Nani’s trickery and Berbatov’s work ethic inspires United to crucial win
Manchester Utd 3-1 Tottenham: Observations
Nani and Berbatov aren’t too familiar with praise. They don’t get it often. There is a reason for that, Nani only started to play consistently down those flanks at the turn of the year. And he deserves the plaudits he’s been receiving in the past few months because he has never been so devastating down the channels. Berbatov, for all the criticism, has at least (well in my eyes, that is) banished the ‘lazy’ tag. Of course it hasn’t been raining goals for the Bulgarian, but his impact on the pitch is, and has been, underrated.
While Berbatov’s commitment and hard work was a delight to watch, it was Nani who was sublime and his reward for an excellent performance was a goal sandwiched either side of Ryan Giggs’ brace of penalties. For all the praise that can be heaped on Nani and Berbatov, this wasn’t a great game by any means. A few individuals, Spurs’ Ledley King included, shone on a glorious day but the match was lacking somewhat.
The first half was dreadful and little happened. King’s block on Berbatov’s shot was the best we saw in the first 45, the half lacking any real flow and fluidity and you could draw many parallels to the Manchester Derby last week. After the interval, things substantially improved and four goals were scored as a result of a more open game where United largely dominated.
Dimitar Berbatov came close with a header moments before he had cleverly set up Patrice Evra with a backheel, and the Frenchman was then tripped by Benoît Assou-Ekotto and ref Andre Marriner correctly pointed to the spot. Giggs duly dispatched and United had led deservedly after some relentless pressure. That was the Welshman’s first ever penalty for United, quite remarkable considering he’s scored in the every one of his last 18 Premier League seasons. Spurs were on the back foot, their only real stand out player being Ledley King. And quite fittingly, in front of Fabio Capello’s no.2 Franco Baldini, he scored the equalising goal. It was a terrific header, although question marks will be raised on Rafael’s failure to clear on the post.
Just when Spurs had begun to settle, Nani had once again shifted the tie into United’s favour, his delicate chip a reward for a fantastic individual performance. And a solo run minutes later brought about another foul in the box, and another penalty kick. Giggs went right this time, but Gomes’ despairing dive could not deny the third and winning goal.
This wasn’t classic Manchester United by any means but definitely the team are starting to gel without the services of Wayne Rooney. Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes controlled the game from the centre and Berbatov and Nani proved difficult to handle for the Spurs back four. This victory cranks up the pressure on Chelsea and who knows, maybe a 19th title will be secured come May.
Ratings: Van der Sar 7; Rafael 8, Vidic 9, Evans 8, Evra 7; Fletcher 8, Nani 9*, Scholes 8, Giggs 8; Valencia 6; Berbatov 8