Another win for United in the pre-season, making it six out of seven for the summer of 2009. A 2-0 win over the sixth best side in Spain is good preparation for the Community Shield on Sunday, as we’re ten days away from the season!
Antonio Valencia – The press have questioned, repeatedly, how Sir Alex Ferguson reckons a Wigan winger who’s scored a handful of goals over the past few seasons is going to replace Cristiano Ronaldo. They’re missing the point. Valencia is never going to be a 20 goal a season scorer, but I’d fancy him to be behind at least that many goals at the end of this season, including his assists. He created both our goals last night and judging on the way he played against Boca Juniors and Bayern Munich, he is fully prepared and ready to run at Premiership defenders.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who became a centre forward and winger in one last season, seemed to grow tired of taking defenders. Maybe he had been kicked one time too many, maybe he just couldn’t be bothered, but despite his blistering pace, he seemed reluctant to skin his opponent. In Valencia, we have a player who is all too eager to take a defender on! He is a United winger. He’s a Kanchelskis and he’s a Giggsy. He will burn the full-back and put a ball across the front of the goal, whilst the rest of the lads queue up to put it away. Or he’ll do the defender then come inside and have a crack himself. What more could we ask for?
Ritchie De Laet – The Belgian played a blinder on the last day of the season against Hull, bombing up and down our left wing. It was a similar story last night, however this time it was the right wing he bossed, alongside Valencia.
He was able and eager in attack, yet still confident and composed in defence. He made several great challenges, including an extremely clean and strong tackle in the box as his opponent steamed in. Given the positional problems we’ve had with the 19-year-old da Silva twins, who are firm favourite with the fans but clearly lacking the defensive know-how at present, you wouldn’t believe De Laet was just a year older than them. All our full-backs need to be looking over their shoulders after tonight.
No Ronaldo – It is of course always going to be a nervy time when your best players move on because whether it’s conscious or not, your team evolve to playing in a way that best suits these players. Our attack became so one-dimensional with the superb finisher Ruud van Nistelrooy in the team. Get the ball, pass it to Ruud in the box. Get it, pass it to Ruud. Run with the ball, pass it to Ruud six yards out. When you’ve got someone who scores 150 goals in 219 games, then you’d be fucking mental not to try and give him the ball within scoring range whenever possible. Whilst not quite a rigid as that with Ronaldo in the team, clearly a lot of our play was centred around him, and it worked fabulously well for us. But now he’s gone, you never really know where our attack is going to go.
Against Valencia, all of our attacking players were working hard, with the ball going down either wing. They would come in centrally, they would put in a cross from the byline, they would burst in to the box. You didn’t know where the next attack was coming from and what it would look like. It was totally unpredictable and therefore thoroughly enjoyable to watch.
Tom Cleverley – The latest youngster to get in to the team and score a goal. As every other player in the pre-season has seemingly gone to effort to take out any smile out of their celebration, (it’s so uncool to look happy about scoring in the pre-season, didn’t you know?) Cleverley ran to the Stretford End after scoring, jumping and throwing his fist in the air. That’s the way to do it lad!
Michael Owen – After a really good pre-season so far, scoring four goals, Owen was a disappointment last night. He had four really good opportunities to score and for a couple of them he really should have done better.
The disappointment wasn’t his performance so much though, as there were plenty of positives to his game, rather the reaction it will obviously bring about. The tabloids love have an opportunity to have a dig at United and love to have a dig at Owen, so already he’s having the pressure heaped on him. But if he’s good enough, he’ll handle that, and save his goals for when it matters!
What was encouraging was Owen’s movement and positioning. He was on the shoulder of the last man time and again and it was all too obvious what we bought him for. If he can get behind the defence of Boca Juniors, Bayern Munich and Valencia, then it bodes well for the Premiership. The guy can finish, it was an off night yesterday, but he looks good for the coming season.