Charlton Athletic 0-3 Manchester United
Utd (Fletcher 49′, Saha 80′, Solskjaer 90′)
It’s all us Manchester United fans here, right? So let’s not mince words.
We fkn rocked the Valley with our posession play, our passing and a willingness to keep going at the opposition until they broke down under the pressure.
Not as convincing as against Fulham, but then again Charlton were playing at home and Manchester United had Mikael Silvestre playing alongside Rio Ferdinand.
Surprised? Fletcher opens the scoring in the 49th minute and Manchester United are on their way to a 3-0 away win.
Charlton came into the game looking to rough things up and physically dominate United.
They managed it for some time, but United kept their shape and kept going at them. Ferguson has put a great emphasis on creating a free-flowing passing side that attacks at tempo while keeping posession, and while Fletcher and John O’Shea are not first-choice midfielders both of them did an excellent job linking up with Giggs, Park, Ronaldo and Saha.
Manchester United have now scored 8 goals in their first two games and already have a 2 point lead at the top of the table. Still early days, so I’ll whisper this:
This is the best passing team I’ve seen for a long, long time.
Carrick’s return. I don’t think he’ll start against Watford but another 20-30 minute cameo will do his recovery a lot of good, and prepare him for the home game against Tottenham. Carrick on the bench was a surprise, but in hindsight the move was probably made by Ferguson with the consideration that United’s second-string midfielders (Miller and Jones) lacked the skills to rescue the team had United gone a goal down.
Our passing – bloody hell, it was smooth. If we can go into away games and dominate teams like this, you have to consider that we’re doing a tad bit better than last year.
Consider the personnel we were missing – Scholes, Rooney, Vidic, Heinze, Carrick, Neville. 3 of 5 first-choice defenders gone, meaning that we have to play Silvestre and Evra. Evra, to an extent, played well when going forward, but Silvestre was bad. The 2 first-choice midfielders were out, so that didn’t help either.
On the other hand, full props to Wes Brown for making himself so comfortable in the right-back position. He should have gone to the World Cup, but now he has a chance of taking over from Neville at right-back both in United and in England. I know we have Phil Bardsley but the extra cover will only help United in the future.
Our fitness and workrate – We’re running ourselves into the ground, chasing down every ball and generally physically handling the game a lot better than other teams. Benefits of a good pre-season?
Nervy defending. There were a total of three incidents that really shook United’s defence, and in each of those cases there is nothing that the return of Vidic and Heinze won’t cure.
In case you’re wondering, those three incidents are that 5 seconds of ping-pong in our box (when Evra slipped, Ferdinand knocked it off O’Shea and Silvestre teed it up for Ambrose (in the box, dammit, what were you thinking?), the handballs on Evra when he slipped and the handball by Wes Brown in the second half.
The only other thing I’d worry about is Evra’s crossing and Park’s shooting. However, the two play with such drive and energy that Manchester United were able to completely dominate the flanks and Park even managed to get into two good scoring opportunities (one at the keeper, the second hit the bar).
With Park I’m starting to get the feeling that he’s trying too hard to score a goal, and he could perhaps learn a thing or two from Solskjaer – after hitting an easy chance straight at the keeper Ole didnt let up and in the 90th minute, popped up in the right time at the right spot and tapped the ball in for his first and United’s third – no hard shots, just calm placement.
Evra’s crossing is totally out of whack. Hopefully Ferguson can work on it, although right now it seems that their main emphasis is to get him to improve his tackling.
Edwin van der Sar: Had few shots to save but was generally a calming influence at the back – although with Evra and Silvestre around that doesn’t help much.
Wes Brown: Future right-back for Manchester United and England? His runs down the right-flank were a pleasure to see, and apart from one mistake in defence where he left Bent unmarked for a cross, Brown was impeccable.
Rio Ferdinand: Had an excellent game, although to be fair he charged himself up by barging into Hreidasson after the Charlton player had body-checked Ronaldo in full flight. Ferdinand was too good for this Charlton side, and it showed. Definitely a future captain, but only if Neville, Giggs, Solskjaer and Scholes retire.
Mikael Silvestre: Living proof that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Silvestre is a good player, but when he makes mistakes he keeps on making them and in key matches he will be a liability.
Patrice Evra: Someone needs to fix his radar, and fast. Good prospect, but can’t cross at all and needs to learn how to tackle better (bet I’m going to say this a lot, eh?). Was good going forward, linked up with Ronaldo, Giggs and Park well.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Main man in the second half. This season he seems to have been given the license to roam the pitch (as he did for Portugal) and the results have been devastating. The understanding and interchange between Giggs, Park and Ronaldo on the flanks is killer, and his passing with Saha is good, if prone to being a bit flashy.
John O’Shea: Another solid, quiet game. Should keep his spot for the next two games even if Carrick arrives.
Darren Fletcher: The goal was extremely well taken. Is this the year Fletcher will mature into a decent backup? Fingers crossed. He should play against Watford.
Park Ji-Sung: Park’s impressions of the Energiser bunny have earned him respect and he ran himself into the ground again today.
Ryan Giggs: Was easily Manchester United’s best player in the first half, and with Ronaldo and Saha ran the Addicks ragged in the second. Deserves to be Man-of-the-Match.
Louis Saha: Kind of disappeared in the first half with the Charlton defenders doing a good job of shackling him, but he revived his partnership with Ronaldo and Giggs after the Fletcher goal and and duly got his second goal with a wonderful turn-and-shoot move from outside the box. 20 goals? Hell yeah.
Michael Carrick (sub): Ferguson sprung a surprise by naming Carrick on the bench. Came in the 77th minute and linked up with the forwards well. When Rooney and Scholes come back, the front six will be unplayable.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (sub): Replaced Giggs on the field and took the captain’s armband (very classy move, respect) for the last few minutes of the game, and paid homage to his super-sub tag by scoring a goal in the 90th minute. His previous shot was saved by Carson just a few minutes earlier (credit to Ronaldo for giving Solskjaer an unselfish pass). Is slowly getting back into form and will undoubtedly be called up to play a bigger role in future games.
Manchester United play Watford on Saturday (26th August) and barring a return from Vidic and Neville United will keep the same starting line-up. Solskjaer might be called upon to play a bigger part, with Park being sacrificed. Will have the preview for you tomorrow.
Questions for the people who watched the game:
- Was the handball by Brown deliberate (if anyone’s got clips, that whould be great)?
- What is worse? Evra’s crossing or Park’s shooting?
- Your predictions for the Watford game?