Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Narrow Victory: Five Thoughts on Manchester United 1 - West Ham United 0

photo by Mozo Manvia PhotoRee

Five thoughts on the Reds' victory in the FA Cup replay:

o Ch-ch-ch-changes: Swapping ten of the eleven men that saw off Liverpool over the weekend, Sir Alex saw fit only to hand Rafael a repeat start. As stated, the Gaffer may want to win the FA Cup, but clearly he wants to win the Premier League even more. Fortunately, Sam Allardyce entered the contest in a similar frame of mind, preferring to save his veteran heads for matches in which the Hammers stand a better chance of emerging victorious, and came to Old Trafford with a weakened side that featured neither Joe Cole nor James Collins.

o Wazza-licious: It didn't take Wayne Rooney long to begin making up for lost time, tapping a slick Chicharito pass into an empty net to record his ninth goal of the season inside of the 10 minute mark.  If Rooney can use the three week rest to his advantage -- saving his legs during one of the season's most energy-sapping periods --  and come out firing rather than shooting blanks, look out. Robin Van Persie, Chicharito and Wayne Rooney all hitting form at the same time would be a very scary proposition for the rest of the League.

o Turnabout: For large portions of the match the two sides took turns attacking, with only one club at a time showing they were intent on finding the net.  The other side played largely in a defensive shell, as the two teams appeared to rotate which one would take its foot off the pedal. After United scored the opener, West Ham refused to press forward, dropping deep and ceding acres of space on the middle of the pitch to the home side. In the second half the shoe switched feet: it was Allardyce's men who displayed the attacking intent, and United who lost their way and looked happy just to hold onto their one goal lead.

o Overrun: The United engine room was completely outmanned for the first 25 minutes of the second half.  In retrospect, that outcome should not have been unexpected, with Ando -- returning from a lengthy absence and still working his way into shape -- partnered with Ryan Giggs -- whose left foot can still measure inch perfect passes, but whose strength is not in breaking up opposition attacks.  Things didn't improve until Michael Carrick's introduction after the hour mark, with the Englishman settling the nerves and restoring a somewhat unfamiliar calmness to the second half proceedings.

o Penalty!: We thought for certain that Ryan Giggs would take the penalty he earned ten minutes from time, in large part to keep his consecutive season scoring record intact.  Wayne Rooney had other ideas, although with the resulting moonshot from his foot, perhaps he, too, wished that Giggs had taken the free effort.  Missing five of their last nine penalties is not something that will excite the Gaffer, and Rooney's miss will have most definitely taken some of the sweetness off his first half strike.  

It's a win and the Reds go marching on, but that's about the best that can be said about last night's match. This is a relieved farlieonfootie for January 17.

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