“That’s why they’re champions” you’ll hear Andy Gray harp on, when Chelsea grind out a result after a dull game of football. What? Champions play controlled boring football? As the Premiership title has gone between Highbury and Old Trafford over goneby seasons, the phrase “that’s why they’re champions” probably will have been heard, but when it was, it would follow a brilliant display of football, with players tearing down the wings, attacking the box, being three nil up but still hungry for more.
Since Roman came to town, I’ve been a part of several debates with United fans. Would we give up playing attacking gung-ho football and revert to a more defensive, less exciting style, if it meant seeing the trophy return back to Manchester? Most would say no, and most of the time I’d agree, but then there are always times when you just feel desperate for your players to do whatever it is they have to to be winning again.
There was a depressed feeling around Manchester last weekend. They just hadn’t been clinical enough. We’d attacked the box, did everything we were supposed to, but for some reason things just wouldn’t click. It was just “one of those days”, and as I watched the first half this afternoon at Villa Park, I was worried we were going to see a repetition of that. Again, we were in charge of the game, again we attacked the box, and again we found ourselves 0-0 at half time. But today, we had Darren Fletcher on the field in place of Carrick, and Ji-Sung Park, returning from injury, playing instead of Wayne Rooney. Not entirely encouraging.
Ronaldo, booed as always, had a brilliant game. During the first half he provided the excitement in United’s play, and was denied a few times by the keeper. Still, we looked a bit stale, and in need of shaking up. Whatever it was Sir Alex said to them at half time, it did the trick. They came out a lot brighter, and a lot more comfortable on the ball. There was no “grinding out” in this victory, but just classy movements, and even classier goals.
Ronaldo opened the scoring, with a complete solo effort. He ran the ball in to the box, had his first short blocked, but put away the rebound so sweetly. It’s getting to a point in the season now where it’s almost making me cringe to hear opposition support boo Ronaldo. Time and time again he is proving to be one of, if not the best player on the park, making fools of their defence, and constantly working the goalkeeper. He’ll skip past three players without a second thought, and finish the move with a lovely bit of skill. Now, don’t think I’m so delusional that I don’t see it when he gets it wrong. Even if I was to miss it, the oppositional support would make me aware with their loud cheers. But what we’re seeing is a great player grow and improve before our eyes. When we compare his end product now to a couple of seasons ago, the difference is huge.
Ronaldo finished the scoring, after having a second goal disallowed earlier, with a great ball in from Gary. It was a simple tap in, which he made sure of after that shocking miss against Sheffield United. Ronaldo now joins Louis Saha and Wayne Rooney on eight league goals this season, with only two players in the whole Premiership scoring more than the United trio. United’s 2000th goal under Alex Ferguson was also scored today.
Now, all this talk of goals and goalscorers is just building up to the climax. Paul Scholes. Today he scored one of the finest in his career, and one to be added as a contender for goal of the season. As the ball was cleared out, Scholes calmly struck the ball from a few yards outside the area, seeing it rise high in to the air, before dipping just over the keepers glove, hitting the cross bar, and bouncing over the line and in to the goal. A beautiful goal, one we expect to see from him, but haven’t seen in a while. He thoroughly enjoyed it though, and hopefully this will encourage him to be braver from outside the area more frequently now.
We’re bang on half way through the season, two points clear, with a goal difference of thirty one (some eleven better than Chelsea). We bounced back from the West Ham defeat which is what we needed to do, and now have two home games to see out 2006. All in all, a good day out for the reds. Three goals away from home with Wayne Rooney on the field for the final twenty five minutes. We turned on the pressure, turned on the skill, and didn’t need to grind out the result. I want to win the league in style this season, and it to be our impressive scorelines and exciting displays of football that leave people saying “that’s why United are champions”.