Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Ronaldo and Rooney pull off the Italian Job...

Manchester United made a stunning smash and grab raid in Rome last night when beating AS Roma 2-0 in the Olympic Stadium, Ronaldo and Rooney were the men behind this spectacular heist scoring goals in either half, both came very much against the run of play.

As expected Fergie tried to flood his midfield in a bid to rest control of the game from the Italians', there was no place in the starting eleven for Carlos Tevez, it was a decision which left the visitors lacking passing options up front.

However, it was Cristiano Ronaldo and not Wayne Rooney who was deployed as the lone striker - Napoleon once said 'give me lucky generals' and there can be no doubt that Ferguson came into that category in Rome last night - because while Ronaldo scored one of the finest headers in the history of the European Cup, the visitors started the game looking devoid of options and ideas going forward.

Ferguson's plan of attack appeared to amount to hoofing the ball to Ronaldo, who at one point had to take on no less than six Roma players'. With few attacking options, United's play was sloppy as time and time again they gave the ball away or else played it sideways or backwards.

Against Aston Villa at the weekend the Reds were irrepressible, but against Roma they looked disjointed and matters were made a whole lot worse when on 29 minutes they lost the rock that is Vidic, due to a knee injury. Not long after John O'Shea had replaced the Serbian, Spalletti's team could have taken the lead when Vucinic skipped beyond the challenge of Carrick inside the penalty area, only to pull his shot wide of Van de Sar's far post.

United continued to give the ball away cheaply and Roma were starting to dominate the game when on 39 minutes the Reds finally strung a few forward passes together, after Rooney had drifted in from the left wing, turned and beat his man to find Scholes on the right who in turn crossed the ball blindly into the heart of the Roma penalty area. Ronaldo, who at the start of this move was some 35 yards from goal, made a late but powerful and determined run to get onto the end of what was a hopeful cross - the Portuguese winger leaped like a Salmon and smashed home his header, it was an unstoppable effort and no superlative can truly do it justice.

The goal clearly rocked Roma who been completely taken by surprise, the half fizzled out without further incident.

Roma regained their composure after the break and once again they dominated the possession as they went on to create a string of decent chances. Panucci in particular was guilty of missing when only six yards out and Van der Sar had to make one world-class save to deny the home team.

It looked like it was going to be only a matter of time before Roma equalised and the truth was that United could have had no complaints if they had because their play continued to be disjointed with Scholes in particular giving the ball away cheaply on numerous occasions.

Ferguson sent on Hargreaves for the ineffective Anderson, the tactic only worked to a point as the Reds continued to lack potency up front.

Then on 66 minutes United broke down the right wing and Wes Brown's deep cross was brilliantly headed back across goal by Park, who until that point had little impact in the game - Doni then gifted the visitors a second and unlikely goal after he failed to hold onto the ball as he collided with Mexes, only for it to fall to the grateful Rooney who had the simple task of putting into the unguarded net. Like the first goal, it came against the run of play. No wonder Ferguson later conceded that his in-game tactics were wrong and that United were lucky not to concede two goals after the break.

From that point on Roma were there for the taking as the Reds took control of the game and Ronaldo went on to hit the post after a typical dazzling run. Carlos Tevez came on for Rooney and within minutes he linked up with Ronaldo only for the player being described as 'the best in the world' to blaze over the bar.

In the end United were comfortable winners, but the score-line didn't truly reflect the pattern of the game, because the Reds could have had no arguments if they'd gone at least 2-1 down early in the second period, once again Fergie's tactics away in European were questionable at best.

In perspective, there is no such thing as a bad win in Italy and the result is massive for United, because they will surely finish the Italian Job back at Old Trafford in the return leg. A semi-final with Barcelona looks likely and by all accounts Barca are not playing that well. For United supporters there is every reason to be hopeful that they could be going to Moscow in May - as long as Ronaldo stays fit that is. Bring it on.


  1. The tactic of playing Rooney on the left wing was baffling, added to which Park wasn't doing much on the right. We were left totally relying on Ronaldo, even for him that was a big ask. So I agree we got away with it, but it was a great win and there's no doubt about that.

  2. I totally disagree. Scholes did not "cross blindly" I watched the goals
    again this morning and, after getting into a good position, he looked up and
    must have seen a gap for someone to run into - whether or not he saw
    Ronaldo's run is another matter.

    What has annoyed me about this particular blog is the total negativity about
    it. I'm sure there will be a few comments agreeing with me on this.

    We went to Rome and played in the Olympic Stadium - worth a goal start to
    the home team and almost assuring partisan refereeing. United went into
    this cauldron and made Roma look ordinary. Like the game at Anfailed a few
    months ago, there were very few "hearts in mouths moments". OK, Van der
    Saar did make a good save in the second half when Roma were piling on the
    pressure - only to be expected of the home team, but it was a bread and
    butter save for a keeper of this calibre.

    Had Milan or Barca come to OT, Stamford Bridge, the Emirates or anfailed and
    completed a similar performance with the same result, you and the British
    press would be drooling claiming you'd just seen the future champions.
    Because it's us, you've highlighted and over stated (to the point of
    exaggeration)every negative aspect you can muster up.

    We couldn't argue if we'd gone 2-1 down? for fuck's sake, we had, at least, three good chances to make it 3-0.

    I wonder what the Italian press made of last nights performance?

    A very happy and satisfied Red.

  3. Sorry if you do not agree, but what I have written is a true report on the flow and pattern of the game.

    United were only unlucky not to score three after Roma had missed several good chances to have taken the lead after the break, even fergie admitted that!

    There's no doubting the brilliance of the Ronaldo goal, but Rooney's was a gift - we got the breaks - and I'm not complaining...

    Regarding the Scholes cross, he did play it blindly, I didnt say it was a bad ball, but it was crossed in hope rather than in the knowledge that someone was going to get on the end of it with no target. Ronaldo's brilliant run turned into a great cross...but nonethless it was played blindly - Andy Townsend made the same point on tv.

    It would be easy to write that United were brilliant from start to finish, but that would be a total fabrication. Result aside, it was a far from perfect performance and in marked contrast to our league form. Yes, this was Roma, but the approach and espcially our in-game tactics were wrong - here again Ferguson conceded this latter point.

    On a more positive note. United should be able to go to the Nou Camp (god willing) and play a more attacking game. While the same result as last night can only be dreamed about, it is unlikely we will be so fortunate at both ends.

  4. One thing i notice everytime i watch Manchester United play outside England is that the team looks 'exhausted'. But nevermind as long as we win.

  5. That is partly because of the tactic of playing one up front. If you keep on gifting possession of the ball to the opposition then you will end up chasing the game. To point a United did this at times against Roma - although thankfully they didn't make the best of their chances.

  6. Having read my post about the match a few times, I concede that it does come across as being too negative, which wasn't my intension at the outset.

    I'd also like to add a point about the Scholes cross. While it wasn't played to anyone in particular, the important thing was that Ronaldo had weighed up what Scholes was going to do, hence him steaming in from fully 35 yards. When he arrived at full pace he nearly took Mexes and the ball into the net, so my point about the blind pass (while true) was irrelevant as Ronaldo had anticipated what was going to happen.


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