A good performance from United and an even better three points. In all honesty, after beating Arsenal, Spurs and City, I did wonder whether we’d come unstuck against Stoke. They’re so robust at the back and I remember how difficult they were to break down last season. Had they not gone down to ten men, I do wonder whether we could have got that late winner.
Regardless, with fifteen minutes played today, we were well on top and I was confident we would get the result we were looking for. Ben Foster didn’t have anything to do (much to the relief of many of our fans) whilst our lads kept possession well in their half of the pitch.
Paul Scholes pulled the strings from the centre of midfield, begging the question what Stoke were doing with their extra man? They had gone for a lone striker up front with the plan to stifle our midfield, I imagine, but it didn’t quite work out like that. Darren Fletcher was quieter than he has been but then there wasn’t an awful lot for him to do. Their midfield didn’t see a lot of the ball so it made Fletcher fairly redundant, with his usual role of closing the opposition down not possible.
Wayne Rooney was another one to have a quiet game, the player who has been pivotal to most of our victories this season, which shows that we can share the responsibility of ‘match winner’ across the team this season. Whilst not wanting to focus too much on Ronaldo, it seems inevitable given the impact he’s had on our past three years and the way in which we were pretty much unanimously written off following his departure. Whilst our game plan has revolved around him for the past two years at least, similarly to how it did when Ruud van Nistelrooy was in the team, we seem to be much more free flowing this season, particularly in comparison to last season. Every match we look like we’re always going to score one more, which is something we struggled with on plenty of occasions in 08-09. Whilst we may have picked up the three points, it was often after a performance which could have warranted a draw. In all our matches, with the exception of the Arsenal game, we’ve looked and played like winners. It’s great to see.
Dimitar Berbatov picked up a much needed goal but was happy as any to credit that to Ryan Giggs. Fletcher played a great ball through, similar to Giggs’ last weekend to Michael Owen, which Ryan played across the face of goal to present Berbatov with a pretty unmissable chance. He ran straight over to Giggsy, pointing at him and telling our Welsh winger that was his goal.
Fifteen minutes later, Giggs got another assist to his name, crossing a ball in for unlikely scorer John O’Shea to head in. Diaby, Fletcher twice and O’Shea have all scored headers from Giggs’ delicate balls in to the box over the past few weeks. He only played 35 minutes today, meaning his legs should be rested for Sunderland next weekend, for which he has certainly earned a starting place.
Stoke managed two shots over the 90 minutes, only one of them on target, and only saw 39% possession of the ball. Their fans were outsung all game and our chants bettered theirs in every respect. As Rio would said, they got merked. Best home support in the country? My arse!
Paul Scholes was the best player on the park although Giggs had the most vital role in terms of the goal scored, showing our old men certainly have a lot to offer the team still. They will both likely sit out our midweek Champions League game against the German champions Wolfsburg, with Carrick/Anderson and Park likely to fill in, before possibly slotting back in to the team next weekend.
Life is pretty good at the moment. We’re playing great football, we’re beating teams that we might have struggled against, and the whole country is having a horrible realisation… we weren’t a one man team after all.