Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ronaldo shines as the big selection debate resurfaces....

United returned to action last night when Portsmouth were the visitors to Old Trafford, the Reds needed to win to go back to the top of the table after Arsenal had regained pole position the night before.

From the start of last night's encounter, Ronaldo looked very much up for it, the Portuguese winger had been controversially sent off when the two sites met at Fratton Park earlier on this season in a game that finished 1-1.

For the first 15 minutes in particular Ronaldo looked like a man on a mission, he was at the centre of everything which was good about the Red Devils attacks, so it came as no surprise that on ten minutes he opened the scoring with a brilliant goal. The Reds top goal-scorer linked up with Nani on the left, first he cushioned the ball with his chest back to his compatriot who returned the ball into space behind a Portsmouth defender, Ronaldo ran onto the ball picked his spot and placed his shot underneath the body of England 'keeper David James.

Three minutes later United who were swarming all over the visitors like a red rash, were awarded a free-kick twenty five yards from the Pompey goal, up stepped Ronaldo who blasted the ball up and over the wall and into the top corner giving James no chance again, the Portsmouth keeper never even moved, the ball was hit so hard he wouldn't have even seen it until it hit the rigging.

At that point in the game, fans will no doubt have been thinking this could turn out to be a cricket score, as the Reds link-up play had been first class. Portsmouth for their part were rocking and one or two of their players could have been forgiven for looking for any metaphorical port in a storm.

However, as the game went on and despite United continuing to create chances and dominating the game, too many players in Red shirts played the wrong ball as the Reds play became over intricate.

At half time Harry Redknapp made a couple of changes and the visitors improved second half, but it did not alter the general pattern of the game with United dominating and creating the better chances. Rooney who didn't have one of his better games was guilty of poor finishing on more than one occasion.

Scholes, Carrick, Park and Nani had started the game in preference to Tevez, Anderson, Hargreaves and Giggs.

Scholes, who played well, was replaced by Anderson on 62 minutes, the latter went to be arguably alongside Ronaldo the stand out player on the night. While Scholes plays clever incisive balls to feet, Anderson works like a Trojan and covers the ground like a March Hare. The former Porto star's introduction and the performance that followed will have no doubt have given Fergie an awful lot to think about this week prior to the Reds next game when they face Spurs in North London.

On the evidence of last night, Anderson seems to be fine about being left out, the Old Trafford fans have started to sign his name too, which is always a good sign that things are going well. But it remains to be seen how Fergie will keep all of his stars happy.

Tevez, when he eventually came on for Rooney on 73 minutes had the look of a brooding cave-man, but as ever, he gave his all in the cause of winning for United.

Hargreaves for his part, one suspects will be just happy to be playing his part after such an injury ravaged season. The former Bayern midfield player replaced Ronaldo on 73 minutes, he was introduced as an insurance policy to ensure victory.

Against Pompey Fergie had appeared to give Ronaldo a free role at the expense of leaving out Tevez, with the largely ineffective Park filling in for the Portuguese winger on the right. The burning question is what will Ferguson do for the remainder of the season? Will the United manager go for the legs, skill and industry of Anderson or will he opt for the silky skills of Scholes? Will Fergie start with both of them by deploying just Rooney up front - many Reds fans, and me included, believe that this is the worst of all options.

Graeme Sounnes said at the beginning of the season that he thinks that Fergie does not know what his best team is. If that is true, and I for one agree with the former Rangers manager, then Reds fans will hoping that the manager solves this puzzle and comes up with the right team for the bigger challenges that lie ahead.

2 comments:

  1. Last nights first half performance has to be one of the best ever. It reminded me of a similar one many, many years ago (1976/7) season when Coppell, Hill, Pearson and co absolutely ran a bewildered Spurs defence ragged. Incredibly, from being 2-0 up at half time, we contrived to lose the game 3-2. There was absolutely no danger of that happening last night however.

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  2. I agree with most of that. However, but if it wasn't for the brilliance of Ronaldo last night, Pompey could have come away with a draw - I realise that is a bit like saying "if my auntie had balls she be my uncle" - but where would the reds be without Ronny?

    Despite our domination, there was a collective failure in front of goal.

    Let us hope that Ronaldo and Rooney remain match fit for the rest of the season.

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