Analysis and Observations: United show power through the flanks
Manchester Utd 2-0 Fulham: Analysis and Observations
There have been better, more entertaining, games this season. But there are some things more important – such as three points and Manchester United earned that; having strolled to their 15th league victory out of 16 at Old Trafford this campaign. It was a game where United’s wingers prevailed with their dynamism and verve, as the back four provided a solid backbone for their offense while the central midfielders were quietly efficient.
Berbatov makes case for Chelsea. The Bulgarian, starved of regular football despite being the League”s top goalscorer, enjoyed a simple afternoon troll at a sun-drenched Old Trafford. His goal came from neat interplay by the Man of the Match Nani (details of the move later), and it was capped off with a finish so cute that it had Mark Schwarzer beaten without a chance of preventing it. He linked up play well, too, and offered width with several passes to United’s ball-hungry winger. Dimitar Berbatov’s 21st goal of a good season did suggest that United can play the forward up front alone and possess a threat for opposition.
He was, however, flapping his arms wildly in the second half at the lack of service – but by then United were coasting (although Fulham did improve considerably) and the game had petered out so much that the second half saw Berbatov’s contribution consist of dropping deep to keep hold of possession. United were less urgent after the break for a reason, the tie had been won already, but if you need any indicators as to why Berbatov should play against Chelsea look no further than the impressive first 45.
Nani and Valencia flourish. These are good times at Old Trafford. They have a wealth of attacking talent and the two players who can get the best out of their colleagues is the duo of Luis Nani and Antonio Valencia. Granted, Valencia did just arrive from a long lay-off on the sidelines but the impact he has on the team is unquestionable.
Nani was excellent throughout. The first goal came from a plucky ball by Anderson which Berbatov received with much grace, finding Nani who then dribbling with much ease past dumbfounded defenders and released Berbatov again to finish smartly. He was once again for the second when he raced onto a ball by Patrice Evra and then glided past a cautious Schwarzer before a deflected effort at a half-open goal found Valencia to head home an easy second. Nani’s periods of frustrations were barely evident here, registering his 17th and 18th assist of the season.
Clear gameplan: Utilise the flanks
<Figure 1> So usually maligned by critics alike, both Gibson and Anderson put in a good shift in the heart of midfield. One look at their chalkboard (just click the image to enlarge) shows something increasingly obvious about United’s gameplan – to spread the ball to the flanks and utilise both Nani and Valencia, who both profited from this.
Old Trafford is a fortress
- Manchester United at home this season (overall season in brackets)
<Figure 2> It’s easy to observe, by the above table, that a game at Old Trafford for any opposing side is daunting (sorry, Chelsea) – but their away form provides a stark contrast. It seems it is more of a mental thing; a team cannot play worse just because they’re playing elsewhere. But positivity is the aim of the article and there is much reason for it when you do glance at the statistics – United are just far too ruthless at home, as Fulham had found out after just thirty minutes of football.
- GFA = average Goals Scored per game
- GAA = average Goals Conceded per game
- PpG = points per game
The Report Card. United thrived as a collective and it was a truly an admirable team effort. The teacher (well, er, me) was thoroughly pleased; Tomasz Kuszczak C, Patrice Evra B, Chris Smalling B, Nemanja Vidic B, John O’Shea C, Anderson B, Nani A, Paul Scholes C, Valencia B+, Darron Gibson B, Dimitar Berbatov B