Sunday, October 30, 2011

Three Points Gained: United 1 - Everton 0

Photo by Hub on Flickr
It's time for the annual column-up-in-smoke trick today, in which my complete blog entry is deleted after I've written it, but before I've had the opportunity to post it.  I don't know whether to blame the miscue on the new iPhone and my lack of familiarity with the "keyboard," or instead whether I should blame it on watching the game on my laptop via, while simultaneously juggling the laptop and earphones (for the game), the iPhone (for my column notes), the iPad (for Twitter), and the television (for the circus that was Arsenal vs. Chelsea).

Nevermind, the result is still the same: a fully written blog over and done before it ever had time to see the light of day.  So here's the re-boot:

o Yesterday's win was an impressive one -- don't fool yourself.  Sure, it was the tale of two halves, but I can't remember many opportunities -- even in the second half -- in which Everton really looked like scoring.  It was United's first away win at Goodison Park in a number of years -- since 2007, I believe; it also meant that the Reds captured four points on Merseyside this campaign, versus the solo job they grabbed last season.

o United looked better offensively yesterday, at least in the first half.  The free flowing offense was back, and the movement both on and off the ball looked much more creative.  They also got back to the style of football they played early on this season, pressing the ball and creating turnovers high up the pitch.  Is it just a coincidence that yesterday was Tom Cleverly's first game in about 6 weeks?  I don't want to put too much pressure on the kid, and I also don't want to make him into the next coming of Wesley Sneijder (at least not yet), but it's undeniable that the team plays a completely different style of ball when Clev is on the pitch.  It was with some serious relief that I learned after the game that the injury which forced Cleverly off just after the interval appears to be nothing too serious -- this kid holds the keys to the United midfield this season.

o We certainly don't want to rely on Darren Fletcher to come good anytime soon.  The Scotsman still appears a shadow of his former self to these eyes, and I've lost track of the number of times he's been ridden off the ball by a member of the opposition the last few weeks.  I love Fletch, but despite his goal last weekend he looks well off the pace he set two seasons ago.

o Did anyone else find it too perfect that Chicharito put the ball in the back of the net at exactly 18:19?  Are you watching Merseyside...?

o Patrice Evra had his best game of the season yesterday, and not a moment too soon.  The Frenchman has been guilty of some terrible defense (not to mention judgment) this season, and his offense -- for all the mazy runs forward -- has been ineffective at best.  In fact, it's gotten to the point that when Evra has the ball in an advanced position I quickly lose any hope of United scoring.  Not today, though: the day's only score came via Chicharito, off a Cleverly-to-Welbeck-to-Evra combination, pretty as you please, but it was the Frenchman's fine cross that stole the show.  Pinpoint accurate and whipped in with pace, it left Chicharito with a left-footed leg poke from point blank range, and Everton's Tim Howard with absolutely no chance at all.

o Everton bossed the midfield after Cleverly's departure, and it all became a bit of a hot mess at the back, as United were forced repeatedly to scramble and get the ball out of the box.  All's well that ends well, though, and Sir Alex should be relatively happy with the road shutout.  De Gea had another solid game in goal -- although in truth, most of the Toffee's shots (save Leighton Baines' screamer of a free kick, which left De Gea flat-footed but hit the underside of the bar) were directly at the Spaniard.  Still, a shutout's a shutout.  Any coincidence Vida made his return t the defensive center yesterday?

o Wayne Rooney was deployed as a virtual holding midfielder, and was so deep lying that he was almost never in position to score (save the one time he was ready to pull the trigger and referee Mark Halsey clumsily blocked him off).  I'm not sure I like Rooney in the position Sir Alex asked him to play -- it seems quite a waste to use him in a position better suited for Michael Carrick....

o Carrick, on the other hand, must've fallen pretty deeply into the boss' dog house, not even making the bench yesterday.  Surely, it's got to be time to give the old boy another run out....  After all, Ando and Fletch have not exactly been lighting up the highlight reels recently.

This is farlieonfootie for October 30.

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