Last week, in previewing Manchester United-Birmingham City, I was cautiously hopeful that we’d see the kind of Manchester United performance that has been lacking for the most part this season.
As fans, spoiled as we may be, we can’t help but hope for and expect to see some domination every now and then, and that’s not been the case thus far, as successful of a season as it’s been and could be.
Well, United delivered said domination, coming out with guns blazing and never letting up in a 5-0 rout of helpless Birmingham. And as in November’s record hammering of Blackburn, the assault was started and led by Dimitar Berbatov, who notched a hat trick to take his Premier League-leading goal total to 17.
In our run of now seven wins in seven Premier League meetings with Birmingham at Old Trafford, United have not been seriously troubled too often on the way to the three points, but this was by far the best performance and result of the bunch.
In last month’s 1-1 draw at Birmingham, United, not for the first time this season, were quite guilty of not making the most of their chances, and in the end, it came back to bite them, also not for the first time this season.
And to be fair, there were a bevy of missed chances on Saturday as well, but when those chances could have made the score 7, 8, 9, 10-0,
After his strike St. Andrew’s didn’t hold up thanks to Birmingham’s late equalizer, Berba took matters into his own hands this time around to ensure that the three points would be wrapped up with ease. A second-minute Berba strike set United on their way in the win over Blackburn, and that was also the case on Saturday.
But as important as it was to score early and stun Birmingham before they’d had time to settle in, it was doubly important to build off of it and not let up, as I also stated in the match preview
It looks like someone shared my sentiments, because that’s exactly what happened, with United piling on the pressure and creating chance after chance at will. It was inevitable that a second would come, and if Berba’s second shortly after the half-hour mark didn’t put the game beyond Birmingham’s reach, Ryan Giggs certainly made it game, set, and match when he made it 3-0 shortly before the break.
Considering Birmingham haven’t scored three goals in a Premier League match all season, it was unlikely they’d have mounted a second-half comeback even if we’d spotted them a goal, but just for good measure, Berba made it three goals and three hat tricks this season to put United up 4-0 with less than ten minutes gone in the second stanza, and there was still plenty of time left for Nani to get in on the act and put the icing on the beatdown cake with a well-taken strike less than 15 minutes from time.
You know, I wonder what it’s like to be the 11 guys who are futilely fighting to preserve their dignity in the face of a relentless Manchester United onslaught. In my days as a sports fan, I’ve witnessed my teams receive some such whippings, and as much despair as one feels watching it from the TV, the web, or in person, it has to be even worse to be in the middle of it. Alas, my sympathies extend only so far, because we were due to see this kind of performance from United.
But more than delivering such an aesthetically appealing showing, these kinds of wins also serve as a big boost to the goal difference. United are now two points and three goals clear of second-placed Arsenal, who moved one point ahead of Manchester City with their win over Wigan and City’s defeat at Aston Villa.
In a tight title race, that edge in goals could prove to be pivotal, and hey, it also makes checking out the Premier League table the next day all the more pleasurable.
On the downside, Michael Carrick exited early after picking up an ankle knock as a result of a poor challenge by Alexander Hleb, and his availability for tomorrow’s match at Blackpool is up in the air. But even that blemish can’t take the luster off on one of United’s best performances of the season, and for what it’s worth, Darron Gibson played well in his stead.
The day, however, belonged to Berba, and it’s not a bold statement to say that, on his day, there are very few players as good as or better than Dimitar Berbatov. And it’s also not a bold statement to say that when Manchester United are firing on almost – and I say almost for good reason (Rooney’s goals – which will come, plus Antonio Valencia’s return from injury and Park’s return from the Asian Cup) – all cylinders, there are few teams as good or better.
But as good of a sight as Saturday’s win was, United need to keep that momentum going and make the most of Blackpool’s defensive deficiencies. United have yet to run rampant away from home in the league this season, and being able to do so will mean another precious three points in the quest for title #19.
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