United Break The Record And Turn On The Style
We've been waiting for this a long time. Keeping clean sheets and picking up results is a nice thing but this is United we are talking about and most of us expected a real, blows-everyone-away performance from the Red Machine.
Well it looks like things are starting to fall very well indeed. Manchester United beat Chelsea's record of 10 clean sheets in a row today - and finally it's no hard-fought, sweaty 1-0 but a stylish massacre.
Fergie surprisingly included Rio Ferdinand and Ji-sung Park in the line-up and though traffic congestion delayed the kickoff, the visiting fans were in full voice and full of optimism. Justifiably so: despite a horrible injury crisis United put out a very strong team, with the Giggs-Carrick midfield which looked set to damage West Brom with incisive passing.
And my god they did. Berbatov, Carrick and Giggs combined sometimes sublimely and an otherwise lively West Brom simply could not cope with them and an energetic, hyperactive Carlos Tevez who clearly wanted to prove that his excellent displays in the last two games were no flukes.
The first goal was brilliant: intricate passing by Giggs and Berbatov on the edge of the box then the Bulgarian played a lovely one-two with Carrick and finished with ease and composure. West Brom were rattled by the goal and could have gone two down in minutes had referee Rob Styles realised that Brunt (I think) actually fouled Gary Neville in the box - but he waved play on.
Then Styles found himself in the middle of attention again just when I was beginning to worry that missed chances - Ronaldo spurned an absolute golden one - would come back to haunt us. But with five minutes left to play everything changed: Robinson and Park were going for a fifty-fifty ball. The Korean got there first but Robinson, studs off the ground, still went in with both feet and was shown a straight red card. Rightly so, in United fans' opinion but the home supporters obviously disagreed...
Minutes later it was game over: Scott Carson pathetically tried to argue that he was fouled but there was no contact whatsoever from any United player as the keeper simply dropped Giggs' cross. Tevez, lurking there, tapped the ball into the empty net, easy finish, 2-0.
The second half started with West Brom showing some intent and they soon hit the post after some great one-touch football. Phew, record almost gone there.
But it woke United up, we seized control again and never relinquished it afterwards. Our forwards and midfielders were enjoying space afforded to them but it was Nemanja Vidic who applied the finishing touch: from Giggs' corner he powered a header to the underside of the net.
3-0 and now United players really began to enjoy themselves. Giggs, Tevez, Berbatov and Carrick: West Brom had no answer to the passing and the movement of these four who were all equally brilliant and all shared a common aim: they wanted Ronaldo to score a league goal again. And the Portuguese obliged, running on to Giggs' sweet pass and firing it past Carson after brilliant build-up play by Carrick and Tevez.
4-0 but it still wasn't enough for United - and for Ronaldo who clearly drew energy from the injustice of having been flagged offside when he has actually timed his run perfectly not long before the fourth goal. And it was him who got the fifth: Tevez released Berbatov on the right who turned back, driften in then sent a perfect pass into the path of Ronaldo who fired it in low to complete the rout.
There was only one thing left now: to break Chelsea's record. West Brom caused some uncomfortable moments, Jay Simpson was a handful all evening but in the end our defence proved impenetrable again - Edwin must be forgetting what it feels like picking the ball out of his net!
Great performance, great result. We've reached the 50 point mark, Park, Rio and even Wes Brown played without any problems and we can now cheer on Wigan and Boro in the comfortable knowledge that United did what they had to do. It's our rivals who have reasons to worry right now.