|photo by S1lvers Family||via PhotoRee|
It's like Groundhog Day around here at farlieonfootie. In a virtual repeat of their last game, United scored early on Boxing Day and were out of sight by halftime. So why mess with success? If the theme works, let's keep it going.... Herewith, five things we learned yesterday as United put five past a hapless Wigan side to go joint top of the table with City:
1. Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia are the ultimate utility players. With Sir Alex back in rotation mode on Boxing Day, the Englishman and the Ecuadorian are plug and play options who fill in whatever void injuries or rest happen to hand the Reds. Their versatility is hugely underrated -- very few players are good enough to play anywhere other than their "natural" position. And while Valencia's move from winger to fullback might allow him some sense of familiarity, Carrick's move from midfield to central defense is a whole different kettle of fish and much more complicated than it might at first appear. That both excelled yesterday in a position other than their regular spot has got to give the rest of the team a huge boost in confidence.
2. Darren Gibson?!?! That is all.
3. Ji-Sung Park played today as if he got a massive lump of coal from Santa on Sunday. The South Korean was full of piss and vinegar, especially in the first half, taking out a season full of frustration on Wigan Athletic, and getting only his second goal of the season to open the scoring. Park was a whirling dervish on both offense and defense, popping up forward and back, right and left, and causing all sorts of problems for the visitors. There's a downside, though, to this sort of performance: Sir Alex may actually begin to believe that he doesn't need any new midfield signings if Parky keeps it up....
4. Dimitar Berbatov is making a strong statement of intent regarding his desire to stay with the team. Finally given a chance to play, the languid Bulgarian has scored four times in the team's last two games, with a hat trick added to his curriculum vitae on Monday. With a decision due to be made by the Old Trafford brass on Berbatov's contract extension in the next two weeks or so, our Dimi appears to be getting hot at just the right time of year for both himself and his increasingly vocal supporters.
5. United is keenly aware of the goal difference deficit to City. And now that the boys are back in goal scoring form, with 4-1, 2-nil, 3-nil, 5-nil and 5-nil victories in their last 5 games -- outscoring the opposition by a whopping 19-1 since that fateful night in Basel -- Sir Alex and the boys are looking to claw back the goals a little bit at a time. Yesterday's game presented them a perfect opportunity, especially after Connor Sammon was sent off for a soft red card, and the Reds took full advantage -- especially given the suspect lineup United put out to start the game.
The goal difference is now down to five -- all of which resulted from the humiliating beating dished out by City at Old Trafford. That means that almost halfway through the season, United has beaten the opposition (ex- City) by 38 goals, while City -- the side whose offense the journos can't stop drooling about -- has topped their fellow teams (ex- United) by a mere 33 tallies. To which I say "Keep it up, boys, keep it up."
And the Reds go Marching on with farlieonfootie for December 27.