Manchester United – Papering the cracks

A 4-0 win over Charlton is not a mean feat. But when you consider that the likes of Arsenal have clobbered Boro and Everton 7-0, and even Liverpool have been able to put 4+ goals past their opposition, you wonder whether this team really had the nerve to push Charlton harder. In fact, in the second half it was all showboating, and the commentators rightly called it a training ground match.

It’s bloody hard to be sad after a 4-0 win. 12 years of supporting Manchester United means that on match day it’s hard to shake away the pain of loss and equally amazing to revel in the joy of victory.

But when a win like this tends to hide serious flaws within the United camp, there’s cause for concern.

Match Highlights

These are minimally edited notes that I made during the match – some interesting moments in the match, especially the Richardson goal and the scenes involving Ferdinand at the end of the match. Commentary on the RVN situation, as well as other matches on Sunday are in the next two posts.

Ferdinand’s early handball, which could have given Charlton a penalty and while that wouldn’t have changed things much, it would have been interesting to see this side under some pressure. Ronaldo’s antics – the boy is superbly skilled but lacks the heart of a Giggs or Neville. He missed the easiest of headers by pulling out of it and for me that just about summed up his game (despite his easy goal later on).

Richardson’s surging run from his own half, ending in a 30-yard ferocious shot from 30 yards out, hitting the top bar, ricocheting behind the line before bouncing out – it was just the start for an amazing game by the youngster, and one feels that Ferguson played him far too late into the season. Then there were two quickfire goals, a Saha header and a Ronaldo fumble and tap-in, followed by a 34th minute own goal by Euell. It was a sorry fare, with no fight left in Charlton.

The second half saw Scholes and Solskjaer get subbed in, with Scholes being cheered till the 60th minute for every touch he had of the ball. That changed when Richardson robbed Kishishev at the half-way line, sprinted a dozen yards and let loose a long-range volley that swerved away from Anderson and ended up in the left corner of the net – the celebrations were deservingly wild, with the ref embarassed to have to give KR a yellow card for taking his shirt off.

Around the 82nd minute, with United just practicing (and clearly reveling in the strong presence of Scholes in midfield), Ferdinand got hungry and decided to stop the game for a snack. The physio brought him his customary milk and cookies – presumably Rio’s afternoon tea that he relishes so much. The man munched his way through the whole pack of cookies in 10 minutes, no mean feat when you’re a grown man playing a professional football match in front of over 70,000 people. He even pretended to hide it, but the cameras caught the sneaky bastard pulling them out of his pocket and wolfing them down with the look of a rat.

By the 90th minute, the only concern was whether Rio could hold out till the end of injury time, as in his eagerness the man had finished all his cookies and was down to his last one.

It was great to see Rooney walk out without any support, thanks to a heavily strapped right foot. If the oxygen treatments work out, he could still turn things around at the World Cup.

End of Season Thoughts

People will point to the fact that Manchester United won 4-0 without the services of Rooney and Ruud, their two top scorers. People will point to the margin of the victory, and towards Saha’s excellent form, and towards Ronaldo, Richardson and Rossi as proof that RVN is no longer needed at the club.

That’s a debate for the next post. But right now, my real concern is that when it comes to pushing Chelsea, United have been found wanting. Unable to put together easy wins, they will make a big deal out of this easiest win of them all, when it should have been much more than just 4-0. The midfield was not challenged at all, and Giggs was allowed to play on the wings as much as down the center, and once again Silvestre’s horrible defending did not give away a goal – the man’s luck continues.

It’s going to be a really tough season next year, but with Scholes back there is still chance to be first, and not first of those that came last.

Ruud van Nistelrooy
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