In spite of their exit from the Carling Cup, Manchester United enjoyed a very successful month of November in the Barclays Premier League and the UEFA Champions League.
Unfortunately, and like the month of November, United’s proud, but over-hyped 29 match unbeaten streak came to a bitter, chilly end, but there were plenty enough positives take from the month that should stick with the Reds.
Hopefully, the saying, “First impressions are often the truest,” is dead on, and not the reverse, because the performances at the beginning of the month from United were far better than the last.
Miraculously, United has overcome the adversity and the pressure of doubt cast on by all of their critics, to storm to the top of the Premier League, and on top of that, the Red Devils have already qualified for the lucrative Knockout phase in the Champions League.
Yes, the unexpected result at the end of the month is, and rightfully should be, fresh in everyone’s mind, but it should not ruin the accomplishments or some of the performances that United had during November, though.
United started the month in third place in the Premier League and was five points off the league leader, Chelsea, and had an inferior goal difference of 14, but that all changed in just five short matches in November.
United is now perched at the top of table by two points over both Chelsea and Arsenal, who the Reds will play in back-to-back matches in December, and, amazingly, they are now level the Blues with +19 in the goal difference column, which at the start of November seemed totally inconceivable.
United has endured an exacting, but enjoyable month in the Champions League as well, because they have thrown their name into the hat for the Round of 16 with two shutout victories away from home in November, but the Reds have a group-deciding match against Valencia to come in December at Old Trafford.
During the month of November, United scored 17 goals in their eight matches, which was aided, immensely, by their rich result against Blackburn.
What is so impressive about there 2.13 goals per game average is that United had 11 players find the back of the net to help pick up the goal scoring burdens.
Dimitar Berbatov was the Reds leading scorer with five goals, and they amazingly, but yet somewhat disappointingly, all came in one match.
If the four goals from West Ham shelling are factored out of the goals that were given up in the month, then United showed a much improved total, by only allowing four in the other seven matches.
A lot of people will think that since United scored so many goals in the month that it should be a forward that receives the player of the month, but it was Nemanja Vidic who led by example for the Reds.
The towering Serbian center-back helped United only concede three goals during his time on the pitch during six matches in November, but in the three-plus matches he was off it, the Reds gave up five.
Another player’s who performances during the month that need to be mentioned in the tireless Ji-Sung Park, because the South Korean was in fine form and bagged three goals from the midfield and provided two assists as well.
United’s month started with a trip to Turkey to take on Bursaspor, and the Reds were put under some self-inflicted pressure, but eventually walked out 3-0 winners.
All of United’s goals came in the second-half with Darren Fletcher, Gabriel Obertan and Bébé all rippling the Green Crocodiles net, which all but secured the Reds birth in the next phase.
United’s next match was against Wolverhampton Wanderers, a team that they narrowly defeated 11 days prior in the Carling Cup, and they were again pushed to edge by the visitors.
Almost against the run of play, Park scored in first-half stoppage time, but that goal was only was canceled out by a former United youth star, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, and as the game looked to be heading for another draw for the Reds, the South Korean scored the winner deep into injury-time.
To win it in injury-time was quite fitting seeing as it was the celebration of Sir Alex Ferguson’s 24th anniversary in charge of Manchester United.
Next on the United schedule was the highly-anticipated Manchester Derby, and did it ever disappoint, because it ended in a goalless draw at the City of Manchester Stadium.
To be fair, the Reds were the only ones that were positive in the match, and the defending from United was rock solid against the Citizens, but it was all for nothing and both clubs were forced to share the spoils.
United then had to quickly turn it around for the early lunchtime kick-off at Villa Park, and the Reds looked hungover, but they phenomenally came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Aston Villa.
According to Sir Alex, United could have very easily conceded six or seven goals, but they only swelled Edwin van der Sar’s net twice through Ashley Young’s penalty and Marc Albrighton’s finish from close range.
Only being two goals down, left the door wide open for United to complete a comeback, and they did just that, as Federico Macheda and Vidic found the net in a four minute span in the closing moments of the match.
That get-out-of-jail act set the stage for United to be full of confidence for the visit of Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford, and the Reds triumphed to a 2-0 win.
Patrice Evra scored only his second Premier League goal in first-half stoppage-time, and second-half substitute Javier Hernandez settled the game with yet another contorted header.
The Reds’ victory was aided by some mindless, undisciplined Wigan players, because both Antolín Alcaraz and Hugo Rodallega were shown red cards in the second-half.
With qualification on the line for both, Manchester United scrapped through to a 1-0 win over Rangers at the Ibrox Stadium.
Wayne Rooney made his long-awaited return to the United starting line-up, and he appropriately scored the decisive goal – albeit a penalty – in the Battle of Britain.
The next game against Blackburn, was, by-and-far, United’s most dominating, ruthless performance of the season, as they strolled to a 7-1 win over their Lancashire rivals at the Theater of Dreams.
As mentioned before, Berbatov scored five goals for the Reds, which was tied for the second most by a United player in the modern era – second to George Best’s six against Northampton Town, but equaling Andy Cole’s five against Ipwich Town.
For obvious reasons, the Bulgarian’s five goals unceremoniously overshadowed Park and Nani scoring the other United goals, and even Chris Samba’s powerful header seven minutes from time could not even wipe some of the gloss away from Berbatov’s extraordinary, brilliant day.
However, while that result will live long in the supporters’ memory, the final game of the month should be quickly forgotten by all as United skidded to a 4-0 pasting at Upton Park against West Ham.
Another former youth player came back to haunt the club, as Jonathan Spector was one of the architects of the hiding as he scored two first-half goals, and then Carlton Cole added two more after the break to compound United’s miserable evening.
Manchester United was taught a very stern lesson in their last match in November, so, with a few daunting fixtures to come, Sir Alex Ferguson will do his best to ensure that his players do not encounter a similar result during December – or for the rest of the season.
02 – Bursaspor(UCL) – Bursa Atatürk Stadi – W, 3-0 (D. Fletcher, G. Obertan, Bébé)
06 – Wolverhampton Wanderers (BPL) – Old Trafford – W, 2-1 (J. S. Park 2)
10 – Manchester City (BPL) – City of Manchester Stadium – D, 0-0
13 – Aston Villa (BPL)- Villa Park – D, 2-2 (F. Macheda, N. Vidic)
20 – Wigan Athletic (BPL) – Old Trafford – W, 2-0 (P. Evra, J. Hernandez)
24 – Rangers (UCL) – Ibrox Stadium – W, 1-0 (W. Rooney)
27 – Blackburn Rovers (BPL) – Old Trafford – W, 7-1 (D. Berbatov 5, Nani, J. S. Park)
30 – West Ham United (CC) – Upton Park – L, 4-0
GP 8 W 5 D 2 L 1 GF 17 GA 8 GD +9
D. Berbatov – 5
J. S. Park – 3
Bébé – 1
P. Evra – 1
D. Fletcher – 1
J. Hernandez – 1
F. Macheda – 1
Nani – 1
G. Obertan – 1
W. Rooney – 1
N. Vidic – 1
D. Fletcher – 3
Nani – 2
J. S. Park – 2
W. Rooney – 2
Anderson – 1
M. Carrick – 1
Rafael – 1
P. Scholes – 1