So the big game arrived. The one a lot of people mostly look forward to, the same one I don’t like much because of the tension and edginess it fills me up with. In fact it’s a game I’ve never been to, and probably never will as I’m not sure my nerves would be able to hack it.
This was a game that both teams felt it was imperative to win, as while L’pool wanted to show last season wasn’t a fluke and they had what it takes to eat at the top table, United wanted to show that last season was a fluke, and they too had what it takes to eat at the top table. At least this time around, nobody came out saying that United were the underdogs when playing at home to our biggest rivals.
When the line-ups were announced, I felt slightly better as while United had a strong forward line, L’pool didn’t have any, and while United had one of the best keepers around, L’pool were starting one that hadn’t played for nearly two years!
Thankfully, it told as the match panned out, as United took their few chances against a keeper who didn’t seem to know much about positioning, and De Gea saved everything thrown at him by players who didn’t know much about finishing.
Goals by Rooney, Juan Mata (who was offside, which made it funnier), and Van Persie made for a brilliant day for us United fans. L’pool did have chances of their own, but neither Sterling, nor Balotelli in the second half could find a way past an inspired De Gea.
It all made for an excellent 3-0 score line, which definitely made up for last season’s debacle. It would be an injustice not to mention Valencia’s run that created the first goal, and Mata’s run that lead to Van Persie’s goal. Even Young’s cross for the second goal was very good. So although it was another poor performance, in a match where the result matters more than anything, there were quite a few positives to take from it.
While David de Gea was definitely man of the match for obvious reasons, I thought that Michael Carrick had a brilliant game especially as he had to fill in as centre-back again, with Rojo having been injured in training a day before the game. Wayne Rooney and Antonio Valencia also did very well, and were a few shades above the rest. Fellaini started badly, as he seemed to have borrowed Rooney’s feet when it came to his first touch, but improved as the game went on, and won many balls in midfield to make himself useful.
Another definite positive is how Van Gaal seems to use the players needed most in a game, rather than bring in highly-paid superstars just for the sake of it. A case in point is James Wilson starting ahead of Falcao as United needed speed up front. Though Wilson hardly had a brilliant game, this will stand him in good stead in the future, same as it will for Paddy McNair, who came on in the last few minutes to get some confidence back into him.
All-in-all, a very good win that shows that United are a better pub team than L’pool.
In other games, Chelsea players were diving all over the place in their 2-0 win against Hull; City won a difficult game at Leicester; Arsenal fans got on the ‘Wenger in’ wagon again after a 4-1 win against Newcastle; while Tottenham and Everton both won to push L’pool down into the bottom half of the table (eleventh place, but that doesn’t sound as good). With West Ham drawing at Sunderland, and Southampton losing 1-0 at Burnley, United have now opened a five point gap over fifth and sixth places, consolidating a Champions League spot in the process. Long way to go yet, but things are certainly looking up after a sixth win in a row.
In other news, top European clubs are suggesting that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is played between May & June rather than winter, as FIFA have been hinting at. I suppose if the clubs have some money to spare, Blatter and co. would be most grateful, and they might even agree with them.
Thierry Henry has announced his retirement from playing football. Many don’t give him the time of day because of the hand he used against the Republic of Ireland in 2009, but that’s a bit like saying Cantona was not that good because he kicked a fan (though admittedly he did many a favour that day). Mind you, the English seem to think the same about Maradona, even if he scored one of the best World Cup goals ever in the same game against them in 1986. Sky Sports have quickly announced Henry as their new pundit. Pity they lose the Champions League rights from next season, as he’d have been very good analysing European competitions.
Real Madrid beat Mexican side Cruz Azul 4-0 to make it a 21st consecutive win and get into the final of the Club World Cup.
In United related news, Ander Herrera had to release a statement to say that he never has and never will have anything to do with match-fixing, after being one of 41 people named in an ongoing investigation in Spain; The club will be facing Yeovil in the 3rd round of the FA Cup at the start of the new year, after the League Two side beat Accrington 2-0; and United players visited two Manchester hospitals to meet kids and spread the Christmas cheer.
On to the next game, this time away at Aston Villa for a rare 3pm kick-off on a Saturday (UK time). I’m relieved that Roy Keane is not there anymore, so we don’t have to feel sorry if/when United get a seventh win in a row to stay on the heels of City and Chelsea… COME ON UNITED!!!