Manchester United – Robin van Persie in the Shadow of Ryan Giggs

It’s happening less and less, but Ryan Giggs can still steal the thunder from even the biggest of stars. Even when Robin van Persie scores his 19th goal of the season, it was Giggs with the opener the gave Manchester United the right kind of push and inspiration to tighten their chokehold over the Premier League title.

Manchester United were their usual sleepy selves, as we’ve seen in so many matches lately, during the first half. Still, it took one minute of terrible defending from Everton for Ryan Giggs to get his first league goal of the season, making it 23 consecutive seasons with at least one. Everton kept on attacking without really making a dent in the United armor, and Robin van Persie struck them one final time on the counter.

Alex Ferguson never planned fielding his strongest lineup, but after Manchester City dropped three points on Saturday, winning against Everton was too important to pass up. Michael Carrick might be a player that will start in Madrid but didn’t this time, as Phil Jones was simply shadowing Marouane Fellaini the entire match, while Everton couldn’t find a way to get around that close and personal treatment, or find another player to rise to the occasion.

It was one of the more solid and comfortable displays from United in quite a while, despite the tricky opponents, that beat United 1-0 in the opening match of the season, and managed a 4-4 draw at the Old Trafford in the previous season. Wayne Rooney dropped to the midfield to help Tom Cleverley, while Antonio Valencia looked the best he’s had in months, looking as industrious and effective as ever on the right wing, while making room for Rafael in an excellent performance. Valencia hasn’t been at his best over the last couple of months, but his presence and help on defense (unlike when Nani plays the position) allows Rafael, a much better attacker than he is on defense, a lot of room and freedom to make himself useful.

Nemanja Vidic and Phil Jones had no problem handling the usually much more physical Everton attack, while David de Gea continued to prefer punching to actually collecting balls and making life easier for his teammates. There were no miscommunication issues; just De Gea refusing to change a habit that has cost United a goal or two in the past.

Is this the lineup that will show up for the Champions League? Still unclear. Asking Ryan Giggs for this kind of effort twice a week is a bit much, and Carrick will probably be on the pitch in a tad cautious setup from United, we assume. Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, those are the highlight men, with Rooney being the more important in the upcoming match. The league is closed and shut, unless something very unlikely happens. You don’t drop a 12 point lead, not when you’re Manchester United, and not when the Premier League as in its weakened state, not to mention home matches against Chelsea and Man City.

Real Madrid is the real challenge, with one player that can’t be marked; something Ferguson knows too well. Against Real Madrid, it won’t be possible to send out Phil Jones to do the job and let his team worry about the rest. It’s going to take much more to stop Crisitano Ronaldo, and come away with a good result from the Santiago Bernabeu.

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