Yesterday was not a pretty sight. Not from Reds’ legend Roy Keane’s perspective that is. His side were simply no match for United’s superiority. It was so easy that it was cruel. I’ve seen Korean sides on our far-east pre-season tours show more resistance. After yesterday, you’d have to feel for Roy Keane and his side; and hope, for his sake, that he manages to keep them up.
Our sympathies for Keano aside, it was a superb performance from a United side that had quite a few changes to the composition of its starting XI.
I’ve stopped attempting to predict the starting XI these days because, with the rotation that the Christmas period demands, anyone could be rested. And that was the case yesterday as well.
Carrick partnered Fletcher at the centre of the park, Saha started ahead of Tevez, Rio returned alongside Vidic, Nani played instead of Giggs on the left, and Evra was rested with O’Shea getting a start.
I did have some fear about the starting XI when I saw it first. Would so much tinkering affect the balance? Would Carrick and Fletcher show the drive and steel that Anderson and Hargreaves so expertly did this season? I knew it was only Sunderland, but stranger things have happened.
My fears were soon put to rest once the game got going. As I had already mentioned, Sunderland were poor, extremely poor, and we were just too good.
Plenty actually, but I will touch upon some of them here.
- It was great to see Rooney get among the goals. On past evidence, he tends to go on scoring runs. His finish yesterday was cool and composed, and was the result of a nice flowing move. Although, it must be said that some lax defensive organisation made Wazza’s job easier. Anyway, it’s good to see Rooney score; here’s hoping he shits goals from now on.
- Saha’s brace was another thing to feel happy about. In fact, his general movement was really good yesterday. It looks like the ‘nurturing back to full-fitness’ regime seems to have finally borne fruit. I hope he lasts for the rest of the season. I know, I am asking a lot of him by saying this, but he owes us, doesn’t he?
- Ronaldo’s free-kick was classy. We’ve been used to his kicks frequently hitting the wall and, when we least expect it, the occasional scorcher that swerves in mid-air. Yesterday’s kick, on the other hand, was curled in over the wall. A picture perfect sight, that. It shows he’s been working on his kicks more vigorously. Does it have anything to do with Hargreaves’ kick in the Bolton game? One would never know.
- Park’s return was a major positive. I love the lad. He’s an excellent squad player, runs tirelessly for ninety minutes, can play across the forward line, and can be an ideal impact player. His sub appearance wasn’t too bad, given he’s been out for a year. There was a good pass to Nani, and he always looked to want the ball.
- The overall play was also extremely encouraging. We’ve seen how tinkering can affect even the best of sides. The ‘dippers are a shining example. While it could be argued that Sunderland were poor and we had Ronaldo and Rooney in our ranks, there still was a job to be done in midfield and we did it without breaking a sweat.
- And finally, most importantly, we move one point clear of the Gunners. A point is not necessarily a big deal in terms of our title chances — all it takes to squander it would be one poor game — but it represents a psychological shift, providing we hold on to the lead unto New Year. The roles are reversed, the leader now becomes part of the chasing pack and we now lead the table.
Bring on the Hammers. And Birmingham. Here we come!