|photo by nyaa_birdies_perch||via PhotoRee|
A few observations on the victory that returned the Reds to their rightful place at the top of the table for the first time in five months:
o Wayne Rooney's goal scoring may be in a hot vein of form lately, but his first touch and passing in the middle of the pitch -- especially as seen in the first half -- still left a bit to be desired. Of course, it's hard to get too upset at Wazza. Two goals per game makes this writer forgive alot.
o Rooney couldn't have picked a better time to hit form -- and Sir Alex is coaxing him on, suggesting his forward should target a 40 goal season. If he hits that, the title chase is as good as over.
o It was a tense and very evenly-divided match over the first 25 minutes, as West Bromwich Albion started brightly. The era of teams entering Old Trafford already beaten appears over and done.
o People can talk all they want about the improvement that David De Gea has made on aerial balls in the box, but for me at least as impressive has been the Spaniard's ability to deal with low balls. In the beginning of the season he often seemed to move in slow motion on balls down low, sometimes even diving over the top of them, but over the last couple of months his reaction time on the shots just off the ground has improved considerably.
o United began to seize control of the contest around the half hour mark, but still lacked that final incisive ball. That is, until Chicharito swerved a very dangerous cross into the box on 35 minutes. Rooney made a difficult finish look very easy, the second time in the game he managed to toe poke an aerial ball goalward, and the game was on
o Does Phil Jones remind anyone else of a Crash Test Dummy? He's willing to throw his remarkably elastic body anywhere and everywhere, even head-over-heeling over the end board advertising in search of a goal on Sunday. Ah, the reckless abandon of an eighteen year old....
o A goal post was all that separated Chicharito from doubling the champions' lead near the hour mark, before Danny Welbeck frustratingly missed an empty netter to do the same. The latter move was completely unlocked by an unpressured Paul Scholes. Opposition defenders take note: give SatNav some time on the ball in the middle of the park at your own peril.
o Roo's PK sealed the three points, and -- in truth -- was a phenomenally struck ball, low and in the corner, virtually impossible to save. The Reds were a bit fortunate that Baggies' Manager Roy Hodgson was unable to substitute for Keith Andrews -- a natural midfielder playing at right back due to Jonas Olsson's red card -- and Rooney made certain the only suspense left in the contest was whether or not United would keep a clean sheet for the first time in five games.
o United searched in vain for a third goal that never came, pressuring West Brom relentlessly in search of a capper, but Chiharito and Ashley Young were unable to unlock the goal mouth. Nevertheless, it was a comfortable win in the end for the Reds, moving them one point ahead of their cross-town rivals Manchester City. It's game on from here until April 30 -- let the team which drops the least amount of points in the run in win...!
This is farlieonfootie for March 12.