A little R & RBy: Ian | October 21st, 2012
We’re back! After the international break that saw a pointless match of England vs San Marino and a contribution towards Wales’ steady march back down the rankings, the little matter of Stoke turned up at Old Trafford expecting a decent match. The break saw Rooney and Welbeck both on the mark for England and both started with the hope of getting off the mark for Utd this season. They were joined by the Flying Dutchman, Scholes, Carrick, Valencia, Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra and De Gea. No Kagawa or Cleverley after international excursions. Scholes apparently also claimed tiredness, but management did not buy the story of jetlag tracing back to 2004 (joke). Anyway, the match turned out to be one for those who like goals.
Let’s get the Ferdinand T-shirt issue out of the way first. During the warm-up, all players were asked to wear anti-racism shirts. Ferdinand chose not to, as did Jones for Stoke and a number of other players across the league. Ferguson said he was disappointed with this, and will be having words. Two sides to this, as I see it. As was pointed out, Ferdinand and co. must believe pretty strongly to chose not to wear the shirt and are almost drawing more attention by not doing so. On the other hand, it was meant to be a show of unity and such actions broke the chain a bit. Overall, I just think it’s a shame that there is disagreement when ultimately both parties want the same outcome. Moving on.
Would Utd start brightly? Not especially. Scholes and RVP had some half-decent chances, but Adam for Stoke was more dangerous. He took a few efforts himself, then after Scholes having given away a free-kick (oldest sentence in the world), the ball was whipped in for Rooney to get his first goal of the season. Unfortunately, it was at the wrong end. A quick perusal of the pre-match injury list revealed the problem: Vidic (knee), Jones (knee), Rooney (internal compass hernia). The physio’s rushed on to hand him a compass and to remove the extremely painful magnet that had sent his directional abilities awry. 1-0 to Rooney and Stoke.
Stoke made the most of the good fortune by pressing forward. Crouch was the target, all ten foot nine of him, with the commentators claiming things like: ‘the ball is hoofed forward, Crouch stretches for it….’ If Crouch, of all people, is stretching for the ball, then its a bit high to begin with. But nevertheless, the strategy worked and the pressure lead to a fine move, that left Utd scrambling, in which a Walters’ shot was palmed away by De Gea.
Parity was restored by Mr.Rooney around the half-hour point who, having responded brilliantly to the innovative compass treatment, found himself on the end of a superb Van Persie cross from the left. The nod past Begovic meant the official tally of scoring could start for him. Welbeck also tried to contribute with a few missed efforts, before a curling shot clipped the bar spectacularly. A shambling figure usually, but he can strike them well at times. The attacks continued, and the lead was taken just before half time with Valencia on the right crossing low through the defender’s legs for Van Persie to steer the ball home well. 8 in 8 starts for him. Excellent work and yet another time Utd have come from behind this season.
The second half started much better than the first, in that Utd scored at the right end. Rooney, having woken up properly now, whipped in a splendid cross for Welbeck to produce a diving header that sent the ball past the keeper. Off and running for him too. Evans scored last time out against Newcastle, and he wanted another today, but his header shortly after was saved desperately, and brilliantly, by Begovic.
It seemed too one-way now and Utd, determined to continue their masterful colander impression, let Kightly power through the defence, thanks to space and a few ricochets, to somehow squeeze the ball home for 3-2. Would Stoke get the equaliser? Fortunately not, for a messy corner at the other end just after the hour led to Rooney finding space and prodding the ball off the keeper and in. 4-2 and the game settled in terms of goals.
What else? Anderson, Nani and Hernandez got a run out, replacing Welbeck, Scholes and Valencia. Needless to say, Scholes managed to get a yellow card, the only one from Utd’s perspective. Michael Owen got a few minutes of playing time, as he revels in his new job, requirements of which were that it should be nothing too strenuous, no heavy lifting, plenty of free time, paid holiday and no more than 25 miles from his front door. Perfectly reasonable and he can still perform at the top level, since you ask him, and he’s prepare to undergo any number of compromises to prove so. Evidently.
Good win, plenty of attacking, easy on the eye. Leaky defence, again. Started badly, again. Difficult run of fixtures coming up: Braga, Chelsea, Chelsea, Arsenal, Braga. Nab a couple of points from Braga without over-exerting, it would be nice to progress in the cup, and definitely need to beat Chelsea in the league, I would say. But let’s see. At least, we’re back for a while now! Comments below.