Tonight's Positives: Welbeck's Class And More
OK, now I got the moaning out of the way, time to look at the positives from tonight's game against Derby County. After all, Manchester United won 4-2 and advanced to the final of the Carling Cup.
First and foremost, I have to acknowledge Danny Welbeck's contribution. He was rightly criticised after the first leg for failing to do intelligent runs, to move into space, for not being brave enough. Now he was everywhere, always wanted to be in the thick of the action and his pass to O'Shea before our second goal was just sublime. With two defenders breathing down his neck, he picked out the Irishman with such precision that belied his age. His talent is clearly there and it's fair to say that every United fan is praying that he will make it.
Then we have to talk about Nani. I'm fairly sure he did not read my article before the game (doesn't strike me as the type who's browsing the net for some quick reading, you know) yet he played like a man agreeing with my every word. He played like a man who had to prove something and wanted to get involved all the time and even his decision-making was better than usual. And that goal, the opener, which blew Derby away after a bright start, was simply stunning, an absolute screamer of a shot.
I loved to see O'Shea scoring - I have a soft spot for unlikely goalscorers, if you can call the Statistically Best Finisher Of The 2006/07 Premier League season an unlikely goalscorer. (Check it, he had 5 shots on target that season, 4 went in, including the unforgettable, dare I say it legendary one at Anfield).
Carlos Tevez also had a great game. His lack of pace is an issue but today he pulled himself together and his first touch and technique did not let him down. Though the Derby defence was all over the sea at Rafael's cross, he still deserves credit for a sweet finish. And he won a penalty, of course.
Rafael's performance. Once again, he showed what an outstanding player he could be even though the night started on a sour note for him with that crude, nasty challenge that rightly earned him a booking and ended on a sour note when he had to be substituted. But in between he supplied a brilliant cross to Tevez for the third goal, he could have had a goal after intricate build-up play with the classy Welbeck and generally, his attacking intent and silky skills caused huge problems for the visitors.
And (whisper it) I even enjoyed Giles Barnes' free-kick, much the way I enjoyed Dean Ashton's majestic goal back in May. In both cases the game was effectively over by that point so the goals didn't harm United much and their quality could be admired. Great free-kick on a very enjoyable night of football. Shame about those injuries.