Berbatov 2, Berbatov 31, Giggs 45+2, Berbatov 53, Nani 76
BIRMINGHAM CITY 0
Following the fantastic defensive showing at White Hart Lane, questions were raised about the attacking potency of this Manchester United side. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men swiftly pushed this aside with a performance at Old Trafford which at times bordered on the sublime.
Dimitar Berbatov helped himself to his third hat-trick of the season and his 18th goal in all competitions, again repaying the faith shown to him in his early United career. When the United front two are in full flight, as they were on numerous occasions in this encounter, there are not many better than them in the Premier League. Often looking an unusual strike force they create unique problems for Premier League defenders. Neither of them is typical of their position. Neither plays on the shoulder and looks to continually run behind the back four or plays purely in the six-yard box. At times both can be linking up together in deep or wide positions, leaving the opposition defence without anyone but overlapping midfield players to mark. This may sound unusual for two players who have goals at the heart of their games, but when it works it really works.
This encounter was one of those days, with both players continually picking up dangerous positions and when in possession using the ball to devastating effect. Berbatov occupied more time in the six-yard box with two of his goals coming from that area, but also showed his class when coming from wide areas in grabbing his second. Critics may point to Rooney’s lack of goals as an indicator he is still far from the peak of his powers, citing a glaring miss from close range, but the rest of his game was at times inch perfect. His involvement in both Ryan Giggs’ goal and Berbatov’s third showed the class of his game and highlighted the potential effect he may well have on the remainder of United’s season.
It was not all about Rooney and Berbatov, with both United wide men putting in strong performances. Ryan Giggs was outstanding as he continued to roll back the years in a showing which will have many praising his ability to twist and turn defenders despite his advanced years. This is something the Welshman has been demonstrating in recent weeks but what has left him short was his passing and distribution. In this encounter Giggs was able to add an end product to his fine runs which were absolutely sublime for the 55 minutes he was present on the pitch. On the right flank Nani showed glimpses of the potential to be a world class player but continued to show the inconsistency in his game which so frustrates the Old Trafford faithful. Particular highlights were of course his goal and the way he was able to turn onto his left foot and find Rooney at the back post for an inch-perfect cross, but his wastefulness from the edge of the penalty area is something that won’t have escaped the attention of Ferguson.
Praise must go to United for putting a poor Birmingham side to the sword. However, with a tough trip to Blackpool on Tuesday, feet must remain firmly on the ground. In order to capitalise on their game-in-hand, the defensive elements shown against Spurs must be combined with the attacking elements shown against Birmingham. If this can be achieved, what a result it just might be.
1 van der Sar
22 O’Shea – 12 Smalling – 15 Vidic – 3 Evra
17 Nani – 16 Carrick – 8 Anderson – 11 Giggs
10 Rooney – 9 Berbatov
24 – 28 Gibson on for 16 Carrick
46 – 20 Fabio on for 3 Evra
55 – 7 Owen on for 11 Giggs