Date:Monday November 20 2006
United remained three points clear at the top of the Premiership table, following the 2-1 victory at Sheffield United. The Reds have gone behind early but turned the game around thanks to two splendid strikes from Wayne Rooney.
OK, it wasn't the most glorious afternoon of our season. But the positives have once again far outnumbered the negatives and three points are definitely worth three points at any case (what a statement!).
You may remember my preview of the Sheffield game: I've singled out former United man Keith Gillespie as the man to watch. Well, I could have felt vindicated after 14 minutes but instead a surge of terror struck me. I must admit I was terrified we were going to do an Arsenal and go away with a scrappy point.
My fears seemed to be confirmed as United missed chance after chance in the first half and I've long known I could not escape into the world of optimism, I can't say 'it's impossible to withstand such a pressure' as we all know it is possible.
Sheffield United were very unambitious and I can't blame them. They were winning 1-0 against the league leaders, looking forward to a major upset - but our fighting spirit shone through. It had been a major problem for United in recent years to break down lowly, unambitious teams who set out to defend in numbers from the start of the game. The game against Reading brought back some of this old inadequacy but the games against Newcastle and Copenhagen gave some reason for cautious optimism.
Still, we needed tow brilliant individual efforts to find an equaliser. Gary Neville's perfect cross found Rooney who chested it down and drilled into the far corner.
It was a perfect goal but it seemed the Blades were going to hang on for the draw. United's attacking play was a tad slow, our crossing wasn't really effective but still, chances were being created and squandered. Then Evra has delivered a fine cross, and Rooney's first-time shot beat Kenny again. It was another perfect moment, as Evra was often maligned last season (and even this season) for his sub-standard crossing. In this game he had a few poor deliveries but this one was perfect - though it's true it needed an in-form Rooney to finish it off perfectly.
Rooney's form is a credit to Ferguson and to the boy himself. Both were patient, both believed he would come good sooner or later and their arguments proved sound as Wazza is back dazzling defenders and scoring goals. I'm looking forward to his 'duel' with Didier Drogba who is playing the best football of his career.
Our midfielders controlled the things on Saturday but they were unable to provide a stroke of inspiration to do serious damage. Yet I believe both Scholes and Carrick are the kind of players who are the most effective when given some space to exploit. That applies for Ronaldo, too, though he failed to prove it when he was given enough time and space to take there a piano - but he somehow failed to find the net. I think it goes down to lack of concentration what we really cannot afford this week.
So the verdict? We were not impressive, but did not allow them to breathe after their goal, created chances and managed to come back from behind so I daresay United have passed another serious test, no matter how easy it had looked at the first glance.
Date:Monday November 20 2006
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