Sunday, 16 November 2008

United 5-0 Stoke: Report and Ratings

Well, after a week where a lot of fans did a lot of soul-searching and doubting, that was quite the tonic. Or was it? Five goals, a clean sheet, Ronaldo on fire, Welbeck and Manucho making their Premier League debuts, total neutralisation of one of the most dangerous attacking threats in the league - great, hey?

In one way, yes. This is the sort of kick-start that could transcend the actual performance and be a launchpad for the sort of run that we really need. Everyone will turn up at training on Monday feeling pretty good about themselves and about the team. However, as Fergie stressed after the game, the performance in the first half was actually a bit slack. The goal was an error from Sorenson (who had an absolutely torrid afternoon), and then we just relaxed, and were flattered by the 2-0 scoreline given by Carrick's thunderbolt finish.

The second half was exhibition stuff, by contrast. Watching it made you feel warm and fuzzy inside, epitomised by Welbeck's goal of the month contender, which you can just watch again and again. More detail in the ratings, which we'll get onto now.


EVDS - 6 - made a decent save from O'Shea's header, but came and flapped at a free kick. Other than that, fairly untroubled, particularly in the second half where Stoke offered little going forward. I have been negative about him a lot in the last week - one thing I have thought, though, is that we should also judge him on qualities deemed to be very important by the United coaching staff - distribution, and playing as a sweeper-keeper. I must mention in his defence that he has been nearly flawless in this regard, always offering an option when a player is facing his own goal, always looking for a constructive pass rather than a hoof when not under intense pressure, and clearing reliably in tough spots. He also is very quick to look for an outlet when he does claim the ball in his area, and if you think back to the sluggish distribution of Howard and Carroll, and Bosnich's total inability to kick a football, I think we take this for granted when maybe we shouldn't.

Evra - 8 - an excellent performance, combining strength in defence with speed and skill going forward. This sort of display makes me remember why he was accepted as the best left back in the league last season.

Evans - 6.5 - comfortable, but not as composed in possession as he has been in the past. What a luxury it is, though, to have such a quality player as a reserve - another bit of squad strength which makes me feel good about the future.

Vidic - 7.5 - I found it really interesting that he was moved over to play on the right side of the centre back pairing, whereas before Evans has slotted into whichever side was vacant. I think this is a tacit acknowledgement by Fergie that our right side is the weaker, something we were discussing on this blog the other day. Anyway, he was totally dominant, including when covereing behind O'Shea.

O'Shea - 7 - really good performance from Sheasy. He was solid defensively, but we usually expect that. What was pleasing was the was he contributed to the attacks, holding his own in some slick passing triangles on the edge of the Stoke area, including some outrageous attempted flicks. We've forgotten him in the right back stakes, but on this evidence he deserves consideration if Neville does.

Ronaldo - 9 - the boy's back, and how. He was a threat every time he got the ball, scored two free kicks, reduced Sorenson to a quivering wreck, set up Carrick, and generally terrorised Stoke all afternoon. Also good to see the enthusiatic but unforced way in which he celebrated his ton of goals, and how the fans celebrated with him. He was clearly really proud to have hit that milestone, and I'm hoping that this will signal a thaw on the home front as well as more and more trouble for our opponents.

Fletcher - 8.5 - back from injury but still playing to and even above the standards he has set all season. Strong in the tackle, seemingly everywhere at once, and (which is more) displaying an array of passing that was totally absent in his "squad player" years - probably a sign of his growing confidence. The current difference between him and Anderson is the maturity with which Fletcher uses his talents, he operates with much more intelligence and discipline than his Brazilian colleague. Undroppable on this evidence.

Carrick - 8 - first off, a great goal. Four players around him, but his touch found space superbly and his shot was unstoppable. This is his second goal since his return, and if he can keep this up it will go a long way to answering his critics who get held up on his engine room ball retention. Also seemed to be engaged in a pass of the day competition with Fletcher, which is great to see.

Park - 7 - worked hard as always, and with some genuinely good touches. That spinning turn in the second half was first class, shame he didn't bury the shot - but that's the problem, he never does. A player of his type really needs to offer a credible goal threat, but for all his contributions elsewhere, Park never does. Even more attention that usual was drawn to this, as he often had to fill in on the shoulder of the last defender (yes, that's as silly as it sounds) as Tevez dropped and roamed.

Tevez - 5 - I'm sorry, but the more I see the more I think that Berba and Tevez can't play together. Berba likes to drop deep, as does Tevez - but unlike Berba (and Rooney), when his partner is deep Tevez doesn't push up onto the centre backs and into the area. There was a really telling moment in the first half where Berba had the ball in the left channel, and tried to thread a ball down to the byline to Evra on the overlap - he overhit it and it went out, but had Evra kept it in he would have looked up to see nobody in the box, since Tevez was on his heels 35 yards from goal when the pass was hit. When Rooney is fit, I think it is a choice between whether Berba or Tevez should play with him, rather than a choice between Rooney and Tevez to play with Berba.

Berbatov - 7 - great finish for the goal, even if he was slightly fortunate to control a ball which wasn't intended for him. Prompted from deep, and caused the defenders problems by controlling high balls dead again and again. Really fitting well now into the United machine.

Welback (sub) - 8 - what a goal, just what a goal. He also worked hard, and showed an ability to play wide - this will be really useful for him as he looks to get as much first team playing time as possible. Let's hope this is the start of something big, after all he could hardly ask for a bigger confidence booster than that.

Manucho (sub) - 6.5 - great to see him on the pitch, so long after signing him. His lanky style, not to mention his haircut, really did bring Kanu to mind, and he had a couple of half-chances. I suppose it would have been too fairytale for him and Welbeck to score in the same game. Still, I'm looking forward to seeing more, and he looks a different type of player to anyone else we have.

What did you make of the game? Do you agree with my assessments?


Matthew said...

you seem to forget darron gibson. I thought it was harsh to give Tevez a 5. Just give him more time, took him awhile to start scoring last season. A 6 for me.

Red Knight said...

Superb performance, dont think anyone really deserves a rating of 5 when the team wins 5 zip. I do understand where your coming from though, I think Tevez was nearly trying to hard, but its the only way he knows and I'm sure it'l come together.

redjack said...

Does the international break mean that you will have time to do the forward analysis?

utd06 said...

when r u doing pre match report of todays game??

Rook said...


What's your take on the match against the villans?

Aditya said...

Penguin: Nothing for eight days?

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