I had a small sneaky feeling, somewhere deep in the crevices of my mind that Alfonso Alves will score, after having come so close against Chelsea. After all he hadn’t been prolific for nothing. Little did I realise that he will make a more than significant contribution to the course of our season from now on, with finishes as cool as an iceberg; one may wonder if we had one more finisher as cool as that — apart from Ronaldo — we may have yet taken full points from this game.
But let’s be fair here. Middlesbrough have gained a reputation of nicking points off the top sides while sinking into mediocrity against the rest, which sort of explains their current league position. Today they were fearless and, despite going down early to Ronaldo’s 37th of the season, refused to get bogged down. They did of course foul us quite a bit and Scott seems to be flabbergasted at the way some of the players actually managed to get away. At least I thought Taylor’s was a clear handball that should have been a penalty.
But then we can’t really cry over that now, can we? Let’s instead choose to pore over the performance in general.
To start with, the heavy snowfall didn’t help our cause at all. But then we have done better in worse conditions. I wasn’t baffled at the team selection, unlike some of the other commenters on the blog. But I couldn’t fathom why O’Shea was played in centre of defence while Brown on the right. Brown is a natural central defender, and would be a more logical choice at the centre than O’Shea, who has done a decent job at full back in the past. Of all Fergie’s decisions this season, I just couldn’t find a logical explanation for this. The early jitters that led to the goal had to do with one defender ball watching leaving Carrick to mark Alves. With his lack of pace and unfamiliarity in that position it was always going to be a tall ask to stop a good finisher. Where was O’Shea or Brown?
Anyway, I don’t really want to go too deep into everything because, I really don’t feel well writing this. But I’ll let you in on what I thought of certain performers. EVDS showed why is is absolutely important to have someone of his quality. He easily kept out a couple of chances. Rio Ferdinand showed us how much this title means to him. He was limping, but tried his level best to stay on the pitch, and I have no qualms about him. Pity he had to limp out, and pity we don’t have our first choice defensive pairing, or we wouldn’t have been writing about a draw. Conversely, we must also hand it to Pique (and Hargreaves later) for stepping in remarkably and settling things at the back. We were much more assured at the back when these two came on. I was impressed with Hargreaves and he also sent in an excellent cross that Rooney should have scored.
I won’t talk about Ronaldo because I’ve exhausted all adjectives. And I was happy with Rooney’s contribution; his goal was well deserved for his efforts, and perhaps, he could have scored another. Tevez, however was disappointing, and his first touch was rather too heavy on a couple of occasions. Giggs didn’t have much to write home about but with Nani’s injury there wasn’t much else Fergie could do. However, Park has really impressed me with his energy and drive moving forward, both, against Roma as well as yesterday. It was his determination to keep the ball in that helped United bury the game against the Romans, and his cutback helped Rooney equalise. I think he would be eternally underrated for his contribution to the team.
Scholes and Carrick were average; Carrick shaded it with his ambition and assist. He’s improved as a passer and has been more consistent. He’s also shown more tendency to go forward. If only he could shoot reasonably well.
We dominated the game only in patches and on other occasions just couldn’t make significant inroads into a resolute, albeit dirty, Boro defence. And most importantly, today we felt the importance of our first choice defensive pairing. Hopefully Pique and co can do a decent job holding off a Totti-less Roma in midweek. The title race is wide open — although I think it’s still between us and Chelsea. Results against Arsenal, Blackburn and Chelsea could be tough asks for any team, but if we are to deserve the title, we will have to do it.
Rio injury update: Manutd.com confirm that Rio did not suffer a break to his metatarsal. What the…? Was there ever a suspicion of a break? I am not having a very good feeling about this. Looks like he might even miss the Arsenal. Fingers crossed.