Manchester United earned their three points yesterday rather easily. There could have been reason to fear when looking at the line-up. Our fourth and fifth choice central midfielders, Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick, started in the middle, Nani replaced Giggs on the wing, Louis Saha, who is still struggling for match fitness, filled in for Carlos Tevez, Mr Utility, John O’Shea, took over the left back duties from Evra, whilst Kuszczak filled in between the posts in place of the injured Van der Sar. I wondered whether Ferguson was underestimating this Sunderland side somewhat, considering we only narrowly beat them 1-0 at Old Trafford a few months previously with a much stronger team.
Like usual, fortunately Sir Alex Ferguson proved my worries unfounded, as we put four past the North East side. Whilst not surprising to see Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo on the scoresheet, it was rather intriguing to see Louis Saha put two away, due to the lack of goals he’s scored this season. Rooney did the hard work for his first goal, playing a perfect ball in to the area. However, it was Louis’ movement off the ball which enabled him to gently guide the ball in to the back of the net. He created room for himself, then darted between three defenders to get that all important touch on the ball. The second came from a penalty, Saha resuming duties with Ronaldo already being subbed off (which begs the question, who would have taken the penalty if Ronaldo was still on the field?), which Nani won.
After being on the receiving end of much criticism, from United fans as much as anyone, Louis Saha has spoken out about the importance of scoring yesterday. “After the last few games, I was a little upset with myself because I had four or five opportunities, and I could not score them,” Saha told L’Equipe. “So this time I am happy. It is very good for my state of mind. It is also reassuring as my team-mates know they can rely on me to score opportunities. The more I play, the more I get opportunities. I am improving, notably on efficiency level. But in the game, I am not satisfied. I want to bring more and I know I still have a lot of work.”
Saha has now put three past Sunderland this season, scoring the winning goal against them at Old Trafford, and when looking at his goals to starts ratio, he hasn’t faired too badly this season. He is still building up his fitness, and more importantly, his confidence, but I’m not under any delusions that scoring two against a team ripe for relegation means an awful lot. He still has a long way to go, and with the Rooney-Tevez partnership developing nicely, I see no reason why Saha should be keeping his place in the team. He’s got a long way to go to win the core of United fans back over, who would be happy enough to see him leave in January.
I think that Ferguson is handing Saha a perfect opportunity to prove himself, and yesterday, he made some progress in doing that. Saha is still not satisfied with his football, but the question is, can we ever be? Or is it too late for Saha to salvage his Manchester United career?