|photo by JAGwired||via PhotoRee|
Manchester United defeated a spirited Aston Villa side today in a 3-1 win at Old Trafford in which the final scoreline does not reflect the true ease of the contest. Displaying only flashes of brilliance, United turned in a performance as comfortable as an overstuffed easy chair while cruising to victory, and could have scored goals by the bucketfull if not for a typically magnificent performance in goal by Villa's wise old American 'keeper, Brad Friedel.
Perhaps most worryingly for their rivals, the Red Devil attack this evening was spearheaded not by the EPL's leading scorer, Dimitar Berbatov, but rather by his once and future strike partner, Wayne Rooney, who increased his season scoring output by 66% with a brace. With his performance tonight, Rooney reminded friend and foe alike that he can still strike like a deadly cobra, and the rest of the league would do well to sit up and take notice.
Also turning back the clock to yesteryear was Sir Ryan Giggs, who turned in yet another scintillating performance in midfield -- his third world class performance in a row to this viewer's eyes. Giggs not only showed bursts of his old pace, but time and again he demonstrated his unparallelled vision and creativity on the pitch in tearing the Villa midfield into tiny little pieces. United looked threatening virtually every time Giggs touched the ball, and much of the attack this evening ran through Giggs and the left hand side of the pitch.
While singling out players for praise today, I should also mention Dimi-star Berbatov. Although the languid Bulgarian (there -- I've now used up my quota of one "languid" per Berba article with this reference) did not get his name on the scorer's sheet this evening, his overall hustle, strength, guile, and incredibly un-lazy performance stood out. A telliing incident near the end of the first half stands out in my mind, as Berbatov deftly swallowed a mishit ball from Carrick, and with Kyle Walker hanging all over him, proceeded to outmuscle the Villa defender and then beat him for pace to the end line. Although his resulting chip-cum-cross was intercepted by Friedel, last year's edition of the Bulgarian super-star may not have had the extra jolt of energy required to make a very difficult play appear as easy as it did.
On the other side of the ball, United looked at ease virtually all evening -- momentary lapse aside -- allowing Villa only the odd threat or two. Rio and Vida (on whom I'll write a bit more in a minute) seved as Army and Air Force, commanding both land and air, while Evra played the Navy, having finally found his sea legs this season after a rough early start to the campaign. Defense frequently led to offense today, as the United back five (including VdS) were quick to spot counter-attacking opportunities and repeatedly and accurately played the ball upfield in a hurry.
In closing, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the Captain's goal this evening. Displaying the type of finishing skills you'd expect to see from Berbatov or Rooney (strike that; from Berbatov only), Vidic killed the game off with his goal in the second half, his 4th of the season. Stunning in its execution, Vidic knocked down a cross to Rooney, took back the Englishman's quick layoff in the box, and then curled the ball in between the onrushing Villa defense and around Brad Friedel, leaving the Villa 'keeper gaping slack-jawed and flat-footed at his footi-work.
All in all, the beat marches on, as do United. At full-time it was 3-1, and this is a relaxed -- and comfortable -- farlionfootie signing off for February 3.
[Ed. Note: You may notice different publishing times over the next couple days/weeks as we tweak the optimum release time for the farlieonfootie blog postings. Don't worry -- you'll still be getting your daily fix, it may just come out at a different time as we fine tune our release mechanisms to ensure maximum distribution.]