Sunday, December 30, 2012

Why Stop at Five?: Six Thoughts on Manchester United 2 - West Bromwich Albion 0

Columnist Ed Grinds it Out
photo by Generationbass.comvia PhotoRee

o Sodden: The non-stop Manchester rain swamped the pitch and made for slow going throughout the affair. Much muddier than usual and pockmarked in multiple spots, the Old Trafford pitch played extremely "heavy" and made the option of moving the ball around the park virtually unworkable.

o 1,2,3: 2 own goals at Old Trafford in 3 days was only 1 too many -- that's because the second one of the week came off the leg of West Brom defender Gareth McAuley, who kneed Ashley Young's fizzing cross between his own goalkeeper's legs inside the game's 10 minute mark. The unaccustomed early lead gave the home side some significant confidence, as they dominated possession in the game's first quarter hour - controlling 80% of the ball.  West Brom played as if they were allergic to the far side of the midfield line, showing only the faintest inclination to move forward, and none at all to press the ball on defense.

o Lethargic: One or two outbursts of action to the contrary, the game settled down into a pace slightly faster than that at which the famed tortoise moved. Both sides played as if there was a gentleman's agreement to play kick about at a down tempo rate, the ball switching from side to side like a slow moving metronome, with neither goaltender having to do any heavy lifting.

o Unscientific: We don't believe the experimental starting lineup chosen by Sir Alex on Saturday worked. Although it allowed the Scot to rest several of his most valuable players, pairing Shinji Kagawa and Danny Welbeck up top appeared a strange move, all the more so given the duo's lack of recent playing time.  It was as if Sir Alex believed the Baggies' strong first half was all a bit of a mirage, and for the hour or so, the decision didn't come back to bite him.  But despite the fact the Baggies spent much of the that time playing as if they had some place they'd rather be, United created as few opportunities as we can recall in any recent home game.

o Grinding: What started out as a jaunt toward an easy home victory turned into one of those days where the result just needed to be gutted out, something that would be more expected on the road than playing in front of a friendly crowd at Old Trafford. Sir Alex was forced to call Paul Scholes off the bench in an attempt to get the ball back in the second half-- West Brom didn't want to give it back once they got hold of it.

o Blank: Perhaps the most important thing to come out of yesterday's match, other than three points associated with the victory, was the Reds' defense emerging with an all-too-rare clean sheet on the afternoon -- David De Gea's first of the season. Is it any coincidence that the game was one of the very few that Nemanja Vidic has played this season? We don't think so…. The Serbian and his Northern Irish counterpart were fantastic -- diving for loose balls all over the pitch and taking command of the area inside the box. We also can't remember another game in which United defense and midfield recorded so many defensive blocks inside the 18 yard box, several of them key to the day's outcome.

This is farlieonfootie for December 30.

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