1. United started the game strongly and gave the fans the reassurance early on that we wouldn’t be losing our third league game in a row at home. There was attack after attack from United, with it appearing to be only a matter of time before we put one away. It was so reassuring to see us pick up where we left off after the good performance against Villa.
2. Other than obvious things, like beating your rivals or winning trophies, there aren’t many football related events that make me happier than seeing Danny Welbeck score. We were spoilt with two goals from him the weekend before and with less than half an hour played, he popped up with another. The move started off with a lovely flick from Welbeck to Rooney, who then returned the ball to our Longsight lad, who slotted the ball away from a tight angle in to the far post. It was a lovely finish, particularly for a striker who apparently can’t finish. Oh, and the pass in from Rooney now means he has more assists than any other player in the league this season.
3. Ten minutes after putting us 1-0 up, it was Welbeck who set the wheels in motion for the second. He won possession back for United before feeding the ball in to young Adnan Januzaj. The “boy who can do anything”, according to the Old Trafford faithful, dropped a shoulder, left the defender for dead, and calmly put United 2-0 up. He ran straight to the dug out, pointing at David Moyes in the stands. He was unlucky not to have won a penalty for United at 1-0 though when Mark Noble shoved him off the ball. Just before half-time he was booked for diving after going down under no contact after Collins pulled out of the challenge. Gary Neville argued that situations like this aren’t black and white, and that a player charging down the wing is entitled to jump out of the way when they feel like a challenge is coming. Januzaj is being kicked form pillar to post though, with seven players (Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Palacios, Ireland, Caulker, Cabaye and Lowton) already this season having been booked for fouling him, which is a fairly incredible stat when you consider he’s only started seven games this season. Here is just yet another comparison with him and Cristiano Ronaldo.
4. Ashley Young, who scored a thumper against Stoke midweek, replaced Januzaj with 20 minutes left to play. With his first touch of the ball he found the back of the net again, this time with a well placed and equally as impressive finish. He’s arguably been our worst performing player so far this season, regularly frustrating the fans, but in the past two games he’s shown what he’s capable of when playing with a bit of confidence.
5. Javier Hernandez, who is keen to do all he can in Robin van Persie’s absence, had a frustrating afternoon. Having timed his run perfectly to receive a lovely ball in from Antonio Valencia, he was flagged offside as he scored when one on one with the keeper. He was also on the receiving end of an appalling challenge by George McCartney which the ref deemed worthy only of a booking, when really it was a red card offence. Tom Cleverley had raced forward on to the ball and got behind the defence but no advantage was played. Chicharito replaced Welbeck, who was struggling with an injury, just ten minutes in to the second half and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet.
6. It wasn’t a perfect day for the defence, which is a shame, because Evans and Smalling deserved better. Buttner, who replaced Evra with ten minutes to go, was playing Carlton Cole onside. Both centre backs were waving their arms in the air, wondering why on earth the ref’s whistle hadn’t gone, before spotting Buttner glancing at the linesman before jogging back towards the goal. De Gea probably should have rushed out but there wasn’t much he could do. The defence will be frustrated to have conceded though after putting in such a good shift at the back.
7. It’s hard to know how much is to do with the quality of the opposition and how much is to do with their performance level, but Jones and Cleverley are looking like a half decent central midfield pairing at the moment. With Fellaini and Carrick out long term, it’s a huge relief that we’ve finally got some players doing well in this position. We don’t have much option for rotation, so let’s hope they stay fit and in form over this packed festive period.
8. On a day when our former youth team players excelled, with Welbeck and Januzaj getting on the scoresheet, it was pleasing to see Ravel Morrison have a subdued game. He was inconspicuous all game, other than that awful challenge on Cleverley in the second half, and therefore thankfully wasn’t stealing the headlines the following day.
9. The league table still doesn’t make nice viewing, but at least we’re actually playing well. We’ve shot ourself in the foot with some ridiculously poor results, but we need to take advantage of the fact games are coming thick and fast, and get as many wins on the board as possible. It’s not rosy, but with a cup semi-final and good draw in the Champions League ahead, at least it isn’t all doom and gloom anymore.