1. No club has ever overturned a 12 points deficit with 12 games to go, which would make you think the title is ours this season, following our 2-0 win over Everton. Our 65 points from 26 games is a club record. As painful as last season was, you could argue that we are reaping the benefits of it now, with United determined to make amends and not throw away a title again. Hopefully we’ll bear the fruit of the lessons learnt from last season for years to come. Ferguson admitted that he had planned on making wholesale changes in preparation for Real Madrid this week, but after City lost to Southampton he went for the jugular. “I thought I’d make seven changes but when the City result happened yesterday I thought it would be a more important game today for us because it gives us a comfortable lead,” he said. “We knew if we got a result today it would put us in a fantastic position. We can make changes later in the season.” It’s interesting logic. If City had won and closed the gap, Ferguson would have been prepared to risk more points and allow them even closer. As it is, with the gap remaining at 9 points, the manager felt a greater desire to increase the difference. Maybe he felt going 12 points clear would more or less wrap the title up, and a win after City’s defeat would really be kicking them whilst they were down. Job done.
2. Every season I wait for Ryan Giggs to score his first league goal of the season, to ensure he maintains the record of being the only player to score in every Premier League season. Giggs has now scored in 23 consecutive seasons, scoring his first league goal for United before Phil Jones, who started alongside him in midfield yesterday, was even born. For weeks now, Giggs has been playing well, with him better suited to playing on the wing or behind the striker, opposed to a central midfield role. A few months ago it was almost certain he’d be retiring at the end of the season, but with us approaching the time in the season when you really rely on your squad players, and Giggs really stepping up his form, you wonder if he’ll be scoring in a 24th consecutive season before hanging up his boots.
3. Robin van Persie ended his “goal-scoring drought”, which lasted two games, after previously scoring in six games on the bounce. It’s incredible to think that Van Persie hasn’t gone longer than three games in a row without scoring since signing for us. He should have had a hattrick though, so the perfectionist in him will be disappointed in that. Early on, he did all the hard work in taking the ball around goalie Tim Howard, before hitting the post with two Everton men on the line. When he got another chance at this just before half-time, he wasn’t going to make the same mistake again, and put us 2-0 up. It was also Van Persie who got the assist for Giggs’ goal, after some lovely footwork kept the ball away from the defenders. Giggs almost returned the favour when playing through a great ball in the second half, but Van Persie played it wide of the post when you would have fancied him to score.
4. The right side of the pitch looked good yesterday, with Antonio Valencia having his best game in months (even if not quite hitting the heights of years gone by) and Rafael da Silva looked great. Whilst Valencia wasn’t taking on players as much as he used to, often preferring to cut inside, he got the better of Leighton Baines, arguably the best left back in the league this season. Valencia outjumped Baines to head the ball down to Van Persie for the first goal and was a lot more direct than he’d been for most of the season. Rafael was great supporting him, assisting our second goal after a perfectly timed and executed pass through to Van Persie. His positioning was much better too, with him cutting across Anichebe when it looked as though he was certain to turn and score.
5. United played with real purpose yesterday and whilst there were still some sloppy passing and lack of imagination, they seemed to step it up a gear. There was a new motivation about the team, with them looking like men on a mission who were going to get the job done. It was reassuring to see though, particularly having watched us scrape through so many games before yesterday.
6. Fellaini has been one of the best performing players in the league this season but yesterday you wouldn’t have known he was on the pitch. Phil Jones kept him quiet, as he did Gareth Bale, and as Ferguson is possibly hoping he will Cristiano Ronaldo. He came off with a knock with less than an hour played though, hopefully just as a precautionary measure.
7. With Sunday being the first game since the 55th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster, the families of those who passed away were in attendance. As the players walked out we sung a chorus of “We’ll Never Die” and a flag was displayed in the Stretford End. Towards the end of the game, “Stand up for the Busby Babes” was also sung, a new feature to the remembrance…
8. It’s looking good, isn’t it? After last season I won’t believe it until it’s happened, but with QPR, Norwich, West Ham, Reading and Sunderland next in our fixtures, whilst City have Chelsea, Villa, Wigan, Everton and Newcastle, you would bet the gap widening before derby day, if it’s to change at all. I won’t tease you with the thought of wrapping up the title on the day they come to Old Trafford, but I’m counting down the games now. Roll on Real Madrid…
To mark the anniversary of United winning the Treble with a team that had academy products at the core, Made in Manchester is available for just £3 for today only. Some of the best football writers take a player each, from Sir Bobby Charlton to Ryan Giggs, George Best to David Beckham, Duncan Edwards to Paul Scholes, and many more, with 30 articles in total. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.