When a team goes undefeated in all competitions through an entire month, as Manchester United did in September, most would think that they were firing on all cylinders.
However, that was certainly not the case, because despite not losing, United only won half of their six matches during September – drawing the other three – two in the Barclays Premier League and one in the UEFA Champions League.
United, who were without leading scorer from last season, Wayne Rooney, for most of the games, still managed to score an impressive 14 goals – from nine different players – during the month, which also included them being shutout in on their games.
Their deceiving undefeated record came down to one thing – slack team defending and being completely dominated in the midfield.
To prove that point, United conceded nine goals while posting two shutouts for an abysmal 1.50 goals against average. In the four games that they allowed goals, the average was more indicative of how they performed during the month – 2.25 GAA.
Not always is the leading scorer during the month the best player, but Dimitar Berbatov was outstanding for United in September.
Yes, he scored the first hat-trick for United in the North West Derby in 64 years, but the calming influence and genius he added during the absence of Rooney was vital.
He registered four goals in the four games he took part in – missing out in United’s opening games of the Champions League and Carling against Rangers and Scunthorpe United, respectively.
United did not start playing until the 11th of September, but they probably wish they waited a few days longer after what transpired in the 3-3 draw at Goodison Park.
United fell behind to a Steven Pienaar close the end of the first-half, but Darren Fletcher equalized just four minutes later. Just two minutes after half-time United were in front through a very well-taken headed goal from Nemanja Vidic, and then Berbatov seemed to have wrapped up the points 24 minutes time putting them up 3-1.
However, lack of concentration led to two injury-time goals from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta, which secured the most unlikeliest of draws for Everton.
Their hangover from the Everton game continued into their next match as they lacked the imagination and killer pass to breakdown Rangers in a very boring 0-0 draw to open their Champions League campaign.
Sir Alex Ferguson left three of United’s best imaginative and creators of opportunities – Berbatov, Nani and Paul Scholes – out of the squad that maybe would have been able to swing the match into their favor.
Their next match was against Liverpool and United completely dominated their most-hated rival, but again, they showed their frailties and barely scraped through with a 3-2 win.
Berbatov scored with a very good header in the first-half and then scored a contender for Premier League Goal of the Year with an expertly, imaginative overhead kick.
Even though they were bossing the play, two lapses in judgment and focus allowed Liverpool to draw level with Steven Gerrard scoring a penalty kick and a close-range free-kick.
Thankfully, six minutes from time, Berbatov outjumped Jamie Carragher to head home John O’Shea’s cross for the decisive goal.
Even though Ferguson made wholesale changes, United carried their momentum into their next match and eventually walked out 5-2 winners over Scunthorpe United in the Carling Cup.
It was far from easy for the Red Devils as Scunthorpe were definitely up for it, and they deserving led 1-0 after a Josh Wright thunderbolt. However, that lead lasted only four minutes after Darron Gibson placed his lofted shot passed Joe Murphy, and it finally got United going and led to five without reply.
Chris Smalling, Michael Owen (2) and Ji-Sung Park all opened their 2010/11 goal scoring accounts for United, but Martyn Woolford rightfully pulled one back for the Championship side in stoppage-time.
Ferguson recalled most of his first-choice players to the starting for their short sojourn to The Reebok stadium to face the Bolton Wanderers, but United were condemned to their third consecutive away draw of the season as the match finished 2-2.
Zat Knight’s fortunate flick gave Bolton the early lead, but a tremendous solo effort from Nani leveled the scores at one.
Bolton again grabbed the lead after a great counter attacking goal, which was started and finished by Martin Petrov, but in contrasting style to their previous two draws, United battled back to level the scores to take a point from the match. Nani nears post cross was Michael Owen skillfully headed the ball in off the Bolton post.
United finished out the month with a crucial away trip to the Mestalla to take on Group C leaders in the Champions League, and it was two vibrant youngsters that provided the spark in the 1-0 win.
The match looked to be heading for another goalless draw for United in the Champions League, but Federico Macheda spotted a great run from Javier Hernandez and the Mexican took two touches and placed the ball into the bottom corner.
One good thing that came from the month of September is Rio Ferdinand and Anderson have returned long-term injury layoff, but United lost a very key player to a very nasty injury.
Antonio Valencia suffered a serious leg break against Rangers, which will rule him out of action for the best part of the season, and the whole left by the winger in the squad will be definitely troubling for the manager to deal with.
Owen Hargreaves is said to be impressing in training, but Sir Alex is a bit hesitant to field him because of the chances of another setback for the versatile midfielder.
Manchester United did well to extend their unbeaten run by six more matches in September – 16 games overall – but they will need to find the balance to get all three points rather than just a solitary point from future matches.
11 – Everton (BPL) – Goodison Park – D, 3 – 3 (D. Fletcher, N. Vidic, D. Berbatov)
14 – Rangers (UCL) – Old Trafford – D, 0-0
19 – Liverpool (BPL) – Old Trafford – W, 3-2 (D. Berbatov x3)
22 – Scunthorpe United (CC)- Glanford Park – W, 5-2 (D. Gibson, C. Smalling,
26 – Bolton Wanderers (BPL) – The Reebok – D, 2-2 (Nani, M. Owen)
29 – Valencia (UCL) – The Mestalla – W, 1-0 (J. Hernandez)
GP 6 W 3 D 3 L 0 GF 14 GA 9 GD +5
D. Berbatov – 4
M. Owen – 3
D. Fletcher – 1
D. Gibson – 1
J. Hernandez – 1
Nani – 1
J. S. Park – 1
C. Smalling – 1
N. Vidic – 1
Nani – 4
F. Macheda – 2
P. Scholes – 1
R. Giggs – 1
J. O’Shea – 1
C. Smalling – 1
J. S. Park – 1