1. 5 clean sheets in a row. United now have the most clean sheets in the Premier League after keeping Swansea out yesterday. It is a real testament to the character of the team as the transformation has come swiftly since the 6-1 drumming by City. It is clear that SAF has changed the mentality of the squad to go back to the defensive mined United that has been so successful over recent years. At the start of the season, United looked like an entirely different team to that which played against Swansea. The youthful naivety has been quashed by the re-appearance of Vidic who has calmed the defence simply with his presence. The introduction of Carrick yesterday, through lack of choice or preference, brought a fantastic protection back to the defence that the midfield of late has not been able to do. With 92 out of 96 passes, 2 tackles and 4 interceptions, he had an excellent game apart from the slip-up that would of led to the equaliser had it not been for Sinclair’s terrible mistimed shot. It was a far from vintage performance but it was a vital 3 points with City beating Newcastle.
2. Where is Wayne Rooney? Having not scored in his last 6 Premier League appearances, Rooney is struggling to influence games as much as he did at the start of the season. For me, it is hardly a coincidence that it has come at the same time that Young and Cleverley have been sidelined. There has been a lot more pressure on Wayne to create attacks rather than spearhead the final product. He was striking an unbelievable understanding with Young so early on in his United career and they were bringing the best out of eachother and Rooney is struggling to find a supplier of chances so he is dropping deeper and deeper to try and create the opportunities. The gap left by Cleverley’s injury even led Rooney to playing a central midfield role and even though Rooney excelled in the role he played as a teenager, we need him as far up the pitch as possible because we look toothless when he isn’t playing as a striker. We haven’t scored 2 in a game since Norwich so the quicker Young and Cleverley return to the frame, the quicker we will see the return of our true talisman.
3. Another poor performance from Nani. He scored a cracking goal midweek against Bosnia so I had high hopes he was going to transfer that positivity into the Premier League. How wrong was I? Little to no chance creation, poor ball use and little end product are three ways to sum up Nani’s performance I think. What happened when he finally got a shooting chance? He kicked it off for a throw on! He looked isolated on the right with Jones clearly being instructed to hold back a bit more by SAF, although the runs he did make almost always led to opportunities. Nani is so frustrating to have in your team because few players are as inconsistent as him. One week he will look like a world beater and the next week he will look all the part like a Championship player, at best. What Nani needs is competition for his prance in the starting line-up, I think that brought out the best of him at the beginning of the season. Like a few of United’s players, his dip in form came swiftly following the injuries that shook the starting line-up. Maybe he can use the midweek Champions League clash as a platform to improve and I hope he does because we really need some players in form if we are going to keep up with a City that are simply scoring goals for fun this season.
4. Giggs won yet another man of the match award. The mercurial midfielder put in a fantastic shift in the middle of the park alongside Carrick yesterday and it was his eye for the ball that saw him pounce on a poor clearance from Angel Rangel to set -up Hernandez for what was to be the winning goal. Giggs also looked up a lot more than usual and had clearly been instructed by SAF to step away from his natural short game to try and instil some creativity. What a go-to-guy to have in your team. Is this his last season? I hope not but my mind tells me he might hang his boots up come the end of the season. Appearances are limited but if he contributes as well as he did yesterday, then who is to say that SAF will not give him a contract extension. He is the last remaining piece of the Old Guard and the longer he remains a player, the better United are for it…just as long as he gets a statue right next to SAF. They have been alongside one another for over 20 years and deserve to be standing alongside each other for eternity, gloriously preserved in bronze.
5. I’m bored of even mentioning how thin our midfield is but surely January has to see United buying in or pushing Pogba/Morrison into the first team frame? We simply can’t cope with injuries that seem to blight United’s midfield. Will Cleverley be able to find his form once his ankle heals? Will Fletcher be able to turn back the clocks to 2008 and produce performances of that level again? Will Anderson continue to find consistency an impossible commodity to achieve? Too many questions and not enough answers. The optimist inside me says that SAF will always prevail and United will push past the obstacles to achieve number 20. The pessimist inside me, whos voice grows stronger every time City win another game comfortably, says that we will fall short in the run-in when the latter stages of cup competitions appear.‘We’re shit and we’re top of the league’ resonated from the walls of Old Trafford last year. Will they this year? If our rivals continue the way they have begun, then I am afraid we will be shunted into second place. Only time will tell.