Manchester United laid siege today on the city of Newcastle upon Tyne in North East England, running riot with a devastating performance that would have instilled the fear of God in all Geordies. It is fair to say that revenge for the 0-3 humbling from way back in January has been extracted, and things are looking bright for the 19 times English champions once again.
We were so good, this is perhaps the happiest match report I’m doing since I began doing match reports a while back. So here goes- a few of my observations from this unbelievably impressive display.
1. Attack, attack, attack. Yes- Manchester United play the best football when they’re following that philosophy. Attack is the best form of defence and all that- but it still could have backfired spectacularly, lining up with as many as FOUR forward minded players in the starting XI! But it didn’t. It worked like a charm, mainly because of the impressive defensive work of Rooney, Welbeck and Cleverley in combination with the admirable shifts put in by our regular defenders. There was a lot of youthful running about in midfield, which means Sir Alex has finally recognized why we were being overpowered there so frequently *cough Giggs* *cough Scholes*
2. Don’t get me wrong- I do still believe that GENIUS is spelled as S-C-H-O-L-E-S. But the lesser we rely on him, the better it is for United in the long run. We need to keep him as a weapon to be brought on from the bench in case our midfield is in dire need of inspiration (as it was against Southampton). Clever Tom simply has to become a regular starter- and the boy did his chances no harm today. This was probably his best performance in a Manchester United shirt- the tracking back to defend, the sparking of counter-attacks, the eye for good passes- well, it’s all there. His finishing is a bit shit- but if he can score goals like the one he did today (oof!), I’d rather his finishing remain as it is. He has scored two goals for the club now- both against Newcastle United, both coming in the last 10 days. Can’t help but be chuffed for him. Carrick was his usual solid self, and there’s a case for Anderson/Fletcher to slot in as a third midfielder when we are playing tough away games (like at Stamford Bridge or the Emirates). Either way, I prefer if we start 2 or 3 out of these 4 and bring Scholesy/Giggsy on later if the need arises.
3. Wayne Rooney. People who say he’s still the best footballer in England don’t sound as naff as they did earlier in the season. He was bloody good today. And his tweet suggests, he’s “enjoying this new midfield role”. Happy times? His servicing for Robin van Persie was stunning once again, on the back of those two assists against Cluj in mid-week. And to think some were worried the two cannot play well together. It may be too early to make a sweeping statement- but in Wazza and Robin, we have 2 of the world’s best strikers in our squad and IF they continue to link up so fantastically with each other- we will be unstoppable. Not to mention, we have 2 excellent strikers in Welbeck and Chicharito as back-ups. Welbeck was lacking in his finishing today, but the hard work he did up front was really crucial to the result. Chicha must wait for his chances and grab them with both hands when he gets. One problem we have is finding the best role for Shinji Kagawa- who doesn’t deserve to be shafted around pointlessly like this, given he’s our most gifted attacking player. Fergie needs to work that one out.
4. Our defending today was gritty and resolute- reminiscent of the Gauls fighting to protect their lands from being invaded by the Romans. And for once, it wouldn’t be out of place to say that captain Patrice Evra (!) was the Asterix of the army- perhaps our medical team (hardly the equivalent of the druid Getafix, given their woeful record with injury cases) has perfected the recipe for strength-enhancing magic potion and given some to Paddy. Because he was well near flawless- hardly ever out of position (yes, I was pinching myself too), clearing well, and endearing himself again to United fans with a lovely headed goal (off a corner!). Rio and Evans were at their very best, and they needed to be against the might of Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse and Ben Arfa. Rafael continued to show why he’s a worthy successor to Gary Neville’s #2 shirt. The only concern was perhaps David DeGea- who played like a man under pressure because of a needless rotation that doesn’t make sense to anyone but one man. You listening Fergie? Play him regularly and he’ll get better.
5. We scored two goals from corners today- it must be said that as regards taking good corners, we really have turned a corner this season. Our best two best strikers are also our two best corner takers- and Robin & Rooney provided the assists for Evans & Evra respectively to head in powerfully and send us on our way. It’s ironic that in a team chock-full of frighteningly good attackers, it was two defenders who scored our first two goals! You don’t really consider Man United a great threat when it comes to set-pieces, so it’s really a big, big positive if we can add that to our game. Our task was obviously made easier by the absence of Coloccini, Steven Taylor and Tim Krul- but Newcastle away is still an insanely tough fixture where we tend to struggle, so the 3 goals and the 3 points and the highly encouraging performance is something that should keep us buzzing for quite a while.
6. The international break just takes the piss doesn’t it? Just when we were beginning to play some delightful football. Well, we have to look on the bright side. We are 2nd in the league table and finally finding a way of overcoming physically intimidating opponents. Our last three fixtures were difficult- and our next few are going to be even more so. Hopefully, we’ll be up for it and continue playing with the attacking principles on display in that second half against Spurs and in today’s game. Upwards and onwards then.
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