Manchester United 5-0 Wigan Athletic
Manchester United normally perform to the best of their ability post-Christmas time, and that was evident here on this cold evening at Old Trafford where Wigan were better off staying at home watching Piers Morgan’s Review of the Year.
Even though the score remained goalless for about a good 30 minutes, there was always going to be one result. Chance after chance for the home side as Wayne Rooney, Antonio Valencia and Rafael particularly good at exposing the visitors. The gap at the top was closed to two points with this 5-0 victory, and in fairness it could have been around 8-0.
Rooney had hit the woodwork, beating Chris Kirkland but the post denied him. Minutes later, Rooney had opened the scoring in this men-against-boys encounter, after his angled finish from Rafael’s cross had beaten the ‘keeper. The lead was doubled in no time as Carrick had literally passed the ball into the net in another slick move, Valencia supplied the ball for the central midfielder and he routinely dispatched.
Rafael had then scored his second ever goal for the club, a low left footed strike beating Kirkland just before half time. Easy. Rafael dedicated his goal to his brother Fabio, a second half sub, pointing in his direction much to the delight of his twin sibling.
Valencia’s former club had found him to be a pain on the right hand side, with Rafael adding good support just behind him. Carrick and Fletcher controlled the centre with ease, and Rooney and Berbatov’s one-touch movement had forced Wigan into their shell. Half time, scoreline 3-0. Game, set and match.
Berbatov converted another Valencia cross to make it 4-0, and Roberto Martinez was running out of hair to pull out. But now the hosts could afford to take their foot off the gas and for a brief spell, Wigan had equal share of the possession but chances were rare. Charles N’Zogbia had a glorious chance, which he hit wide. Moments later, he was subbed. Instead of joining his colleagues on the bench, he instead stormed off for no real reason into the tunnel probably trying to catch the last few minutes of Piers Morgan’s ITV show.
Valencia capped off a fine performance with an easy finish, collecting Rooney’s pass in his stride and beating Mark Pollitt, a second half substitute, to make it 5-0, a repeat scoreline of the thrashing at the DW Stadium earlier this season. What a way to end the decade. Six titles, could be seven come May 2010. And what a way to celebrate the birthday of Sir Alex Ferguson 68th birthday today.
Kuszczak 7, Evra 7 (Fabio 6), Brown 7, Vidic 8 (Anderson 6), Rafael 9, Park 6, Carrick 8, Fletcher 8 , Valencia 9*, Berbatov 7 (Welbeck 5), Wayne Rooney 9
When I had finally decided on Manchester United’s team of the Noughties, I realised that the team was made up predominantly of current players which, I believe, isn’t that surprising — that’s longevity for you. So ladies and gentleman, to wrap up the decade here is our Team of the Year:
Manchester United’s Team of the Decade:
Van der Sar
Neville – Ferdinand – Vidic – Evra
Ronaldo – Scholes – Keane – Giggs
Van Nistelrooy – Rooney
Bench: Barthez, O’Shea, Stam, Heinze, Beckham, Butt, Solskjaer
Debatable. Well, there’s a ‘substitutes bench’ intended to please all. The goalkeeper position was an easy choice: who apart from Edwin van der Sar deserves to make the XI? Tim Howard and Fabian Barthez are both lagging behind, so this decision was an easy one.
The back four had a small dilemma. Gary Neville and Patrice Evra were definitive choices in the full-back positions but in the two centre-back positions I was left scratching my head for a second or two, as Jaap Stam made a case for making the eleven. But I decided to stick with my original two centre-halves in Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Both defenders have been solid at the back, and it seems just about right the duo were named. John O’Shea is the Ultimate Utility Player™ and so makes the bench.
On the flanks, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs were also easy decisions. Giggs is my Player of the Decade, his contributions to the side still as valuable as they were ten years ago. Ronaldo isn’t too far behind. And the central positions were straightforward choices, too. Scholes and Keane have been by far the best central midfielders of the decade, two of the best to ever wear the red shirt. Eric Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson, Liam Miller and Quinton Fortune narrowly missed out.
Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy make up the forwards, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer not too far off. Nistelrooy, like Solskjaer, is an Old Trafford ‘great’ if you simply look at his goalscoring record. An incredible 150 goals in 219 games for the Dutchman and, in addition, he currently holds the record for most goals in Europe. Rooney is a different player, not all about the goals; he is like the engine of the team, and it is Rooney who leads from the front for United and no doubt he will soon become an Old Trafford great.
Hull City 1-3 Manchester Utd
Traditionally, Manchester United start to shine around post-Christmas time. Judging by this latest performance, I am still not sure. Of course, Manchester United won 3-1, but I find this scoreline rather flattering. But if Man Utd are to get their season back on track, then three points away from home is the way to do it.
Hull City were scrappy, but determined and you can’t fault their spirit throughout the game. Wayne Rooney had a funny old game, giving the ball away three times, one of them proving to be costly at the time. At the other end, he scored one and created two. A funny old game, this.
The first half was end-to end stuff but nothing came off at either end. The deadlock was finally broken when Rooney had converted Fletcher’s magnificent cross which had shades of David Beckham. Earlier, the Welshman had two efforts on goal, the first a volley which landed in the roof of the net, the second a free-kick which was a whisker away from Boaz Myhill’s net. Rafael had the best chance when he was one-on-one with Myhill but his shot was weak.
On the hour mark, the Kingston Communications Stadium (how much knew that’s what KC stood for?) was sent in raptures after a penalty had been awarded as Rafael has bundled over Jozy Altidore in the box. This all came after Rooney had gifted the ball to the opposition attempting to pass it back to Kuszczak. Craig Fagan had routinely dispatched the spot-kick.
Hull were close to taking the lead – Seyi Olofinjana’s stinging strike forcing a fine reflex save from Tomasz Kuszczak. United hadn’t played great in this game but their were signs of improving as the game grew on but, Hull continued for a short period to pepper United’s defence but to no avail.
A quick counter attack brought about the second United goal, and when Rooney had closed in on goal, he drilled a low testing ball which City’s Andy Dawson could do nothing about. Trying to prevent it reaching Park, he had scored an own goal as he was powerless to prevent United from scoring. Rooney looked like a man on the mission from here on in, and he set up the third and final goal teeing up Berbatov and that was that.
You can’t help but praise Rooney. He ever rarely makes mistakes, and for the final half hour he was by far the best player. “It’s a relief,” he said post-match. “When they got their equaliser it was a mistake by myself. It’s the first time that’s ever happened to me and it’s not a nice feeling. I didn’t want to let down the lads though I was more worried about what the manager might say. But thankfully we got the win, which I’m pleased about because the manager would not have been too pleased.”
It is three points at the end of the day. A win was the minimal requirement after Chelsea had dropped more points and Arsenal had earlier beat Aston Villa 3-0. I believe Arsenal are going to have their best League season for some time, though they normally falter and fade away this stage. They are winning convincingly so should not be taken lightly.
Anyway, next up for the Red Devils is a game home to Wigan, a team they beat 5-0 in their own backyard earlier on this season. Hopefully, we can have a better performance than this one and continue to pile on the pressure on both Arsenal and Chelsea.
Tottenham Hotspur 3-5 Manchester United 29/09/01
What a truly magical Manchester United performance. 3-0 down at half-time and a huge defeat was on the cards. But Sir Alex Ferguson’s hairdryer must have done the trick at the interval as United had responded from their dismal first half to score five goals. David Beckham, (the cursed) Laurent Blanc, Andy Cole, Van Nistelrooy and Juan Veron all scored in a remarkable Premier League game.
Manchester United 4-3 Real Madrid 23/04/03
This unforgettable European night will also be remembered, not just because of the seven goals scored, or the fact that the world’s best team at the time were beaten, but because this was David Beckham’s final game in Europe in a red shirt. And fittingly, Beckham scored a brace, including a trademark free kick against his prospective employers. Still the victory was a losing cause as Madrid had beaten United 3-1 in the first leg.
Manchester United 7-1 Roma 10/04/07
Another European night not to be forgotten. Beaten 2-1 a fortnight ago, the Red Devils needed to play better. And play better they did, almost scoring for fun. Michael Carrick set the tone with a lovely strike before Alan Smith’s majestic goal had made it 2-0 (“THE FORGOTTEN MAN IS BACK!”. Rooney and Ronaldo had scored before half time, Rooney’s goal particularly ‘scintillating’ in commentator’s Clive Tyldesley view.
Ronaldo scored his second shortly after the break, Carrick had once again struck with a sweet shot on the edge of the area. The visitors pulled a goal back, before Evra’s strike had brought the deficit back to six. Watch all the goals here.
Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (Pen 6-5) 21/05/08
If John Terry hadn’t missed that decisive penalty then, of course, Chelsea would have been crowned European champions. But it wasn’t to be for the skipper, and the rest, as they say, is history. When Van der Sar saved Nicolas Anelka’s penalty, Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium was sent in raptures. 67,000 had watched one of the most tense Champions League finals ever, eventually decided on penalties after first half goals by Ronaldo and Frank Lampard.
Manchester United 3-2 Aston Villa 05/04/09
No one had heard of this young lad outside Old Trafford. With the score at 2-1 and Aston Villa heading for a famous victory that would surely dent United’s hopes of a third successive title, teenager Federico Macheda was brought on.
With ten minutes left on the clock, Ronaldo had equalised with a low shot which had beaten the goalkeeper. And with precious little time left, Macheda had found the ball in space, turned the defender and his shot had beaten the ‘keeper all ends up. A dream debut for someone who wasn’t even supposed to play, and a game that would always be remembered.
Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City 20/09/09
A great Manchester derby at Old Trafford which had everything. Controversy, blunders and last minute drama, this match had it all. Craig Bellamy had taken full advantage from a Rio Ferdinand mistake with a goal which put the scores level with only added time to play.
But as the game grew closer to an end, Michael Owen was free in space and finished confidently to seal victory for the Red Devils. City were furious, claiming the allocated added time had already been played. Calls fell on deaf ears, and a dramatic derby had come to a close.
Also in this series:
- The Top Six: Moments of the Decade
- The Top Six: Signings of the Decade
- The Top Six: Goals of the Decade
Ruud Van Nistelrooy (£19m)
Signing the striker was a risk – Van Nistelrooy couldn’t even pass a medical. But it turned out to be £19 million well spent, as the Dutch striker had achieved many feats such as scoring more goals than any Man Utd player in Europe (second highest in history). He was also named PFA Player of the Year in 2002, as well as winning the Golden Boot the following year.
Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.2m)
We didn’t know too much about him when he first arrived. But, Cristiano Ronaldo wasted little time settling into his new home, and before you knew it, he was scoring goals for fun and winning just as many awards.
Plenty of great moments for the winger that he will never forget, including the 40-yard goal against Porto. Or the free-kick against Portsmouth. Or the ‘Superman’ header against Roma. All great goals in their own way. But without doubt, the 42-goal season will be something to tell the grand-kids. Being named FIFA Footballer of the Year isn’t too shabby, either.
Rio Ferdinand (£29m)
The rock at the back has been terrific since being banned for missing his drugs test back in 2002, having captained the side to the Champions League and Premier League double in 2008, as well as winning the league again following year.
Though he has been under a lot of scrutiny this season, there’s no doubting what he brings to United, and when he comes back from what has been a rather long stay on the sidelines he, hopefully, can perform like we know he can do. And if fit, of course he’s going to go to the World Cup. And if he does stay fit, fingers crossed, we can look forward to another edition of Rio’s World Cup Wind-Ups.
Wayne Rooney (£27m)
A lot of pressure on you if you’ve just been signed for under £30million. But on his debut in front of a packed Old Trafford, he had one of those games that he will always treasure. A hat-trick on debut, including a beauty of a free-kick is one to tell Kai Wayne about.
He is more than a striker. A hard-working, tireless, versatile forward who not only scores goals but creates them too. His link up play, ability to spot a pass, or the fact that he can shoot from distance with accuracy is just some of the many good things you could say about him.
Nemanja Vidic (£7m)
£7m for a defender that is now recognised as one of the world best surely has to be one of Sir Alex’s best buys. Another rock at the back, who with Ferdinand has helped win titles for the club just because of their consistency. The man who helped the club earn a record 14 consecutive clean sheets last season.
Edwin van der Sar (£2m)
The veteran goalkeeper has won nearly everything before joining the club, and when he arrived at Old Trafford, he has helped United win everything. One of the best ‘keepers around, he’s the one to thank for the 14 consecutive clean sheet record the season before. The Dutch goalkeeper is showing little signs of ageing, continuing to make the top-class saves that he has done for years. Injuries are a slight problem.