Sunday, December 23, 2007

United thankful for another early Xmas present from Merseyside as Ronaldo ends Toffees unbeaten run...

United have been in action at Old Trafford in the 12-noon kick-off against Everton. The Toffees had gone 13 games unbeaten prior to today's visit for what was another very important Premier League fixture.

Ahead of the game, the United manager had sprung a few surprises with his team selection as there was no Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand or Owen Hargreaves, who we are told were all 'injured'. But there was no signs of injury where the star trio are concerned in the Reds last outing when they managed to pinch all three points off the other big Merseyside club Liverpool last weekend when Tevez did the damage.

So was Ferguson trying to be clever again by resting players in a bid to give everyone a game at this busy festive time? In the end it did not matter as United managed to somehow sneak a late, and in some ways a fortuitous victory. The deciding goal of three came late on in the game after Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar had what can only be descibed as a rush of blood to his head when sticking out his leg to bring down Ryan Giggs when the Welsh wizard was running away from goal and the ball was on his right foot. It was an act of madness and one for which the visitors paid a high price as Ronaldo converted the resulting penalty.

From the start of this game, Everton had the look of a team who were on an unbeaten run, they worked tirelessly all over the park when closing down anyone in the famous red shirt.

It took a piece of sheer brilliance to finally carve open the Toffees back four on 22 minutes when Ronaldo controlled a cross-field ball from Tevez on the edge of the area, in the blink of an eye and with little space to work, the Portuguese winger dropped his shoulder and then curled his left-foot drive round an Everton player before it flew beyond the reach of former United stopper Tim Howard in the visitors goal.

However, not long after David Moyes side were on level terms and at this point many reds will no doubt have been left questioning Fergie's team selection after Tim Cahill got in between Vidic and Evra to powerfully head home Pienaar's cross from the left wing. Perhaps if Fergie had not tinkered with his defence United might not have conceded that equaliser, as there had been effectively three changes in a back-four that has looked solid all season.

The rest of the game was nip and tuck and a great deal of credit must go to Everton who restricted United to few clear-cut openings, perhaps the most memorable chance of the rest of the game came late on in the first-half after Ryan Giggs and Ronaldo linked up twice before the Portuguese winger blazed just over the visitors cross-bar for what could have been one of the goals of the season.

Everton probably deserved a draw but Moyes will know that at places like Old Trafford you get punished when you make mistakes as did Steven Pienaar late on to hand Fergie and his team a get out of jail card and an early Christmas present. Coming on the back of last weekend's win over Liverpool, it has been a very good week and now United fans will hoping to make Keano's festive period one to forget when the Reds visit Sunderland on Boxing day.

While the victory had a huge slice of good fortune about it, Ferguson did at least make some positive moves with his substitutions in a bid to win the game when replacing Carrick with Saha late on and in fairness he also dropped Giggs back to midfield where he helped to steady the ship and keep United moving forward before going on to help win the match with that vital spot-kick.

Man of the match: The quite brilliant Ronaldo, who was closely followed by Ryan Giggs who was also very good throughout. The Welshman used the ball extremely well and barely wasted possession all game.

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