Sunderland’s trip to Old Trafford seemed like the sideshow as it was all about Fergie’s 25th anniversary at the club. The Reds got the job done with a 1-0 win courtesy of old-boy Wes Brown’s own goal in first time stoppage time. However, United weren’t very convincing with many possibly in awe of the newly named Sir Alex Ferguson Stand which surprised the majority of the crowd including Sir Alex himself who was touched by the club’s gesture.
United were still the better team in terms of chances created and possession of the ball but it was a close-run thing at times and the afternoon threatened to go horribly wrong midway through the second half when one of the linesmen, Jake Collin, flagged for a handball inside the United penalty area and the referee, Lee Mason, took the signal and pointed to the spot. The offending hand had belonged to Ji Dong-won, the Sunderland substitute, but briefly it seemed as though the guilty verdict was directed at either Phil Jones or Nemanja Vidic.
Sunderland lacked the penetration to create clear chances and, with Rio Ferdinand looking more like his old self alongside Vidic, Anders Lindegaard had a relatively quiet afternoon deputising for David de Gea. Kieren Westwood had the busier afternoon, making an outstanding double save to prevent Rooney and Patrice Evra making it 2-0, but he, too, must have expected a more rigorous workout.
1) Fergie is immortal
The Fergie love-in continued as the club’s Chief Executive David Gill announced United had commissioned a statue of Ferguson, to be unveiled outside the newly named stand next August. The statue will be created by Philip Jackson, whose previous work includes the life-size sculpture of Sir Matt Busby outside Old Trafford, the “United Trinity” of Sir Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best and the immortalising of Sir Bobby Moore outside Wembley. The gaffer’s reaction was there for all to see and admitted he was “really emotional” afterwards. Let’s hope Sir Alex’s moniker will guard United Road just as well as the man himself guards this fantastic football club.
2) Rio not finished, just needs Vidic
With one international cap this year and a whole host of emerging talent for both club and country many have been quick to write off arguably the best centre-half of the past ten years. Rio Ferdinand has been attacked this season for his inability to handle situations he seemingly could easily do in the past but what many forget is with the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Patrice Evra and the Da Silvas alongside you, you’re going to be stranded from time to time. With these attack-minded defenders going gung-ho it has highlighted Ferdinand’s lack of pace and has magnified his errors whilst the other defenders escape analysis due to absence. This coupled with his injury record of late, there have been question marks over his long-term future at the club with his contract expiring in June 2013 but after reclaiming his place in the side next to his partner in crime Nemanja Vidic, it seemed as though the old Rio had returned. The two know each other’s games inside out and Ferdinand has spoken of a “telepathic” understanding shared between the two which was on show against the Black Cats as the pair snuffed out attacks and took it in turns to mark Nicklas Bendtner. Should these two stay fit, the clean sheets will pile up.
3) Rooney is a striker
No, we’re not patronising you but after dropping into midfield in the horrid 6-1 defeat to City when Jonny Evans was sent off and playing in midfield against both Everton and Galati, commentators have started to speculate as to whether this will be a permanent move for our number 10. Let’s get one thing straight, when Rooney is on his game he is the best centre-forward in the country and he is being used in midfield because of the promising form of both Danny Welbeck and Chicharito whilst injuries to Ryan Giggs, Tom Cleverley, Ashley Young and Michael Carrick mean there is cover needed at present. The boss tried Phil Jones in midfield at Anfield and has shown over the years that he’s not afraid of trying the unusual. If we’re honest, we still lack that combination of creativity and energtic spark in midfield which is what Rooney brings to the table but Wazza is a temporary plug in this gaping void which will need a permanent plug sooner rather than later.
4) Chicha not a starter
He’s more of a dessert to be fair. The little Mexican made just 15 passes throughout the afternoon and was barely involved all day which shows that he’s not a link-up player and is more suited to coming on later on in games when defenders have tired and he can use his clever runs to devastating effects. Hernandez sympathisers will claim that his few touches are often goals, as we saw at Goodison last week, but Chicharito needs to up his game if he is going to continue starting games ahead of the likes of Dimitar Berbatov who can hold the ball up better than any and whose link-up play is second to none. United cannot afford an inactive player who is constantly being called offside in the rough and tumble of the Premier League. With Chicha often making the difference from the bench it would surprise none if Fergie went for Welbeck to partner Rooney when the midfield injuries ease.
5) Brown is still Red
Who’d have thought we’d ever hear that Wes Brown had scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for United at Old Trafford and it had been an own-goal? We love this man and the feeling is obviously mutual as he returned to his hometown and boyhood club to be the match-winner. Wes was often susceptible to the odd OG in his United career so it’s only fair that he gave United fans one to shout about. The 32-year-old captained his new side and, despite finding his own net, put in a decent performance ensuring his team left with some dignity. The brilliant Wes Brown song was belted out by the United faithful and the Hardest Man In All The Town acknowledged the gesture much to the delight of the home crowd. Other former Reds Steve Bruce, Phil Bardsley and Kieran Richardson also got a good reception and let’s hope our unofficial second team find some much-needed luck after winning only one of their last six games.