|photo by tinou bao
Another game, another victory as the Red Machine rolls on, picking up speed on the journey. Before the game, I worried United might struggle without Nani, but we didn't seem to miss him too much today. I hope the injury isn’t serious, because with Park heading out of town, Valencia out with a broken leg, and now Nani injured, we're getting a bit thin at the wide position.
Nor did the two week break affect the players, dismissing another pre-game concern. Sunderland spent the first 25 minutes of the game on the rack, as United showed incredible fluidity in attack. The Red Devils’ movement on and off the ball, as well as their passing, were simply excellent today, the type of creativity, vision and execution for which Sir Alex has been looking.
- Today was the United we demand and expect to see, and Sunderland never had a prayer. They spent much of the first half looking as if they were playing shorthanded, with a man in red seemingly always open on the attack. In fact, Sunderland’s best defender in the opening 45 was the goal post, which twice denied United, frustrating both Berbatov and Anderson.
- That would have been Berbatov’s only disappointment today, as he spent much of the day looking virtually unplayable. His first goal was deceptively easy, Giggs sprinting downfield with the ball at his foot, Berba to his left, and Rooney to the right. Although Giggs failed to pick out the Bulgarian on the run, Rooney made no mistake when Giggs laid the ball off to him, finding Berabtov so open it made one wonder where the Sunderland defense was hiding. Berbatov was completely unmarked, and quickly nodded the ball down and into the back of the net.
- His second goal completely killed the game off, ending whatever illusion Sunderland had that they may be able to play their way back into the match. The languid Bulgarian (how can you refer to Berba without using that adjective?) looked as if he has a point to prove to Sir Alex after being left on the bench the game after putting five in the back of the net. That’s seven goals in his last two games for those of you who are counting, and if it wasn’t for the goal post and some fine Craig Gordon goalkeeping, he could have had more. Incredibly, his best shot of the day – the side-footed strike midway through the second half – didn’t even go in. His skill is just unreal....
- Berba’s second goal was actually a deflection off Rio’s little brother, Anton Ferdinand, who must be happy to be seeing Old Trafford in his rear view mirror. He has to hate playing against his older brother’s team, as he’s now guilty of two huge deflections into his own goal during the last two games he's played at the Theater of Dreams.
- Several other players in red looked absolutely spot on today, Giggs, Anderson, Rafael, and Rooney among them. The man, the myth, the legend that is Ryan Giggs looked extraordinarily perky in the hour that he played – as if he lost 10 years while recuperating from his hamstring injury. Meanwhile, Anderson completely bossed the game in midfield, passing Sunderland off the field, and sending Black Cat player after player spinning off him as if repelled by Kryptonite. When he was substituted after an hour, the fact that Sir Alex went over to have a quiet word with him shows how important the young midfielder has become to the United attack in the last few games.
- Rooney’s passing and movement looked sharp, but his shooting is still only so-so. He was unlucky not to score on his first chip shot, and forced Gordon into a good save on his second effort, but otherwise looked less than comfortable and always wanting to take one touch too many near the net. Rafael had a great game defensively (as did Vidic and Ferdinand, but pointing out the latter two almost goes without saying). The young Brazilian defender has a ton of energy, and seems to be harnessing it much better this season than he did last year. The United defense completely shut Sunderland down, with Darren Bent virtually invisible and Asamoah Gyan a total non-factor.
- I don’t say this often, so it should stand out all the more when I do: great refereeing today by Phil Dowd, as he properly played advantage on Bardsley's shocking first half sideline tackle of Berbatov. Only Berba's incredible ball skills kept the movement alive and led to a great, but ultimately unsuccessful, opportunity for United. When the game was later stopped, Dowd rightfully showed Bardsley the book. Referees take note: that’s the way it’s supposed to be done.
Game Day Beer Review: North Coast Brewing 2010 Old Stock Ale (11.70% ABV). Pours a murky ciderish reddish/brown with a thin head that quickly fades. Smell is rum and apples, like some British Navy Grog on Halloween. Taste is phenols, prunes and apples, and mixed dark fruits that hang together well. A bit overly carbonated. Wow, this is a big beer: B+
This is farlieonfootie for December 27.