|photo by tompagenet||via PhotoRee|
Playing in a stadium just one-tenth the size of Old Trafford, Manchester United went back to basics last night in a fifth round Carling Cup contest against Coach Dean Holdsworth's Division Two Aldershot Town.
Herewith, a few thoughts from "the game after," as United eased their way to a relatively straightforward 3-0 victory against industrious opposition, and began the effort to salve the self-inflicted wounds administered during the stoppage time beatdown on Sunday:
o I loved the feel of the broadcast. With its extra tight angles and close-up sideline shots, the camera was practically on the pitch during the contest. The broadcast had a totally different feel than a weekend Premier League encounter, and the feeling pervaded the entire watching experience. It had the effect of making the action on dsiplay seem initmately familiar: sure, this might have been Manchester United on display, but this was the game we all know and love at its very core, and the action felt much closer to what the average football fan's experience is with the game than the hyped-up glamour that is big time British football.
o Dimitar Berbatov looked a man among boys last night, which in all fairness, he should have. After all, the Berbinator did lead a certain English League in scoring last season.... The Bulgarian scored the team's first goal last night, and should have bagged a second just a short while later, before he was mowed down in the box by an Aldershot defender. Berba looked geared up and primed for the game, all full of poetry and trickery, and was the undisputed leader of United's attack. In fact, as if proving a point to his Coach, Berbatov also played defense last night, tracking back repeatedly -- not a trait for which he is especially well known -- and took over the ball in many a deep lying position as he drove the team forward.
o After being thoroughly dominated for the first 25 minutes, Aldershot worked their way back into the game and gave as good as they got for much of the latter stages of the first half. But once again it was Berbatov to the fore: with a deliciously simple side-footed dish to an onrushing Michael Owen, Berbatov set the table for a 2-nil United lead, and quickly and dramatically closed off any remaining "shot" the Aldertownians had at getting back into the game.
o Tony V chipped in with a nice effort to extend the lead to 3-nil early in the second half, scoring on a long range cruise missile into the upper reaches of the net. I wish the man from Ecuador would do that more often -- he seems only too ready this season to shuffle the ball at his feet and dip his shoulder before delivering a cross from the flank. I honestly can't remember him cutting in toward goal much this season, if at all, in the fashion of today's new-style, opposite-footed wingers, but perhaps that's because Valencia is one of the most one-footed players in all of professional football. If he's unable to play with his left foot, though, I do wish he'd shoot from the outside more often -- as he did last night -- if only to keep the opposition defenders honest. And last night's efforts showed that he can be dangerous -- very dangerous, indeed -- when he does that.
o 19 year old Paul Pogba and 18 year old Ravel Morrison also saw extensive playing time in the match's second half. Providing a glimpse of the future, the pair more than held their own in the match. Although they did little to light up the stat sheet, the pair did nothing to embarass themselves, either, playing entirely within themselves, and looking perfectly at home in the first team. Long may it continue!
o Ben Amos made a nice stop at full stretch to save the shutout near the game's end, denying one of only two real scoring chances Aldershot created in the second half . Although a goal would have done nothing to change the game's outcome, the shutout had to be the smallerst of moral victories for United's much beleaguered defense, and it also showcased Amos' fine reflexes and real goalkeeping chops, even as he remains the club's third choice 'keeper.
This is farlieonfootie for October 26.