Manchester United (in the end) comfortably romped to a 4-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers.
There was a talking point even before the match started. Where was Rio Ferdinand? According to Mike Phelan, Rio had a few ‘knocks’ from training, it was decided playing Rio wasn’t worth the risk with big games ahead. I’m hoping by ‘knocks’ Phelan is not referring to a reoccurrence of Rio’s back injury. The absence of Wayne Rooney was less surprising, I fully expected Rooney not to start against Bolton.
The first half was relatively quiet with both sides failing to create any real goal scoring opportunities. United’s only real efforts on goal came from a long range volley from Paul Scholes, a snap shot volley from Berbatov and a ballooned effort from Johnny Evans.
Thankfully we saw the return of an old friend to open the scoring. That’s Own Goal’s 11th goal of the season; surely Fergie can secure a £5 million deal to secure his services for next season? What an excellent finish by Jlloyd Samuel, many a striker would like to finish in the same cool manner as Samuel. I could breathe a little easier now!
Just before half time we saw possibly the save of the season from Edwin Van der Sar. Not only was it a great save but having just taken the lead it was a vital save. A shot from the edge of the penalty area from Muamba was heading for the corner of the goal but like a salmon, Van der Sar leapt at full stretch using the full frame of his 6ft 5 inch body to tip the ball around the post. Save of the season for everyone else?
We turned the screw during the second half, the pace at which we played was much better. However, we never really dominated Bolton and until we scored the second goal there was always the threat of Bolton causing an upset. Giggs fed a superb ball into space for Fletcher to run on to, Fletcher’s shot was saved by Jussi Jääskeläinen but the rebound fell to Berbatov who scored his 11th (and later 12th) league goal of the season – a huge sigh of relief followed. The second goal came at a perfect time (69th minute), early enough not to have a nail biting tense finish and it took the sting out of Bolton.
The two star men for United were Nemanja Vidic and Nani, a close call on who actually deserved the man of the match award.
In my preview blog I mentioned the threat of Kevin Davies; earlier this season he was a real handful at Old Trafford so our defence were going to be in for a scrap. The man to step up for the battle was Vidic – the man was a beast! Every time Bolton chipped a lofted ball up to their front men Vidic won the ball every time, Davies did not kick a kick or head all game. A great defensive performance.
Nani was involved in three of the four goals scored. Nani was quiet in the first half but his wing play during the second half was of the highest order (turning Ricketts inside out) creating goals for Berbatov and Gibson. I was also impressed with Nani’s appetite for work rate, tracking back several times to tackle the opposition. Nani rightly deserved the loud cheer he received from United fans after the final whistle.
Yesterday saw an interesting twist in the title race. Arsenal dropped two points as Kevin Phillips dealt Arsène Wenger’s team a massive blow with an injury time goal. As Birmingham was considered one of Arsenal’s more difficult remaining fixtures it was important for United, Arsenal dropped points. We are now four points clear but Arsenal are by no means out of the title race, a draw between United & Chelsea next Saturday and the title race is as you were.
I expected Chelsea to be victorious over a tiring Aston Villa team, not by the 7-1 score line however. Chelsea definitely laid down a statement and aided their goal difference. It was important for us to respond in the evening kick off, which we duly did.