Every time Manchester United come back and win a game in which they looked no better than the opposition, it can be difficult to go back and criticize anything the team did.
In the end, the three points are all that matter and the three earned against a lively Newcastle United are especially important. Manchester City lost at Sunderland and United now lie 7 points off the Premier League summit. Manchester United had to win today, and win they did, after a persistent Javier Hernandez poked home Michael Carrick’s brilliantly weighted pass over the Newcastle rearguard in the 90th minute.
It’s the Christmas pod! During this week’s Can They Score podcast, we look back at how we brushed aside Sunderland, praise Rooney and RvP‘s once again, preview our festive fixtures, recall Andy Cole’s time at OT and discuss the epic draw against Real Madrid in the next round of the CL! Player and Issue of the Week are included as usual.Joining me in the studio today is Aidan and Adam who would you like to join us in wishing all our listeners a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
During this week’s Can They Score podcast, we talk about the surprisingly easy victory against Newcastle, the International Break and all that entails (or doesn’t), Burton’s opening and some silly transfer rumours. Joining us in the studio for this episode is Tom, Jonas and Adam.
Last week, our back four was seriously at fault as Spurs cut through our defence like a hot knife through butter. This week, they turned it around and delivered a clean sheet which brought with it our first victory at St James Park since March 2009.
Amazingly, they did not just reply with a clean sheet but they also produced goals from Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra as the Red Devils took advantage of the Toon’s disorganisation at set pieces. Overall, it was an exciting display from the team as a whole who pleased Sir Alex with their play. Read more…
Now that was more like it! From front to back a proper Manchester United away performance. Lacklustre starts have been our downfall of late, yet the first quarter of this game was our most impressive of the season. The only criticism being our failure to put the game truly out of sight.
The principle reason for this was the wayward finishing from Danny Welbeck. For all his technical ability, he continually snatches at the chances that fall his way and should have been celebrating a brace on his return to the starting eleven. However to condemn his display on this basis would be foolhardy.
Welbeck’s performance was understandably overshadowed by the star turns of Rooney’s homage to Keane, and a back four who didn’t look like they had been introduced to one another minutes before kick off. Yet the influence of the young forward should not be underplayed.
There has been much talk of an evolution to a fluid, pacey style this season; in no small part down to the arrival of Kagawa. The man from Japan is still finding his feet, meaning we have struggled for fluency. At the Wongabowl it was a much more familiar name who helped make us tick. Groans usually follow the realisation of a striker banished to the wing – yet Welbeck’s appreciation of space make him a perfect candidate for the dual forward role.
He may have failed to make the most of the opportunities afforded him but his uncanny knack of appearing in the right place at the right time is one few players possess. Harper’s heavy touch might ordinarily have gone unpunished but for Welbeck’s awareness and tenacity. Credit may also be given from some quarters for the determination to stay upright and attempt an unbalanced finish following the keeper’s desperate last man lunge. I suspect we’ll be waiting a while for the moral guardians of the British press to reconsider their stance of Danny the Diver. Welbeck’s link play with Rooney, Cleverley and van Persie left the home side chasing shadows and reduced to using baser instincts to try and disrupt our rhythm.
Not only did Welbeck inject urgency and unpredictability to our attack but he offered some desperately needed support to our overworked left back. It is no coincidence that our much maligned Frenchman produced his best display for years when aided by a left sided attacker willing to press high up the pitch and force the opposing wide-man to worry more about assisting the full back behind him than attacking the one in front.
Alan Pardew certainly recognised this when switching his most dangerous player Ben Arfa to the other side of the pitch. It was fitting that against the expectations of the majority, it was the dream team of Rooney and van Persie who were withdrawn early meaning the local lad from Longsight remained on the pitch to hear the whistle that called time on his best performance since April.
As was made obvious on the pod this week, I don’t much care for the League Cup.
A trophy where the best teams send out their reserves has that same anti-climactic feel as in World Athletics events when USA and Jamaica put their B team in for the semi-final. Same badge, but an altogether different product. If I’m honest, I didn’t even have my heart set on watching the game last night; as any married person will be aware, remote control politics is a high stakes game. Foregoing viewing last night as a bargaining tool for more important televised moments seemed a likely move. So it was a pleasant surprise that my beloved decided that a bath was in order just before eight thirty. So taken aback was I by the realisation that I bounded up stairs to set the taps in motion. One of life’s great joys is watching Manchester United – so to be able to do so unexpectedly meant the serotonin was flowing even before the kettle had boiled.
Fletch and Ando party like it’s 2007.
Settling down for the final five minutes of the first half, brew in hand, reality bit. I remembered what the Coca Cola/Worthington/Carling/Capital One/Mickey Mouse trophy was like. Tonight’s ‘entertainment’ would be the same old laboured, disjointed performance that had characterised recent seasons. Ferguson has understandably viewed the contest as a chance to give forgotten players a chance to shine/attract buyers – Macheda and Diouf as wingers, Michael Owen labouring up front, etc. What an absolute delight then to see what actually looked like a football match. Not only that, but players seemed to actually raise their game for the occassion. Rooney’s first touch didn’t see the ball move into a new postal code for a start. Cleverley looked like the vibrant presence many have pinned their hopes on this year, popping passes around and revelling in the freedom of a more advance role. Biggest shock of the lot though was Anderson not playing like a star struck fan who had won a DHL contest to play for United. His passes were crisp and inventive, his use of the ball was intelligent and his driving runs were rightly rewarded with his name on the scoresheet. The positives didn’t stop there – a back four comprised of players new to the first team picture handled the challenge – hope springs eternal that the inevitable injury to Ferdinand or Evans won’t automatically require a redeployment of Carrick. Darren Fletcher survived ninety minutes and showed glimpses of the tenacity we have been missing so badly.
Powell has seized every opportunity to impress in his short United career.
My own personal favourite performance came from a player who spent just a small amount of time on the pitch yet made a big impression. It is a special feeling when you watch a cameo and have the sense that in years to come you will reflect on seeing a player at the start of a career that has since gone stratospheric. For all the fanfare surrounding the addition of Kagawa and van Persie, it might just turn out to be the youngster from Crewe who is considered our best business of the summer. Powell’s head appears on a permanent swivel, he plays continually on the front foot and his desire to exploit the merest opening is reminiscent of both Andres ‘the ghost’ Iniesta and Indiana Jones reclaiming his hat. It is some time since I have seen a player of such minimal experience, in such a paucity of minutes, look so accomplished. There is no better manager to judge and nurture such a talent as Ferguson and the early signs are of a player who will become a fixture in our first team before too long.
After the stuttering performance and fortunate result at the weekend, this game came as a real pick me up. A cohesive, exciting performance with two goals to cherish. The opposition were admittedly understrength, yet as their manager has opined today, Newcastle presented a formidable challenge. A challenge that we withstood, even allowing for a traditional wobble before the night was over. Real quality lurks beneath the surface of our regular eleven and it is comforting to know that whether enforced or by choice, the manager has the tools to make changes should our main men fail to fire.
Now that the burden of winning the treble has been lifted following the disappointing semi-final on Saturday, United travel to St James Park hoping to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to nine points. Having won the 7 games previous to the semi-final, some of our momentum has been lost, but Sir Alex and his men would have been buoyed by Liverpool’s late equalizer at the Emirates yesterday. Read more…