Month In Review: Manchester United’s April 2011
After experiencing a difficult time in March, Manchester United faced a long, grueling schedule with eight matches in three different competitions.
Manchester United Hit Form In April
To the surprise of everyone though, the Reds won six of those matches, three in both the Barclays Premier League and UEFA Champions League, but a slight blip during the middle of the month saw them exit the FA Cup.
Because of that form, United are now in prime position for a place in the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final, and within touching distance of landing their 19th English top-flight title.
Going into April, United held a five-point advantage in the Premier League standings over Arsenal, and a nine point lead over Chelsea, and they finished the month with a six point gap over the Blues and a nine point lead over the Gunners. However, even though the Reds have lost ground in the domestic standings to Chelsea, they were still able to convincingly see them off in the Champions League Quarterfinals.
The Reds managed to score just 11 goals in their eight games during April, but that total was certainly not helped by the fact that they went 277 minutes without scoring a goal. That streak started in the 77th minute against Chelsea and was ended when the Reds scored a late goal against Everton. But, to their credit, United only gave up one goal during that time, and they enjoyed a couple of stretches without conceding during the month.
In total, United have only conceded four goals – two of them being penalties – during the month of April. After conceding a goal in the 25th minute against West Ham United, the Reds posted back-to-back shutouts and kept their opponents from scoring for a total 322 minutes.
United have closed out the month without giving up a goal in the last 308 minutes, and, impressively, it was a total squad effort. Meaning, that during April, Sir Alex Ferguson used seven different back-four combinations using eight of his nine available first-team defenders.
Even though it was a very impressive month defensively, it was an offensive-minded player that earned Man of the Month for United.
After being forced to sit out two of United’s matches through an absurd suspension, Wayne Rooney scored nearly half of the club’s goals in April. The fit-again forward, who admitted how wrong he was to question the ambition of the club, notched five goals and added an assist as well.
Even though he had a very good statistical month, they do not even begin to describe how influential Rooney has become in the business part of the season. Now in a more withdrawn role, the United No. 10 can be more creative and the Reds have certainly benefited tremendously from that, and the understanding between him and Javier Hernandez had defenses stretched throughout the month.
The Reds started April with a trip to Upton Park, and in their 100th top flight meeting, Manchester United tabled a dramatic 4-2 come-from-behind win over West Ham. Mark Noble converted two first half penalties to give the Hammers a shock lead, but in the second half, Wayne Rooney scored his first hat-trick of the season, and Chicharito scored the fourth goal for added measure to hammer in the nail in Irons’ coffin.
Bursting with confidence from that electrifying away result, United traveled back to London, this time to do battle with Chelsea and the Reds earned a 1-0 win in the first leg of their quarterfinal tie. Wayne Rooney applied the finishing touch to a wonderfully crafted move to give the Reds not only a vital away goal, but also a precious victory at Stamford Bridge – their first win in nine tries at Stamford Bridge.
Next up, the Reds turned their focus back to the Premier League as they triumphed 2-0 over Fulham at Old Trafford. Nani created two first half goals for both Dimitar Berbatov, who took his league-leading goal total to 21, and Antonio Valencia, who registered his first of the season, to give United all three points.
Faced with a return leg against Chelsea at Old Trafford, the Reds secured a 2-1 win over Chelsea to claim the all-English UEFA Champions League Quarterfinal 3-1 on aggregate.
Having a 1-0 from the first leg, Hernandez hammered the Reds further in front just before halftime, however, Didier Drogba pulled a goal back to give the Blues hope, but Ji-Sung Park demolished that belief just seconds later with a well-taken goal to help the Reds advance to the semifinals.
With progress secured in Europe, United turned their attention to the other competition that they were still involved in, but they were punished by their local rival, Manchester City, 1-0 at Wembley Stadium. Berbatov failed to score either of his glorious chances from close range in the first half, so it opened the door for Yaya Toure to capitalized off of a very lackadaisical pass, which brought their treble aspirations to a screeching halt.
United had a chance to quickly forget about that setback with a trip to St. James’ Park to face Newcastle United, but, unfortunately, the cobwebs in their shooting boots were still present as it finished in a goalless draw. The game had very few chances, but Ryan Giggs, uncharacteristically, ruin a golden chance in the second half that would have surely gave the Reds all three Premier League points.
After playing back-to-back away games, United returned to Old Trafford and the home crowd sucked the ball into the net as they grabbed a late 1-0 victory over Everton to take a monumental step towards the Barclays Premier League title. Like he has done so many times this season, Chicharito rose to the occasion and headed home the decisive goal in the 84th minute to give the Reds a fully-deserved win over the Toffees.
The Reds finished the month with a trip to Germany for the first leg of ther UEFA Champions League Semifinal, which they completely dominated Schalke 04 and eventually went off 2-0 winners at the Veltins-Arena. After being frustrated for the first 66 minutes of the match, Giggs and Rooney scored goals two minutes apart to give the Reds a very healthy advantage heading into the return leg.
If the old saying, “April showers brings May flowers,” holds true, then Manchester United could very well have a fruitful ending to their 2010/11 season.
- 02 – West Ham United (BPL) – Upton Park – W, 4-2 (W. Rooney 3, J. Hernandez)
- 06 – Chelsea (UCL) – Stamford Bridge – W, 1-0 (W. Rooney)
- 09 – Fulham (BPL) – Old Trafford – W, 2-0 (D. Berbatov, A. Valencia)
- 12 – Chelsea (UCL) – Old Trafford – W, 2-1 (J. Hernandez, J. S. Park)
- 16 – Manchester City (FAC) – Wembley Stadium – L, 0-1
- 19 – Newcastle United (BPL) – St. James’ Park – D, 0-0
- 23 – Everton (BPL) – Old Trafford – W, 1-0 (J. Hernandez)
- 26 – Schalke 04 (UCL) – Veltins-Arena – W, 2-0 (R. Giggs, W. Rooney)
GP 8 W 6 D 1 L 1 GF 11 GA 4 GD +7
- W. Rooney – 5
- J. Hernandez – 3
- D. Berbatov – 1
- R. Giggs – 1
- J. S. Park – 1
- A. Valencia – 1
- R. Giggs – 4
- A. Valencia – 2
- Nani – 2
- W. Rooney – 1
- J. Hernandez – 1
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