[HIGHLIGHTS] Manchester United 5 – 0 Birmingham
Ben Foster suffered a miserable return to Old Trafford, conceding five goals to the ever potent attack of Dimitar Berbatov with his third hat-tick of the season, Ryan Giggs with a wonder goal and a Nani strike that is becoming a familiar feature at Old Trafford.
The Premier League’s top scorer opened the scoring in the second minute. Some supporters may have been just settling into their seats, preparing for a tough game against resilient opposition, but no sooner had they sat, they were back on their feat celebrating Dimitar Berbatov heading in from a yard out thanks to a Ryan Giggs corner which was headed on from O’Shea at the near post to the Bulgarians awaiting forehead.
Less than thirty minutes later, and Berbatov had grabbed another goal, but this time with his feet. An attacked stared from the middle of the park and red shirts bursted forward in numbers, but only Rooney and his strike partner were needed. Rooney was given the ball, ran and passed it to Berbatov on the edge of the box, and after getting it out of his feet, struck it passed the helpless Foster.
The third goal Sir Alex Ferguson called “very, very exciting”. In a reversal of roles, Berbatov tackled a Birmingham defender in the final third, and fed it to Rooney. Rooney then clipped it back to the Bulgarian, and ran down the right wing and waited for the return ball. He got it, and smashed it across the face of the goal for the waiting Ryan Giggs on the corner of the six yard box to blast into the roof of the Birmingham net.
United were on the attack again and again, but there was no goal for Rooney. He missed a golden opportunity too, as a Nani cross flew into the box, and as Rooney did so many times last year, he made his deadly run to smash it into the net. Unfortunately for him and United, the ball didn’t quite make contact, and another chance for Rooney was gone. He was, and has been throughout the season, a creator of goals and not the scorer, and is still hugely valuable to United in this sense, but a few more goals would be welcome.
The fourth began from veteran keeper van der sar in the United goal. He hoofed it up field, and waiting on the left wing was Rooney to bring it down beautifully, and slot it through to Giggs in the box. The Welsh winger then hit it into the box for the brilliant hat-trick to be completed.
There was a little mix up in the United defence, a rare Nemanja Vidic mistake, as he was unable to get a cross out of his feet. The ball was taken off of him in the box, and it was crossed into flashing right past Edwin van der sar in the goal, only for it to be missed by Keith Fahey at the far post. It was an open goal, and all that was needed was a simple tap in, but the pace of the ball was too much to control from a yard or so out. Maybe this was what Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger meant when he said United were “a bit” lucky to still be unbeaten.
The final goal came from Nani; his eighth of the season, and he did it somewhat familiar fashion. On the right, he cut inside, and from outside the box, cut inside on his left and smashed it into the bottom left corner to seal the win for United, and cap a miserable day for Birmingham and Foster in goal.
When asked about the Bulgarian’s display, who took his tally for the season to 17 in the Premier League, he admitted:
“It was marvellous.
“He could have scored more and we were a bit wasteful at times with our finishing, but you can’t complain at that performance.
“I think it helps when you score an early goal. When we scored they had to open up and I think we capitalised on that.
“It was a good scoreline at half-time, I was able to take Patrice Evra off to give him a break and bring young Fabio on. And then I was able to take Ryan off because we’ve got a big game on Tuesday.”
I say it week after week, but I have no choice: United remain unbeaten. Some performances this season have been poor, and the Red Devils have come out very lucky to still have that unbeaten record, but this performance was certainly not one of them. Birmingham were totally outplayed and sit proudly at the top of the table.
Arsenal beat Wigan convincingly too, and now sit second, 2 points behind United, while Manchester City lost to Aston Villa which sees them drop to third. It was certainly a good day for United, despite the Arsenal win. Maybe now they can sort out their home form and cruise to a Premier League unbeaten season with an improved away record.
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