Date:Sunday March 30 2008
With the exception of Guardian's notorious United-hater Paul Doyle, the press hurried to praise United for the manner of their victory.
Doyle refused to give any credit to United in his minute-by-minute report but it is usual now so I won't get annoyed about it as I used to do. Especially not as we did very, very well yesterday to keep up that comfortable distance between us and the pursuers.
I must admit though that I wasn't impressed in the first 20 minutes or so. Ronaldo's brilliant, backflicked goal aside, United did not impose themselves enough on Villa and though our defence held firm, the trademark attacking football was conspicous by its absence. I thought then we would be in for a long and difficult evening.
How very wrong I was. Awoken from their initial slumber by some unknown thing, United raised their game and sealed the win with a wonderfully crafted move on the half hour mark.
After that, it was mostly champagne football. Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez changed positions so quickly and fluidly that deeply troubled Villa's defense which included Nigel Reo-Coker at right-back. Combined with smooth passing by Scholes, Carrick and Giggs, the front three were unstoppable.
Rooney missed a great chance before Maloney spurned a golden opportunity early on. Then Rooney's time finally came: bringing down Ronaldo's outrageous backheeled pass, he rounded Carson and slotted home with ease. He deserved that goal to silence the doubters who did not see what a magnificent contribution he makes to the team even when he does not score.
The game was over but Villa tried to claw one back to keep the scoreline respectable but they left themselves vulnerable on the break in the process. And United's counters were deadly, with Rooney profiting again from neat exchanges between the front three. He could have had a hat-trick had the linesman not ruled out his goal for offside - correctly.
Yet it was a very, very encouraging performance. When we upped the tempo, Villa just could not cope with our passing, movement and pace. They were outclassed in every department except near our area where they looked sharp, unlike our defenders who seemed to be already in Rome. But we were solid enough when the game was still a contest and relaxed only when the important matters were settled.
At the same time last season, United produced an astonishing performance: hosting Blackburn on March 31, we came from behind to hammer home four in the last 30 minutes. So it's no surprise that on this weekend we could enjoy a stylish home victory - but hopefully this time it will not be followed by a defeat in Rome.
Date:Sunday March 30 2008
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