Date:Thursday March 20 2008
It was one of those nights when the rest of the team might not have had to bother turning up. Cristiano Ronaldo, once again, took matters in his hand and crashed Bolton in 20 minutes allowing the rest of the team to reap the rewards.
His first goal was a predatory piece of finishing, in the mould of great goalscorers like Ruud van Nistelrooy or Gerd Müller, the second was a free-kick of such brilliance that it should be contested against the one he scored into Pompey's net. And it was game over.
However, it wasn't all joy and happiness. We looked oddly disjointed for the best part of the game as we tend to do without Rooney on the pitch. This, of course, can be attributed to being 2-0 up and loathing to overexert ourselves but still one would have expected more a coherent display.
The midfield, at times, was bypassed with alarming ease and it's a concern that Anderson looks out of sorts. Fletcher did a reasonable job but only when Rooney and Scholes came in for the final 20 minutes we wrenched the control back. It seems that constant rotation has undermined the cohesion of the team and I think it has to be addressed and quickly.
But the biggest problem, still, is our finishing. Quite simply, the other forwards miss bigger chances than the ones Ronaldo scores from. Tevez should have had at least a brace yesterday and Nani could have scored, too. Whilst I'm sure Ronaldo will keep putting away his chances, Tevez needs to step up against the big teams as he did against Chelsea, Liverpool, Lyon and Sporting. In that case we'll forgive him these little slumps against the smaller sides.
It was clear, yet again, that Rooney keeps this team ticking and it's vital that he remains fit even though the absolutely, unbelieveably brilliant Ronaldo has now mustered the knack of scoring without chances. But he still needs Rooney to fully flourish.
The makeshift defence did rather well though I would have expected Hargreaves to make more of a contribution in attack, however, it seemed he was among those who did not want to overstretch themselves before Sunday's game in which he will surely start. Gerard Pique's performance is a positive, he did well in Rio's absence but I still would play Brown against Liverpool if Rio does not recover from his slight back injury.
Credit to Bolton though: they actually played better than when they beat us back in November. Kept the ball well, controlled the game for long periods and had chances to score. Mind you, they did score. In the first instance it was clear that Wiley instructed them to wait for the whistle so Diouf should have waited and though his free-kick was brilliant, it wasn't a legitimate goal and was rightly disallowed.
Their second disallowed goal, though, makes me blush because I still could not spot why it was ruled out. I think that was a perfectly good goal.
So, what did we learn from this game? We need to have a settled team now as having one was hugely important in last season's free-flowing football that is often absent this season. Fergie did his best to keep the team fresh while still achieveing good results but now it's unlikely that we'll run out of steam the way we did in 2007 even if we play the remaining games with roughly the same starting line-up.
And we learned another thing: no matter how we play, no matter who is on the pitch and how they perform, Ronaldo can score goals. It's as easy as that. Viva Ronaldo!
Date:Thursday March 20 2008
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|Aston Villa||1||-||1||Man Utd|
|Man Utd||3||-||0||Hull City|
|2. Man City||17||12||3||2||+22||39|
|3. Man Utd||17||9||5||3||+12||32|
|4. West Ham||17||9||4||4||+10||31|
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