Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Crisis, what crisis? United steamroll Baggies, Giggs is driving force...

The kick-off was late, but it only delayed what turned out to be an emphatic outcome as the champions steamrolled bottom of the table West Brom at the Hawthorns, winning by the margin of 5-0. It could have, and should have been a lot more.

Going into the game there was much talk of an injury crisis at United with so many players on the treatment table. Thankfully, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville recovered from their respective problems to take their places in the starting eleven that faced Tony Mowbray's team.

Despite being at the foot of the table, West Brom's home form is pretty good, so United were expecting a tough game and judging by the performances of those in red they were not taking anything for granted in what turned out to be a very one-sided contest.

The story of this fixture was that United were simply too good for the Baggies. It was a comfortable win, but Fergie will be especially delighted with the performance of Dimitar Berbatov, who is looking more and more like one of THE signings of the season. True enough, there are moments when you wonder if the Bulgarian is actually on the pitch, but since Christmas he has made a significant contribution in every game in which he has figured and that includes when coming off the bench.

The goals have started to flow for Berbatov and he's also creating chances for others; his link-up play with Michael Carrick has been exceptional in the last two games and it also supports the theory that United have needed an out-and-out striker. Prior to signing Berbatov, many fans and those in the media were claiming that Rooney and Tevez drifted around the park, perhaps a little too much, was a common gripe. Now that Berbatov is delivering consistently, those claims look more justified.

Berbatov might not charge about the park like massive fans favourite Carlos Tevez, but he provides a focal point to the United forward line; his close control rarely lets him down and players' like Carrick and Giggs are then able to pick their passes to feet, safe in the knowledge the ball will stick.

Against the Baggies, United's slick passing around the opposition penalty area was a key feature of the visitors' performance, as was running off the ball and United's support play, with the Reds often having five players' inside the Baggies 18-yard box.

Arguably only Ryan Giggs, who gave yet another age-defying performance, could lay claim to the man-of-the-match award over Berbatov and Carrick. Earlier in the week, Fergie suggested that Giggs should be the player of the year; it's a good shout, because Ryan looks to be getting even better. Some of the Welshman's passing was a joy to watch, his subtle flick to Ronaldo which led to United' fourth goal will live long in the memory of this particular Red.

As for West Brom, like United on the night, they had injury problems to contend with, but skipper Robinson made a bad situation a whole lot worse when he was Red carded before half-time by Rob Styles for a poor challenge on Park. After the game, Tony Mowbray, refreshingly, did not blame the result on the official for what was a controversial decision.

The result means that the pressure is very much on Liverpool and the chasing pack as United have a narrow three-point lead at the top of the table as the champions sent out an ominous warning to their rivals. It also means that United hold the record for not conceding; it now stands at 11 league games.

Man-of-the-match: Ryan Giggs - like oak-aged vintage red wine, he just seems to get better with the passing of time.

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