[GOALS, RATINGS & REPORT] Manchester United 5-0 Birmingham: Berbatov Batters Brum
Manchester United continued their unbeaten start to the Barclays Premier League season with a fashionable – win over Birmingham City at Old Trafford. Dimitar Berbatov scored his third hat-trick of the season, and Ryan Giggs and Nani added the other two as the Reds roared to a clinical win over Brum, which will send a clear message to their title rivals.
The resounding win extends United’s 32 year unbeaten streak over the Blues temporarily moves United three points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League standings, and continues the Reds’ 32 home win streak over Birmingham. With Rafael missing out through suspension and Rio Ferdinand suffering from an injury, Sir Alex Ferguson opted for John O’Shea and Chris Smalling to operate on the right side of the United defense.
The only other change that came from last weekend’s result against Tottenham was Anderson coming in for Darren Fletcher to partner Michael Carrick, who was recently touted in the papers to be leaving Old Trafford in the summer. There was no place on the United bench for Wes Brown, Javier Hernandez or Fletcher, because Sir Alex must have learned from his selection against Spurs, by to choose a winger, Gabriel Obertan, and a full-back, Fabio, rather than two forwards and two center-halves, which balances the squad out.
On the one minute mark, Nani earned United their first corner, which was half of the amount they had last weekend, and it led to the opening goal. O’Shea attacked Ryan Giggs’ near post with a back-headed flick, and Dimitar Berbatov was quickest to react and he headed the ball home from just a foot out.
United nearly doubled their lead in the fifth minute with two very decent efforts. The first came when Ben Foster pulled his poor clearance directly at Berbatov, whose header went to Rooney, who then returned the pass to his strike partner, but the Birmingham goalkeeper did well to block the shot.
The danger was not cleared and the ball eventually made its way to Carrick, who tried placing his shot in to the bottom corner and it missed just a foot wide of Foster’s right-hand post. Following United’s third corner, the ball was played out to Giggs who scampered by his man to the baseline, and he lofted a cross to the back stick, but it was just over the reach of Smalling, and headed behind for another corner by Stephen Carr.
United had the ball in the back of the net again, but it was ruled out for a push on Rooney before Nemanja Vidic rolled the ball in. The Reds continued to attack down their right-hand side, and Giggs and Nani were teaming up well against the slower Birmingham defenders. The combination play saw Giggs work his way to get a shot, but it was well blocked by David Murphy, and it fell to Nani, who cut inside on his left, but his shot lacked the accuracy and went well wide and high of the far post.
There was a bit of contention when Patrice Evra’s cross from the left channel made its way in towards Berbatov, and it looked like he was pulled down by Murphy, but the referee did not even give it a second thought. In the 25th minute, Sir Alex was forced to make his first change of the match bringing on Darron Gibson for Carrick, who could not continue after taking a knock in the opening 15 minutes.
Complacency looked to be setting in after that substitution, United were then put on the back foot for a couple of minutes, and Birmingham earned to corners, but a wild shot from Keith Fahey from the top of the area killed off the visitor’s intent. After some great hussle from Rooney, he sent a beautiful cross-field ball to Nani, and the winger juked his way passed Murphy, but his powerful shot did not have enough accuracy and went high and wide again.
With Birmingham were pushing forward, United were able to add a second. Anderson retrieved the ball and played it directly to Rooney, who had acres of space to run into, and he drove forward with pace and determination and found Berbatov out wide, and the Bulgarian cut inside of his defender, and slotted the ball in. With a minute later, Berbatov nearly had his hat-trick, but his long-range shot whistled inches wide of Foster’s far post.
With United completely bossed the game, and some very good passing led to Birmingham being pushed back inside of their own area, so Gibson had a chance to add his name to the score sheet, but his stinging left-footed drive was directly at Foster. Nani got the ball on the right flank, and expertly called for Rooney to make a near post run to free up space for Giggs on the left, which Nani picked him out perfectly, but the ageless wonder’s teed up shot deflected just a foot wide of the Birmingham post.
On the verge of first-half stoppage-time, United added a wonderful third goal with five inch-perfect passes, and it all started with Berbatov starting the move by winning the ball back while he was laying flat on his stomach.
The Bulgarian and Rooney combined to shred the right-hand side of the Brum defense apart with four passes between them, and then the latter picked out Giggs on the back post with a terrific cross, and the Welshman, who just revealed he will be continuing on next season, smashed the ball into the roof of the net passed a helpless Foster.
After the restart, Alex McLeish made his first change with the introduction of Cameron Jerome for Alexander Hleb to add more support his barren attack. Ferguson was given the luxury of making his second change. Rooney had a golden chance to get United’s fourth, but he somehow misplaced his header from just two yards out after Nani laid a perfectly-placed cross on a silver platter for him.
Nani was encouraged to run at the Birmingham defense, and with other options available left and right, he decided have a go from distance, but the ball ended up deep in the Stretford End. With this game all but won and Blackpool match in his mind, Sir Alex decided to bring off Giggs and let Michael Owen get more minutes under his belt for the run-in. How Birmingham did not score will be one of the greatest mysteries.
A rare mistake by Vidic allowed Matt Derbyshire to get behind the United defense, and with his shot-cross taking a slight deflection off van der Sar it ended up in the path of Fahey, but, amazingly, the midfielder put the ball wide with the entire goal to aim from less than a yard out. United had another chance to break forward with Nani, and even though his path was cut off, he still had the chance to pick out Berbatov at the far post, but he opted to shoot instead and missed the target completely.
Nani had another chance to score when the ball fell to him, but he screwed his shot horribly wide of the post with the Birmingham goal at his mercy. McLeish made his second change of the match bringing on want-a-way winger Sebastian Larsson for Fahey, which may not do his confidence a bit of good after missing that sitter moments earlier.
With three forwards in the box, Nani misplaced two more crosses, which was really starting to frustrate his teammates. Berbatov and Nani linked up well and the Bulgarian went for his fourth and United’s fifth, but he may have teed up Owen instead. With the Blues’ defenders dropping off him, Nani was given a yard of space to shoot, and Foster did well to palm away his powerful dipping right-footed shot.
Finally, Nani got his measurements right as he danced passed a couple of markers and planted the ball into the far netting. A floated cross from Nani to the far post, which was met with a first-time touch by Rooney, but, to be fair, it would have been a superbly taken goal if he had scored. A wonderful a long ball from Anderson gave Nani lots of space to attack his marker, but, with his teammates in very good positions for a pass, the winger selfishly put the ball over the bar from just inside the Birmingham box.
van der Sar collected a Birmingham corner, and quickly played the ball to Anderson for him to counter, and he eventually picked out Owen on his right, but, even though he beat his defender, the 30-year old forward missed the target. With an eye on their Semi-final second leg with West Ham United in the Carling Cup, McLeish brought on Birmingham’s leading goal scorer, Craig Gardner, for Bentley with five minutes to go.
United were not content sitting on their five goal lead, so they continued to push forward, but, unfortunately, the Reds were unable to add even more gloss to their performance. In stoppage-time, United could have very easily conceded a goal, but Jerome’s shot, which may have troubled van der Sar, was not given a chance as it struck Derbyshire’s arm and he was standing in an offside position to boot.
To delight Sir Alex Ferguson and the boisterous supporters inside of Old Trafford, Manchester United clearly showed their intent on winning their 19th English top-flight title this season with a fully-deserved, brilliant display against Birmingham City.
Berbatov showed exactly what he is capable of, and why Sir Alex spent all that money on him to get him from Spurs.
E. van der Sar – 7; J. O’Shea – 7, C. Smalling – 7, N. Vidic – 8, P. Evra – 6 (Fabio – 5); Nani – 6, Anderson – 6, M. Carrick – 5 (D. Gibson – 6); R. Giggs – 8 (M. Owen – 5), W. Rooney – 8, D. Berbatov – 9
D. Berbatov (2′), (31′), (53′), R. Giggs (45’+), Nani (76′)
Watch the goals here
Shots (On Target): 23 (8)
Fouls Conceded (Suffered): 10 (5)
Submitted by The United Religion
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