On one end it was Robin van Persie, this time not as a scorer, but as a goal-line savior. On the other end it was Wayne Rooney, in excellent form of late, enjoying a huge Fulham mistake to give him and Manchester United the only goal of the match, and a 10 point lead on top of the Premiership.
Philippe Senderos was involved in both aforementioned situations. It was his pathetic attempt to stop the long ball with his head that allowed Wayne Rooney to score after 78 minutes and another second half in which United lost control of the match and resorted to tactics you don’t usually see from champions. The same Senderos almost became the injury time hero with a header that was saved by Robin van Persie from the line.
Another weird performance from Manchester United. Champions are tested by their bad wins, but United simply have too many of them to convince most about their title credentials. Problem? No one in the league is good enough to challenge them, and no one in the Premier League has the kind of quality finishers they have to portray their striking force – Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, and when the mood is right, even Javier Hernandez looks like one of the best strikers in the world.
When Jonny Evans is the one getting so many praises at the end of the match, you know something’s off. The midfield duo of Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley was outworked for most of the match, as Carrick lacked the usual confidence he has in the decisions he makes, while Cleverley pulled off a masterclass of notching up mileage while doing absolutely nothing with all that running around.
Alex Ferguson, no surprise, wasn’t exactly pleased with his team’s performance, despite the win. He didn’t have heaps of words to throw around, but he did what he always does – when he wins undeservedly, he simply says how well the opposition plays. There are a few constants in the Alex Ferguson reply book, and praising the opposition comes only after he wins. When Patrice Evra shamelessly feigns injuries to win free kick, there really isn’t too much to be proud of.
And with all that, Manchester United are winning the Premier League with ease; because David de Gea isn’t as bad as some try to make him seem; because Patrice Evra isn’t the same defender he used to be, but he’s added scoring to his ability page, while Rafael is improving as a defender, thanks to Antonio Valencia playing on his win and not the disastrous Nani, with another match into the books with nothing good to say about the Portuguese player.
Alex Ferguson thought about turning his team into Barcelona, hoping to emulate the success of a club that has beaten him twice in the Champions League final in the space of three years. Alas, the attractive football concept requires the kind of midfielders he doesn’t have, and tactical level he himself doesn’t have. With United, it’s about other things – mental, psychological. After so many years, why change what seems to work so well most of the time?