so all we do now is go out and win the next one and try to put a run together.
“The way we started was a real positive. I scored after five minutes and Lewi [Alessandra] backed that up right away. They were from two great deliveries from Callum [Guy] and it shows the quality we’ve got in the team.
“That’s how we want to start games and we’ll always work hard from that. We don’t expect any excuses from any game so we need to keep building on what we’re doing and not take our foot off the gas.
“I’m not saying we did ease off, things sometimes just go against you in football, but when we’re three or four goals ahead that’s when we need to be seeing it out and crushing the other team.”
“We defintely don’t need to be giving other teams a psychological boost, which is what happened with their first goal,” he continued. “We still felt confident in the second half, and it was about us and the chances we created, but the second one coming for them when it did made it a totally different game.
“That’s the sort of situation when we need to apply more game management and settle ourselves down again. It’s such a resilient group and that’s why we’re disappointed. It’s the best group of players I’ve played in and there isn’t one guy who thinks he’s above the team.
“Everybody here wants to work for the team so there aren’t going to be any problems going forward. We just want to keep doing what we’re doing and we’ll see where it goes.
“Obviously we know we could have been top and we know we’re in the automatic places right now, but we keep saying that even though that’s nice, we haven’t done anything yet. That’s why we have to manage our games better, take our chances and keep picking up wins and points.”
On his fourth goal of the season, from that quality delivery from Guy, he said: “You don’t understand ... when Callum puts those balls in it’s like seeing my dessert on a Sunday, do you know what I mean.
“I just can’t wait to eat it up. I want more of them this season and to be fair he’s given me three in the last five games that I should have scored from. Credit to him because he just keeps putting them in the right area.
“When crosses like that are coming in I back myself to do something with them all the time. It’s not just about defending as a centre half, you’ve got to be able to bring it in the other box as well. I see goals as being a massive part of my game and it means your contributing for the team when you get them.”
In terms of defending, the back four faced a complete reshuffle just hours before kick when news came through that left back Nick Anderton wasn’t available.
“That’s football for you,” he commented. “It’s unexpected but you’ve just got to deal with it. I went in thinking I’d be at centre half but the gaffer then told me I’d be at right back.
“I’ve played there before for this manager so I know the role and it was just about easing myself in and making sure we were solid down that side. It’s really just doing what I always do, which is try to defend.
“Everyone needs to be able to adapt because you never know what you’ll be needed for. With the players we have here now you won’t see anyone batting an eyelid if they’re asked to do something different or play somewhere new.”
And on having the armband, he told us: “I’ve heard Nick say before what a privilege it is and I know exactly what he means.
“I’ve done it in cup games but this was the first time for a league game. It means a lot to do it for that dressing room and it’s something me and Nick take seriously. It’s just a shame we didn’t get the three points.”
The next appearance in a blue (or orange) shirt for United for Aaron will be appearance number 50 for the club, and he admitted that it was a year that has literally flown by.
“Wow, I didn’t know that,” he said. “It just shows how fast time goes when you’re having fun. Life is crazy, honestly, that’s all I can say.”
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