Berba Sends United Back Where They Belong
They say that hard-fought, gritty 1-0 victories win championships. Well, United better hope they do because we can't seem to win by a greater margin of late!
Since beating Stoke 5-0 we had the following results in the league: 0-0, 1-0, 0-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 3-0, 1-0, 1-0.
Of course the 3-0 win over Chelsea stands out but in the other eight games we never scored more than one. We've added another notch today, beating Bolton 1-0 with a late, late Berbatov goal and, most importantly, climbed to the top of the league table for the first time this season.
There are many negatives to mention about the performance. Once again, we had little penetration and not enough chances to show for our dominance though we can point to the fact that Jaaskalainen had to make 13 saves. Once again, the midfielders (especially Anderson but in a lesser extent Carrick and Fletcher as well) dally too much and their decision-making is not quick enough. Anderson, for instance, could have scored had he realised that he had all the time in the world to control the ball and try to put it into the net when he connected with a chip from Neville in the first half.
The attackers still spent too much time with their backs to the goal and Ronaldo beat the full-back very often only for his delivery from the wide areas to let him down. And again, the opposition usually came off much better in 50/50 duels, they were simply more willing to chase down every ball and close down every area so we were frequently crowded out.
34 goals scored after 21 games... in order to match last season's total we would have to score 46 goals in the remaining 17 games... not likely.
But of course the league is not mainly about goals scored but about points won and in that case, United are the best at the moment. This is the most important but, after my array of negatives, I would like to point out a few positive things as well.
First, the defence. Obviously, they must be lauded after equalling Chelsea's record of 10 consecutive clean sheets in the league. Vidic is an absolute terminator, I seriously doubt that he's a normal human, he must have been constructed in some factory. I just can't accept that he's 'one of us'. Jonny Evans is a raw talent with good heading, tackling ability and positional sense. Technically he's not very gifted and currently, especially with Evra out, we do not have a ball-playing defender in the back four.
Dimitar Berbatov scored a vital goal and Carlos Tevez gave a typical, battling performance which was, this time, combined with good passing and control. He was justly rewarded with an assist. And though we lacked cutting edge, we dominated the hosts and fully deserved the three points.
The pressure is on Liverpool now and we have two cup games to play before the league program resumes at the Hawthorns. Hopefully we'll have Rio back by then and it's not out of question that against Everton on February 2 we'll have both Rooney and Evra available.
It would be pleasing if we started scoring goals. However, if we just keep up not conceding them... fine for me if in the end the Premiership trophy remains at Old Trafford.