Man Utd 1-0 Bolton: Report, Video Highlights & Player Ratings
With Sir Alex Ferguson watching from the stands, Manchester United stuttered to a 1-0 Barclays Premier League against a resurgent Bolton Wanderers team at Old Trafford.
Dimitar Berbatov, who came on as a second half substitute for Javier Hernandez, bundled home the only goal of the match to give the Reds three vital Barclays Premier League points.
Coupled with the Arsenal result, the win sees the Reds extend their lead at the top of the Premier League standings, even though the Gunners have a match-in-hand. For third consecutive match overall, the Gaffer decided to go with an unchanged strike partnership with Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez set to be unleashed against Bolton with Berbatov waiting on the bench.
However, because of the growing amount of injuries he has been faced with, Ferguson was forced to shuffle his back-four by recalling Jonny Evans, who has not played since United’s first Premier League loss of the season against Wolverhampton, from his ankle injury to play along side Chris Smalling in the center of Reds’ defense.
In the midfield, Sir Alex chose to operate Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs through the middle, but he was afforded the chance to flank those two with Nani and Antonio Valencia for the first time since September, which should see the Reds attack the Trotters with real pace and flair.
United lost the coin toss, so they attack the Stretford End from the start and they got first half-chance of the match. Nani given the chance to operate in a free role popped up on the same side of Valencia, but he pulled his left-footed shot well wide of Jussi Jaaskelainen’s near post.
Evans slipped in the box, which presented Bolton a golden opportunity, but Johan Elmander’s pass back to Fabrice Muamba, but the energetic midfielder’s heavy touch saw the ball go out for a goal kick. On the fifth minute mark, Nani poked the ball to Rooney, and with David Wheater dropping off, he let loose with a stinging drive that whistled wide of the far post.
Bolton were not to be outdone though, and just a minute later, Stuart Holden, an American international, had a chance to test Edwin van der Sar, but his shot from just outside of the United area ended up in the stands. Andre Marriner had a big decision to make 10 minutes into the match as United feel hard done by that they were not awarded a penalty. Following a good spell of possession on the left wing, Nani sent in a deep cross to the far post, which Brown did well to flick back to Chicharito, and his goal-bound effort was denied by a Cahill’s arm out for a corner.
A few minutes later, Bolton’s hardman, Kevin Davies, went down very easily after he felt Evans’ arm touch his back, and the referee gave them a free-kick 20-yards from goal. Martin Petrov, who scored in the first match at the Reebok, sent a curling left-footed effort towards the far post, which van der Sar did well to keep out with his precise positioning.
In predictable fashion, Bolton were enjoying a good bit of the ball, and were keen to test the United center-backs with long balls over the top, but Evans, Evra and Smalling did well to win headers. Nani raced on to Evra’s pass down the wing, and the two-footed winger played a very good ball into Chicharito, but Wheater timed his challenged to perfection and Bolton were able to clear the danger for a corner.
A terrible pass from Evans put United under some unneeded pressure, but, thankfully, the Reds held their ground and eventually cleared the Bolton pressure. Some good passing on the right wing, saw United create a good chance. Brown touched the ball to Valencia, and the burly winger burst past his marker to tee up Rooney, but his dipping volley, which Jaaskelainen used two touches to get a hold of.
Some more careless passing led to Petrov sending a cross-shot into the area, which Daniel Sturridge, who is on loan from Chelsea, missed getting a touch, and Evans was able to get the ball cleared. Some more good work down their left, saw van der Sar only able to get a touch palm on a cross, which set up Elmander to shoot, but a very good block by Evra saved it from going in.
Smalling did well to hold off Sturridge and win the 50/50 ball which sprung a precise United attack down the right. After winning the challenge, the composed center-back led Valencia with a great ball, and the Ecuadorian played the same sort of pass to Rooney inside the Bolton area, but his cutback pass to Hernandez was blasted just wide.
Some very good combination play between Nani and Rooney led to another good chance for the United No. 10 to shoot from outside of the Bolton box, but, unfortunately, the ball flew into the Stretford End. Bolton enjoyed the majority of the possession towards the end of the first half, but, in stoppage time, United began to come out of their shell, which eventually came to nothing.
The halftime team talk, which the manager made his way down to give himself, will be short and sour, because the Reds have been way too reserved and careless on the ball. Seeing problems with his selected team, Sir Alex sent on Berbatov and Fabio for Hernandez and Brown, respectively, to create more going forward.
Within a minute, it was Bolton who asked the first question of the second half. Attacking down their left, a good cross was well cleared by Fabio, but it fell to Muamba, but, again, he let his team down as he blasted harmlessly over van der Sar’s bar from 25-yards out. After that chance, United began getting on the ball, but the final pass did not match the build up as multiple times a Bolton player was quickest to react.
How the referee did not book Davies for a purposeful kick out at Rooney, which he has been known to do throughout his career, was amazing. After initially clearing the danger, Bolton were again put under pressure, but instead of working it around, Nani, on his right foot, took the onus of trying to break the deadlock with a shot from distance, which Jaaskelainen was not troubled in the least and saved it well.
After coming back on the field after receiving treatment, Elmander earned his team a corner. From the corner taken on their right, Wheater rose highest Owen Coyle, who managed Burnley to a shock win over United last season, made his first change of the match bringing on Chung-Yong Lee for Sturridge to send Elmander more central.
Bolton earned another corner this time on the left, which Petrov sent in initially, but it was cleared back to him, and, amazingly, he took a shot from no angle and it flew over the United bar. Bolton had a good chance to test van der Sar, but a timely block from Carrick on Davies not only killed their chance, but it started a counterattack for United. Nani played the ball to Rooney, and his cross, which took a slight deflection, was eventually cleared by Wheater with Berbatov waiting to pounce.
With just 20 or so minutes to go, United began stepping up their pressure, which was testing the Bolton back-four, but, admirably, they were handling everything that the Reds through at them. Giggs played the ball into Rooney, who had his back to goal, and with options right and left, he laid the ball to Berbatov, and the Bulgarian bent his first-time effort just wide of the Bolton far post.
Berbatov was then gifted a chance to bear down on the Bolton goal, but before he could get in the box, Cahill timed his challenge to perfection and poked the ball away. In a 50/50 sliding challenge, Jonny Evans caught Holden with his studs, which left the Bolton midfielder needing treatment and the United defender receiving a red card from Marriner.
Before the play restarted with a free-kick, Coyle replaced Holden with Matthew Taylor. From a very good position, Elmander bent the free-kick around the wall, but it also, narrowly, beat the far post as well. With no real defensive options on his bench, Sir Alex ordered Carrick to shift to the central defense, and Rooney to drop back into the midfield.
Instead of playing the goalless draw out, United went straight at Bolton with intent and the chance was created by Rooney. With his At the other end, Taylor was presented with a golden opportunity on a silver platter to put Bolton ahead with seven minutes to go. Gretar Steinsson, who charged forward from his right-back position for the first time, sent in a glorious ball for Taylor, but his unmarked header was directly at van der Sar.
The game was wide open and United was presented with a couple of very good chances of their own to score. First, Berbatov collected the ball inside the area, but Three minutes from time, United looked to have gotten out of jail after an error from one of the most reliable goalkeepers in the Premier League gifted them the lead. Evra played the ball to Nani, and his shot was amazing spilled by Jaaskelainen, and Berbatov reacted quickest and bundled the ball into the net.
Even though they had a slim lead and were down a man, United still wanted to attack Bolton, and it was down the right this time, and through Nani, but his near post shot was palmed first and collected second by Jaaskelainen. In an attempt to get something from this game, Coyle made an attack minded change with Ivan Klasnic coming on for Muamba.
After rarely putting a pass wrong against Olympique de Marseille, Michael Carrick turned in a robust, compose performance against Bolton.
E. van der Sar – 6; W. Brown – 5 (Fabio – 6), C. Smalling – 6, J. Evans – 4, P. Evra – 6; A. Valencia – 6, R. Giggs – 6, M. Carrick – 7, Nani – 6; W. Rooney – 7, J. Hernandez – 6 (D. Berbatov – 6)
D. Berbatov (87′)
Shots (On Target): 16 (6)
Fouls Conceded (Suffered): 9 (11)
Discipline: J. Evans (sent off)
Submitted by The United Religion
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