EPL Review: 10 men Manchester United go marching on
We are Manchester United and we do what we want!
Manchester United – Never write them off!
So, after approximately a two week hiatus, the Premier league returned to the central stage, with plenty of interesting fixtures in the store for the fans. An early kick off saw West Ham scrape past Tottenham with a draw. The second match of the day put Sir Alex and Owen Coyle against each other as the Red Devils looked to strengthen their position at the top of the table.
Let’s begin with counting the odds against Manchester United in this match:
- Sir Alex’s touchline ban.
- Defenders out injured = an entirely new defensive partnership (the last time the two paired up, United slumped to a heavy 4-0 defeat at the hands of West Ham).
- No Paul Scholes = Lack of creativity in midfield.
- 3rd game in 7 days: 12th March: Arsenal; 15th March: Marseille; 19th March: Bolton. Fatigue= maximum!!
- To add to the woes, Johnny Evans got himself red carded in the 77th minute of the match, adding to United’s defensive crisis.
Now, with all odds in mind, let’s begin with the actual review:
Manchester United came into this match following back to back defeats in the Premier League against Chelsea and Liverpool. Bolton on the other hand were soaring high with a 6 match unbeaten run in the Premier League along with booking a semifinal spot in the FA Cup. Evra was made the makeshift captain and in a rather ominous start, United lost the toss and Van der Sar had to manage his goalkeeping with the sun shining right into his eyes in the first half.
Bolton started the proceedings in a rather lively manner that shook the Manchester United defence. A slip from Evans allowed Elmander to tee up Muamba whose heavy first touch took the ball out of play and United escaped a horrific start. It was United’s turn next to attack. And in Wayne Rooney they have a player who is not shy of taking the shot himself and can hit from distance. But on this instance, Rooney’s 30 yard shot went agonizingly past the post. United had a penalty appealed turned down by the referee when a Hernandez shot was blocked by a sliding Gary Cahill. Replays showed that the ball had clearly hit Cahill’s left hand. Nani and Hernandez combined again to produce a great chance for United but some vigilant defending from David Wheater put the ball out for a corner. In the 26th minute, on-loan striker Daniel Sturridge decided to go for a spectacular as he attempted to hit a overhead kick from a deflected Petrov cross. However, he failed to connect the ball and the ball went out for a goal kick. A swift move from the Valencia-Rooney partnership resulted in a shooting chance for Hernandez, but Hernandez’s shot went inches past the post. Rooney decided to hit from distance in the 39th minute but his shot went over the bar yet again. The first half ended with both the sides creating chances galore but failing to apply the finishing touch.
To up the ante, United decided to make two chances at the start of the second half. The league’s leading goal scorer Dimitar Berbatov came on for Chicharito (the Boss later said that it was
due to the fact that Berbatov is much taller than Chicharito) while Brown at right back was replaced by Fabio. The second half began as the first had ended; both teams playing end-to-end football, creating ample amount of chances. Nani was becoming a nuisance for the Bolton defenders as the Portugese went wriggling past them on many occasions. Berbatov went close to scoring his 20th in the Premier League this season as the Bulgarian sent the ball just past the top corner from 20 yards after a brilliant play from Rooney. Next, the Bulgarian was sent free by a defence-splitting pass from Valencia. However, Gary Cahill recovered in time and gave his everything in the sliding challenge to prevent Berbatov from hitting a shot.
Things turned ugly for Manchester United when Evans flung himself into a challenge that left Stuart Holden in extreme agony. The midfielder was subsequently taken off the pitch on a stretcher while Evans got a straight red from referee Andre Marriner, much to the displeasure of the home fans. United were now down to 10 men but surprisingly, Bolton still looked to play out the game and spent their time defending, rather than attacking an out-numbered United side. Their ploy proved to be their undoing, as after a passage of continuous pressure on the opposition defence, the Red Devils finally managed to break the deadlock through Dimitar Berbatov. Nani’s powerful shot deflected off goalkeeper Jaaskelainen and landed straight into the waiting feet of Berbatov who slotted the ball home from a close range amidst appeals of offside, and helped the home fans breathe a huge sigh of relief.
However the replays showed that Berbatov was clearly onside. The last five minutes of the match saw United on the front foot, attacking and pressing the Bolton defense even after taking the lead. As the Old Trafford crowd sat on the edge of their seats in a nervy last few minutes, the referee finally blew the whistle to send a resounding cheer through the stadium. However, it was not the end of the day for the fans as moments later a confirmation of an Arsenal draw reached their ears and increased their celebrations. Arsenal’s draw takes United 5 points clear at the top, having played a game more than the Gunners.
Manchester United’s next match is after the international break and they would be hoping that the players utilize the break to recover from their injuries. On the other hand, it’s certainly not the end of the road for Owen Coyle’s men who have a tough battle for the 6th spot ahead of them.