Date:Wednesday January 2 2008
Start with the plain facts. United won and deservedly so. We were better, created more chances and scored a brilliant goal. These are facts. Tevez scored his tenth goal of an impressive debut season - that is a fact, too.
The opinions will come later but I can tell you it wasn't an impressive victory. Rooney was still considered unfit so Fergie opted for Tevez, Nani and Ronaldo in a three-pronged attack, with surprise starter Park lurking behind them.
It would have worked quite well - but Nani and Ronaldo displayed while most of us still have reservations about them. They were often frustratingly sloppy in possession, and their desire for brilliance overshadowed their hunger for usefulness.
Of course our slow build-up was not only down to them. Carrick and O'Shea were also incredibly wasteful in possession while Anderson was a bit subdued though it must be said that what he did, he did it well. But it was always United who threatened to score and could have done that early when Evra jinked through defenders on the left, put in a cross that Tevez headed against the post from six yards.
The goal that came was brilliant, as was so many that United scored this season. Jerome went down in a heap but the ref did not blow his whistle to interrupt the game so Carrick opted for Tevez instead of the touchline. The Argentinian passed to Ronaldo whose brilliant backheel sent Tevez clear. The striker kept his composure, sent Taylor the wrong way and slotted the ball expertly into the far corner. Then he proceeded to take a dummy out of his short and placed it into his mouth, probably as a message of love to his daughter Florencia.
The rest of the half was frustratingly boring, with Birmingham looking very limited, occasionally causing a little trouble, mainly through McSheffrey. Old Trafford went deadly quiet which is sadly not unusual but for Fergie, banished to the stands thanks to his behaviour at the Reebok, it must have been more noticeable than ever.
However, the team could have raised the volume in the second half as the first 25 minutes were devastatingly one-sided. Birmingham struggled even to touch the ball as sublime one-touch football brought chance after chance. Ronaldo could have scored twice but Taylor saved well from his close header and then elaborated far too much before firing into a defender from close range after Tevez hit the post at the end of a surging run into the box. Anderson's sublime cross was somehow missed by Nani who went for a spectacular finish instead of an easy tap-in and the same man was dispossessed when he was hesitating for too long instead of shooting from a great position inside the box.
The final 20 minutes were terrible. United kept giving the ball away and only efforts of Evra and Anderson brought some composure to the Reds display, especially after ankle victim Tevez was brought off, thus injury deprived United from their best performer of the afternoon. But the defense hold firm against Birmingham's feeble efforts and the three points were never in real danger.
After the match, Sir Alex said it was like at a funeral, and he urged the crowd to get behind the team. He is right to a point of course - like at many grounds in England, Old Trafford's atmosphere is no longer what it used to be. And it's also true that a lot of people go to be entertained and do not wish to give something in return, apart from excessive amounts of money of course. But there's an other side of the coin: it's not exactly true that they are all glory hunters who only sing when the team is brilliant.
The problem is with the ban on standing, I agree with the supporters' trust on that. It's not the decree itself but the strictness with which it is carried out here. The stewards and the security men are just ruthless at times and it's quite difficult to appeal to their better nature. And it's quite a task to sing rousing songs while you are forced to sit: it's just difficult to do, even a half-qualified music teacher will tell you that...
But focus on the three points and let's hope that Old Trafford will put together a better showing next time - along with the lads, too... bring on Villa and the FA Cup!
Date:Wednesday January 2 2008
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