|Photo by CERTs via Flickr|
It was a mark of respect for the home side that Sir Alex put out a very strong lineup yesterday for United's journey to Wales to face Swansea City. The Reds grabbed an early lead via a Chicharito goal before shutting down the engines and executing an ultra-conservative gameplan to perfection, resulting in a never comfortable but ultimately effective 1-nil win for the visitors. The shutout represented the Champion's third 1-nil win in a row in the League and fifth consecutive shutout in all competitions. So much for the shaky defense theory....
o Ryan Giggs showed a bit of what United's been missing this season early on in the game, when he calmly slotted a ball through to Chicharito for United's opening goal. The Welshman's cool-as-a-cucumber composure was on display for all to see as he intercepted a pass from Angel Rangel deep in Swansea territory before dishing it off -- simple as that -- for yet another assist in his glorious career. Many midfielders would have panicked and hit the ball too heavily or too lightly -- think Anderson here -- but not Giggsy. It was great to see the Welsh legend back in his homeland, and in the United starting lineup, too: Sir Alex has been resting Sir Ryan a bunch this season, in obvious hopes of keeping his aging legs fresh for the bigger late-season games to come.
o It wasn't all United, though: Swansea missed a glorious opportunity to equalize halfway through the first half, as the defense switched off momentarily. Scott Sinclair whiffed on a ball with the net begging and De Gea scrambling to get back, or the scoreline would have been level. The Swans didn't threaten the young Spaniard in goal all that often, and they learned the lesson that United has taught many newly-promoted team before: when you have even a half a chance, you must capitalize on it. Swansea didn't, and the result was three more points for United.
o In other game notes, Mickey Phelan was spotted once again performing one of his major tasks for them team on Saturday: holding the pack of gum for Sir Alex. If Phelan performs that role really well, next season he may get a promotion and an upgrade in his responsibilities: unwrapping the stick of gum before Sir Alex chews it.
o Patrice Evra was given fits by Nathan Dyer before being given the hook at the 50 minute mark. It wasn't quite as dramatic as I'm making it sound: the Frenchman was already carrying a yellow card and would have been challenged to stay on the pitch for the full 90, especially with proven United-hater Mike Dean overseeing the affair at the Liberty Stadium. Evra's career has gone sideways and backward ever since the ugly French dust-up at the 2010 World Cup. He's shown glimpses of his old form at times this season, but more often than not he's looked at sixes and sevens, as he did again on Saturday, popping up clearances, and being skinned down the sideline.
o United played most of Saturday's game as if in second gear, taking it easy and batting the ball back and for long stretches of the match. Playing as if conserving their energy for the all-important Champions League showdown with Benfica (if either team wins Tuesday they win their group with a game to spare), the boys in Red played ultra-conservatively and well under control after scoring shortly after the match began. Showing a renewed confidence in their defense didn't make for the most comfortable of outcomes, but it was certainly effective, with De Gea rarely being troubled. The effect of having Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic paired centrally again -- albeit left and right sides swapped this time -- just can not be overstated. And the proof is in the pudding: another shutout and three more points gained, and City kept within hailing distance.
o A final though to leave you with: Wayne Rooney without a goal for the sixth game in a row makes United look like Arsenal would without Robin Van Persie: struggling for scoring opportunities.
This is farlieonfootie for November 20.