“Der der der, fucking useless, der der der, fucking useless!” boomed the away end when one of our passes were misplaced or shots were wide of the mark. You’ve got to have some balls to come to Old Trafford supporting a team who couldn’t even win the Championship last season singing about our players being ‘fucking useless’!
The last twenty minutes or so were more uncomfortable than they needed to be, given how much we had dominated the game, in terms of possession and chances. Credit to Birmingham for defending well, but both Nani and Darren Fletcher’s names should have been on the scoresheet following their simple ‘fucking useless’ chances in the first half. Great chances, wrong player for them to fall to.
Wayne Rooney, the man tipped to be our saviour this year, did what he was paid to do, putting United ahead before half-time. Nani, who was desperately disappointing today, put in a good ball to Wayne which he headed on to the post. As the goalkeeper scrambled back in to posistion, Rooney had already tapped the ball in. Rooney had a few good chances today and a keeper less on the ball would have let at least another one of them in.
11 shots saved by the former City keeper, 9 shots off target and a further 10 blocked shots is all you need to know about what a frustrating day it was for us today. Hart was on form and their defenders were eager not to be embarrassed, so whilst I’d like to see us looking sharper in front of goal over the next few weeks, credit has to go to Birmingham’s defence.
Berbatov played some really nice football and kept possession well for us. He had a header cleared off the line and had a great chance to score early on denied. As he burst towards the box with just ten minutes played and was brought down, you had to be thinking freekick for us and decision time for the referee, with the Birmingham defender the last man. He waved away appeals though, much to my confusion. Why the fuck would Berbatov go down outside the box when he had got the better of his man and just had the keeper to beat? A little bit of common sense wouldn’t go amiss when referees make their calls, but Lee Mason was left wanting when that gift was handed out, clearly. He was giving freekicks for good tackles all day.
Birmingham had two good chances to score but other than that did not really look too dangerous. If they think a 1-0 at Old Trafford is a reflection of how their season is to pan out, they will be left disappointed. United attacked from start to finish, eager to score more goals, and that type of football is nothing something they will come across too often. They were given freedom to break because we throw our men forward but that freedom will be a rarity for them this season. Patrice Evra did well to header off the line a minute after we opened the scoring, before Ben Foster made a terrific save to deny Christian Benitez a goal on his début.
I was very impressed with what Antonio Valencia had to offer, with him as eager to attack down the right flank as he was to get stuck in to a challenge. We really will see a different type of winger in this lad and I’m very excited about it. He has no fear when it comes to taking on the opposition and it’s great to watch.
Michael Owen will be disappointed he didn’t score after being presented with an ideal opportunity to do so on his home début. What was pleasing is that he raced away from the back four on two occasions in the fifteen minutes he was on the park which shows what potential we have there. It’s a shame he didn’t make the most of that opportunity, a chance he could have scored in his sleep on another day, but don’t doubt that he will be reliving that over and over until he gets another chance to put it right!
All in all, not a devastating display, but on opening day I’m just happy to collect the three points and not concede. Given that Patrice Evra is the only regular starter in the back five players we had on show today, we did a good job to keep the opposition out. We are left with a worry now though, with Rio out for a few weeks and Jonny Evans having a problem with his ankle. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come and we won’t have a repeat of the defensive injuries from last season. Ritchie De Laet is expected to make an appearance against Burnley which will be a good test for a player a lot of us are already fairly impressed by.
nb. Don’t get too excited though about what is ahead. This is Liverpool’s year. Don’t write them off just because they lost on the opening day of the season and could only score with the help of a penalty. The Rafalution is here, so be grateful for our result today but don’t expect anything better than second place this year…