After a weekend in which Manchester United got back to winning ways against a resilient Everton side, fans will have been hoping that the side would continue to build upon it with their Champion’s League tie against Otelul Galati, relative unknowns who were still able to cause a few problems when United paid them a visit a couple of weeks ago. The night started out well enough when Dimitar Berbatov played a pass out to Phil Jones on the right, whipping in a low cross that gave Antonio Valencia a simple finish from a few yards out on 8 minutes. The potential was there for United to control proceedings from then on and in terms of possession they certainly did, but failed to utilise this advantage into goals. A strong side was named for the clash with the likes of Berbatov and Valencia being given starts, as well as Michael Owen who rather unfortunately sustained an injury and was replaced early on by Hernandez. Yet despite this attacking potential United were wasteful, with Berbatov guilty of squandering a superb chance from a badly timed back pass, and it was not until the closing stages that United sealed the victory when a midfield occupying Wayne Rooney shot from distance, with the ball taking a large deflection on it’s travels to give his side the 2-0 victory. Galati were not without their chances though, a notable moment when a misplaced pass from Nani was seized upon, forcing a good save from David De Gea when the ball made it’s way into the box. In truth the game was short on excitement and drama, with few notable performances, but regardless was a job done with 3 points sealed, taking United to the top of their group, a positive way for Sir Alex Ferguson to celebrate 25 years in charge. With that, here are five things that may be taken from the game.
1) Nani on the left – tried and failed
It’s been known for quite some time now that Nani simply is not the same player on the left as he is on the right, lacking the effectiveness that makes him such a threat going down that side. It is understandable that in order for Valencia, a traditional right winger, to get game time, such changes have to be made, but if it is known the results of putting Nani on the left are not impressive then why persist? Indeed, he did not have his best outing on Wednesday evening, and it could be argued that playing Park in that position or even young Fabio may well have been a better option.
2) Phil Jones provided more threat than Valencia
Speaking of that right side, it was good to see Antonio Valencia make a start and given a chance to impress after recent weeks that have seen Nani and Ashley Young very much the preferred options on the wings. As previously mentioned his night started well enough, grabbing the opening goal, but as the game progressed he began to fade. Perhaps the lack of match practice caused rustiness or perhaps his willingness to run at defenders has diminished slightly, a ramification of the terrible injury he sustained last season. Whatever the reason, it was evident at times that the ever impressive Phil Jones appeared to be far more threatening at right back, charging down Galati’s left side, assisting the first goal and finding plenty more opportunities to trouble the Romanian side on a few other occasions. The advantage to him being at right back was the ability to use his pace without so much of the risk of being caught out if the opposition countered. In all, a superb performance and arguably man of the match from United’s summer signing.
3) Berbatov – involved yet frustrated
The handling of Berbatov’s situation in the side has been criticised often in recent times, with many believing the top scorer in the league last season deserves better than he has had lately, rarely finding himself with a starting place and as such being unable to prove himself on a regular basis. Wednesday night then provided a useful opportunity to make an impression and remind Ferguson that he still has a part to play. Indeed he was certainly involved for much of the match, but found his chances wanting as he failed to bear the fruits of his labour by not landing on the scoresheet. Frankly, he should have having had a couple of chances to add to the score line, most notable the aforementioned one on one chance to which he could only find the side netting. In all perhaps a frustrating evening for the Bulgarian in which he may be disappointed at not directly contributing to the goal tally. However, I do believe he deserves more chances within the side in the coming weeks, although Welbeck and Hernandez may give plenty of evidence to suggest that may not be the case.
4) Anderson epitomising inconsistency
After Wednesday’s game it is unlikely that the widespread belief that the midfield may need reinforcement will subside with United continually looking exposed in that area, failing to take a commanding presence in ways of old. Partnering Wayne Rooney was Anderson, a regular since the start of the season but failing to shake the inconsistencies that have prevented him truly developing into a midfield force. Against Galati these issues were much the same, regularly giving the ball away and generally failing to make an impact. He could have found himself on the scoresheet also, only to have his effort cleared off the line.
5) Wayne Rooney – could be a good midfielder, but his attacking play should take priority
One cannot deny that Rooney is willing to take up unusual positions for the benefit of the team, and one standout feature of the team sheet on Wednesday was his taking up of a central midfield role, presumably as a playmaker. In fact it was a rather impressive display, building up a commendable set of passing statistics for the evening and occasionally displaying the type of superb passes he is capable of. Whilst the potential for Rooney as a central midfielder is evident, it should probably be something only used on occasion, perhaps in the absence of other choices, because although undoubtedly useful, his attacking prowess is simply something that would be greatly missed, and United’s attacking threat simply is not as sharp when he is not in the mix