It must be fairly embarrassing when, as a 24-year-old in your prime, you get totally skinned by a player approaching their 37th birthday. Poor Jonathan Spector was left with his head in his hands after Ryan Giggs’ trickery saw him beat his man, only to get hacked down.
Wayne Rooney took a long run up and sent Rob Green the wrong way to put us 1-0 up. Green was greeted with boos from the start. It took me a while to realise this could be because of his fuck up against USA in the World Cup. Seriously, the Stretford End booing him for that? He made a couple of decent saves too but it was clear early on that we were going to get all the points.
Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes bossed the game in a way we’re becoming accustomed to. After spending the past few months defending our ‘old man’ team, we will now have to defend against accusations that we’re too dependent on our veteran players. Aside from playing their part in the goals, it was their tag-teamed tackle on Scott Parker that brought about big cheers.
A triangle of passes between Scholes, Rooney and Nani lead to our second goal, with the Portuguese winger making an effort to atone for last week’s penalty miss. With several opposition players around him, he took the ball past all of them before firing in to the goal. It was a lovely finish and hopefully a sign of what is to come from him this season. Playing on his preferred right flank, he put in a good shift and should have scored when one on one with the keeper, after breaking away from the defence, but poor judgement saw him try to lob the keeper from a few yards out, sending the ball over the bar, instead of rolling it past the keeper. Earlier, Dimitar Berbatov flicked the ball on to Nani and if not for Green’s finger tips pushing the ball on to the crossbar, he’d have bagged another.
It was Nani who got the assist for the third goal, with him finding Berb with a perfect cross. Dimi, who has been attempting this move for weeks, leapt in the air and rifled the ball in to the goal. It topped off what had been a good performance for the Bulgarian, with him keeping the ball well like usual, creating goal scoring opportunities for others like usual, as well as chasing the ball down and looking a bit more “busy” up front, which seems to do the trick for our fanbase. That’s 3 goals in 4 games for Berbatov, including the goal against Chelsea in the Charity Shield, and us Berbafans are seeing the tide change for him. He still has a long way to go to win everyone over though, and will have to keep scoring goals to do that.
Rooney had a poor game, if we’re honest, whilst Mike Phelan says he isn’t fit. Clearly, he isn’t fit. Still, I think the rate at which he was giving the ball away yesterday can’t really be blamed on fitness. He should get some game time under his belt for England over the next couple of weeks ahead of our trip to Goodison Park. Since our brilliant 4-2 win there back in 2007, Rooney has had little say in how our game goes. Last season we got battered 3-1 then, with Rooney playing 90 minutes, and the season before he got subbed off for his own good when an over-zealous referee and pumped up badge-kissing Rooney were heading for nothing but disaster. Will a return to Goodison bring out the best of him or will we see more of the same?
Darren Fletcher was also disappointing with how frequently he gave away the ball. West Ham were dreadful so didn’t take advantage but a better team might have done. I’m not trying to make perfection the bench mark here, but I do expect better than the sloppiness we saw yesterday.
We were sloppy in front of goal too, when you consider we only converted two chances. I’m not knee-jerking or getting overly concerned about Chelsea’s goal difference at this stage, but as the season goes on, I would like to see us make more of our dominance when it happens. They’ll be games where we struggle to get the ball over the line and collect the points, so the games when we batter our opponents, it would be nice to see that reflected in the scoreline.
The three substitutions had a detrimental effect if anything, with Owen, Carrick and Smalling failing to have much impact. Smalling almost cost us a goal, playing a stupid ball across the box, but did put in a few good tackles after that. He’s some way short of reaching the form of Nemanja Vidic, who was brilliant. I lost count of the amount of crunching, perfectly timed tackles he made. It will be interesting to see whether he’ll keep the armband when GNev and Rio return, given that vice-captain of last season, Giggsy, has had a look in.
All in all, happy with the performance and happy with the points. We can go in to the International break with the pressure off whilst Everton will hopefully have time to stew on their dreadful start to the season.