Sincerest apologies for another late-ish match review, but due to internet connectivity issues yesterday, I was out of commission.
It appears that in the time I was away, there’ve been major developments (perhaps for the positive, who knows?) in the Wayne Rooney saga, which I’ll give my thoughts on separately. I do hope that this is the end of it for now and for a while, until he either scores enough goals or gets sold for enough money.
But I digress.
Wednesday’s win over Bursaspor was unspectacular in every sense of the word, save for another Nani moment. It was all we needed, but it goes without saying that the gulf between need and want is often enough as wide as the one between performance and result can be.
So then, what of the performance and result against our Turkish opponents?
I don’t particularly like to give out grades, individual or collective, which explains the lack of player ratings in these. But just for the fun of it, I will here.
I was going to use the letter grading system that I’m familiar with from my school days, but at the last minute, I thought it might be a better idea to just do the standard 1 sucks, 10 is ‘wow, awesome!’ rating system.
Now, this might defy even the explanation I’m about to give, but this is where the curve comes into play.
From an entertainment standpoint, it’d be rated, oh, about a 4 at best. And when you consider the opponent, and that it was a home match, then it merits no more than a 5.
So why a 6.5?
I can’t say I was all that excited about the lineup that Fergie put out on the pitch, but when you consider the lineup and the individual and collective limitations in it, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment if you set your expectations too high. While there was little in the way of clear-cut scoring chances, it has to be said that there’s only so much you can expect from a starting Xi in which Macheda is operating as the lone true striker.
There was plenty of frustration to be had, both with the lack of opportunities (only natural…back to the discrepancy between need and want) and with a mistake like the one that Vidic made to almost gift Bursaspor a golden opportunity for an equalizer.
However, despite that and the overall drabness of the match, there were several bright spots, and not just in the aforementioned Nani moment. One thing that I personally wanted to see after the mistakes that were made to hand West Brom a point was the team being just that, and I saw a lot of that. Patrice Evra hasn’t been at his best this season, and though his showing against Bursaspor wasn’t worthy of a 10 (or even an 8 or 9), he showed that he can be and is much better than what we’ve seen this season.
More than that, the effort was there, the heart was there, and no better example is Vidic’s error. When Vidic put himself in position to be the goat, Rafael was right there in an instant to clean up the potential mess and save his hide.
I would’ve given it a 9, but that would set standards a little too high for when I do this in the future (and I likely will).
Why such a high rating for a 1-0 win over a Turkish side vastly inexperienced at this level of competition?
It’s as simple as looking at our results this season. When results have been going as they have, with the pattern of throwing away of leads and home draws against opponents that should have been dispatched, no win can be taken for granted. While, say, Fenerbahce would have provided much more of an attacking threat, Bursaspor were the kind of pesky, determined, opportunistic side that could have come into Old Trafford and left with at least a point.
Combine that with the distractions of the Rooney situation taking all of the headlines leading up to the match, along with the fact that the starting XI was missing not only Rooney, but also Ferdinand, Scholes, Giggs, and Berbatov (oh, and Van der Sar too, plus long-term absentee Valencia), and United could have come out and completely laid an egg.
But they didn’t. It wasn’t remotely pretty, but they didn’t. A win is a win is a win, but it was doubly important in this situation. And as an added bonus, thanks to Rangers and Valencia drawing at Ibrox, United are now two points clear at the top of the group, and within a win in Turkey a week from Tuesday, qualification for the round of 16 – and perhaps top spot in the group, if results in Spain are favorable for us – will be within touching distance.
A 1-0 win over Bursaspor isn’t one that will do much to placate the masses and prove that United are ‘back’, whatever that means, but it’s a win nonetheless, and I don’t know about you, but I’ll certainly take it right now.
So then, on to Stoke City and what will no doubt be a tough encounter with the Potters tomorrow afternoon. United have won at the Britannia Stadium each of the last two seasons, but it took a late winner by Carlos Tevez to secure a 1-0 win in the 2008/09 season and two goals in the final half hour to secure a 2-0 win there last season. Stoke already own a home win over Aston Villa this season, and given our inability to, you know, win away from home so far in the Premier League, coming away with three points will not be an easy task.
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