|photo by Nesster
If familiarity breeds contempt, this weekend is full of matches between EPL teams that hate each other. All the games on offer today and tomorrow involve teams which played each other less than a month ago, during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. How in the world did the EPL decide to manage its schedule like this...? Clearly, there wasn't a lot of thought went into putting this portion of the season together.....
In any event, United took on Birmingham again this afternoon, in a rematch of the dull and dreary game at St. Andrews in which Lee Mason cheated the Reds out of a couple points on a late goal. And what a difference four weeks made....
In thrashing the Blues 5-nil, United displayed a cutting edge not seen in weeks, absolutely destroying a under-talented Brum side which was never really in the match. From the opening minutes, as a Giggs corner was flicked on by O'Shea and headed home by Berbatov, the Reds were dominant. United piled continual pressure on their former teammate, Ben Foster -- who ended the game looking shellshocked -- and cut open the Birmingham defense early and often in juimping out to a 3-nil halftime lead.
The wing play today was fantastic, with Ryan Giggs looking closer to 26 than 36, and giving the Blues a master class in how to play the position, as he shucked and jived his way through the Birmingham defense seemingly at will. On the opposite side, Nani was open any time the ball was directed his way, as Brum were unable to figure out how to defend wide areas of the pitch despite opening the game with a five-man midfield.
Also distinguishing himself in front of the home fans was Wayne Rooney, who was all over the pitch today, looking hungry like the wolf. He was a force unleashed in the middle, dropping deep at times and also appearing in his customary forward position at others, playing almost like the creative midfielder I often think he could be. He terrorized Brum every which way but loose, repeatedly picking out the open man and slotting him through for a chance on goal.
The open man was often Berbatov, and the two strikers played in perfect harmony today. This was never more evident than in the game's third goal, Berbatov and Rooney playing a quick game of keep away while Ryan Giggs streaked down the left wing. Sending a curling ball through the box, Rooney offered a perfect ball for Giggs, who made no mistake as he put the ball in the upper corner of the net.
And there can be no serious discussion of the match without saving final praise for the languid Bulgarian, Dimitar Berbatov, who displayed more talent today while lying down on the pitch than did any Birmingham player during the entire match. With his third hat trick of the season, Berbatov joined an elite crowd which consists only of Alan Shearer and Ruud Van Nistelrooy. It was another magnificent game from the Berba-nator, who was unlucky not to have scored at least four this afternoon.
At the final whistle, it was United 5 and Birmingham nil, and my wish for Brum's relegation took another step forward (or is it backward?) with their loss today. .
This is a happy farlieonfootie signing off for today, January 23.