It’s a very nice period, this. For weeks we have seen some underwhelming – but nonetheless, assured – stuff from United. 1-0 wins were the forte, built on a strong, mean defence and, arguably, a bit of luck at times to get goals — while not playing fluent football.
It was the proverbial second (or first) gear that we were playing in. Possession was dominant in all the games with the final third disappointing. But we always hoped (or dare we say, we knew) that, with the team and players we had, this kind of ground-out wins wouldn’t last too long. Some team was going to be spanked sooner or later. Not just us, even the manager concurred.
Can Manchester United score? They always score! But will they score heavily? That was the question.
So we waited and waited. Until yesterday.
As mentioned in my preview we’ve had brilliant results against Wigan in recent times (after yesterday our record is 16-3 in aggregate!). Moreover, their away form this season has been woeful while our home record has been perfect. It, thus, gave us an ideal platform to make that move towards a better brand of football than we’ve seen so far.
However, things didn’t start that way.
United started quite well, actually. All the attacking intent was there. But things happened in the first half that, first, frustrated and then rattled the team. In the beginning, Ronaldo was barged down in the penalty area by a certain thug that went by the name of Michael Brown. It was a clear penalty that wasn’t given by the referee. Will the media say anything about this, and hence, how unfair it is to label United as winning soft penalties at home? I suppose not. It’s a shame the referee had to see Ronaldo’s reputation instead of the actual incident.
Soon after, United faced a blow; Nemanja Vidic was walking over to the sidelines and was feeling a bit off. He seemed in pain and not confident about continuing. When you see that from Vidic, you know he’s not going to play a part in the rest of the game. Reports later confirmed that he had a concussion. Anderson was brought in his place, as O’Shea moved back to central defence. But that was not the end. O’Shea was soon hopping around asking to be taken off — in what was later diagnosed as a dead leg. That called for another reshuffle, as Pique moved into the centre and Simpson into right back.
These changes caused the side to lose some momentum and for long periods in the first half, it appeared as if everyone was trying to get to terms with their formation. The promise and fluency was lost. Some chances were created but Kirkland kept the shots at bay.
Prior to all this, of course, was the unsurprising news that Saha got injured in the warm up. We shall not talk anymore about this new injury, lest it ends up sounding like another joke.
The second half didn’t start too brightly, but Anderson started off well, sending a couple of passes that very nearly got through. But until Tevez’s goal, it looked a very familiar sight — with us attacking but creating very little. However, Tevez’s goal changed all that. Anderson sent in a perfect through ball, showing great vision, and Tevez, who had made a good run, showed tremendous close control and strength to shrug off Kilbane and Bramble to move in past Kirkland and put a shot past two hapless defenders, desperately looking to clear the ball.
That did it for Wigan as soon after, in the 59th minute, Giggs’ cross after taking a short corner was first saved by Kirkland but only for the ball to find Ronaldo’s head, who promptly headed home. After that it was more of a period of endurance for Wigan as Scholes, Anderson & Co. ran rings from midfield.
The third one, once again, was through a quick burst forward with Pique sending Rooney out on the left with a perfectly weighted pass. Rooney, who spotted Ronaldo’s run into the box, crossed it for him leaving him with a simple tap in to make it 3-0. Finally, Danny Simpson, the other young defender to make an appearance apart from Pique, came to the party with a run and a cross for Rooney to head (yes, you read it right, head) the ball into goal, unmarked.
United played the United way, and we had a result that made it look like the United we know of. We are on top of the league, of course, subject to how well Arsenal play Sunderland. Unfortunately, this performance had to come before the international break – which isn’t all that good for momentum. But thankfully, none of Saha, Fletcher, Vidic, Hargreaves, O’Shea etc, have to make the trip due to their injuries. Or so, we would hope. There are enough nut jobs in this world, some of whom, are also national team coaches. So expect the likes of Domenech to call up Saha.
Wigan were anything between abject and woeful. All the varying degrees of adjectives that come in between could be plugged in just as well. They were, quite possibly, the poorest Wigan side to have visited Old Trafford.
But that is not to take anything away from the way United played. Anderson had an inspired performance today. His vision and distribution did not make us miss Carrick – with due respect. Moreover, he showed tremendous desire to want the ball, hustling and even winning the ball at times. In fact, he had won the ball and fed it to Pique in the lead up to Ronaldo’s second goal. Clearly, we realise that Anderson is a player bought to eventually replace Scholes.
Speaking of whom, Scholes had a great match. With Anderson moving forward, Scholes dropped back and dictated things from there. Giggs also had a very good game. He had been at the end of a lot of fans ire, and yours’ truly may have also been guilty of making disparaging remarks at times. But today, he cut out one aspect of his game that was his undoing in the past few games: he didn’t give the ball away cheaply. As long as Giggsy manages to retain the ball he may not even need his blistering pace of old to succeed. His vision and experience can do just as well.
At the end of the day, credit must go to the kids who stepped in today. Each one of them — Simpson, Pique and Anderson — were excellent and while they may find it a little rough against better teams, it gave us fans a glimpse and hope of great things to come in the future.
Here’s To the CHAMPIONS!
We’ve also updated our stats page. Have a look, and let us know if there are any changes to be made there.
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