1. The most necessary three points of the season. City beating Tottenham 3-2 at Wastelands earlier on in the day put massive pressure on the shoulders of United – lose and we would be six points behind City and they would have found themselves firmly in the hot seat for the title race. Fast forward to the final whistle at the end of a battling 90 minutes of football and United secure the win, albeit in an unnecessarily pragmatic fashion. After going into the break in the lead, I thought United would come out of the blocks firing but Wenger taking off Djourou basically made Nani a ghost for the rest of the game and we struggled to find as much space elsewhere. It allowed Arsenal to get back into the game and after Van Persie squeezed in an equaliser, I thought that they would go on and win the game. If not for the worlds worst substitution, that may well have been the case but the pendulum swung back in our favour and Welbeck put the finishing touch to a classy counter-attack. It was a tough game to come into, especially when taken in context, so the result is exactly the tonic we needed ahead of Liverpool in the FA Cup.
2. Injury woes. Cleverley, Anderson, Ferdinand, Fletcher, Vidic, Jones, Carrick, Nani, Young, Rooney? You could nearly make an entire first XI out of the players who are injured at United right now. Jones’ ligament damage will keep him out for a couple of weeks at least and Nani now has his foot in a protective boot – added to the fact that Carrick tweaked his hamstring and played the entire second half with it as well as Rooney pulling up at the end of the match, and the injury list is just phenomenal. Who is going to play against Liverpool? Cleverley is in line for a return but would he be ready to step back into the cauldron of Anfield for his first match? He’d have to be mentally tough to pull that one off but all the injuries leave United in a worrying position this weekend. With Liverpool on the decline, they will want to use this match as a platform for progression through the rest of the season, so whatever United side walk out on the pitch will have to be ready for a battle as it always is at Anfield regardless.
3. Michael Carrick‘s importance. For so long the unsung hero, Carrick did his job for the team and let his team-mates gather accolades whilst he cleaned up and kept the team going like oil to an engine. Despite his anonymity at the start of the season due to the prominence of the Anderson/Cleverley partnership and an injury, few would now be able to argue against how influential and important Michael Carrick is to this United team. His passing yesterday was vintage and it allowed United to dictate the pace and style of football that happened in the first half. He played with a tweaked hamstring for the entirety of the second half yet still managed to hardly ever find him out of position as United pushed on for the hard fought win. If we were to lose Carrick with Anderson, Cleverley and Fletcher all out, we would be without an established central midfielder who could play 90 minutes (Giggs is not an established central midfielder and Scholes is a cameo man) and would have to quite probably rely on Rooney dropping back to cover the holes in the squad, so here’s to hoping we don’t reach breaking point and Carrick can hold his fitness – I hope he doesn’t play against Liverpool if there is any chance of injuring himself further.
4. Take a bow Valencia. He may find smiling a crime but Valencia is showing the signs of the player that aided Rooned to 34 goals in the 2009/10 season with his pinpoint crossing, powerful runs and constant energy that made him unplayable on a regular occasion. Fast forward to his recent performances and Valencia has been playing simply outstanding – quite how United didn’t win by a bigger margin against Bolton last week is beyond me considering the amount of opportunities that he created and with a goal and an assist at Arsenal yesterday, he was easily the man of the match (despite Sky giving it to Evra). Few thought that he could return to his match best following his horrific ankle break against Rangers but he has showed periods of form since then which prove he still has it in his locker but just needs to find the consistency that Premier League football requires. With Nani finding it impossible to find an end product despite countless opportunities, Young injured on the sidelines and Park struggling to gain a starting berth, Valencia will be a very important player in the run-in. The fact that he got his assist after moving to right-back following Rafael’s sub-on-sub-off excursion is just a testament to how vibrant and energy filled he has become over recent weeks, so I am hoping he can keep it up for longer than he has before.