1. Michael Carrick. For me, last nights MOTM was a no-brainer with Michael Carrick putting in the sort of performance you want from any midfielder. Every time Carrick has played the full 90 minutes in the Champions League this year, he has covered the most ground and last night was no different. He was everywhere. The thing I enjoyed most about watching him last night was that he showed an excellent range of accurate passing that I haven’t seen him do for a long time. I thought he had lost his expansive passing game but from glorious 60 yard cross field balls to intricate 20 yard passes between three defenders, he was linking the defence and attack in his style of old. He was also in the right place in the right time in defence and his 67th minute diving block to stop Galati getting a shot off epitomised his commitment on the night. His mis-timed shot after Nani’s cutback was not unexpected but still unfortunate, as Carrick has lost his goalscoring touch having not scored in 60 games. Despite this, Carrick’s chances have been very limited this season but on last nights merits, he did himself no harm in showing what he can still do. Well done Michael.
2. Patrice Evra. For the past few weeks I have criticised Patrice as he has greatly contributed to the weaknesses that United have shown in defence. Time and time again, he has found himself out of position after bombing forward and left the defence weak and vulnerable. Last night, however, Evra was our most potent attacking threat. His jinking runs almost always led to a half chance being created and he had fantastic link-up play with Nani. Ever since France’s very public bust-up at the last World Cup, Evra has struggled to re-capture the form that made him one of the best left backs in the world but if we judge simply on last night, then he has the commitment and determination in him to try and re-gain that form. Ahead of the City game on Sunday, that is exactly what Patrice needed.
3. The return of Nemanja Vidic. Well, that didn’t go to plan did it? SAF has said that United won’t be appealing the card and that is probably the best thing. It was a tackle that was high and late but most referees would of simply given a yellow yet the inconsistency seen last night with decisions (no red card for the penalty?) left me baffled. Ignoring the red card decision, it was awesome to see Vidic back. United have not been able to control possession at the back like last night for a long time, given it was probably half to do with the lesser opposition, but Vidic brought a calm to the defence. He did have a loose pass that gave Galati a chance but with two months without a start, last night was all about shaking off the rust. I don’t think the red card will have any impact on him starting on Sunday and it is a shame that he couldn’t get 90 minutes but the fact of the matter is that Vidic is fit and will play Sunday. Everything else is irrelevant.
4. Rooney needed those goals. He became the highest scoring Englishman ever in the Champions League with the brace as he went two ahead of Paul Scholes with a total of 26. It was another one of those topsy turvy periods for Rooney with his uncle and dad getting in the papers for the wrong reason and Wayne finding himself banned from all of England’s Euro 2012 group stages, both of which led to Rooney being left on the bench for the match he most looks forward to all season at Anfield. Going into the City derby on Sunday, Wayne is the man we need on form seeing as he has a habit of scoring in these games and two composed penalties tonight would have done him the world of good. Away from the pressures of English crowds, Rooney thrived in the atmosphere and was controlling the tempo of the match like he does these days. The link-up play might not have been there with Hernandez but it was good to see both our first-choice strikers back in the starting line-up. Rooney’s goals, however, will hopefully mark the end of a torrid time for Wayne and leave him ready for Sunday.
5. One eye on Sunday. City got themselves a lucky victory last night against Villareal, even by Mancini’s admission, and their first Champions League victory will galvanise them ahead of Sunday. Our scrappy victory won’t leave us in the best of moods but a victory is a victory nevertheless as we got our slow Champions League campaign back on track. With Manchester City atop the Premier League table and United second, this derby will surely be the most feisty to date. I’ll admit now that I am not as confident about this fixture as I have been in previous years because United’s defence has leaked opportunities to date and with Aguero, Nasri and Silva in their side, Manchester City are likely to punish any mistakes we make. If we are to come out of Sunday’s game with a win, then we will have to tighten the screw at the back and shut out Manchester City. Rooney will always perform on derby day and we will need another shining 90 minutes from our talisman but hopefully Nani and Young will be ready to support the orchestra and bring City back down to earth, I don’t want them getting used to being on top of the table for too long.