1. After dropping points against Spurs in such disappointing circumstances, and seeing City somehow only managing a draw against QPR, it was essential that we took full advantage of their slip-up and extended our lead at the top of the table back to seven points. Looking back at the game yesterday, I can assure you that most of us would have taken three points up front if it meant that we would play as poorly as we did in the second half. I certainly would have, and so no complaints with me. As Fergie pointed out, we can’t win all our games by three or four goals and sometimes you’ll have to rely on luck to get you the win. However, I’m sure Alex will not be happy with that performance and will let the players know exactly how he feels about it.
2. In the first half, we were allowed to play our own game thanks to the space the Southampton players offered us, something which Kagawa full utilised with a series of fantastic passes and runs. As soon as they started pressing us high up the field however, we started to panic on the ball and do everything we can to get rid of it. Danny Welbeck in particular looked really bad and lost the ball numerous times after being surrounded by opposition players. Taking into account how high Real Madrid like to press, you’ve got to wonder whether or not we’ll be able to cope with their front line.
3. Our second half performance yesterday was arguably the most disappointing I have seen us play all season. At times it looked like we were unable to string together more than five or six passes. As noted before though, this seems to be a recurring theme with us, and more specifically, our midfield disappearing completely in the second half in recent games. Having said that, we still nearly managed to score a few more in the second half if not for a wrongly ruled offside call and an unbelievable save from Boruc to deny Robin van Persie on two separate occasions.
4. Two minutes was all it took for us to fall behind in yet another game this season. After a clumsy pass from Anderson and a disastrous pass-back from Carrick, De Gea was left to look a fool after a good touch from Rodrigues took him away from the goalie. I find it shocking just how much blame falls on the young Spaniard, especially since Carrick himself accepted full responsibility of the goal conceded, and rightly so.
5. Wayne Rooney seems to be scoring at will now which is extremely pleasing to see given our so called ‘reliance’ on Robin van Persie. Although the Dutchman has scored his fair share, it’s pleasing to see the other strikers scoring their fair share as well, what with Hernandez scoring for fun as well. Wazza took both his goals well and deserves credit for it, although he could and probably should have had a third if it wasn’t for a poor touch.
6. It’s amazing just how much more effective we are from set-pieces this season, and all it took was to find someone capable of taking them. No surprises there then. Ever since RvP took charge of our freekicks and corners, we’ve looked much more dangerous and capable of scoring from them. Another important thing to note is Evra’s continuous contribution to our attacks after he notched his second ‘match-winning’ assist in three league games, after setting up Rooney’s second yesterday and Vidic’s winner against Liverpool.
7. As we enter ‘that time of the season’, the strength of our squad is looking more and more impressive as our previously injured players continue to return and get themselves back to full fitness. Luckily for us, and for the first time in three or four years, we haven’t picked up a real significant number of injuries * Knock on wood*. Yesterday we managed to win the game without the likes of Giggs, Cleverley, Hernandez or Valencia featuring which just goes to show the depth of our squad. Yes, I know we were only playing against Southampton at home but the point still stands.
8. As the game dragged on and the nerves started to unsettle the United players, and with the Spurs result fresh in our minds, Sir Alex decided to play it safe and bring on Rio Ferdinand to shore up the defence. Rio’s experience and composure added some much needed steel to our defence and helped carry us forward passed the finish line. If you want to appreciate Sir Alex’s substitutions, simply take a look at Rafa Benitez at Chelsea yesterday night. With them needing to hold on, the fat Spanish waiter brought on a striker and allowed Reading to snatch a late draw after being two down with ten minutes left. How spoilt are we?
9. Whilst watching the United game on the TV, I was also watching the Real vs. Barcelona game on my laptop simultaneously. Although it means that I’m now probably cross-eyed, it was an entertaining match to watch, especially when you consider how close our tie with them in the Champions League is. Real didn’t play too well yet still managed to grind out a draw against a Barca side in top, top form. Ironically it was Varane, a player we were very keen on signing, who got Madrid that all important equaliser.
10. Can we beat Real Madrid? Realistically, I think we can beat them over both legs but everything has to go right for us. As of yet, Mourinho’s men have only the Champions League in mind and so will be throwing everything they can at us. As long as we turn up on the day and hope for a bit of luck, then I think we can progress to the next round. It’s going to be difficult but winning the Champions League nearly always is. We can do it.