1. Ahead of kick-off I suggested that United give us a weekly surprise these days, whether it’s because of the chosen starting line-up, the formation, the tactics, or the events of the game. The surprise for yesterday was conceding three goals in the first half, as well as scoring four of our own. Seven goals in one half? Ridiculous. Last weekend the team at the bottom of the league scored at Old Trafford and now the team second from bottom is putting three past our defence? No bother, it’s not like we’ve got to play a team that scores a lot of goals next weekend… oh.
2. Ferguson explained the reason why Anders Lindegaard played in goal against West Ham was because he didn’t like rotating because it had an impact on consistency. It was an odd thing to say, given he has rotated the team virtually every single week, but insisted because Lindegaard hadn’t done anything wrong, he shouldn’t be booted out of the team. Hmm. Well, Anders made up for his lack of mistakes previously and we almost lost the game because of it. For the first goal he should have done better, even though Jonny Evans probably shoulders most of the blame for flying in low, instead of just standing his ground and blocking. For their second goal, we left their man totally unmarked, but with the ball only a few yards out, Lindegaard should have claimed. For the third goal, Lindegaard didn’t come for the ball, which lead to Evans heading out for a corner. Our young defender gave Anders a bollocking, before the corner came in, Evans was outjumped, after Lindegaard again didn’t come for it. He had a mare. Now it means we will probably see De Gea in goal for the derby next week, having not played for a month (unless he plays against Cluj). Smashing.
3. It was Rafael da Silva who was seemingly held largely accountable for the shambles in the first half and was hauled off after half an hour. He was marking the player who delivered the cross for their first goal and had made a couple of rash challenges, one of which he was booked for. Rafael looked like he was going to cry when he was sitting back on the bench. More than anything, his substitution had to be precautionary. We’re playing City next weekend and Rafael is someone we need to have in that game so we couldn’t afford to see him get a second yellow. It’s a shame for the lad though and I imagine Fergie will work his magic on him this week.
4. Another player we needed next weekend is Anderson and he showed us why yet against on Saturday. It was another top performance which was more measurable than usual because of his goal. Michael Carrick picked out Ashley Young who played through a perfectly weighted ball to Ando. He struck it early at the near post. Ando, hitting the target? Brilliant. Of course, whilst not wanting to say I told you so, the fact he was then taken off with a hamstring injury was fairly predictable. This is the pattern of his United career so far. Plays really, picks up an injury, returns over weight. Let’s hope this injury isn’t a lengthy one.
5. After slating him for weeks, it’s only fair I give Ashley Young the praise he deserves. Aside from two shots that almost hit the corner flag, he definitely played his part in the victory. It was him that played in Anderson for the first goal, his blocked cross lead to the corner for the penalty, and it was his lovely one-two with Patrice Evra which lead to the cross for Rooney’s second goal. He’s still not hitting the heights you’d expect of a 27-year-old old who cost £16m when in the last year of his contract, but this was a definite improvement on performances before now. Along with Rooney, he didn’t perform his defensive duties well enough in the first half though, but this is more an issue of tactics than him personally. Without wingers, surely it should be obvious that Rooney and Young should help Evra and Rafael/Smalling cover the flanks. Reading killed us down in the wings in the first half and this is something we need to look at when not playing 442.
6. Ferguson said that once Rooney scored, the goals would start pouring in. Evans brought down Rooney’s corner with a lovely first touch, before he was clumsily bundled over. Rooney sent the keeper the wrong way and looked relieved, given his recent record with penalties. Less than quarter of an hour later, he scored again, thanks to Evra picking him out perfectly in the box. Rooney tends to do well against City and we’ll be looking to him to continue putting the goals away next weekend. He also got an assist to his name after flicking on Carrick’s pass in to the path of Van Persie.
7. Van Persie wasn’t really at the races again, although, on another day he would have had a hattrick to his name. As well as his cool finish for our fourth goal, he rifled the ball a good yard over the line, only for the linesman not to see it. He had the chance to put the game out of sight, after pinching the ball off goalie Federici. He snatched at the chance though, not even looking up, when in reality he had time to pull the ball back and roll it in with his right. However, with 10 goals and 4 assists in his 13 starts, he’s certainly looking like good value for money. The fans love him already, although he can certainly kick it up a notch if he scores against City next weekend, the club he turned down to play for us.
8. Ahead of one of the biggest games of the season, we really didn’t need a nightmare defensive performance like that. Whilst it’s encouraging to see the resilience in the team in coming back from a goal behind, we’ve got to face the likes of Aguero, Tevez and Toure next week, who are considerably better than the likes of Le Fondre and Morrison. Each week, the players and manager keep talking about the need to stop falling behind early, but it still happens time and again. If anything, at least our performance will have highlighted how urgently we need to improve our defence, and you imagine they will be working like dogs on the training ground to improve on that. Again though, what this weekend shows, is that points are the most important thing. Six weeks ago we were four points behind Chelsea and now we’re ten points clear of them. We’re the team three points clear at the top so whilst a defeat would mean City went top on goal difference (again!), it’s not quite the disaster it would be if we were three points behind. Ferguson got his tactics dreadfully wrong at Eastlands last season. Hopefully he’s learnt from that and we can restore some pride around Manchester after the horrendous derby days last year!