Our footballing weekend started earlier than usual as United played against Aston Villa on Friday evening. A strong looking line-up was announced for this game, with Romero continuing in goal in the absence of ‘want away’ or ‘want to stay’ (depending on who you believe) David De Gea. With Januzaj getting a somewhat rare start, we were hoping he’d show a glimpse of why most of us want him to become a bigger part of the side, and that he duly did after half an hour when he ran onto an excellent pass by Mata, and turned a couple of Villa defenders the wrong way before slotting home.
United looked better in the second half, especially when Schweinsteiger and Herrera came on after an hour to control the midfield. Though Aston Villa hardly created anything, it was a relief when the final whistle went and another win was in the bag.
It was a game similar to the one against Tottenham, in which though the side looked quite average, the opposition looked even poorer, and one goal was enough to give United the three points.
The main talking point from this game, apart from Januzaj’s well taken goal was how bad Wayne Rooney played. It was frustrating to see him running about all over the pitch instead of staying up front, and then losing possession again and again. With him being just nineteen goals from becoming United’s all-time top scorer, he should be concentrating on scoring, and let the running and fighting for the ball back to others more capable than him in midfield. Personally I wouldn’t mind the record not being broken just because it’s Sir Bobby Charlton who holds it, but it would also be nice for someone like Rooney to break it in our life-time.
Moving on to midweek, United were playing Belgian side Bruges for a place in the Champions League group stages. It was great to hear the theme tune at Old Trafford once again, and everyone felt good to see the same eleven that started on Friday start in this game. It didn’t all go to plan as Club Brugge went ahead after just eight minutes through a Michael Carrick own-goal. Their lead lasted a mere five minutes as the same Carrick sort of made amends with a lovely pass to Memphis, who showed some lovely skill while beating three Bruges players before placing the ball into the net to make it 1-1. To prove that wasn’t a fluke, he controlled another lovely pass just before half-time, this time from Daley Blind, and proceeded to score a typical ‘number 7’ goal. Normality resumed.
Schweinsteiger replaced Carrick at the start of the second half, and United’s performance improved with it. They looked much quicker and more incisive, and after Bruges had a player sent off, we thought it would be a matter of time before United increased their lead. That didn’t happen until injury-time though, when Fellaini headed a lovely Memphis cross into the net to send thousands of United fans home happy. That one nod from the Belgian Bush, apart from making many ABUs choke on their beers, will have repaid a lot of his £27m fee. The final whistle just after his goal meant that United travel to the second leg with a nice two goal cushion.
Few conclusions from these two games – Rooney seemed slightly better against Bruges, though he could hardly be worse than he was on Friday. Here’s hoping that he finds good form soon as it helps the team as much as himself, and he is our captain after all; Romero is good, but not as a constant starter, and a higher lever keeper has to be brought in if De Gea does leave (Lloris has already been approached it seems); Schweinsteiger is a beast, and definitely an asset for United, even if a few thought we were getting an ‘over the hill’ player; Smalling seems to be morphing into the new Rio Ferdinand, something we had hoped he’d become when he joined from Fulham. The change of name to Mike seems to have done him the world of good; and Daley Blind is doing better than anyone thought next to him, especially when bringing out the ball with his range of pin-point passing.
Away from United and looking elsewhere in the Premier League, Manchester City made Champions Chelsea look average in a comfortable 3-0 win, a result that made most of us laugh for a couple of days (until it was announced that Pedro was joining Mourinho’s team); Arsenal got their first points on board by winning 2-1 at Pardew’s Palace; L’pool made it two wins out of two with a fortuitous 1-0 win against newly promoted Bournemouth; Martinez’s Everton surprised many by winning 3-0 at Southampton; Sunderland didn’t surprise anyone by losing 3-1 at home to Norwich; Mark Hughes’ Stokelona got a decent 2-2 draw at Tottenham; Ranieri and his Leicester side kept their 100% win record with a 2-1 win at West Ham; Swansea impressed again in a 2-0 home win against Newcastle; while Watford and West Brom played out the first 0-0 draw of this Premier League season.
In other news, we now know that Pedro has joined Chelsea. Though many seem to think Abramovich and his money came out of nowhere, it’s well documented that they had been after him for over a month. We’d be lying if we said he wouldn’t have been a good addition to United, but it’s no use having a fit about it, especially if players like Memphis and Januzaj keep getting better and better; Another player that many seem to think United have lost out on is Nicolas Otamendi, who has signed for Manchester City from Valencia. Though he had been linked to us for a few weeks (months even), it was widely reported by many that United were never even in for him, so it was probably agent talk to get a higher fee for him. Pity that a few have already forgotten about the FOUR excellent signings (and Romero) that United have already made to improve the side.
Looking quickly at the next week, United play twice again. The first game is at home to Newcastle (Saturday 22nd, 12:45pm UK time), where we will be hoping that Wayne Rooney and co. get another win to stay on maximum points in the league. United then travel to Belgium to face Bruges in the second leg of the Champions League play-off (Wednesday 26th, 7:45pm UK time), to hopefully assure qualification to the group stages. We look forward to writing about both games next week, especially if two more wins are under United’s belts. Until then, and as always… COME ON UNITED!!!