Sunday, January 23, 2011

'Unconvincing' United banjo Brum: Berbatov takes plaudits, as Giggs and Rooney star in supporting roles......

United put on the style on Saturday when Birmingham City were the visitors to Old Tafford; the performance and the 5-0 scoreline ensured that long before the ninety minutes were up there was few furrowed brows on the faces of those on the Stretford End. Even the most ardent United fan would find it difficult to argue that hasn't been the case for much of what has, so far, been a very strange season.

The Red Devils have been blowing hot and cold all season and yet despite too many indifferent performances and in no small part down to some magnificent defending by Nemanja Vidic & Co, somehow United remain unbeaten and are top of the Premier League.

There are of course other factors, namely that in any other recent season and having drawn nine times, surely Chelsea and or Arsenal would have been well above United, but thankfully that is not the case.

United fans do not care that, among many others, Arsene Wenger and City fans are saying that the league leaders have been 'lucky'; if you defend well you always have a chance and if you remain unbeaten with a bit of luck along the way, confidence can and often will follow.

On Saturday, against Birmingham, United were back to their ruthless best, with chances being created almost at will and it hasn't been like that for much of this season. United supporters have been spoilt down the years by a team who lavish entertainment and on this weekend, hapless Birmingham had no answer.

Over the last few weeks, this blog has been imploring Ferguson to restore balance to the attack; United are often at their collective best at home when the manager starts with a four-four-two formation and against Birmingham we had just that.

Giggs was played in his best position on the left, with Nani on the right. Berbatov led the led with Rooney playing in deeper supporting role. United were ahead after just two minutes from a Giggs corner that was flicked on by John O'Shea who'd replaced the suspended Rafael; unmarked Berbatov had the relatively simple task of heading home the opening goal.

What followed was at times very good from those in the red shirts; Berbatov, predictably grabbed the headlines after scoring his third hat-trick of the season, but Giggs and Rooney were right on top of their games.

If you didn't know otherwise, you'd find it difficult to believe that Giggs is 37 years of age. The Welshman was cropping up on both flanks and Birmingham didn't have anyone who could contain him - you cannot give good players the time and space afforded to a team like United, as City often did.

Rooney isn't scoring the goals and aside from an opportunity to score from a header, the player who plundered 35 goals last season isn't even coming close to scoring.

The good news for United is that it doesn't appear to be bothering Rooney too much at present. Against Birmingham, Rooney's passing was as accurate as it can be when he's really on top of his game. The lack of goals might well be a personal cause for concern, but importantly Rooney made a valuable contribution - he ended the match with two excellent assists.

Berbatov made it two-nil after being put through with another superb Wayne Rooney pass. On this day, Berbatov's finishing was deadly and he could easily have scored more if Nani hadn't been so wasteful.

Giggs scored the third and the best goal of the lot following a sweeping move just before the break; the move started when Berbatov intercepted a Birmingham attempted clearance when he slid in to rob the ball, the Bulgarian then played a delightful one-two with Rooney, who in turn supplied a superb low curling ball from deep inside the Birmingham penalty area and the Welshman calmly smashed it into the rigging giving Ben Foster no chance.

Berbatov, finally grabbed his hat-trick on 52 minutes after being put through by Giggs, this time with a low flashing effort which flew beyond helpless Foster in the Birmingham goal .

After making too many wrong decisions when attempting to shoot instead of picking the right pass, and following what was another indifferent performance, Nani finally scored the goal he'd been craving all afternoon when he cut back inside on to his left-foot on the edge of the Birmingham penalty area and once again Foster was well beaten.

Despite Man City losing away at Aston Villa, it wasn't quite the perfect day though, Michael Carrick had to be replaced by Darron Gibson on just 24 minutes, but the foot injury didn't look too serious.

As predicted on this blog following last weekend's draw with Spurs, Fletcher was dropped following what was yet another poor performance; the Scot wasn't even included in the squad for the Birmingham game, but no doubt he will figure in Ferguson's plans for the midweek trip to Blackpool following the injury to Carrick.

In the post-match reaction that followed, according to Micky Phelan, United are ready to rumble; but it's too early to be making any predictions about what lies ahead, because we have seen the leaders banjo opponents this season only for indifferent performances to follow. In November United thrashed Blackburn 7-1 - three days later we were humbled 4-0 at West Ham in the admittedly, 'Micky Mouse' Carling Cup. But as long as United remain unbeaten and the team keeps on performing well at the back, hopefully, we won't be far away come the end of May.

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