MANCHESTER UNITED 3
Fletcher 48, Obertan 73, Bebe 77
Paul Scholes was in fine form for Manchester United in what was a comfortable Champions League victory in Turkey. United were at times lacklustre in their passing which would have seen them punished against stronger opposition, but it was the controlled and experienced nature of Scholes performance which saw them through.
Since his debut for the Old Trafford club Scholes has treated each and every match with the respect it deserves. For many, starting a Champions League match against statistically the worst side in this season’s competition would not have looked an exciting prospect. This is not the case with Scholes. Regardless of the opposition, the former England man plays as is if this may be his last outing in a United shirt. At no point can the criticism he lacks effort be levelled against him. It is this kind of hunger which has provided his career with such longevity and enabled him to recapture some of his best form this season.
As is so often the case, he was a continual option for any United player in possession against the Turkish champions. When in possession himself, he played his customary intelligent football, creating space and then bringing others into the game with his range of passing. Whether opting to hit it long or keep it short and offer himself for another pass, Scholes rarely makes the wrong decision. To be able to keep going in this manner each time he is picked, at the age of 35, is true testament to one of the finest players of his generation.
What will have disappointed United fans most on the night is the fact Dimitar Berbatov does not show the same kind of hunger as Scholes. The Bulgarian cut a sullen figure for the entire evening, appearing to lack effort and often berating teammates when they did not hit his feet perfectly. When on form earlier in the season, Berbatov appeared to have the requisite hunger and desire with a clearly increased work rate. This seems to have been lost on the evidence of Tuesday’s encounter with a return to his previous ways. The Bulgarian may have felt the service to him was not good enough, although this is difficult to see considering the form of Scholes, but it was his contribution at times when in possession of the ball which will have frustrated the travelling United support.
During the first half, in United’s best passage of play Berbatov had the chance to set Gabriel Obertan clear with what was not a difficult pass but in electing to play Obertan in nonchalantly with the outside of his boot, Berbatov over hit the ball, thus halting the move. It would have been far easier and far more effective to play it simply with his instep, measuring the ball into space. Good football is not about looking casual and still being inspired – it is about precision and accuracy. This is a lesson the Bulgarian would do well to learn from the likes of Scholes.
There were some real plus points for United on the night alongside the performance of Scholes, as a goal each for Obertan and Bebe and a strong performance from Chris Smalling will do their confidence a power of good. It is just a shame for those younger players and for the travelling United support Berbatov did not share the same enthusiasm for the encounter.
1 Van der Sar
21 Rafael – 15 Vidic – 12 Smalling – 3 Evra
17 Nani – 24 Fletcher – 18 Scholes – 16 Carrick – 26 Obertan
29 – 13 Ji-Sung Park on for 17 Nani
62 – 33 Bebe on for 24 Fletcher
80 – 20 Fabio da Silva on for 3 Evra