A trip to a usually hostile Reebok Stadium probably isn’t the ideal way to return from and international break, one which United headed into with great momentum, having put 8 past an abysmal Arsenal side and 3 past Spurs.
From the side that did so well last season, Bolton missed Elmander, Sturridge, Steinsson, Holden, Muamba and Lee, bringing in City loanee Boyata as an uncomfortable right back, Klasnic/Tuncay/N’Gog as poor replacements for Elmander and Sturridge, both of whom left Bolton without a penny coming in, and Eagles, Reo Coker and Mark Davies filling in for injured or unfit players in the midfield.
Bolton are a much different side to the ‘long-ball merchants’ they were under Sam Allardyce, however Kevin Davies and Ivan Klasnic still provide a very physical presence up top, with Zat Knight and Gary Cahill providing a large threat from set plays, hence the pre-game rumours that United number 1 David De Gea would sit it out in place of the more experienced Anders Lindegaard. Fergie’s decision to stick with the young Spaniard proved merited as he managed to deal with the constant threat from the left of Martin Petrov’s crosses.
Smalling was left out at right back, very possibly being rested ahead of crucial games with Benfica and Chelsea, and Jones was left to deputise. Smalling’s attacking threat wasn’t missed, with Jones getting forward often, including ending up in the box with a blocked shot that fell for Rooney to convert. His defensive game lacked though, too often not closing down Martin Petrov and allowing him to cross, but that can be down to inexperience in a fairly new role.
Evans looked far from the player that was taken apart by Carlton Cole at Upton Park last season, and shrugged off the boos to put in a solid display alongside the returning Ferdinand. Despite Rio’s injury problems the stats show we concede less and gain more points when he is in the side, so his return ahead of big games coming up is a huge boost.
Anderson showed great passing and movement in the midfield, and with help from Rooney, absolutely ran the game against a Bolton midfield clearly out of its depth. I didn’t get to see a lot of Cleverley last season at Wigan, seeing as he was ineligible for the 2 Wigan games I watched, but he has been the stand out player for me, taking the Community Shield by the scruff of the neck and cementing himself as first choice ever since. His injury looked like it might prove a huge blow, but Carrick stepped in alongside Anderson and did a job that he will never get credit for.
The front four of Rooney, Nani, Young and Hernandez proved too hot to handle on the day, Bolton just couldn’t contain our in form players that all appear comfortable anywhere across the front line, Hernandez often running in behind Boyata and Robinson with the wingers drifting inside.
Bolton’s fans were in fine form, singing about how they were local fans after just 90 seconds, and going on to prove how pathetic they are with Munich chants, throwing objects at Young, and in a strange attempt to wind up the away fans they did a little 10 man Poznan.
All in all you’ve got to be happy with a 5-0 win away from home, especially heading into a big week at home and abroad, and coming after an international break, but if United carry this form into the trip to Lisbon they may well just make Europe stand up and take notice too.