"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!. Now if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers and saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain't you!"
~ Rocky Balboa
Ladies and gentlemen, Manchester United's unbeaten streak in the Premier League came to an end after 29 games last night. I'm gonna boil it down to one word for you all.
They wanted it more than us last night. You could see it everywhere. Christophe Berra's fearless marking of Vidic at corners, George Elokobi's face during his goal celebration, Mick McCarthy's defiant fist in the air after his second goal.
Haters gonna hate, but we ain't haters. We're Manchester United fans, and we have a lot to be optimistic about. We have a 4 point lead over Arsenal and the title is still in our hands. Our biggest enemy isn't any of the other teams, it's ourselves. So we're gonna have to pick ourselves up, dust down our pants, and get going again.
Inspiration you say? Well, I know just the fans we should look to as our role models. These guys:
All three of those Sikh dudes have had season tickets next to the opposition dugouts for a long time. They're always there, win or lose. In fact, there are no other fans that I see there almost every matchday but them. So I say we follow their lead and stick by the team we love.
Bit too far there Gary.no comments
Smashed doors, broken teacups, our unbeaten run shattered - and we went down with a whimper. This is an outrage.
Wolves 2-1 United
The run is over, we were beaten. Though Nani got us off to a flyer, Elokobi and Doyle conspire to give Wolves their victory. David took a gamble and beat Goliath, then tea-bagged him and pissed in his face.
When Nani scored with 2:47 on the clock, you felt that it was going to be another formality. Fletcher played him the ball, and he streaked into the box, he stops, assesses his options, decides to cut in on his left foot and smashes it to Wayne Henessey's near post, past him in a flash. 1-0 in the blink of an eye.
Another early goal, and really scintillating football from United. Rooney had an opportunity, set up by Berbatov, first time from around the penalty spot. He tried to chip the keeper, but the keeper saved it comfortably. United on top in the early exchanges.
The ball is being stroked around the bobbly, cut up Molineux pitch as United tried to demonstrate to the world how football should be played positively, despite the atrocious conditions. Short passing was the tactic tonight for Fergie, and boy oh boy did it turn out to be a misguided tactic.
The exhibition halted when George Elokobi puts the fly in the ointment for us after 10 minutes of the match gone, squaring the game up to one apiece. Matt Jarvis, on the left, after a short corner routine drifts the ball in and Elokobi powers it past van der Sar. 1-1. Calamity.
And the balance of the match definitely began to shift towards the home side from then on.
United were giving away cheap free-kicks on the edge of the box. Rafael, Evans (in for Rio) and Vidic all guilty of giving Wolves chances to swing the ball into the box. Some of the challenges were largely innocuous, but if the ref gives it, you can't do anything about it.
And it was from one of these free-kicks that the unthinkable happened. Wolves scored. Doyle? Elokobi? Whoever gets it in the end, it was another goal conceded. And United were behind away from home. Not the first time it's happened, and it certainly felt like it wasn't over. 1-2HT.
The second half started with a change in midfield, Carrick, who started alongside Fletcher, was replaced by Paul Scholes, playing the old aces again to try and bring the side to life.
And really, I don't recall very many clear opportunities on goal for either team after about the 60th minute. The only chance that stands out in my memory was Jamie O'Hara's shot which van der Sar saved easily after a counter by Wolves as we looked for another goal.
Nothing worked. And I've got nothing more to say about the match. 1-2 it finished. I can't be the only one who's seething about it.
Something I've been saying to anyone who cares to listen immediately after the match was that United didn't play the right tactics in light of the conditions. I made reference to it in my round-up, but let's try and think about it for a second.
1. The pitch was shite. No two ways about it. Divots, uneven portions, small squares of what seemed like relaid turf; let's say it wasn't the carpet you'd expect from the Old Trafford or Emirates pitches.
With this in mind, let's just think practically.
2. Would you think that trying to play neat passing football on that kind of surface will bring you any joy? Sure, it's positive play, but it's not particularly effective play. United are in the results business, Arsenal are all about looking pretty with little regard to what happens at the end.
There were lots of performances which weren't up to scratch tonight, particularly: the strikers, Rooney and Berbatov (and Chicharito when he came on later in the match), the central midfield, Fletcher and Carrick, (who was replaced by Scholes), and even Ryan Giggs who I'd been praising so lavishly in the past few posts just had a severe off day.
Wolves also played very valiantly, this musn't be ignored. The shape that Mick McCarthy played his team in were effective in limiting United's play. Sure, the early goal conceded could be put up as an argument against them, but other than that, there were no real hiccups for them. Though I, and Amer, would hate to admit it, we were, not so much outplayed, but outdone on football terms in this particular match.
But this is where we have to react positively as supporters. It's behind us, there's nothing that we could possibly do, other than rage - and that's just stupid. One defeat is one defeat. All the other clubs have had at least 4 or more. And the gap at the top is still more than 3 points, let's not forget. Have your moments of anger and frustration, but let's focus on the big picture. Belief was always key with United. Let's not disappoint our team.
EDIT: Best Player: Kevin Doyle. He played tremendously, his passing was excellent, his running and general forward play should be noted and learnt from, considering the conditions, and he has a hand in the winner for Wolves.
Where We Stood, Where We Stand
It was a cracking night of football before our match with Wolves. There were 3 matches with 7 goals or more, with one particularly interesting result for us United fans.
I'll admit, before the game started, I was going to talk a bit about how I had called the Newcastle-Arsenal match score almost exactly and accurately (it ended 4-4). But now, I won't. Arsenal did drop points though, which is still a positive. We had a chance to go 7 ahead, but didn't take it. Instead, our lead is reduced to 4 so it's not a complete disaster. The fate of the season still rests in United's hands.
We're both getting back on track soon, but we'll keep the Gamedays and the Aftermaths rolling as best we can!
United head on down to the Molineux to take on Mick McCarthy's tough Wolves team. The last time we played this team, the Parkinator scored twice including a 93rd minute winner to give us a 2-1 win. On a sad note, the reverse fixture earlier in the season was also where Hargreaves' hamstring gave in.
Chasing the TItle:
This will be game number 25 this season and we're still top of the league with a healthy 5 point lead over second-placed Arsenal. We're pretty much back on track with the rest of our title challengers in terms of games played except for Man Shitty who've played a game more. This means that the hard work starts now. They always say that it's a challenge to get to the top of the league, but it's even more difficult to stay there. This is our chance to prove to the rest of the league that we've got another gear to shift in to.
As always, follow us after the jump for the analysis and predictions
Apologies, everyone, for how late this is. I've been out with a fever, among other things, which left me thinking that lying around would've been a much better idea than doing things. But, I'll make it up to you guys!
United 3-1 Aston Villa
Rooney grabs the brace, rather than Berbatov as I had tried to prophesise in the Gameday post, and Nemanja Vidic scores a beauty, especially for a defender. Darren Bent grabbed one for Villa when it was 2-0 to United, but the result never really looked like it was in any doubt. The march carries on.
And the game started quite incredibly. 49 seconds on the clock, barely enough time for you to adjust that wedgy you got walking to the TV, and Rooney smashes home an outrageously crafted goal -- straight from an Edwin van der Sar freekick. Yes, the Dutchman who has set the end of the season as his retirement date came up with an assist less than a minute into the game. Class. 1-0.
For the next 44 minutes, the game largely evened out. Ryan Giggs continued to pull the strings in the midfield, which was obviously very impressive. There were chances, but it was the (soon-to-be) 40 year old inbetween the opposition's sticks which kept the score down as low as it was. Nani, Giggs, Berbatov and even Patrice Evra after he was released by Giggs had chances on goal, but they were all superbly dealt with by Brad Friedel. The only major talking point before our second goal was a penalty claim by United that was turned down as Dunne impeded Nani's run into the box. I didn't think it was a penalty but hey, on another day it certainly could've been called.
After prodding at Villa's defense for a while, United made the second breakthrough after a classic, mazy run from Nani was met with an inch-perfect cross for Rooney. All he had to do was tap it in with his left foot. Seriously, it was that good. More on that in the reaction though.
Villa definitely improved on their lackluster first-half performance after the break. They were more adventurous and this culminated in a few attacks on Big E's goal. Although this was pretty impressive from Villa, the best they could do for the moment was blaze a free-kick over the bar. When United were on the attack, we seemed as dangerous as ever. Nani, Rooney, and Berbatov all combining with epic levels of creativity to try and put United ahead by another goal. Unfortunately, our pressure backfired when a corner led to a swift Villa counterattack by the English trio of Young, Downing, and Bent.
Young takes on three United players and hits a through ball to Downing who is in acres of space with inly Vidic standing in the way of a cross to Bent. He hits it smoothly towards Bent and an easy tap-in brings the game back to life. Normally I would be worried, but because of recent events, and also because of how the game had panned out earlier, I was pretty sure that we'd put the game to rest with another goal.
My intuition was vindicated when Nemanja Vidic won a header from a corner and nodded it to Rooney. Using his immense strength, Rooney lays it off to Vidic who, without a milisecond of hesitation, smacks it JUST before two slide tackles come in left and right (very Indiana Jones if you ask me). It doesn't just bobble into the net as you'd expect from a defender. Far from it. It fucking curves like a banana and hits the top shelf. Brad Friedel's studs never left the ground.
Sure the game took more interesting turns, Young hit the bar, Rooney was denied a hat-trick by an excellent Richard Dunne tackle, and Berbatov missed a spectacular chance, but this game will be remembered for two things - Rooney's brace, and Vidic's wondergoal.
After the final whistle blew, there was one thought in my mind - This was typical United. Not typical as in "struggling for most of the game, only to score late on and celebrate a victory." But typical as in "we destroyed them with minimal effort."
Sure we worked hard. Beautiful football is never effortless. But to a couch fan like me, the players were making it look so simple. Carrick was QB-ing the attacks, Nani was running at the Villa defence for fun, O'Shea didn't look like an tree imported from the rainforest. Overall, I was very impressed with both the final score and the manner of our victory.
As well as the brilliant play, the goals were also classics. The first goal, I couldn't tell whether Big E meant to pass it to Rooney, but I assume he did. That ball was bouncing and Wayne absolutely smashes it. Not high and above the bar, but just enough to power it past Friedel before it dips slightly to end up in the back of the net. Goal number two was a marvel from Nani. We all know he's capable of those runs, but man... that cross was so perfect. David Beckham would be proud. It floated in and was just out of Dunne's reach but just enough for Rooney to tap-in with his left food.
The third goal was so magnificent that I'm saving an entire paragraph for it. The build up to it was nothing. In fact, I wasn't expecting a goal at all. Even when Vidic had the ball at his feet, there was still some doubt in my mind that the ball was going to go in. Why? Well the most obvious reason was that you wouldn't expect Vidic to score from his feet with the ball at least 16 yards away from the goal. Secondly, there was a mass of humanity in the box. In fact, just as he hit it, two Villa players came sliding in to block the shot. But anywho, it curved like a mo-fo. I know I said it was similar to a banana before, but now that I think about it, the angle of bend on that shot was more than the average banana. It was just beautiful. Youtube it, Footytube it. JUST WATCH IT.
Player of the game? I'm tempted to give it to Brad Friedel because without him, Villa would have lost by much more. In fact, I will give the award to Brad Friedel because this is my blog and you get no say in this. But yeah, that man was a beast. His best save was probably a flash shot from Rooney which was powerful and hit at a difficult height. Brad instantly dove to his left and used his arms strength to keep the ball out. Brilliant. Honorable mention to Rooney though. Two goals? Welcome back.
Where We Stand
I'll keep this brief seeing as it's literally the eleventh hour and a preview is relatively meaningless now! But!
United play Aston Villa at Old Trafford tonight, at 20:00 GMT - a cruel 4am here in Malaysia.
Chasing the Title:
Arsenal kick off 15 minutes before us, playing Everton at home. We're 5 points clear with the same number of games played, so technically, we'll know the fate of the Gunners by the 80th minute against Villa - and matching Arsenal will keep the gap the same.
Villa are D-L-D-W-W in their last 5 matches, so they're not doing too bad for themselves. Each match won or lost had only one game in it, so expect a tight game tonight.
Their last Premiership match was a tight 2-1 win vs Wigan.
Players to Look Out for:
Obviously, Darren Bent is a real dangerman for Villa. He grabbed the winner against City on his debut, and we know the kind of threat he can possess. Couple that with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young and you've got a tricky side to try and defend against. They're pacey, they're relatively precise and they've got a good bunch of players.
Another man to look out for would be Marc Albrighton who shone against us in the reverse fixture at Villa Park. Hopefully, Evra (or whoever lines up at left-back) will be able to shut him down, and limit one of their most fruitful avenues to score.
On the Home Front:
Vidic, Ferdinand, Rafael and Evra are all slated to return at the back. As is Edwin van der Sar.
Though, Anders Lindegaard impressed me, on the whole, on his debut, I think Edwin's cool and experienced head between the sticks is needed against such a dangerous Villa side. What we don't want now is a sloppy defeat at home.
- It's going to be tight. Prepare to have your nails bitten off.
- Berbatov and Rooney will combine tonight to thrilling effect. Unless Chicharito gets a second consecutive start, which, although I doubt, is an outside possibility.
- After being voted United's greatest ever player, I think Ryan Giggs will start and be the architect of the first few chances, and he will definitely line a goal up for someone.
I foresee a high scoring match. I said it would be tight, but it could either be 4-0 to us, or 2-1 or 3-2. Being the optimist, I'll go 4-0, Berbatov to grab a brace. I'll pray I get it right!
Glory, glory, Man United!
Southampton 1-2 United
I'll be honest, I missed the first half because I slept through my alarm. So I'll rely on highlights to tell me what happened. I know that Richard Chaplow scored a minute before half-time to put the Saints ahead at the break and that Michael Owen hit the post with a cross-cum-shot when it was still 0-0. And that of the starting XI, only Paul Scholes, Anderson and Chicharito I'd put in my regular starting line-up. Oh, and Anders Lindegaard got his debut.
But when the second half started, all I could think was that it was carnage. Sir Alex's "strong side" looked bereft of ideas, and down on morale. Again, a lack of width let United down - as against Blackpool.
Wes Brown was on for Fabio as a second half substitute, not sure whether it was tactical or an injury, but definitely not the only change I wanted to see seeing as it was a disastrous team put out. It didn't really help with our problem wide, though. This is how I think Fergie envisaged the side to look like:
Fabio | Smalling | Evans | O'Shea (c)
Gibson | Anderson
Chicharito | Owen
I think with that fancy diamond in the middle, there was meant to be a domination of the centre. Didn't happen that way, though. Southampton were just too good for those guys.
But sooner rather than later, Sir Alex swapped it around. Fabio, as I'd metioned, off along with Gibson and Anderson in favour of Brown, Giggs and Nani, saw a slight shift in the shape. Nani went to the left wing, Obertan to the right with Scholes and Giggs in the middle. That looks more like a United formation, now, doesn't it?
And as soon as width was introduced, the game was turned on its head. To be fair, when Owen scored, only those who started the game were involved. Obertan had the ball down the right flank, got past his man with his pace and a bit of trickery, centred the ball which hit one of the Southampton defenders' arms on the way through, but maybe fortuitously caused it to bounce just right for Michael Owen to nod it home on 65 minutes. 1-1.
Chicharito then wraps up the comeback slotting the ball past the Bialkowski in the Southampton goal after Giggs threaded him a video game-esque throughball on the edge of the box. From nothing, a 2-1 lead.
And you really are taken aback as to how three substitutions can change a team from looking like deserving to lose to playing football that you'd say was fair for winning the game. Southampton were put under more pressure in the second half, but certainly not as much pressure as you'd hope from a Manchester United side. It was enough, though, to take us through to the next round. The Cup dream is still on.
First off, I really must point out that it's very very irritating when you have two smart-alecky colour commentators calling the game. They alternated between who would call the plays play-by-play and who would provide the "analysis". All in all, a complete shambles. Onto the serious stuff:
When John O'Shea is captain leading the team out, you know you're going to be in for a tough match. No offence to Sheasy, and I've made it clear in the past, but I really don't think he's cut out to be a first team player. He's laboriously slow and is almost as lethargic as Carrick is whenever he's on the ball. Not to mention he's in his mid-20s and he's captaining the side. That only means one thing. Youth.
Ok, I like the idea of youth players, or at least fringe players who're slightly younger and can potentially be there for the future, but seeing as they struggled against League One opposition, you do fear the worst. Sir Alex plays the players in a 4-1-2-1-2 formation, but in the end, it just sags back into some kind of 4-5-1/4-4-2. Gibson isn't a winger, nor is Anderson, and Scholes is obviously the central midfielder, so immediately, you're without width. And United is all about width and wingers. We could probably claim copyright on the idea, if it hadn't existed for about hundred years.
Giggs and Nani coming on was obviously the catalyst for the change for better. Not only did they provide width, but they're also creative players. You could technically see Obertan as a wide player, but at the moment, his creativity's down low. But again, to be fair to the guy, he did assist for the equaliser.
On a positive note, Anders Lindegaard played really well in his debut. Sure, he didn't keep a clean sheet, but you have saved Chaplow's shot? It sat up beautifully for him and he smashed it into the roof of the net - and Lindegaard even got a hand on it. So, all in all, he had a pretty good debut. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do. I think, seeing as Edwin retires at the end of the season, the keepers we've got at the club now are good enough. But that's for now, you never know, Kuszczak and Lindegaard could end up really shite later on.
Look ahead to the next round
I'd like to say I waited to post this the night after intentionally, but then I'd be lying.
Truth is, I slept through a bit of the match and wanted to watch a full replay before letting rip on it, and had other things to attend to on Sunda---now's not the time for excuses, anyway. Point is, he's the draw for the next round, and it's a cracker:
Yes, we got non-league opposition. They're the final non-league club left in this season's FA Cup. This could either be a good thing, or a bad thing. But I'm seeing it as a pretty straightforward run into the Quarter finals, don't you? Tap some wood folks!
Here's the complete draw, straight from TheFA.com:
1 West Ham United v Burnley
2 Notts County or Manchester City v Aston Villa
3 Stoke City v Brighton & Hove Albion
4 Birmingham City v Sheffield Wednesday
5 Leyton Orient v Arsenal
6 Everton or Chelsea v Reading
7 Manchester United v Crawley Town
8 Fulham or Tottenham Hotspur v Bolton Wanderers or Wigan Athletic
Also, s'more good news: City picked up a replay against Notts County. ie. they've now got an extra game in their schedule. More games, more fatigue. More fatigue, higher chance of them losing. Higher chance of them losing, the better it looks for us at the top of the league.
Let's have another Treble season!
United face Southampton in the 4th round of the FA Cup later tonight in the late kick-off after seeing off Liverpool 1-0 on King Kenny's return in the last round.
Chasing the Cup:
It was pretty rough last round. Also, in addition to what Amer said the last time we posted on the FA Cup, if you draw, you have a replay. Just to clarify.
This is tricky since I haven't watched a Championship match since it was renamed a few years ago. But when it was "Division One", I followed it pretty closely! Anyway, Southampton are W-W-W-D-L in their last 5, the last game was a 2-0 defeat away to Tranmere. The third "W" was the 6-0 win over Ben Weasley-Amos' Oldham, so they're not doing too badly for themselves. It should also be noted that they dispatched Blackpool 2-0 in the last round of the FA Cup.
But as we know, Blackpool and Manchester United have a difference: the latter can come back from being 2-0 down.
Join us after the jump for the rest of the analysis.
Blackpool 2-3 United
This is how we fared: like absolute shite, then like the kings we know United are. In another 'game of two halves', Berbatov finishes once to give us hope, then Chicharito finds the equaliser before Berbatov steals the winner 3 minutes before the start of 10 minutes of added time to account for the very concerning injury to Rafael. Basically, we're re-inventing the phrase "Comeback Kings".
Steady possession early in the match wasn't put to good use and Blackpool showed everyone why they're so highly rated on 14 minutes, when Craig Cathcart, former United LEGEND (well, not quite), powered his header home from a Charlie Adam corner - not the last time we'd have to endure that. 0-1.
And Blackpool didn't relinquish their stranglehold on this football match either. United were really all over the place, in truth. Sir Alex played what could be described loosely as a "4-3-shite-formation", playing Gibson, Fletcher and Scholes in the middle, Rooney wide left and Nani wide right with Berbatov leading on his own up front. This played right into the hands of the Tangerines, it seemed, as they had more penetration whenever they were in possession.
A poor Smalling clearance found its way to Luke Varney who squared it for Grandin (GRON-DAN), unmarked in the centre of the box - but thankfully, his shot flew high over the bar. 0-1 it stayed.
But right at the end of the half, the corner conceded by van der Sar after he tipped David Vaughan's shot wide was again taken by Charlie Adam, and again the back of the net was found - this time by Dudley Junior "DJ" Campbell. No wonder he refers to himself has "DJ", it's so much more badass.
You can imagine the kind of outrage I had when the whistle for half-time was blown.
And I'll admit, I was getting ready with a seething assessment of United, how Gibson shouldn't be playing, how miffed I was that Fletcher started ahead of Anderson - but when the second half started and I saw that that Welsh bloke who's been hanging around OT for the last 20 years was on, I held back a bit.
It almost blew up in our faces, though, as Gary Taylor-Fletcher found himself on the ball in the box on the by-line. Incredibly fortunately for Evra/Giggs who were meant to be on that side of the field, his low cross was cleared out by Rafael.
But United were getting stronger as the second half wore on, though. But it wasn't until around the hour mark that the tides really began to shift.
After, what can now be said to be, an inspired substition: bringing Rooney off in place of Chicharito, United started racking up shots on goal like nobody's business. The first half saw I think 6 or 7 shots on target for both teams combined. ON-target, mind. By the end of the second half, United had amassed 15 shots on target to Blackpool's 4. That may even be 4 shots on target from the first half alone from Blackpool.
Scholes had two shots destined for the back of the net both saved and blocked, respectively, but the door was still firmly shut. Nani also had a go, cutting inside from his home on the right wing and driving a low left-footed shot down to that Ghanaian keeper's left.
And it was Nani who made the opening for the first of United's comeback goals: as he cut inside, running towards the edge of the box, he reverses the ball to Fletcher making an opposite diagonal run through the box, with Blackpool defenders holding their line, trying to play him offside. Fletcher squares it, and who else was there but the man of the moment Dimitar Berbatov, and he calmly volleyed it with the side of his foot into the back of the net. 1-2, game on.
And it didn't take long for the 2 goal deficit to be completely wiped clean. Giggs, the man, the God, the genius, on the left plays an immaculate ball through to Chicharito who timed his run off the shoulder of the last defender to perfection. One touch, goalkeeper rushes, doesn't do enough, and the ball slots home. 2-2, and cue manic celebrations (ie. running around the house like a lunatic, while keeping in mind that people are asleep).
There was belief now, but just as the momentum we had seemed to be inevitably leading us to victory, a huge stoppage occurred which stemmed the tide somewhat. Rafael was brought crashing down after a mid-air collision with Marlon Harewood left Rafael in a daze. When the medical team rushed on, I feared the worst. And almost cruelly, the director cut to a shot of Fabio looking on. We were all worried, so one can imagine the kind of horror that was filling Fabael #2's mind. We've since learned that he's been to hospital and has a bit of concussion. Hope to have him back soon.
But after that lengthy stoppage (which, when totaled with the other minor stoppages, amounted to (10) TEN minutes of added time), we resumed our quest to bash down the door. This time aided by Anderson, who came on for Rafael with Fletcher dropping back to fill the gap he left behind.
And on 87 minutes, Scholes, or "Sat Nav" as Rio Ferdinand often calls him on twitter, locates his target and dispatches the ball perfectly: Dimitar Berbatov, unmarked about 30 yards from goal, right-back nowhere to be found, and Dimi charges forward, looks up, takes two more steps forward before smashing the ball with his left past Richard Kingson. Fuck. Yes. 3-2 and the comeback was complete.
10 minutes of added time later, with a bit of passing, some time wasting, but nothing too spectacular, saw not only our unbeaten run extended, but our lead too: to 5 points, after the same number of games played, over Arsenal. Legendary, lads. Legendary.
It was a game won in midfield, to put it simply. Sir Alex started with Gibson, Scholes and Fletcher in a midfield three playing Rooney wide left and Nani on the right. Why? We all suspected that Blackpool would be on the attack straight away, and the game panned out that way. Charlie Adam was almost Scholes-esque with the passing and vision he showed us. Someone suggested to me that he'd be a pretty good signing. Maybe, so! But let's not get carried away.
It was through him that the two goals were scored. Not only that, but also through the others in the Blackpool's midfield which made it very difficult for United to get into it. Gibson, Fletcher and Scholes were largely subdued because of the way we lined up against a positive and attack minded Blackpool.
After the break, though, when Sir Alex swapped Gibson for Giggs, the shape of our midfield changed. From 4-3-shite-formation to 4-4-2, we had way more options. Not to mention creativity and, vitally, width.
Suddenly, we had wingers to put crosses into the box. Wingers to play the ball to when the middle of the park is getting congested as the opposition pressed. Wingers to force the opposition back 4 to spread across the back, not allowing them to be comfortable and compact. Gaps appeared, and I can think of no one better to exploit them.
Seriously, Giggs is so stellar and I've been mentioning his name regularly for the past few weeks, months, years, decades now. One change and the complexion of the game changed with it. The ball found itself under United's control more often, runs which went unnoticed in the first half were found, without fail, in the second. They say that one man doesn't make a football team, but Ryan Giggs doesn't really count as a "man" anymore, does he?
I'll be honest, it's difficult to react realistically to the match in light of the superb and amazing way it was won, from 2-0 down at half-time and everything. Obviously I'm feeling jubilant, but even watching the post-match interviews and reaction on the telly, everyone agrees the first half was a shocker.
But everyone also agrees that the second half featured attributes that "champions are made of". And the three points which we wished to secure were secured, and the manner in which it was done will no doubt spur us on for the coming weeks. It's not everyday the team you play for comes back from the dead to win under such pressure. And this achievement will surely boost the morale of everyone at Old Trafford.
Best Player: Ryan Giggs.
Yeah, so Berbatov grabbed another brace and he's got 20 goals this season, pretty good effort, but he played the full match. Everything good happened in the second half, and seeing as Giggsy only played the second half and showed them all how it was done, it's only fitting. One assist to his name as well as the effect of galvanising the team together, no one else deserves the small acknowledgment our blog can make more than him.
Where We Stood, Where We Stand
This is usually where I put a table in. So, do I? You bet your ass I do.
5 points clear, our game in hand over Arsenal exhausted, we still have a game in hand on City. FA Cup this weekend, so the standings should stay this way for at least another fortnight. C'MON UNITED!
United head to Bloomfield Road to stretch their lead at the top of the table by another three points. This game comes on the heels of a satisfying 5-0 victory against Birmingham City at home a few days ago.
Chasing the Title:
We're already top of the league, and this is our game in hand that was postponed earlier in the season because of a frozen pitch. I know this is gonna sound strange, but this match is gonna rate as one of the most important this season. Why? Because this is the chance for United to capitalize on the results of their title rivals and begin to pull away from the pack. This is the game where we stamp our authority.
Where We Stand:
Follow us after the jump for the rest of the breakdown.
First and foremost, I, on behalf of The Stretford Roar, would like to apologize for all the crap we've given you over the past three and a half years. I now see the error of my ways and would like you to forgive me. I may have alluded to an apology in one of my earlier posts, but that was not the full-fledged acknowledgement of my regretful offense that you so deeply deserve. So here it is, typed out for you, and the world, to see:
Anderson Luís de Abreu Oliveira, I am sorry.
In my eyes, and in the eyes of Manchester United fans the world over, you have transformed yourself from a beefy Lil' Wayne lookalike to something more like this guy:
No longer will we brandish you with such names as useless and dumbass. No longer will Old Trafford cringe collectively when you step out on our hallowed turf. No longer will your flowing dreadlocks be the butt of many of our jokes.
With that I bid you stand, Andotaur.