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Man Utd 5-0 Stoke City: Right Response, But Still a Long Way to Go

A home game. Five goals banged in. The frustrations of last week should slightly be assuaged. But it won’t, because the same Arsenal team lost to Villa yesterday. Makes our defeat at the Emirates seem all the more perplexing.

But let’s not go there now.

There were plenty of good things to talk about today. The scoreline would obviously suggest that we have been dominant. And for once, that was true. Ronaldo returned to his free kick scoring form, and while he did a fair bit of running at the opposition, he wasn’t getting too much help from the referee.

Fergie started a back four of O’Shea, Vidic, Evans and Evra; Rio’s injury forced the manager’s hand, giving Jonny Evans another chance to prove his mettle. The Northern Irishman continues to impress, seemingly not awed by the occasion — of having to step in for Rio — and giving another nerveless, assured performance. I would be gutted if we sold him at any point before seeing him develop fully — and I think he is going to be a big player for us.

Michael Carrick was another of the big players for us yesterday. He controlled the game, and topped it off with a left footed bullet from the edge of the area. (Quick question: did he have a left foot before this?) But a part of the credit must also go to Darren Fletcher, who is doing what Owen Hargreaves was bought to do. The boy was full of energy and is doing his reputation no harm with another good midfield performance. In the past he used to turn it off in the odd big game or two. Now he’s become a lot more consistent — which bodes well for us. It also freed Carrick to do his thing, and even make forays forward.

The other two things I wanted to talk about was on the introduction of new faces — Welbeck and Manucho. The former is definitely not a new face, as followers of our reserve league might argue. But at 17 years of age, he made a dream start to his United career, with a superbly taken goal. It’s stuff like this that make people sit up and take notice. Of course, being English, it won’t take the media too long to declare him to be the next Pele, so we need to keep ourselves on the ground and hope he’s got a lot more than yesterday’s screamer. Welbeck can appear ungainly at times, though, and he does have questionable balance and first touch, from games I’ve seen him play for the reserves. But he’s only 17, so there is a lot to feel optimistic about.

Manucho needs more games before one can pass judgements on his quality. He was involved in Welbeck’s goal, and his movement was impressive yesterday. But I will need to see a lot more before I can comment on him. We need more situations like yesterday (when we are at least a couple goals up) to be able to blood the likes of Welbeck, Evans and Manucho, so there’s hoping.

Finally, we still are eight points off the pace with tough games coming up against Villa, City and Spurs. Game in hand or not, there is still a lot of catching-up to do, as well as a lot of hoping — that Liverpool and Chelsea will simultaneously implode — to do. Till then, we have to be winning games to harbour hopes of winning the league.

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