After I saw the starting line-up I was nervous, there is no doubt about it. I have never seen that back 5 line up together so it was obvious to all that Fergie was indeed preparing for the Schalke game on Tuesday, something I expected him to do. With Anderson just coming back from injury and playing alongside the inexperienced Gibson, I did not expect us to dominate the midfield so in my opinion, Nani and Valencia had to put in good performances in order for us to get a win.
A lot of the first half was spent in Everton's half. We kept possession up the pitch well and moved it around nicely but we just lacked that cutting edge to split the defence. What happened to Gibson being able to shoot? Every time he gets the ball laid off to him these days I find myself willing him to pass rather than take the shot on, such is his unpredictability these days. The best chance of the first half fell to Hernandez who's quickfire shot from a lovely Rooney pass was saved well by Howard. Everton were content to soak up the pressure and to give them credit, they were defensively organised and it was quite a frustrating half going forward.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="460" caption="Ferdinand has words with referee Peter Walton"][/caption]
Everton definitely came out in the second half looking more of an attacking threat, with Leighton Baines getting further forward more often. The double substitution to bring on Anichebe and Cahill gave Everton a more physical presence up front against what was a makeshift United defence. Everton, on the other hand, had Distin and Jageilka playing fantastically well together. I am not surprised that Nani was taken off in the 62nd minute with Schalke on Tuesday and I was hoping that Owen could get himself on the scoresheet and make himself a quick hero. Valencia, on the other hand, was our most creative player going forward and combined with Anderson showing his good range of passing, he was becoming increasingly central to the play.
Going into the last 20 minutes I was extremely nervous, especially with Everton pressing much better and Rodwell forcing a good save out of Van Der Sar. Then our best moment of the match came with a deflection off Distin whiched bounced back off the post. Giggs then came on for the last 15 minutes in an attempt from Ferguson to inject some experience into the midfield in order to create some clear cut chances. The game turned into a bit of a mauling at the end with the game being pretty exclusively inside the Everton half but Herndandez and Rooney spurned chances and it seemed like United just were not going to be able to score.....
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="460" caption="Chicarito does it once again"][/caption]
What. A. Player. This little wizard has got to be one of the best purchases in Premier League history. From his performances this season, his stock must have doubled as a player. A great chip across from Antonio Valencia, who was rather quiet for the majority of the game and a fantastic pressure finish at the back post from Hernandez secured a tentative 1-0 victory from United. That win puts us 9 points clear at the top of the Premier League and if we win our games against Blackburn and Blackpool, then we will only need 1 point from Arsenal and Chelsea to secure the record breaking 19th Premier League title. United have one hand on the coveted trophy and eyes now turn to Stamford Bridge for the late kick off, with United fans hoping that West Ham can come away with a point.