1. When you score the earliest goal of the season your expectations of the game suddenly rise. Whilst you might have been hoping for two or three goals, when you’re 1-0 up with 89 minutes left to play, you hope a thrashing is on the cards. This hope is only cemented when you spend the first ten minutes passing the ball around at ease. The opening of yesterday’s game reminded me of the end of the game we played at Ewood Park in 2011 when we won our 19th title. Blackburn were happy with the point to help them in their relegation battle and we only needed one point to win the league. So the final ten minutes saw us pass the ball around our own half and Blackburn sat back and let us. Maybe West Ham were just shocked to have conceded so early, partiuclarly when you consider how regularly United have let in early goals this season, but they offered nothing and I was expecting a 4-0. Sadly, we looked lost in the final third and couldn’t make the most of our superior possession and chances on goal.
2. Anderson put in a good shift in the centre of the park and was easily our best player. For several weeks now he has been one of our best performers, even when coming on as a sub, so it was good to see him playing well when given the opportunity from the start. He’s one of the few players at United right now who has the confidence to take players on and, more often than not, succeed. He was skipping past West Ham’s midfield and defence as if they weren’t there. Ferguson doesn’t seem to like to play the same formation or players in consecutive games, but Ando surely has to be starting from now on. He had to come off with over 5 minutes to play though, clearly exhausted, showing his next goal is to work on his match fitness.
3. Fellow Brazilian Rafael also put in a solid performance at the back and was a great help going forward. Without any natural width, due to the absence of wingers, the fullbacks had a lot of ground to cover and Rafael did it well. In the first half he was caught miles out of position on one occasion but thankfully he recovered well, and that was his only blip over the 90 minutes. It’s nice to remember that he’s only 22 and is likely only going to get better.
4. Tom Cleverley was given the chance to shine last night but unfortunately struggled to make much impact on the game. It was no surprise when he was subbed off with just under half an hour left to play. His replacement, Ashley Young, was probably worse though. Young is becoming more unpopular with every passing game and it’s likely the atmosphere in the ground whenever he gets on the ball and makes a mistake transmits to him fairly well. What does he actually do? He doesn’t run past players, his crosses usually find the first defender and he throws himself to the floor whenever he’s tackled. I don’t doubt his work rate, I genuinely believe that he is trying hard, but he just hasn’t looked good enough for a year now, following that bright start.
5. After weeks of looking very nervous at the back, the defence did a pretty good job last night. West Ham are a threat from set pieces, even using freekicks on the half way line as an opportunity to launch the ball in to the box, but despite a few scares, we handled them well. Maybe that is more to do with Andy Carroll’s incompetence as much as anything. It’s incredible to think Liverpool spent £35m on him. They’ll recoup nothing like that when they sell him at the end of the season. With just the 1 goal from 9 games this season you have to wonder if even West Ham will want him. He looked lazy and disintered all night. If one of our defenders were in position just a couple of feet from him he couldn’t be arsed to even pretend to win the ball back. In light of Lindegaard’s recent comments about homosexuals in football, with him claiming that the fans couldn’t handle it if a player came out, it was definitely proved true last night. Fans can’t even handle a player with a ponytail, with chants of “get your tits out for the lads” being sung in Carroll’s direction whenever he messed up.
6. For weeks, a lot of us had been calling for Ferguson to play the likes of Anderson and Cleverley in midfield and after ten minutes it looked as though we had been vindicated. Whilst we still won, the display for the majority of the game wasn’t at all impressive. Maybe the issue is to do with the lack of wingers? Maybe the issue is not only the constant change in players, but the weekly changes in formation too? It’s hard to imagine us getting a run of good form together because our team and tactics are always changing.
7. Whatever you want to say about Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, for me, is still our most important player. Whilst Van Persie is technically a better striker and the player I would rather our chances fell to, Rooney is the player that makes the team tick. He works hard for the team, can drop deep to help out, and links our play. Last night, he was all over the shop, and saw the ball pinched from him time and again. The majority of his shots were wild and it was like his head wasn’t really in the game. When he’s on the top of his game, I’m sure the other players will follow suit.
8. With Chelsea dropping more points and City winning away, it was so important we got the three points. I desperately want to see us playing well, putting in performances like we did against Newcastle all that time ago, but for now I will happily settle for the points. We’re playing nowhere near our full ability yet we’re top of the league, so that can only be a positive. Things just need to click for United, with a more settled starting team, and then our title rivals should be afraid. The only concern is how long it will take for things to click. Sooner, rather than later, hopefully.