Two sets of fairly gifted attackers: one set made space and moved the ball like lightning, the other kept on trying to walk the ball through the most crowded area of the pitch. The game finished 5-0.
We may feel aggrieved at the scoreline, which did flatter United slightly, but our attacking play, though exciting, was not very bright. There is a reason we seem to have so many shots blocked! Teams can funnel us down the middle, knowing that even if we do manage to niftily avoid 2 or 3 challenges, the defenders will still be there or thereabouts to harry/block/challenge. So yes, we might have had a few, and Andrew Johnson really did have one of those nights, but there is a fundamental flaw in what we’re trying to do and unless we can find a way of creating space then a lot of frustrating games lie ahead.
This said, United were surprisingly good. Their movement, particularly on the counter, was electric, and you didn’t need to be Sir Alex Ferguson to see that their pace on the flanks versus our lack of same was a mismatch begging to be exploited. So when Phil Jones went off early Ferguson, ruthlessly, moved Antonio Valencia to right back and brought on Ashley Young.
This could have gone either way, as it notionally weakened an already iffy looking defence, but in the event it just gave United even more purpose going forwards. They dominated the game until it was won.
The first goal was a calamity, Nani getting the red carpet treatment down our left flank as Ruiz then Baird waved him on by. He pulled the ball back and Wellbeck scored easily.
Then Giggs whipped in a cross and Nani headed home.
Then Giggs himself scored, Hangeland lunging in and causing the ball to whirl up and over David Stockdale, who had no chance.
We were much better in the second half and several chances appeared then disappeared. Dembele and Dempsey were again very good, but as noted above, seem to spend an inordinate amount of time dancing through massed defences with predictably low success rates. That they so nearly get there is a credit to their ability, but it feels like we’re missing something. Bryan Ruiz had a disaster of a first half but rebounded in the second, perhaps because United were happier to drop back and contain.
They got a couple more late on, Rooney larupping home from miles out off the post, Berbatov flicking home enigmatically from inside the area. All that effort from our players then they do that, almost on a whim. Wow.
Difficult, then. On the one hand, United were excellent. On the other, we don’t usually lose 5-0 to even the best teams, and particularly not at home.