Manchester United teach the chasing pack how to beat Bolton

….by playing like United, of course!

While my fellow Manchester United fans celebrate Rooney’s return to form and United’s return to the top of the table (that goal difference (+18 right now) is going to come in handy one day), I want to take this moment to focus on the lessons we can all learn from today’s match at The Reebok.

Vidic is f’n impressive

Slate Ferguson all you want for buying Veron and Djemba-Djemba, but then give credit where credit is due for buying Vidic and van der Sar. The two players stood between Bolton and the United goal for the entire match, and while van der Sar’s success has been more high profile (although after Howard and Carroll that wasn’t hard to do), Vidic has regularly turned in quiet, classy performances for United at the back this season (and towards the end of last season as well).

Maybe it’s the added responsibility (and the poor form of Wes Brown), or maybe it’s just the effort and seriousness that Vidic puts into training and into each game. Fantastic player, and he’s only 25 (born on October 21, 1981 – exactly one year before me).

How to beat Bolton

It’s not that different from beating other teams, really – get out of the blocks at a storming pace and try to kill the game off in the first 20 minutes. United did that with perfection against Fulham in the opening game of the season, and they repeated it here against Bolton. This was, in terms of pressure, the toughest match after the Arsenal game we lost at home and Ferguson had the troops ready.

Bolton are excellent at controlling the game and probing relentlessly for goals but today they needed their defence to stand tall and someone in midfield to boss the game. Too bad for them that Rooney was in such amazing form today (his positioning was perfect) and too bad that Nolan was missing. Will be interesting to read what the Bolton captain has to say about this loss on Wednesday.

But really, I don’t see why people complain against Bolton’s (or Everton’s or Aston Villa’s or even Blackburn’s) style of play – if you don’t have the flair players who can win through sheer individual ability you have to rely on playing as a team and if “defending from the front” gets you the points it’s good enough. Bolton don’t have Manchester United’s depth or quality in defense, so it’s ridiculous to expect them to rely on just a handful of players to bail them out everytime the opposition comes knocking.

How do you spot Carrick in Manchester United’s midfield?

Michael Carrick has been constantly criticised since his arrival at Manchester United – he doesn’t tackle, he doesn’t show passion, he’s not aggressive enough, he’s not dynamic enough, he doesn’t get involved in the game…everyone has their opinion on it.

Thing is, Ferguson knew all this from watching him play for Tottenham. He knew that Carrick didn’t tackle, that his strength was in passing and positioning, not in the thundering bluster of Keane or the aggressive play of Scholes.

Pointing out the faults in his game is like calling Evra out for having poor shooting skills – that’s not his strength, that’s not why he was bought, so why criticise him for it?

Carrick is often blamed for being anonymous (and sometimes he really does go missing) but that’s mainly because United move very quickly from defence to attack and don’t build slowly from midfield – meaning that Carrick’s main task is either to take the ball out of the defence and pass it to the players in front of him or to join in the attack and provide passes to other attacking players. No one notices his one-touch, 5-yard passes. He’s the passing, non-tackling version of Makelele and somehow manages to piss people off who are constantly expecting him to do what he’s not been bought for.

And before you think I’m defending him blindly, he really should learn to tackle more and should try that Hollywood pass more often (it came off twice for the first and third goals today).

How to win games even when your star players aren’t playing well

It used to be that only Chelsea could win if half the team played poorly, but everyone blamed it on the sheer abundance of talent (a direct consequence of the money Abramovich has spent on them). Now that United are doing it as well (for however short a time this keeps up), what’s the excuse going to be?

You win as a team, you lose as a team, and most importantly, you have to beat the team in front of you with the players you have, in the situation you are in. Nothing else matters. Quite often there are teams who do a lot right but still draw or lose games because at the end of the day, they’re not good enough to get the three points. Bad refereeing decisions aside, if you have chances to score (or chances to create scoring opportunities) and you don’t take advantage of those chances, then you only have yourself to blame and no one else.

United have reversed that trend for themselves (after 3 years of calling ourselves “not good enough to win when it really mattered”), and it has a lot to do with having a balanced, motivated squad. It’s not just buying the right players but getting them ready mentally for the tough games, and for that Ferguson gets a lot of credit.

Hopefully I haven’t jinked us… 🙂

Wayne Rooney is back

Wayne Rooney completes his hattrick for Manchester United against Bolton

Was he ever really gone?

If you’re wondering why I haven’t put up the goal videos yet – the main reason is that I didnt find good clips for the Rooney goals.

However, here are the links, you can download them yourself and watch em.

Team Performance

Apart from Vidic, van der Sar, Rooney and possibly Ferdinand and Carrick, I can’t really say that the rest played well.

Saha’s best moment in the game was his part in the move that led to Ronaldo’s goal – he’s still missing those 1-on-1’s. Ronaldo had all the tricks but nothing substantial to show for it. Giggs was great in the early stages but like Ronaldo, not effective. Neville and Evra came forward a lot but United weren’t able to use the flanks too well (credit to Bolton and Sam Allardyce). Scholes had an off-day as well, and by the time the second half came along his tackling showed the strains of having to defend for so long.

Oh, and why am I saying Carrick played well? because he passed, and he passed, and he passed. He reminded us of what it was like to have Beckham play at Manchester United with the passes that led to the first and third goals, he kept the front five pushing forward in the beginning and latter stages of the game and he was the one calmly bringing the ball out of the defence during the time Bolton were on top.

He got the little things right, and like Vidic, he refused to panic under pressure. Not amazing, but good, and certainly better than some of the other players.


Ok, now it’s time for you guys. What do you think about the game, and where do you disagree with what I’ve said?

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