Manchester United 2 (Anderson, Cleverley) Newcastle United 1 (Cisse)
1. We don’t have any central midfielders? Anderson, Cleverley, Powell, Tunnicliffe, Fletcher – we had five central midfielders on the pitch at one stage last night.
Considering we also had Scholes and Carrick rested for the game, that totals seven central midfielders in the team – a far cry from a squad that lacks depth in the middle of the park.
We played a versatile trio in the middle yesterday with Fletcher playing a deeper role behind Cleverley and Anderson. It was a set up we don’t normally see in midfield but it was dynamic, fluid and allowed us to play some fantastic quick moving one touch football.
Cleverley and Anderson were absolutely superb with both of United’s goal coming from their central midfield partnership. They looked extremely comfortable playing alongside each other and bring massive energy to the middle.
It is something I would like to see more often in the Premier League but as it is a very narrow formation, the onus isn’t on width and we know that Sir Alex loves utilising Valencia and Nani out on the wings.
2. Anderson leaves himself breathless. What a fantastic performance from the Brazilian in only his second start in ten months. He was everywhere – making tackles, running into space, bringing the ball forward and finding the right passes.
It was the sort of 90 minutes we had all been waiting to see from him. He never stopped running and by the end of the game, he could hardly move because he had run himself empty.
As well as fantastic commitment, he scored an absolute blinder to open the scoring for United on the night.
Sir Alex has stuck with pairing Scholes and Carrick in the bigger games so far this season but it lacks the energy and we have been over-run on more than one occasion. Anderson has certainly given the boss some food for thought and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Brazilian coming into the line-up soon after that performance.
3. The futures bright, the futures red. Wootton, Vermijl, Brady, Tunnicliffe. Manchester United gave debuts to four players last night and all put in very admirable performances.
Marnick Vermijl particularly impressed me with his crossing which was fantastic all game, putting the ball on a plate on more than one occasion. As for Scott Wootton, he coped rather well with the imposing Ameobi and Cisse and at 21, he will be hungry to try and force his way into the squad especially as we are so short at centre back.
Special mention, however, has to Michael Keane who had a superb performance last night. He always looked like he was going to win his personal battles, he was assured on the ball and showed great game sense. It was an extremely mature showing from the 19-year-old and he can be very pleased with it.
I don’t think that he would look out of place playing in the Premier League against the smaller teams, so long as he had an experienced partner.
With Evans and Ferdinand our only two fit centre backs, Sir Alex might be inclined to play him and I think he deserves a chance after last night.
4. Rooney, van Persie, Kagawa – our holy trinity. Rooney came back from injury last night looking leaner, fitter and determined to impress.
He did just that. Playing from his deeper role, he was rather majestic. He was pinging the ball left, right and centre and was a lynch pin for the impressive United football.
With Robin van Persie in hot form and Shinji Kagawa impressing every time he plays, the thought of adding Wayne Rooney to that combination is mouthwatering.
As long as we can solidify the midfield behind them, having these three in the attack with Valencia/Nani supporting them has got to be one of the most dangerous attacking trio in the league.
We might have scored plenty of goals already this season but it could be the tip of the iceberg if all of them can get on form.
5.We always do it the hard way. The fourth round of the Capital One Cup has been drawn and we have been handed a tasty away fixture to Chelsea.
If that wasn’t enough, we will play the match only three or four days after playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the league and have a home game against Arsenal the following weekend.
With such a busy schedule, it is likely that we will playing a team of inexperienced players once again even though the opposition is Chelsea. The onus is on the league, we all know that, and Sir Alex won’t risk his first team in the competition.
However, if our youngsters can build on last nights performance, then it looks like they will be able to do some real damage in this competition.