Monday, September 3, 2012

Robin Van Who?: Manchester United 3 - Southampton 2

Van Persie Scores
Photo by Wonker on Flickr

Q. What surprises did yesterday's starting lineup hold?

A. Three of them, to be exact: First off, Rio Ferdinand was deemed fit to play at center back; leading up to the match it seemed more likely that Jonny Evans would get the nod. The second was that Danny Welbeck was handed a start alongside Robin Van Persie; we thought it more likely that RVP might be up front by himself to begin the contest. Third, Anders Lindegaard was preferred to David De Gea in goal, although time will tell if this is a one-off move by Sir Alex in front of the international break or the beginning of a trend.

Q. Any unusual starters for Southampton?

A. Only one, other than Referee Mike Dean and the groundskeeper who watered the pitch pre-game with vegetable oil.  Michael Carrick gave the ball away to the other side so often that he must have thought United were the team in red.

Q. Who was to blame for Southampton's opening goal?

A. Take your pick: either the extremely short and stationary Rafael, or the less-than-commanding-in-the-air Anders Lindegaard. Either way, United have shown a definite weakness for balls in the box so far this short season, from both open and set plays.

Q. Any quick descriptions of the early going?

A. United with all of the ball and none of the threat. It was appropriate that the game occurred during Labor Day weekend here in the States, because that's a fairly accurate description of United's early attack: labored.

Q. How long did it take Robin Van Persie to equalize?

A.  A little longer than last game -- probably on the order of seven or eight minutes. He's beginning to lose a step in his dotage.

Q. How'd the second half go?

A. Southampton was a slippery opponent, or maybe more accurately, the pitch was.  Once again the groundskeeper's pre-game preparation played a key part in the game's third tally: when Patrice Evra ended up on his stomach looking up at the action it was always going to be trouble.

Q. Key second half plays?

A. Rio's sliding tackle of Ricky Lambert's cross midway though the second half stopped an easy tap in for Southampton. Ninety seconds later, Saints' 'keeper Kelvin Davis came up with a key stop of his own when he denied Robin Van Persie from the spot. The scoreline could easily have read either 3-1 or 2-2; instead, the home side remained a goal to the good with twenty minutes left to play.

Q. What happened then?

A. Southampton held on for dear life in their quest for the infamous "famous win" over a side that struggled to create real offensive opportunities before the 87th minute. That's when RVP stepped up to the plate and knocked home Ferdinand's post job for the equalizer.

Q. So the game ended a draw?

A. Of course it didn't. This is Manchester United we're talking about.  Calm as you'd like, pretty as a picture, or whatever other simile you'd like to use to describe it, RVP cooly dispatched his third of the afternoon in stoppage time as United went on to a routine 3-2 victory, clearly all as anticpated.

This is Farlieonfootie for September 3, daring to answer one final question:

Q. Who was the signing of the summer?

A. I think you know who.

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