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Man Utd 2-0 Bolton: Ronaldo Usurps Best

One thing we ought to have learned yesterday is that Ferguson is a tactical genius (in case anybody ever doubts him anymore). I doubted him. Reading the line-ups before the game, I was shocked: Ferguson was being experimental!

In case you did not see the game, there were four interesting aspects to it: 1) the starting line-up seemed to be weak; 2) Ronaldo was given the captain’s armband; 3) Ronaldo scored a peach of a goal; 4) the tough-tackling, powerful, determined mountain-man that is Vidic left the game with a… um… nosebleed.

After Ronaldo’s first strike (on eight minutes), Bolton seemed to have no way back, but after his second (and oh, so magnificent) strike of the game — and his 33rd of the season (moving him past Best’s record) — there was no way back. Fergie’s boys had no problem seeing the game out without breaking too much sweat ahead of their crunch clash with Liverpool, although Bolton did have a strong spell in the beginning of the second half. As things were, Manchester United might have won by 20 goals had Nani been willing to pass and Tevez able to score.

Thus United managed to move three points clear at the summit of the Premier League and five points clear of Chelsea courtesy of three glorious comebacks by Tottenham in a game which ended 4-4.

It did not promise to be that easy for Man Utd fans before kick-off. The changes that Ferguson made from the side that beat Derby (seven in all) seemed to weaken the team severely in preparation for the Liverpool game.

For one thing Kuszczak was brought back in place of Ben Foster, who had a pretty impressive performance in the weekend. To be fair Ferguson struck a chord right there.

Kuszczak might have his critics. Some United fans think that he is not good enough to even be a United backup, but against Bolton he showed us exactly why he is at Old Trafford. He made four exceptional saves and a case for his place in the team. He also justified Foster’s absence.

Of course Ferguson might have thought that it would be better to have a more experienced goalkeeper with the defence he sent out there. Nothing wrong with Fletcher, Pique or O’Shea, but all three of them in the back-line is just asking for trouble. Fletcher had a torrid game, he kept well in defence, but his exploits forward were pointless and we have now seen a player who cannot take a throw-in. Hargo is amazing, but he should never ever play at right back.

Pique was neutral, perhaps a good sign from a young defender. But O’Shea showed that he is Man Utd material. Not the best midfielder, or centre-half, right-back or goalkeeper, but a solid left-back. He was brought in to use his strength against the Bolton bullies and made good use of it.

There was not much surprise in the selection of the attacking front other than Rooney being left on the bench, which was expected in such an easy much given that Saha returned to fitness (albeit only for 70 minutes) and apart from Anderson’s first really bad game at United, hardly anything went amiss.

Sure the finishing was truly disastrous and Nani seems to be more and more like Ronaldo everyday (speaking of which, anybody know why Ronaldo was not so desperate to get his precious hat-trick tonight?). But all in all it was a fair performance with some very nice spells from United which kept us moderately entertained and the players rested for what will surely be a nail-bitter this coming Sunday.