Following Manchester United’s win over Tottenham on Tuesday night, Republic of Ireland central midfielder Darron Gibson was singled out for praise by United boss Sir Alex Ferguson. Following two fantastic strikes, Gibson was always going to grab the headlines but it was the partnership with Anderson in the middle which most pleased Sir Alex, who stated the following in his post match interview:“The two stars were Gibson and Anderson. Darron’s second goal in particular was fantastic. There was good movement and a terrific finish. Anderson is very quick and powerful – he’s a handful.”
Anderson continues to be a frustrating figure as often he bosses games but then struggles to make an impact on the next game. At 21, he is still relatively young which is often forgotten due to the high transfer fee United paid to Porto and also the impact he made immediately in his first season. People often don’t realise that the young Brazilian was used more as a wide or forward player during his time in Portugal and has only really being playing in the centre of midfield since his move to United. He is still clearly adapting to this role and that coupled with his age can often be the cause of inconsistency. If he can improve on that and add some more goals to his game he will certainly become the player all at Old Trafford expect him to become.
Gibson, on the other hand clearly doesn’t struggle for goals, having an average of one goal every four games for the United first team, following his two strikes on Tuesday. It’s not the first time he has been the match winner for the Red Devils as many will remember his wonder strike on the final day of last season away to Hull. This has prompted Sir Alex to remark earlier this season that he can no longer hold him back and is likely to give him more first team opportunities. He took both his goals extremely well against Spurs and according to Sir Alex, he is the one United midfield man who can score from distance. This is certainly true as his thunderous shot is extremely dangerous but the jury may still be out as to whether he can truly make it at Old Trafford. Michael Carrick has been singled out as the man who Gibson may push for a starting berth but the former West Ham man has started to hit some good form in recent weeks combining extremely well with Darren Fletcher. With Paul Scholes and Anderson already in there, the option of Ryan Giggs playing through the middle and the return of Owen Hargreaves it is difficult to see where Gibson may immediately fit in.
Harry Redknapp was bitterly disappointed by his side’s performance feeling they struggled to get into gear at a subdued half full Old Trafford, feeling that this presented their best opportunity to get something at Old Trafford. The youthful nature of United’s line up may have led him to believe this but in actual fact Sir Alex achieved the perfect blend between youth and experience which was the real undoing of Spurs. The decision to start with the current first choice central defensive partnership of Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic gave United solidity at the back which Spurs struggled to penetrate. The north Londoners had much of the possession, dominating the first half but never looked like creating anything. They made good progress through their two wide men but each time the ball came across it was dealt with by the central defensive pairing. Following a sloppy performance away at Portsmouth which led this writer to feel they struggled to play together, it was encouraging to see a performance such as this.
Another key decision perfectly made by Sir Alex was to start Dimitar Berbatov up front with Danny Welbeck, giving the Bulgarian an hour before replacing him with Federico Macheda. Berbatov held the ball up superbly, consistently creating space for the players around him which helped the less experienced players such as Welbeck no end. He may have been a little slow reacting to a Gabriel Obertan cross but the Bulgarian’s overall contribution was fantastic. The team selection by Ferguson was a superb case of how to ease young players into first team encounters while still winning football matches – something which he has been doing consistently at United since the early nineties.
United have been drawn against Arsenal conquerors and local rivals Manchester City for two mouthwatering semi-final encounters. City will name their strongest possible side and so will prove another tough ask for a side that Ferguson will continue with for the next round. The expensively built City side will be viewing the League Cup as their best chance of silverware following the exits of Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea and the weakened nature of United’s team. On this performance however, United fans must believe that their manager will again achieve the perfect blend once more to dispatch another Premier League side and put United another step closer to retaining the trophy.