On the surface, the team Ferguson’s been playing this season is really not that different from the Manchester United team from last season.
There have been tweaks, of course – Ferguson brought in Vidic and Evra last January and Carrick in the summer – all three are part of the starting 11 and if there are no injuries will be expected to start for Manchester United against Chelsea in two weeks time.
At the end of last season Liverpool had been the most consistent team since October (and the world was sick of hearing it), with United second and Chelsea 3rd. Now, I think Manchester are easily the most successful team in the last 12 months in the Premiership, and that’s partly down to how well Vidic has settled in defence.
Moving on to the match itself.
Blackburn didn’t have Reid, Savage or Roberts, and that made it really, really hard for them. With the rain making it difficult, Savage and Reid would have really bit into United’s midfield and with Rooney missing two sitters, the result could very well have been in Blackburn’s favour.
To be honest this was a match we would have lost last season because of defensive lapses or lack of chances (or both). United controlled the game from start to finish, yes, and we scored despite playing pretty football (strange, ainnit), so I think I shouldn’t really complain.
Tugay’s kick on Ronaldo – Riley didn’t give a yellow card, but should have. To be fair to Riley he was unsighted, and he did have a good game otherwise (although yellow-carding Vidic for a shirt-pull was a bit extra).
Saha and Ronaldo tumbling conveniently in Blackburn’s penalty box – well, there are some things you really can’t defend. No penalties, and good on Riley not to give them.
Pederson’s corner from the left that hit the top bar – fantastic shot.
van der Sar taking a breather in the last few minutes of the game – time wasting, yes, but there was no pressure on Manchester United to ‘get it going’ and they had just spent 5 minutes or so right before that camped in front of Blackburn’s goal nonchalantly passing the ball around.
Rooney’s two misses – two tap-ins, two more goals – he could have been a hero. They weren’t as easy as they looked, but they should have been buried. With Rooney his misses are always more highlighted, but those should’ve been taken dammit.
van der Sar throwing the ball away while sliding on the ground out of his penalty area. It takes some skill (not to mention a lot of awareness) to do that, and while Riley gave a freekick it was good to see EDVS remind us why he’s one of the best in the world.
Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments.
The Refereeing Debate
Apart from the kick on Ronaldo, Riley did a fairly good job – he was right to deny the two penalties, right to book Rooney for his questioning. Evra and Vidic got slightly harsh bookings but then you expect that in away games. It was much better than the controversy that’s happened in the last couple of games (although much of that was due to the absence of any real bite in Blackburn’s midfield), so all’s good.
Refs are biased, they won’t always do a good job, and 50/50 situations will always split viewers. We could, of course, make their job easier. Let’s hope that’s what Mourinho wants to talk to Hackett about, and not why Poll wants the limelight.
Revisiting the Stephen Hunt and Petr Cech debate
Everytime I see a player jump over the keeper in a 50-50 situation, it pisses the hell out of me. I’m reminded of Cech and how Hunt didn’t jump, of how stupid that move was and how idiotic it was of the FA not to take retrospective action. Today, Ronaldo could have blamed the surface and slid into Friedel but he jumped over.
Oh and, get well soon Petr.
Manchester United Player Review
Edwin van der Sar: Had another quiet game. Solid as a rock. Anyone who wants to criticise Ferguson’s transfer market buys should look at how he has strengthened Manchester United defensively in the last two years. EVDS, Vidic, Evra.
Gary Neville: What he lacks in pace he makes up in experience, positional play and ability to attack, attack, attack. When United are in full flow Neville is right up there mixing it up with the opposition’s defence. If Evra can match that, with his pace, we’re good for quite some time. Got subbed at half-time for a calf niggle, will be rested from the England game midweek and probably the Sheffield United game as well, because right after that Manchester United have a CL match and then Chelsea at home.
Rio Ferdinand: The wet surface made it difficult but he had few problems. Missed Savage, apparently.
Nemanja Vidic: Along with Ronaldo and EVDS an early candidate for player of the season. If we win anything this season, this man will play a huge role in it.
Patrice Evra: Heinze’s rustiness has meant that Evra, the third-choice left-back, is now first-choice and very much part of the starting 11. For Heinze to win his position back he’ll have to regain his pace, although Evra offers a more attacking (if less aggressive) option.
Cristiano Ronaldo: As he lined up to take a free-kick, it was hard to believe that he’s still 21 years old. His on-field performances alternate between fleeting similarities to Superman (when he’s not shooting or diving, that is), an bad diver (when he is diving) and ridiculously off-target (when he’s shooting). If anything, all the attention on Ronaldo (and his good form) means that Rooney gets some of the pressure lifted off him. Anything to help a friend, eh?
Paul Scholes: Had a quiet game – part of that had to do with the defensive midfield, the rest with Scholes just not taking the game on as we’re used to seeing him do. On one occasion he had space ahead of him and the ball at his feet outside the Blackburn goal. The Scholes we know would have taken a shot – except he didn’t, chose to dribble and pass and lost the ball.
Michael Carrick: Carrick is a bit like James (except for the calamity bit) – great in training and impressing the coach, but underwhelming on the pitch. Ok, maybe that was a bad comparison. People blame him for lacking spirit, but Carrick’s addition to United’s squad has been a master-stroke. He complements our passing game perfectly, and actually links up with the front four quartet better than Scholes.
Ryan Giggs: Went quiet towards the end of the first half, but came back very strongly in the second. His assist in United’s goal reminded me of a similar situation in the Southend game where Smith, instead of pressing on and getting to the ball like Giggs did against Blackburn, let it run out. To see Giggs get it was something special – it said: “We’re not giving up, we’re not going to lose this season.”
Wayne Rooney: Two tap-ins missed, another one-on-one fluffed. Not a great day for Rooney.
Louis Saha: Has 8 goals to his name this season, 5 in the Premiership. 30 goals? Without injury, it’s almost guaranteed. Is an excellent finisher, and has that extra yard of pace that leaves most defenders stranded. Good goal too.
John O’Shea (sub): Came on for Neville, launched the cross that led to the first goal. Seems to be the current favourite in the battle for 3rd choice defender between him and Wes Brown.
Mikael Silvestre (sub): Utility defender? Once the kids come back from loan, Silvestre could be on his way out.
Darren Fletcher (sub): Replaced the ‘injured’ Ronaldo. Has improved considerably this season and will probably start in one of the next two games.
Manchester United play Sheffield United next Saturday in an away game, then Celtic away on Tuesday before taking on Chelsea in a top of the table clash at Old Trafford on Saturday, 26th November. You can bet your sweet ass I’ll be doing an extended preview of the game, and you can expect that match to be as hard-fought as United-Arsenal clashes (I’m hoping, at least).
Alright then – 3 points in the game, now to wait for Arsenal to trip up.
And here are the match videos – yes, they’re now on MetaCafe. Watch em quick, before they ban me too.