Following two goalless draws at Old Trafford (one of which was the elimination on penalties from the League Cup), we were hoping that the team’s strikers, or at least midfielders, would have their shooting boots on when facing Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. When we saw that Anthony Martial was starting on the wing again with Wayne Rooney as a lone striker, our hope diminished a little. Though United had the majority of possession, they weren’t doing anything that mattered when they had the ball, except pass the ball sideways again and again. Then pass it backwards and sideways again. Then pass it sideways some more for good measure.
The second half was more of the same, though when Ashley Young replaced a below-par Darmian with twenty minutes to go, he was at least going forward and trying to create something. When the game finished goalless, we could see it as a good point earned as Palace is not an easy team to beat, especially when they’re at home (though they had lost their previous three games), and this was United’s seventh clean sheet from eleven league games. Definitely not to be sneered at. Not to say that it was all good though, as having just one shot on target in a whole game is definitely not what a club of United’s stature should be striving for, especially if they want to be fighting for trophies when the end of the season approaches.
On Tuesday, it was the turn of Russian side CSKA Moscow to face a slick-passing, possession hungry yet toothless-up-front United side. We all enjoyed the first twenty minutes as United showed a lot of intent by taking the game to CSKA and creating a few good chances. The goal-scoring woes continued though, and at half-time it was still 0-0 even if United had eight attempts at goal while CSKA didn’t have any.
The second half started the same way, but as time went on, the Russians grew a bit in confidence, and after Wayne Rooney missed a sitter to put United ahead, it was the away side that had the best chance of the game, when Doumbia broke through in a rare CSKA attack and was thwarted first by a brilliant De Gea save, and then by ‘Mike’ Smalling blocking his second attempt on the line. Straight after, Michael Carrick’s cross into the box was volleyed neatly onto Rooney’s head by Lingard, with United’s captain making good use of his massive bonce by heading the ball past Akinfeev to score what was to be the only goal of the game for a win that means United now top their Champions League group. It was a joy to see Rooney celebrating with the fans, showing that the club means a lot more to him than many might think.
Rooney’s goal also sees him become United’s second all-time top scorer alongside the original King Denis Law on 237, just twelve goals behind Sir Bobby Charlton.
After such an important win, it was a bit weird that people still found it within themselves to take pot-shots at the club and its manager. I don’t even mean the fans having a go at the ‘negative’ displays or substitutions during matches (though I think that Martial being taken off against CSKA Moscow was the right decision as he wasn’t as effective as he had been up to now), but the media and people who go on TV to lambast the likes of Ashley Young for diving. Of course it’s not right to do it, but to make him look like he’s the devil incarnate for doing something our captain does as well without getting a second mention? Even Ander Herrera did it in the last couple of games, and nobody batted an eyelid. But let’s have a go at Young as it’s always good for headline making, and he plays for United. I can’t remember many picking on him when he did the same while still an Aston Villa player.
In other games in the Premier League, City and Arsenal both won to move four points ahead of United; L’pool got their first win under Klopp when they beat hapless Chelsea 3-1, leaving Mourinho’s side just four points above the relegation zone; Leicester won 3-2 at West Brom to climb up to third; Tottenham beat bottom club Villa 3-1 to go just a point behind United; Southampton beat Bournemouth 2-0; Everton trashed Sunderland 6-2; Watford climbed up to mid-table after beating West Ham 2-0, while Newcastle and Stoke drew 0-0.
In the Champions League, while United, Manchester City and Chelsea were winning their games to try and progress to the next round, English Autumn Champions Arsenal got Mullered in Germany when they got beaten 5-1 by Bayern Munich, leaving their chances of going through hanging by a bit of a thread.
United play at home again this weekend, hosting Tony Pulis’ West Brom on Saturday (3pm UK time). Whilst we hope that former players Darren Fletcher and Johnny Evans are warmly welcomed back to Old Trafford, we hope that United get a good win to stay close to the top two… COME ON UNITED!!!