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The Day After The Day After: Bolton 2-2 Manchester United

For the sake of being able to give the most rational opinion (ha!) post-Bolton, I opted to wait until today to hammer out a match report of sorts.

At first glance, the match could be summed up with two sentences:

1) What the [censorin’ censors], another away draw? Seriously? Seriously.

2) Okay, so where’s our defense being hidden, and are the Glazers holding back on the ransom check to free it?

Justifiable reactions, certainly. Three away matches, three draws, seven goals allowed.

But…it could be worse.

Yesterday was the perfect storm for a United defeat.

Elsewhere among the Premier League’s big boys (and those aspiring to be), the results had been a tad wacky leading up to Sunday. Chelsea, Liverpool, City all losing to inferior opposition in the Carling Cup. Chelsea getting blanked at City, Arsenal losing at home to West Brom (West Brom), Tottenham losing at West Ham, and Liverpool drawing at home to Sunderland on Saturday.

Those results + United’s previous away results this season + a trip to the Reebok being a testy one at any point in the season + a Champions League tie away to Valencia in three days’ time = potential trouble.

And lo and behold, it didn’t take long for it to become a reality, with Bolton going ahead on an easily preventable goal.

Liverpool got their goals from a penalty and a free kick, and it was a corner that produced Bolton’s early opener. I’m not sure what compelled Patrice Evra to drift away from the far post, but he did so long enough and far enough to render his desperation dive futile as the ball deflected off of Zat Knight and went past him to give Bolton the lead on six minutes.

Nani’s ascension into the elite continues with each fine performance, and it’s fair to say United would be a bit lower in the table without him. And on 23 minutes, he took it upon himself to bring United level, going on a mazy run from inside the United half to the Bolton box, beating several hapless Bolton defenders along the way before unleashing a drive that Jussi Jaaskelainen had no chance to keep out.

Both sides could feel disappointed about not getting more than one in the first half, and a few inches could have made a world of difference for the confidence of a certain misfiring striker, who had an opportunity go just over the bar. Alas, that was the closest he’d come to a much-needed goal, and he departed shortly after the hour mark to be replaced by Federico Macheda.

That move had the intent of enhancing United’s chances to take the lead, but the opposite happened. There are few things more frustrating than going from having a prime scoring opportunity to getting beaten on the counter attack mere moments later. That’s exactly what happened when Bolton broke after a United corner and took the lead on 67. Credit to Martin Petrov (class player he is, it must be said) for the role he played in creating and finishing, but just as Evra shouldn’t have moved on the first goal, Darren Fletcher should have moved and taken one for the team instead of letting Petrov’s shot deflect off of him and in.

In search of an equalizer, Michael Owen was brought on for Fletcher in the 71st minute, and he made good shortly after, as Little Mickey rose to head home Nani’s free kick and bring United level again om 74. With three goals in two games, he certainly made a case for a start at Valencia.

In the end, a win was not to be, but a point earned is a point gained on Chelsea. And 12 points from six – with no defeats – is a decent return, given that the totals were 11, 13, and 11 at the same juncture in each of the last three title-winning seasons.

At some point down the road, we could look back at these three draws as a positive, since Sunday could have easily been a loss, and since United came away from Craven Cottage and Goodison Park empty-handed last season. And it takes a quick reminder of how the final table looked to know what a difference two draws would have made.

But as glass-half-full as I may be trying to be, it’s another two dropped points in a very winnable away game, and on top of that, a missed opportunity to fully capitalize on our rivals’ missteps.

One point is certainly better than none, especially away from home against tricky opposition. However, repeatedly not capitalizing in these situations decreases the margin for error against Chelsea, Arsenal, et al.

And there is only so much that can be said that hasn’t been said already about the state of United’s defensive play at the moment, but it’s tough to not be redundant when the occurrences are as well. It goes without saying that lapses in concentration like the one by Evra are unacceptable, and so is giving up multiple goals on a regular basis, no matter how many the good guys are getting. Last season, United allowed two or more goals in only six matches. It’s already happened four times in six matches this season.

No time to dwell though, with the trip to Valencia coming up. Speaking of Wednesday’s match, Wayne Rooney won’t be taking part due to an ankle injury suffered at the Reebok. Blessing not in disguise there. Dissecting his situation is worthy of its own column (or three), but in short, a sit would be for the best, even if he was fit.

Also on the injury front, Ryan Giggs will miss a couple of weeks due to a hamstring injury he picked up in the second half. It’s certainly a blow to be without his experience and reliability for even a couple of matches, but hey, look at that, there’s a well-timed international break coming up after this weekend. So, we could see him back in action against West Brom (suddenly not a gimme now, eh?) on the 16th.

Are you satisfied with Sunday’s draw at Bolton? Will you be satisfied with a stalemate in Spain, or is it a win and no less in your eyes?

55 Comments

55 Comments

  1. Eddie Griffin

    September 29, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    @ton: Yeah, takes a bit for some comments to go through. All good now.

  2. Grognard

    September 29, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    @karl: No apology required mate. Fergie’s MO with Rooney in the past made it seem like he was unbenchable. 😀

  3. Grognard

    September 29, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    @Griffin: “I agree to a certain extent. I think the style of football he is playing now, and for the last two seasons is the best possible way for us to win games at the moment, simply because our defence is in ribbons.”

    But you see mate that is the whole problem. We are being forced to settle for second best. Man Utd is not a tea that has had to setle for scraps or change it’s style to conform to a sub par lineup. The fact our manager refuses to go out and replenish the squad with high calibre players worthy of wearing our kit is the entire problem. We are being forced to settle with second best. And I for one am not playing along. I presently hate this team more than i have in over 30 years. And back then I didn’t really care as much. This present team is the worst and dullest team in Fergie’s 25 year history with the club and i for one am sick of them. Boring boring boring players with no imagination, flair and no graft. Honestly, if not for Nani and the flair of Berbatov, I probably wouldn’t even bother watching the games. The club is just a compilation of shitty players and over the hill players attempting to find the Fountain of Youth. Fergie is asking a lot of me to watch a team where there are so many players I can’t stand. Park, Anderson, Obertan, Evans, Welbeck, O’Shea, Smalling, Carrick, Gibson, and Bebe are all players I cannot stand or just simply don’t like as players. Being a United fan for over 30 years has made it difficult for me to turn my back on the team but Fergie is really making it tempting.

    Just watch the dismal display they will put forth today in Valencia. I guarantee a boring, cautious and plodding game where we will either lose 1-0 or draw 0-0. I just don’t see us having the skill to break down a Spanish side away especially without Rooney and Scholes. This game is almost not worth watching. It’s going to be ugly.

  4. Grognard

    September 29, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    @Griffin: How do we remedy the problems on this team? Sack the owners and then sack the manager and start over with new blood and fresh new ideas. Fergie is a legend and nobody can knock his success but the Fergie we all knew and loved is dead. This present incarnation is a dull task master who lies, cheats and deceives and who hasn’t got a clue on how to improve this club without a large transfer kitty. He is managing this club with both arms tied behind his back and has accepted that fate. That for me is intolerable and unacceptable. Glazer’s have destroyed this club’s short term and long term future and Fergie has sat idly by and watched it all with an approving smirk. The present state of the club is what you get when you waste money on Smalling, Obertan, Tosic, Bebe and even Hernandez when all that money could have secured a Schneijder and a Silva etc. From God to Moron, is the best way I can describe our manager. How the mighty have fallen.

  5. Griffin

    September 30, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Grognard:

    I understand you very passionate about this subject, but I find it very hard to view your comments and respond accordingly when you let so much emotion cloud the matter.

    I guess I’m just on the other side of the fence here and feel the exact opposite to what you feel. Obviously I’m passionate about United also, but I cant come to view some of the younger players and Fergie himself, as you do.

    I fully respect your opinion of course. I just hope you can understand my view also, that I’ll never view United like you do at the moment.

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