Monday, February 01, 2010

The ghost of Ronaldo comes back to haunt Arsenal in the form of Nani....

United put on a vintage performance in the capital yesterday that saw them crush title rivals Arsenal 3-1. It could have been and should have been a greater margin. Arsenal defended badly, but United were right on top of their game following the morale boosting win over Manchester City in midweek. Prior to that Carling Cup semi-final, you wondered how the result would affect the champions: win it and it could give United momentum for the challenges ahead and that is precisely how things look going forward.

City were in action too on Sunday, they were lucky to come out 2-0 winners against bottom of the table Pompey at the Council House, aka Eastlands: in his post-match interview, City manager, Roberto Mancini said that his players were 'tired' after midweek, he actually said it twice. Compare and contrast with the champions who showed no sign of fatigue at the Emirates - that is what winning can do for you.

It has been a magnificent week for Ferguson and his players. Against Arsenal every single United player did their job well, but two stood out; Nani and Rooney.

Nani has been written off more times than I care to recall on this blog: at various times he has been described as 'a waste of space', 'hopelessly inconsistent' and a 'show pony', I will not retract a single word. The player fully deserved those unwanted tags. It is precisely why his manager has seen fit to leave him on the sidelines for so long.

However, Nani has been reborn in his last three games, so much so that he has been man of the match in all three. The Portuguese winger came to Old Trafford with a hefty price tag around his neck and with expectations to match. At times he has shown the odd moment of brilliance, but we haven't been treated to many of those showman back-flips since his early days, largely because the brilliance hasn't been much in evidence. Not surprisingly, he fell out with Ferguson in a very public way after talking to the press about the way the manager has treated him.

It is never wise to cross Ferguson: those that do pay the price. Nani has paid his penance and as Mike Phelan said in his post-match interview yesterday "a big penny has dropped, Nani can be a Manchester United player".

It isn't stretching the facts to state that at times against Arsenal, Nani was every bit as good as anything Ronaldo did for United. He was quite simply superb. IF Nani isn't credited with the opening goal it will be nothing short of a travesty, there was nothing more Almunia could have done, he was at full stretch when he tried but failed to tip the ball away from danger and importantly it was going to hit the rigging without that faint touch of the gloves.

If Nani's opening goal was special, the part he played in the second goal was just as impressive. Rooney started the move from deep within the United half and fittingly ended it with a genuine contender for goal of the season. It was almost a carbon copy of the goal Ronaldo scored against Arsenal in the Champions League semi-final at the Emirates last season. It was another one of those blistering breakaway counter-attacking moves - no matter that Arsenal are defending like schoolboys at present, you can only beat what is put in front of you.

Of all people it was Park who scored the vital third goal seven minutes after the break. Ferguson appears to have a soft spot for Park, but the South Korean isn't a big favourite among the fans'. I wish had a fiver for every United supporter who would have surely been screaming at the Korean to square the ball to Rooney yesterday, but amazingly, after a long run with the ball he found the confidence to hold his nerve and beat Almunia to make it three-nil. From that moment on, the points were pretty much in the bag.

It was very nearly all over bar the shouting, but it wouldn't be United without conceding a goal away at Arsenal, when it came it was another soft one, deflected off Jonny Evans. United have been on the wrong end of many a dodgy decision and have dropped silly points at the Emirates and Highbury over the last few seasons, but the win yesterday goes some way to addressing those bitter memories.

In many ways the performance against Arsenal vindicated just about everything about Ferguson's management this season. Scholes, Nani and Park have largely been reduced to bit-part roles this season; surprisingly as far as Scholes and Park were concerned, they were given starting places against title chasing Arsenal. Ferguson is one of, it not THE fairest manager in all the land, when it comes to selection issues, that is until you cross him... (as Nani will surely testify and as Vidic is finding out IMO).

Ferguson started with just Rooney up front, the ploy didn't work against City for 50 minutes in midweek; but against Arsenal it worked for pretty much the whole game. Even the defence that has been without Vidic and Ferdinand for too long, and has at times defended like the Keystone Cops in some recent games, barely put a foot wrong and United defended from front to back, unlike the Gunners who were shambolic.

The only complaint yesterday was we didn't score more, but when you've been given such royal entertainment, it seems churlish to even mention it.

4 comments:

  1. Ya, I was really surprised, and happy at the performance. Evans did a decent job too, but Brown seemed a bit shaky. Now should we look at a post-Vidic world? Especially that we got Smalling as some sort of long-term replacement?

    I've heard rumours that Real Madrid are letting United get the first option on Canales, a top Spanish youngster from Racing, in return for first refusal on Vidic. Overall, a good performance, but for a couple of errors, even Rafael seemed solid at right back, and they had few clear cut opportunities.

    Onwards to Portsmouth, and hopefully an easy three points.

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  2. Uday,

    Smalling looks very raw, lot to learn etc.

    I concur on the next three points, but I don't know about Canales, I've been reading about the speculation too.

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  3. Brilliant post, brilliant performance.

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  4. Uday,

    I forgot to add that I for one believe Vidic is toast. He has made his bed and will have to lie in it. Such a shame, he's gone from hero to zero. The problem is of course as we have seen on so many occasions Evans and Brown cannot be relied upon to perform consistently as a pair. Maybe Rio and Evans can do a job in the short term

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