January round up – Manchester United – Neville retires but United ease through the gears

January was a very successful month for Manchester United. They equalled their club record for most games unbeaten (29), went through to the fifth round of the FA Cup and remained top of the Premier League. It also saw the return to form of Wayne Rooney, the continuing improvement of Dimitar Berbatov and the end of Gary Neville’s 20 year career at Old Trafford.

On the pitch: The month began with an average performance against West Bromwich Albion when Javier Hernandez came of the bench to score the winner 15 minutes from time. With Rooney still struggling to find his goal scoring touch it was left to young Chicharito to lead the line against Stoke City in a 2-1 win at Old Trafford.

It was then the turn of Liverpool to visit the Theatre of Dreams in the third round of the FA Cup. Whilst they had been struggling in the league, newly appointed Kenny Dalglish had taken over and there was a feeling this could be the game to turn their fortunes around. However, a rash challenge from Steven Gerrard resulted in a red card after Ryan Giggs had already opened the scoring from the penalty spot. The game ended 1-0 and United were through to the 4th round to face Southampton.

It was then off to White Hart Lane for a tricky game against an improving Tottenham Hotspur side. United came away with a well deserved point after a fantastic defensive display following Rafael’s harsh sending off. Following this game they entertained Birmingham City where we saw Berbatov return to goal scoring form with a fine hat-trick in a 5-0 drubbing.

The week after saw the Red Devils display their fighting spirit with two comebacks against Blackpool and Southampton. Again it was Hernandez who ended up scoring the winning goals in both games, and although the young Mexican is in his first season in England he has already looked a real prospect for the future.

Off the pitch: Away from the pitch saw the retirement of a United great. Gary Neville announced his immediate retirement from all football. He retired after playing over 600 games for United and winning 14 major trophies. Although he has not figured much over the last few seasons he has been an incredible person to have associated with the squad. The advice and knowledge he can pass down to the younger players will prove invaluable and many believe he will be part of United again in the future.

Key man – Rio Ferdinand: Throughout January the defence looked fantastic when they could start with their first choice centre backs. The partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic was outstanding since Ferdinand’s return from injury and gave United the stability at the back that they have needed.

Quotes:

I remember Arsenal winning the title without losing a game and it was a tremendous run, but I’m confident we can do it too. We know we have some difficult away matches but I believe we’re capable of finishing without a single defeat.

Some of our critics are making a meal out of the fact that Wayne Rooney is lagging behind in the goal stakes. He is, compared with the bucket load he scored last year, but I am not worried.Sir Alex Ferguson

Results

January 1 – West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Manchester United – Premier League – 1st

January 4 – Manchester United 2-1 Stoke City – Premier League – 1st

January 9 – Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool – FA Cup 3rd Round

January 16 – Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Manchester United – Premier League – 1st

January 22 – Manchester United 5-0 Birmingham City – Premier League – 1st

January 25 – Blackpool 2-3 Manchester United – Premier League – 1st

January 28 – Southampton 1 Man Utd 2 FA Cup 4th Round

Average starting XI

1 van der Sar

21 Rafael – 5 Ferdinand – 15 Vidic – 3 Evra

11 Giggs – 16 Carrick – 8 Anderson

10 Rooney – 9 Berbatov – 17 Nani

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