Monday, August 15, 2011

Normal Service Resumed

photo by rivovia PhotoRee

The English Champions returned to action on Sunday, playing West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns. It was a welcome return to action for fans of the once and future champs, and Sir Alex wasted no time in introducing several of his talented youngsters into the Opening Day lineup, preferring Tom Cleverly and Danny Welbeck to Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov. Newboy David De Gea started in goal, while ex-Red Ben Foster manned the nets for the home side.

o United piled the pressure on immediately, as if demonstrating that the players couldn't wait for the season to begin, too. And what a difference a year makes: this season it was Wayne Rooney getting off the mark quickly, as he dispatched an easy left footer past the diving Foster to give the Reds a 1-nil lead.  Admittedly, West Brom showcased some pre-season form and was absolutely awful in closing Rooney down, generously offering him acres of space just on top of the 18 yard box. The goal was greeted with celebrations heard the world 'round -- probably everywhere except the West Midlands, in fact --  as United's legions of fans can't help but be cheered by the sight of a smiling Rooney finding goal so early in the season.

o The traveling fans were in fine throat yesterday, serenading the boys in Red and being heard loud and clear all the way across the Atlantic, via my laptop, via Slingbox, via DirecTV, via a dodgy internet connection at Newark Liberty International Airport.  Due to a brutal rainstorm yesterday that wiped out travel plans up and down the Eastern seaboard of the United States, I watched the first half hour of the match in this manner, so "Loud and Clear" was the only way they were going to be heard: mission accomplished, guys.

o Another week, another questionable goal allowed by David De Gea, in which he seemed once again to dive just over the top of a shot and allow the Baggies back into the match. De Gea looked as twitchy as Roy Hodgson's face during the match's second half, and the announcers on both English and American television were only too quick to jump on the young Spaniard -- I can't even imagine the reaction on the Twitterverse. One thing's for sure: I'm sticking with my boy, and riding him all the way this season, for better or worse. 

o I thought United looked a bit careless on the ball for the entirety of the match, returning it to the hosts much too easily on more than a few occasions, and mis-hitting pass after pass -- repeatedly sending the ball behind the onrushing attacker. The play was way too narrow and all too much through the middle, and -- worst of all -- unimaginative in the extreme. The youth Sir Alex started didn't have nearly the same effect on the game Sunday as they did last weekend at Wembley.  I don't know whether it was opening day nerves or just an off day, but it bears watching. I'll chalk it up to the early season date and move on -- a win's still a win.

o I don't know to whom the winning goal will ultimately be credited, but to my eyes it looked as if  United's favorite scorer from the 2009/10 season reappeared, and just in the nick of time: Own Goal popped up on the end of a double deflected Ashley Young ball that had been whipped across the goalmouth to hand all three points to the Champs, allowing United to hold onto an edgy 2-1 victory. 

o It was all a bit nervous at the end, with West Brom piling on pressure at the United end of the pitch, but the defense -- by this time anchored by Jonny Evans and Phil Jones -- did just enough to get the job done.  Special credit must also be given to Wayne Rooney, who threw his body around at the end as if he had personally guaranteed the three points to Sir Alex.  Well done, Wazza.

o It's never good to see Captain Vidic limp off, especially with Rafael sidelined for a couple months and Patrice Evra out with a knock, as well. But the obvious defensive concerns were doubled just a few minutes later as Rio Ferdinand hobbled off the pitch, as well. Let's hope neither injury is serious -- United are already a bit thin at the back, especially considering that the season has just begun.  Next up are Spurs and Arsenal:  not exactly layups.

o I'll take the points any way we get them; as the announcers correctly noted at the match's conclusion, three points gained in August count just as much in the standings as three points gained in May.   West Brom are downed 2-1, and United are top of the EPL again: normal service resumed.

This is a relieved farlieonfootie for August 15.

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