1) I’m not entirely sure why but prior to the game I felt slightly nervous thinking we’re going to be in for a very tight game and some late drama, with our recent trip to White Hart Lane still vaguely in memory. Seeing the starting XI didn’t help me relax with Rooney only on the bench, Giggs starting centrally and Kagawa nowhere near the squad. Having been offered the chance to go 15 points clear at the top of the league with City to play against Chelsea tomorrow is an opportunity that very rarely presents itself, and so it was crucial that we took full advantage. Although it’s still too early to see its full effect, you’d imagine this victory will have the City players looking at the size of the gap between the two clubs and thinking “there’s no coming back from this now”.
2) Make no mistake; our win today was not exactly plain sailing. Having said that, we did create quite a number of chances but failed to convert a large number of them which had me worried that today was going to be ‘another one of those days’, where everything goes against us. Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney both missed chances after taking a touch when a touch wasn’t needed, a great save stopped Robin van Persie from scoring a peach and Nani missed a couple of headers too, plus a few other chances that went begging. On another day, we’d have been punished for missing so many chances, but fortunately today, none of that matters as we’ve bagged the three points.
3) Whilst it seemed our strikers were having an off-day, our defence put in another solid show with them bagging their third consecutive cleansheet in the Premier League. David De Gea produced the goods too when he was called upon, and so it’s great to see that we’re finally looking like a team that can win without relying on their strikers to score three or four every match. It’s not only at the back where our defence has been ace, but the number of goals scored from our defenders this season has been immense. Although I was impressed with Vidic and Rio at the back, I would still prefer seeing Evans starting ahead of Nemanja as I feel he offers much more going forward.
4) It was over a year ago when I wrote an article regarding the importance of Rafael Da Silva to the Manchester United team, and I’m glad that people are finally starting to see just how good a player he is. He’d be the first to admit that he still has plenty to learn, but as of this moment in time, you’d find it very hard to find a better fullback in the league. His overall contribution to the team is phenomenal and can be best summed up during his ten minute spell today which included him scoring a contender for goal of the season, shortly followed by a clearance off the line to keep us a goal up, and then a delightful cross which Robin van Persie was on the end off. I find it slightly ironic that our two best strikers this season have come from the Brazilian, with the other coming at Anfield. Easily my Man of the Match.
5) On to less promising performances, Danny Welbeck had an odd game yet again. I’m always the first to shower him with praise and I really do think he’s a fantastic little player, plus there’s that little thing about him being an out-and-out Manc which I love, but I do think it’s fair to say that he’s got to have a long look at himself in the mirror. His overall contribution to the team is brilliant, his attitude and work-rate is undisputed but when it comes to his ability in the box, he’s as tame as a kitten. Unless he starts finding the back of the net more often and becomes a more clinical finisher, I hate to say it, but he might not be at his boyhood club for too long. We all know how ruthless Sir Alex can be, but I hope that that isn’t the case here.
6) Someone who has spent their entire career at United and doesn’t look like he’s going to stop any time soon is Ryan Giggs. He didn’t have the best of games with him often leaving his midfield partner doing the running of two men, but what Giggsy lacks, he more than makes up for in other departments. Firstly I’d like to mention the sheer audacity of his lob which came off the bar. It defied physics, in fact, if you’d have seen it in a game of Fifa, you’d have thought it was a glitch! His goal was sensational though, his movement brilliant as he slipped in behind the defender and cooly slotted it past the hapless Cesar. There’s not much else I can say about Ryan that hasn’t already been said though. 999 career games – It’s been a genuine honour watching him grace the pitch every single time.
7) Our next two fixtures will have us hosting both Norwich and Reading respectively at Old Trafford. Although you can take nothing for granted in football, I fully expect us to take six points from both those games. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s only a matter of ticking away individual matches before we can finally take our trophy back from those noisy neighbours. Yes, the Champions League would be great, and the FA Cup a nice bonus too, but all I care about at the moment is making sure we have that twentieth title.
8) The last ten minutes of our game today reminded me a lot of our game against Everton last season due to us already leading in a potential tricky tie with only a few minutes left. Against Everton we played with a certain nativity which saw us throw men forward when all we needed to do was see out the game, and our decision-making came back to bite us on the arse. Today, after slotting in the second, our players had the intelligence to keep the ball and make sure we didn’t concede to save us the hassle of yet another nervy finale. A lot of credit must go to Wayne Rooney who came on and set the tempo with his maturity and experience. Nani too deserves a mention after another fine performance which saw him pass the ball well and making the team tick.
9) The only disappointing news from our game today was seeing Robin van Persie pick up a little niggle which I’m hoping is nothing more than. Going into the final stage of the season, it’s important that we have our main players fit and ready to help see us through all the way to the end. I’m more worried about Phil Jones getting back in time for the Real Madrid game if I’m perfectly honest. Both players will play crucial parts if we’re to knock out the Spanish giants.
10) “Hard to believe it’s not Scholes, it’s Carrick, you know…”