Ah, the sweet smell of victory! It was by the slimmest of margins. It again showed what we lack as a side, while also clearly showing our strengths. But the win — despite what the scoreline suggested — was achieved while playing some good football.
Sir Alex, shorn of his star wingers decided to push Evra onto the wing with O’Shea providing protection at the back. Brown continued to be preferred over Neville, and Ferdinand got to skipper the side again, in the absence of Ryan Giggs. A patched up midfield that consisted of Evra, Scholes, Anderson and Fletcher was always going to spring some doubts. But once the game got underway, things changed.
The movement was good, the passing crisp, and the desire very much in evidence. Patrice Evra was a revelation on the wing, and played a blinder of a match. Thanks to his surges down the left, we never really missed a genuine left winger.
Anderson showed amazing powers of recovery as he played very well considering his late, late arrival from Beijing. He was off the pace for a while before sort of coming into his own. An excellent pass to Rooney in the last few minutes of the first half was a case in point.
Wayne Rooney looked like he was making a genuine effort to stay further up the pitch. He had two outstanding situations to get on the score sheet. One occasion was as mentioned above; receiving a pass from Anderson, he took a touch, turned and shot a belter that beat James and just wide off the post. The other occasion was when he was wrongly judged offside that could have put the game beyond any doubt.
In all the performance was encouraging. Scholes continued to pull strings as his wont. Fletcher made up for his limitations technically with his tireless running, and his forays into the box fetched him his second goal in as many games. The defence was as solid as you can get. Rodrigo Possebon, who came on later, betrayed his lack of experience while continuing to look promising. And Carlos Tevez, while showing us what we missed last week, continued to impress.
Our lack of a target man was again obvious, but hopefully Berbatov’s arrival (if it happens) will seek to solve it. Next up, the UEFA Super Cup on Friday. Nani would be back. Hargreaves could feature on the bench. Park could return. And Anderson should be able to get over his jet lag.
Come Anfield, we should have a full squad to choose from, barring Ronaldo. And, hopefully, a win against Zenit could help give us the boost that’s needed to kick our campaign into the next gear — ahead of testing trips at Anfield and Stamford Bridge.
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