A week is a rather long time in football and this week has been no exception. A stolen car, an MUTV reporter swearing on air, three matches- 3 wins and a clean sheet- and the not so mighty Liverpool losing to Oldham.
Saturday saw United crush a woeful Fulham side in the F.A cup, as former Stretford End sweetheart Dimitar Berbatov made his return to Old Trafford following a summer move to West London. Whilst demonstrating some moments of absolute sorcery, with a few of his touches only previously witnessed on video games, he couldn’t do much to improve a rather poor Fulham display.
Ryan Giggs put in a virtuoso display, rolling back the years with a fine performance and opened the scoring from the spot. Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez (2) were also on the score sheet but it really was Giggs who stole the show. Mark Schwarzer, the experience Aussie, was also impressive and kept the score line down to a figure befitting a football, rather than basketball, match. Nonetheless, in all honesty, the score line should have been much, much more.
As those in Fleet Street then continued to pen articles along the lines of the FA Cup being dead and buried on Saturday night, following Fulham’s shoddy performance, the tabloids were made to eat their words just a day later when Tottenham crashed out to Leeds, Chelsea drew at League one Brentford and, in the shock of the day, third-tier Oldham beat mid-table Liverpool 3-2. Maybe the FA Cup still has some magic left after all.
The strangest story of the week however broke on Tuesday; with reports that Paul Scholes’ Chevrolet Captiva had been stolen while the ginger maestro left it to defrost outside his home. It was perhaps ironic that the man who had been keeping United’s midfield ticking over for the best part of 20 years, is likely to regret keeping the engine ticking over on his £30,000 SUV on the Monday morning. Many Mancunians made light of the situation however by joking that events were made more than suspicious by the presence of many scousers in the area only 24 hours earlier.
Wednesday night saw Mauricio Pocchetino’s Southampton visit Old Trafford, in what many expected to be a routine win for the Reds. This however turned out to be a tense, nervy affair. Sir Alex Ferguson opted to start both Shinji Kagawa and Danny Welbeck in the wide berths, meaning that the team shape was rather narrow, and United fell behind after just two minutes, with a sloppy pass from Anderson and an equally shoddy back pass from Carrick affording Jay Rodriguez a simple finish past a shaky David De Gea. By half time, normal service had been resumed, and Kagawa once again showed his undoubted class with an exquisite pass to Wayne Rooney for the equaliser before hitting the post a minute later.
The second half was far less enjoyable. Southampton once again gleefully exposed United’s inability to deal with being pressed high up the pitch, and while the surface didn’t help proceedings, the performance cannot be solely blamed on poor conditions. Tactically, Pocchetino didn’t get enough praise, and equally, Sir Alex didn’t get enough criticism. Without a natural wide player on the pitch, United were often without an out-ball on the flanks. A naïve tactical display could be partially blamed for the loss, but nonetheless, United won, which at this stage of the season, is paramount.
Thursday saw more calls for David De Gea to be lynched in a manor-akin to the civil rights era of America, as he was yet again vilified for an “apparent” error, which of course wasn’t entirely his fault. Nonetheless, it was good to see Michael Carrick publicly acknowledge the blame for Southampton’s goal, as it at least took a bit of the heat off of the best young goalkeeper in the world.
Thursday, of course also saw the transfer window come to a conclusion. Many fans were subjected to the insane, self-centred ramblings of the irritating Jim White, who coincidentally was joined by the inept Niall Quinn and the irrelevant Simon Jordan in the vain hope of a deadline day deal. For United fans, deadline day and the transfer window in general were rather anti-climactic; with the clubs only permanent buy Wilfried Zaha remaining at Crystal Palace until the summer.
For anyone who watched MUTV’s pre-match coverage of yesterday’s Fulham game, they would have witnessed one of the largest boo-boos in the channels history. MUTV regularly get the thoughts of co-commentator Stewart Gardner before kick-off, and it was no different at Craven Cottage. Joined by Stan ‘block button’ Collymore, Gardner fumbled his lines, before the usually articulate presenter exclaimed “oh f***” live on air. Anyone wishing to apply for his position should probably contact manutd.com, however be warned that the role will involve working with the rather excitable Paddy Crerand.
After Gardner’s expletive rant, Fulham completed their Jekyll and Hyde act by participating in a rather entertaining game of football. David De Gea had to be at his brilliant best to deny both John Arne Riise and Bryan Ruiz, while United came close twice via the red-hot Wayne Rooney.
The mysterious trend of floodlight failure continued, as the “Gilluminati” struck yet again. After a blackout against Braga earlier in the season, dark transcended on Craven Cottage. Interestingly, United are unbeaten when the floodlights fail (played 2, won 2). How about that for a stat?
Fulham came rather close to scoring in the second half, with Rafael and Robin Van Persie clearing off the line. This was a performance which really was deserving of a clean sheet, with Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand both performing faultlessly throughout. Wayne Rooney scored the winner for United, with a cool finish which was reminiscent of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo’s winner at the Cottage in 2007; hopefully that goal is just as important in United regaining their crown.