As the Tevez saga dragged on this summer, more than enough column inches were given to a hot debate. Would Rooney and Tevez be able to play together? Both players are short and stocky, with strength and quick feet their prized attributes. Whilst Rooney can bomb down the field and keep up with Ronaldo if needs be, as his goal last season against Bolton showed, Tevez looks rather heavy and slower on the ball. For the opening few weeks of the season we were without Rooney, so Tevez, who had no match fitness after spending the majority of the summer without football, started as our only striker. It didn’t go well.
Tevez made is debut in United’s 1-1 draw with Portsmouth, and he looked miles off the mark. His next game was derby day, where Hargreaves stole the show, and Tevez will be remembered for his miss in the dying moments which would have saved our blushes. Next followed our string of 1-0s against Spurs, Sunderland, Everton and Sporting. Tevez gradually improved with each game he played, but it was against Chelsea, when it was really needed, that he came to life, scoring a great header.
I’m still not sure why Villa’s opening goal was allowed to stand, but what leaves me more puzzled is the lack of attention the incidents preceding the goal have received. Before the cross came in for Agbonlahor to head past Van der Sar, our goalie was rugby tackled over the line. I can only assume that the ref got confused by the wankers singing “Swing low, sweet chariot” at Villa Park, and forgot it was a football game he was refereeing. Just as he recovered, the cross came in, and met with Agbonlahor’s head, and the rugby player wannabe jogged from an offside decision to stand in front of Van der Sar, obscuring his view. I was left seething, but fortunately, we weren’t left the rue the poor refereeing decision.
United went in 3-1 up at half time, scoring three goals in ten minutes. As Rooney showed he could deal with the heartache of being blamed for England’s midweek defeat, the travelling fans blasted out “We all agree United are better than England” as United lead 2-1. It’s only a shame he couldn’t bag his hatrick to really shut the ABUs up, after having his penalty saved by the substitute keeper. The crossbar denied him before the end of the match, on what by Rooney’s high standards, was a great match.
When Reo-Coker received a yellow card, his fifth of the season, it was about time, following a few late and lazy challenges. As he intentionally took Tevez out, the referee had no choice but to book him. Eight minutes later, Anderson was the victim of his frustration, as he made a rash challenge with no attempt for the ball. For all O’Neil’s claims of harshness by the referee, Styles had little option but to send the midfielder off for his cynical challenge. It’s strange to think this was a player I, along with several other fans, was keen for United to sign not that long ago. It is also strange to think that Barry, who England fans are wetting themselves over at the moment, held little weight in a midfield that was lacking a holding player, with Anderson and Scholes filling our central midfield.
Pique is earning his place at the moment, after working well against Wigan last weekend, and proving influential in yesterday’s game. As Agbonlahor, who was easily Villa’s best player, took the ball around Van der Sar, it was Pique who was there to clean up the mess. It was Pique’s challenging header which forced the save that saw Rio bang in the rebound. Ferguson should be praised for choosing to play the youngster in his preferred position, considering this lad is one for the future, rather than playing him at right back and letting Wes go in at the centre. There is nothing wrong with competition for places, and with the emergence of Simpson’s talent, along with the impending return of Vidic and Neville, Pique is certainly posing Ferguson with a nice problem to have.
“We are delighted, the performance in particular was absolutely superb and I think it’s probably our best of the season,” Ferguson said after the game, and that is something I’d definitely agree with. To come back from being a goal down in such a strong fashion, playing such attractive and free flowing football, is helping us resemble the team which were crowned Champions last season. Every match we get better.
United have now scored eight goals in their past two games, which is the total of goals we scored in the first eight matches, spanning seven weeks of football. Why? Because of Tevez and Rooney. Finally we have two strikers on the field who are bloody good. Following the injuries of Rooney and Saha, the lack of match time over the summer for Tevez, topped with the suspension of Ronaldo, it was no surprise it took us a while to get off the mark and find our rhythm. Now we’re playing just the kind of football we’d been hoping for since the start and it feels really good to watch.
After United beat Wigan 4-0 last match, scoring all goals in less than half an hour, Wigan manager Chris Hutchings was asked about the opposition. “Some people have said that Rooney and Tevez can’t play together,” he said. “Well I think that has been proven to be a bit of a myth, hasn’t it? Obviously they can.” Here, here. And forever at United they will score…