By Thomas Doyle
1. Antonio Valencia continues to dazzle
Ronald Zubar’s ridiculous attempts at tackling no doubt made the job easier for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men on Sunday, but the desire and drive of Antonio Valencia ensured that the game was closed out before Wolves could reorganise themselves during half time. It is refreshing to see that along with an abundance of talent, the Ecuadorian is such a hard worker for the team. Valencia scored the second with a great counter-attacking run at Wayne Hennessey’s goal, and grabbed two assists for Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck as well. Ferguson rightly exclaimed that his ability to cut inside (as he did to link beautifully with Welbeck for Hernandez’s second) or beat his man on the outside (for his goal) mean that very few left backs can cope with Valencia on this form. Ferguson told the club’s website that: “(Valencia’s) return could be very important…He’s such an honest, hard-working player – he can tackle, run with the ball, beat a man, cross the ball…he’s got everything really.”
2. Goal difference given a nice boost
Too often this season United have been in control of games, yet have failed to extend leads, often in favour of stepping off of the gas and seeing out a win. This approach has cost them in Europe, with an inability to close out games leading to more experienced opponents such as Basel and Benfica punishing lackadaisical defending. It was therefore pleasing that United were able to claw back some of the goal difference on Manchester City with emphatic finishing, and there was a real desire amongst the strikers to all get on the scoresheet against Wolves. Hernandez showed a sharpness on front of goal that has been somewhat missing in his second season at Old Trafford, and although Wayne Rooney wasn’t among the scorers, he contributed to the free-flowing attacking style of the performance.
3. Rooney the creator
Despite scoring United’s last five goals before the trip to Molineux, Rooney didn’t get any of the five on Sunday. However, he was still at the heart of everything United did, and Wolves could not deal with him. Zubar could well have seen red for a desperate lunge at him to earn his first yellow, emphasising the fear that Tony Connor’s men held for the English striker. Rooney played Valencia in for the second goal with a sumptuous through ball, and displayed his knack for the Scholes-esque cross-field pass that he is becoming increasingly adept at. With improved discipline and more maturity, Rooney is really beginning to dictate the tempo of games for United: there have often been debates as to his best position; whether he is more of a number nine or a number ten – but and with skilful, fast forwards linking around him and a hunger for goals himself, he can become the lynchpin of this Manchester United side for years to come.
4. Points equal pressure
At this stage of the season, games in hand mean little – it’s all about points on the board. With United snaffling up points while Manchester City stew, United’s rivals now face a monumental match against Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night. This will be perhaps the biggest test of Mancini’s side this season for numerous reasons: in just a week, City have found themselves knocked off of the top of the Premier League and out of the Europa League; Roberto Di Matteo’s men are going into the game on a fresh wave of confidence following good league and European results, and City’s players will be under pressure to close the four point gap Ferguson’s men have opened up. A 5-0 drubbing of a poor Wolves side tells us United are firmly focused on the run-in, but the midweek game will tell us if Mancini’s men have the stomach for a scrap to the finish line.
5. A sign of the future
With the game over as a contest at 4-0, 19-year-old Paul Pogba was given another chance in the centre of midfield for half an hour, and impressed with accurate passing and a desire to take responsibility of the ball. While no word has been given over his contract as of yet, it seems more likely that the talented Frenchman will be staying, though his agent, and the lure of Junvetus’ generous wages, may still change his mind. The absence of Dimitar Berbatov on the substitutes’ bench, despite no other forwards being amongst the seven, merely served to confirm the wide-held belief that the Bulgarian will move on in the summer. His agent Emil Danchev told The Guardian that: “We should accept that he’ll (Ferguson) try to build a team for the next three or four years and Berbatov will not be part of this team. Ferguson wants to change the playing style, to implement more speed. I was pleased with United’s position as they said they’ll not oppose Berbatov’s move in the summer.” Therefore, while there was space for a potential United player of the future in Pogba, Berbatov already seems to be consigned to the club’s history.