I. Let’s not panic. Yes, we were poor, but we were without Valencia, Nani, Giggs, Scholes (for 45 minutes), Rooney, Berbatov, Carrick and Evra and Hernandez were also feeling it. Let’s see how any other team does with that many first-choice players out.
II. Park is back! He must be nailed-on to play against City given that Giggs and Nani are doubtful, despite having played so much lately. He’s gone from being one of our worst performers to our most in-form. We all know about his penchant for scoring in big games, so let’s hope he continues that.
III. Fletcher continues to improve. Despite not having shown his best form overall, he appears to have become a more effective player going forward. He has spoken of his desire to score more goals, but both of Park’s were set up by Fletcher passes, the first a beautifully-judged ball that Scholes himself would’ve been proud of.
IV. Despite that, we still struggle without Scholes or, yes, Carrick. Fletcher’s dynamism is his greatest asset, but he needs a partner to sit and spray passes and dictate the game as much as they need him to do the running. If we’re playing with 2 in midfield, the combination should ALWAYS be one of fletcher, hargreaves, and anderson, and one of carrick and scholes. If we can’t do that, we shouldn’t play 2 in midfield.
Of course, there’s a point to be made here: we didn’t start with 2 in midfield. To which I would add a third point about picking our midfield: we must also never have ANYONE from the following list of players:
V. Despite all that, the three points were more than welcome. It was the sort of match that we needed to just get out of the way and forget about. Now, Eastlands beckons.
On Saturday, United will look to continue their recent resurgence with a seemingly straightforward task on Saturday at home to Wolves. At least, that’s what Man City thought last week when they travelled to Molineux only to be beaten by a team performance full of endeavour that was in sharp contrast to their own.
At Old Trafford however, the task seems much more straightforward. Despite Wolves’ good performance last weekend, it was only their second win of a season that has been lacklustre so far with their main talking point being their ‘shit-kicker’ reputation they have garnered this season . An Arsene Wenger favourite, that one.
Of course, Wolves were recently at Old Trafford little over a week ago, and gave a good account of themselves in a 3-2 United win, but aside from that and a nifty point at Goodison back in July, they have been woeful on the road. Due to the start they’ve made, and the reputation they’ve garnered, Mick McCarthy won’t want to bring any more negative press to his team, so wholesale changes to the team for the trip to Old Trafford like last season’s premature surrender won’t take place this time.
After fairly straightforward wins against Spurs, Stoke, and Bursaspor another simple win here should be the order of the day to fully cement the defence as back in business and the solid force it was before this season’s puzzling collapse. Indeed, last week’s win against Spurs was surprinsgly straightforward – except, of course for that goal – but two of the chief components of that victory, Nani and Darren Fletcher are out on Saturday after both getting injured during the win in Turkey. It should mean that the midfield picks itself after good performances in the middle from Carrick and Scholes Tuesday night.
Hernandez should also return as the 4-4-2 has worked well during our recent spate of good results, and despite Wolves probably fielding five in the middle, there should be enough firepower up top to eventually blow them away. Berbatov has been somewhat lacklustre the last few games, and a game like Wolves at home is perfect for him to get back into the groove.
A partnership of Carrick and Scholes, especially at Old Trafford, should dictate proceedings even though Wolves have an extra man. One slight concern is that the extra man could tell eventually for Wolves in the middle of the park as their midfield has a high work rate, but I don’t think they have enough of a threat to warrant playing a defensive midfielder. Anderson, whose defensive work is underrated, could come in for Scholes to provide some legs in midfield.
This leaves one final outstanding issue – the wings. With Nani out, Obertan should keep his place after a stellar performance on Tuesday and Park should start on the other wing, particularly as his work-rate can far match Wolves’. Despite another accomplished performance against Bursaspor, Smalling will also make way for Ferdinand who will have to deal with either Kevin Doyle or Steven Fletcher. As Doyle led the line well against City, he should get the nod on Saturday, but a better option could be to use Fletcher’s sheer physicality as a lone target man to try and bully Vidic. Ex-United Ebanks Blake should be named on the bench.
Chelsea laboured to a 2-0 victory over Wolves in their last away game, and I would take the same here, but with a bit more zest. Wolves haven’t actually been thrashed yet this season (their heaviest defeat was 3-1 at Spurs) so it all points to a fairly routine victory.
I. To get the goal out of the way – the fault lies with Gomes and Clatternburg, the former for not playing to the whistle, the latter for failing to award a penalty and then subsequently a free kick. Nani appears to have been portrayed as the sneaky, greasy, foreigner, looking to gain an unfair advantage by dastardly means, but when he put it in the net, he was being screamed at by Fletcher and others to do so. It was a fair goal, Spurs were 1-0 down at the time and hadn’t looked remotely threatening.
II. Regardless, it was a goal and an assist for Nani – 4 goals and 8 assists in 11 games (10 starts.) There is no more effective winger in the Premier League right now, and there is no more consistently creative player among our ranks.
III. Hernandez is more than a goalscorer. He failed to do so on Saturday, but his overall contribution was good nonetheless. His pressing was effective, and his link-up play was generally good too. Promising again.
IV. It was ‘a good solid win’ – no scares, shocks, disasters, just an efficient performance of controlling the game and seeing the result out. It’s the first of it’s sort we’ve had in a while, and hopefully there will be plenty more.
V. And that must surely have a lot to do with our out-of-form players returning to their past levels of performance. Evra showed defensive composure and awareness that has been lacking since the World Cup fiasco, Darren Fletcher looked a lot better than he has done – although still not back to his best – and even Carrick and Park put in good performances. With everybody in form, there isn’t a team in the league that can compete with us. Over to you, Rooney.
VI. Fergie’s pre-season stressing of the need to get more goals from midfield and defence proved prescient. We struggled to get our strikers into the game today – Berbatov holds the ball up better than anyone else out there, and he showed that today, although his goalscoring touch appears to have deserted him of late. Last season, that would’ve been a disaster. This season, it’s a comfortable 2-0 win.
VII. There can now be no doubt that Rafael is not just the future, but the present as well. Gareth Bale got no joy out of the left flank for the whole game, only going close whilst running through the middle of the park. A year ago we might’ve feared a red card for the young brazilian, but he was as composed today as he has been lethal in attack in the past. No other right-backs in our squad have the mix of pace, attacking ability, and defensive ability that Rafael posesses.
United v Spurs has always been one of the most intriguing fixtures of the season, despite Spurs being either the nearly men or a laughing stock until recently. Sometimes pivotal – the 5-2 in 2009 springs to mind- and rarely lacking in goals, these games have been taken up a notch since Spurs’ recent revival. Read more…