What a game.
Liverpool v Arsenal had been part-massacre, part-possession football and Watford v Chelsea was a hackathon with Chelsea firing at 50%.
On the other hand, Manchester United v Blackburn was all about attacking football (United), playing to your strengths (Blackburn) and the word we love so much, gamesmanship (Blackburn).
Where do we start?
This morning, I had written that “as long as Manchester United can avoid injury to Rio and Vidic we should be fine”. The biggest fallout from the Blackburn game will be Vidic’s injury, a broken collarbone that Ferguson said would keep Vidic out for four weeks but by my guess he’s out for a minimum of 6 weeks, and I’d be very surprised if Ferguson was to risk Vidic for the mid-May games (if our season goes that far).
The best thing to do now is to wait for Neville to get back and to prep Vidic for next season – he’s done a fantastic job for us this season and is easily our second-best player (after Ronaldo). Better to have him back fully fit in August than half-fit in May (and I really don’t think that a broken collarbone heals that quickly. In another place there are reports that it may just be a dislocated shoulder, from which Vidic should be able to come back before the end of the season.
Here’s a clip showing Vidic’s injury:
Nemanja Vidic Injury
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Match Analysis and Key Events
At half-time, I was thinking that despite Blackburn’s time-wasting (Brad Friedel takes his time, doesn’t he?), their rough tackling (Mokoena and Dunn) and gamesanship (McCarthy, Pedersen, Derbyshire), Blackburn were simply playing to their strengths and it would be unfair to criticise them for coming to Old Trafford and trying to win the game.
Blackburn will get roundly criticised by Manchester United fans, and probably non-United fans as well. I don’t blame them, but I also feel that Manchester United’s second half performance showed exactly why Blackburn’s tactics were necessary – otherwise the rout may have started earlier, in the first half, and United may have blasted to a 6-1 victory.
Blackburn are a limited side – Friedel, Bentley, Pedersen and McCarthy are talented players but they lack the support from midfield and defence to stand up to the top teams, and I don’t begrudge them their tactics. If you have wealth disparity between clubs you should also be prepared to allow different styles of play and different tactics, otherwise you are simply binding smaller teams to shoddy results.
It’s funny though, isn’t it, that Emerton’s push on Heinze, Dunn’s and Emerton’s tackling and Pedersen’s actions all evening (he was constantly getting into the faces of United players, hustling and pushing) have no ‘punishments’ in football? I don’t mind rough tactics but Mokoena, Emerton and Dunn should have been booked quite early in the first half.
And Pedersen…if Pedersen goes to ground without being touched, or if Matt Derbyshire dives in the United penalty area, will the Premiership fans accord them the same treatment that they give Ronaldo?
Ok, let’s tone that down a little – will non-Blackburn fans call Pedersen and Derbyshire divers the same way Johnson is sometimes called a diver or Gerrard is called a diver?
Compared to what goes on in football on a weekly basis, the treatment handed out to Ronaldo is astonishing and myopic. Ronaldo, to his credit, didn’t go down when he could have, although he now knows that unless he’s hacked down he’s not going to win a penalty from refs.
Manchester United’s comeback
Whatever Ferguson said to the players at half-time definitely worked, but I was seriously impressed by the way Scholes and Carrick took their goals. Scholes was a beauty, picking up the ball just outside the box and eluding three diving players one by one before slotting it in past Friedel. Carrick’s wasn’t bad either (would have been goal of the match if not for Scholes), passing the ball into the net between two Blackburn defenders and completely beating Friedel.
If Carrick is worth 14m, what is Scholes worth?
And for all the Carrick critics, I think it’s an unfortunate case of not understanding what he does. His game IS lacking in certain accounts, but that’s only his lack of willingness to run forward with the ball. He doesn’t get the ball when United are looking to move forward (the number of times Scholes bypasses Carrick is ridiculous), but he’s a bloody effective central / holding midfielder and his defensive work in Manchester United’s midfield has been one of the reasons why we’re still 6 points clear with 7 games to go (not to mention in the quarter-finals and semi-finals of two cup competitions).
After Scholesy goal, there was only going to be one winner. Blackburn had no answer to United, and for that Scholes and Carrick must be credited. They, along with Heinze, O’Shea, Ronaldo, Park, Giggs and Rooney, kept pushing Blackburn’s midfield back into their box and the pressure was eventually too much.
Ferdinand’s wild kick / injured spectator
An unpleasant and unfortunate incident. Ferdinand (he was moving forward quite a lot) was given offside at one point (0-1 Blackburn) while in Blackburn’s penalty area, and he kicked the ball wildy into the stands in frustration. The ball hit a spectator, and she (?) looked hurt. To his credit, Ferdinand went over afterwards and apologised, then he apologised again after 3-4 minutes when he was back at that end. Hopefully the fan’s ok, and hopefully Rio’s forgiven 🙂
I’m just going to look at few players from each side, the ones that had key roles to play in today’s game.
Brad Friedel – Kept Rooney out in the first half, and was the main reason Blackburn were in with a chance till Scholesy’s goal. Is he the Premiership’s best keeper this season? I can see Arsenal looking to sign him if Lehmann leaves (and why not, he’s a quality keeper).
Pedersen – Blackburn’s biggest threat, and it would be fair to say that he uses all means possible (along with his talents) to help Blackburn. Him and Bentley should be on shopping lists this summer, and if United were to pick him up (he’s already living in Manchester) we’ll have a decent back up for Giggsy, no?
Rooney – Poor, poor Rooney. He needs a good long break, but what he needed most today was for Giggs and Ronny to put his assists in. As things stand, Giggsy hit the top bar from 8 yards out and Ronny ducked when he should’ve headed the ball in, and Rooney has neither goal nor assist for this game.
Park – Have you noticed how Park’s approach to the game has changed. Now, when he has the ball in the box, he choses to pass instead of shoot (setting up Ole’s goal today). Instead, he’s there at set pieces (free kicks) looking to tap in rebounds. Yesterday was the second time Park and tapped in a rebound from a Ronaldo free-kick, the last one being against Bolton, in Manchester United’s previous league game.
It’s a fair idea since we’re using him properly and the goals will give him the confidence he needs to raise his game.
Scholes – Can’t be replaced. Is he better than Giggs?
Manchester United 4-1 Blackburn – Goals!
EPL : Man Utd v Blackburn : Derbyshire
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