|photo by tlindenbaum||via PhotoRee|
As the calendar turned to the Winter season, Manchester United traveled to Wales yesterday to see if they were able to reclaim the three points lost with Manchester City's late, dramatic win at Eastlands on Saturday. Here are five things we saw that may have made the difference in a frustrating draw that saw the lead at the top shaved to four points:
In Tom We Trust...: It appears that young Tom Cleverley has earned the Gaffer's trust enough to nail down a semi-regular spot in an extremely unsettled United midfield. True, the likes of Anderson, Nani and Kagawa are all still out injured, and their return will complicate Sir Alex's task, but for now the young Englishman appears the Manager's choice to pair with Michael Carrick in midfield -- although he was unable to inject much dynamism into the match at the Liberty on Sunday.
For a Team that Used to Suck at Corners...: ...as recently as a season ago, United have dramatically improved their scoring capability on set plays. It could be the quality of the corners -- RVP vs. Nani, 'nuff said -- or the fact that so many United players appear capable of scoring this season -- stand up, Patrice Evra! -- or that they were playing against Swansea on Sunday -- a team that has conceded 12 times off corners to date this year -- but it should have come as no surprise that the first time the ball ruffled the back of the net came off a Manchester United corner kick.
Michu...!: Nor should anyone have been shocked when the Swansea midfielder (forward?) leveled the score from directly in front of Big Dave's net. The Spaniard is in the form of his life this season, and was perfectly positioned to tap in the equalizer. That's where the biggest goal scorers almost always are: right time, right place....
Opportunity Knocked in the Second Half...: ...but no one was home -- likely because the game was played away from home for Manchester United. We can't remember a game in which the visitors spurned so many one-on-one opportunities, with Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie equally guilty in sending the final final pass awry or taking one too many touches to sustain the offensive advantage. A sharper United could have (should have?) had a two or three goal advantage heading into the final 30 minutes. Instead, the away fans were left slowly simmering, wondering what might have been....
Just One of Those Days...?: Woodwork twice, two balls cleared off the line, one a questionable handball in the box, missed passes, too many touches: the list goes on and on.... The end result was two dropped points that United will definitely look back upon at season's end. Although the two situations are not nearly equivalent -- one game played at home against a cellar dweller, one game played on the road against a top six side -- will we come back to look ay City's stoppage time winner and United's inability to solved the riddle of the Swansea defense as a turning point in the season...? We hope note, but only time will tell....
This is Farlieonfootie for December 24.
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