Manchester United fans wouldn’t have expected a better gift on the Boxing Day who saw their team on top of the table with a lead of 7 points over their compatriots Manchester City.
Manchester United came back from behind 3 times to ensure a scrappy yet a spirited win over the Magpies. Definitely it wasn’t one of those usual comebacks for Sir Alex Ferguson who was looking more animated throughout the game; constantly on the byline asking the team to dig deep.
Manchester United started the game lethargically with defenders giving away the possession quite cheaply in the opening 45 minutes. Second half was more of the same and goal from Papiss Demba Cisse almost reminded of Tottenham Hotspur game. But soon after
Manchester United showed their resilience by doing exactly what they are entitled to do. the victory was built on three super performers viz. Patrice Evra, Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick.
1) Patrice Evra: The Buttner effect
Patrice Evra’s performance as an attacking player has surprised many. Contrary to this season, he used to play quite defensive in the previous seasons. But it seems the arrival of Alexander Buttner has really put the Manchester United skipper on the toes. The classic goal scored by Alexander Buttner on his debut match against Wigan Athletic proved to be a reference point for Patrice Evra, who tenaciously scored a goal in very next match against Newcastle United at St. James Park back in August.
Of course Patrice Evra’s ability as a defender is still questionable. But for the time being he’s doing a better job than previous season. Full credit has to go to Sir Alex Ferguson for bringing Competitiveness for every position. At the moment United has minimum 2 quality players for a single position. The advantage with competitiveness is that it brings the very best out of the players. Patrice Evra being the most influenced by the competition has already netted 4 times this season and looked a livewire while going forward.
2) RVP with a different role
Not mentioning his unassailable goal scoring record; the thing that impresses about Robin Van Persie is his adaptation of game style according to the different situations. He is not one of those old fashioned centre forwards who would always like to play upfront. With Rooney out injured it was quite a dilemma for SAF about the particular free role position that Rooney plays.
At the end of the first half, the things really started looking more worrisome as United only managed 3 shots on target. Definitely the link between midfielders and strikers in the form of Rooney was missing. But as the second half progressed Robin Van Persie started filling the shoes of Wayne Rooney with constantly going deep to receive the ball and creating the chances. In his presence Antonio Valencia looked very different player than what we’ve been used to see this season. His interchanging with Ryan Giggs pestered Newcastle right back time after time.
With Rooney out of 3 weeks, this performance as a playmaker will come as a relief for Sir Alex Ferguson.
3) Michael Carrick : the maestro
Week in, Week out he is one of those three players who is sure to start the game along with Evra and Robin Van Persie. Often termed as ‘the most underrated midfielder’, Michael Carrick has really started showing consistency in recent times.
A distinct feature to Carrick’s game this season has been the conversion rate; it’s not the number of passes that he completes but the number of passes that leads to goal scoring opportunities. The telepathic exchanges between Robin Van Persie and Carrick have been a treat to watch. Michael Carrick is one of the reasons why Manchester United midfield looks so organized. Although sloppy sometimes in giving away ball, the way he dictates the pace of the game by holding the ball reminds more of Xabi Alonso.
He had a great night with 2 assists; one of them being to RVP and the other one being served to Chicharito with a knife and a fork to finish off the game. It is the high time for Roy Hodgson to see Michael Carrick as a contender for the holding midfield place in Three Lions’ squad.
image: © marcel sigg