So, the Premier League has restarted, United have kicked off the season successfully, and the late night TV sessions are back in full swing. Sunday's home win against yo-yo boys Birmingham answered many questions but also raised quite a few new ones.
The fine tradition set back in 08/09 of keeping nervy, edgy clean sheets was upheld with Ben Foster making a great left hand diving save after first Wes Brown, then Fabio da Silva made complete messes of tackling Christian Benitez as he crossed back in from the by-line. Once again, United fans were made to chew through their nails as the side continued to lose possession to the visitors and were forced back into their own half as they searched for a equalizing goal. Frustratingly, Nani and Johny Evans left the field under injury clouds, leaving the defense short staffed, this could either be the time for Cathcart/Chester to step-up, or for David Gill to bring in someone for extra back-up, rumours surround our old-boy at Stoke Ryan Shawcross, who's supposedly a target for Benitez at Anfield, and if the tabloids are to be believed, (which they usually aren't), Sir Alex would rather sign him up again for a massive loss, instead of letting a good player join the bin-dippers.
Somewhat less worryingly, the midfield and attack looked potent, industrious and creative. Sure we don't have the tricky, flashy footwork, but we haven't lost the ability to dupe our way past opponents, keep possession of the ball in tight spaces with slight, sneaky touches, and clever turns and twists. What did worry me somewhat, was the length of time it took Paul Scholes to find his feet. For the first 50-55 minutes, he didn't do much with his passing, although he made himself available to receive passes from others, most of his passes in the first half went backwards or sideways, and he seemed hesitant to risk loosing possession in search of a goal scoring opportunity. That said, he picked up his game in the second half, and aimed a few rockets at Joe Hart in the Birmingham goal, and was somewhat unfortunate that all of them were blocked by desperate Birmingham players.
The wing combination of Nani and Valencia at times looked good, and more than capable of providing the attacking threat down the wings that is required, and at others, looked well off the boil. No doubt both are slightly lacking of match fitness, and Nani must recover quickly from the shoulder problem if he is to nail down a spot on the team-sheet this year. I still think he does his best work on the right, although his ability to cut in and shoot from the left is unmatched, although the end result is still annoyingly unpredictable. Valencia, I fear, is a one trick pony, and unless he adds some new tricks to his repertoire, (Muelensteen's job)
he's going to struggle to wiggle his way past defenders who can cope with his astonishing pace. That said, he'll still be able to get past 70% of the left backs in the league, and he'll no doubt improve at Carrington to such an extent that by the turn of the year, that will rise to about 90, so all is well.
Rooney had a great game, although a return of 1 goal from a total of 10 shots isn't a good ratio for the long term, and Berbatov had a great game, earned a penalty, had a couple of good shots, including the header that was cleared off the line, and played in his teammates in dangerous positions. MO had a good first competitive outing, failing to score from a great position, which in my opinion was a better save by Hart than a poor finish by MO, that given, I'd bet on MO scoring each and every similar chance he gets in the future.
The three of them can only improve, and I'm quite optimistic that they'll soon discover their scoring groove, and hopefully, between the three of them, they'll point United in the direction of a fourth Premier League Trophy.