Oh, to be a fly in the half time dressing room!
Whilst it’s a god awful cliche whoever first coined the phrase “It’s a game of two halves” (perhaps Jimmy Greaves?) was essentially describing perfectly what occurred at the newly named DW Stadium.
Sir Alex must have been fuming at the way we lacked that cutting edge, and have done for our first two matches, and as such must have given all concerned the hair dryer treatment at full force.
Far too often the players looked laboured and bereft of a spark and in the end the teams could have gone with the home side leading. Yes Chris Kirkland pulled off some decent stops but there was something missing in the teams approach to this encounter. The defeat at Turf Moor would clearly still have been in the minds of those in the starting eleven who were part of the side defeated by Burnley.
The second half was however a masterclass in controlled attacking play led in the most part by the great link up play between Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov. The two players were of course responsible for that disastrous attack on Wednesday night when both players left the ball for the other, no such danger of a lack of communication today though.
Wayne Rooney rose highest and put away a fine Valencia cross and flood gates were about to come open. Some good approach play between Scholesy and Rooney helped release Berbatov who lifted calmly over the Latics keeper and it was 2-0. At the back Jonny Evans was immense and in my view even overshadowed the returning Nemanja Vidic, who seemed to be having one hell of a set-to with Hugo Rodallega throughout.
Having netted his 100th goal for the club, our number 10 took a chance with a shot on the turn that took a nice deflection off Mario Melchiot before easing past Kirkland’s near post. Sir Alex decided that was as good a time as any to refresh things and take off Rooney, Scholes (who looked knackered after a solid second half performance) and Evans who looked like he may have had a slight knock.
Sub Darron Gibson is a player who I feel has a great deal of potential but may have to wait his turn for a run in the first team and he fired one of his trademark stingers at the Wigan keeper almost the moment he came on. Nani, who had put in a decent if not spectacular display, broke away and waited for Michael Owen to make an angled run and the moment the ball arrived at his feet he turned back the years, vanquished the memory of a torrid spell at St James’ Park, to neatly flick past the advancing goalie and give us a four goal lead. A fine moment that illustrates the kind of impact player he could become for us in the coming weeks and months.
The fifth goal was the icing on a well deserved cake and one that looked all too obvious as Kirkland placed himself in no-mans land for a free-kick and Nani placed a finely floated free kick into the bottom corner. Job done, and finally a convincing performance from the lads and hats off to the boss for his wise, and no doubt very loud, words of encouragement at half time.
Foster 7 – Some good stops but still doesn’t appear to have the confidence of the players in front of him
Neville 7 – At times shaky in the first period Gary was assured in the second half
Evra 7 – As always a danger going forward and fairly comfortable in defence
Vidic 7 – Good game to make a return to the side but did on occasion lose his man
Evans 9 – Very solid and always read the game well. Growing into a fantastic prospect
(O’Shea) 6 – Didn’t have much to do after coming on
Nani 7 – Up until the last seven minutes did little and slowed attacks down but was deadly as the game came to a close
Scholes 7 – Battled as hard as ever and was able to control the game well
(Gibson) 7 – Nice touches and good effort on goal
Fletcher 8 – Very good display from the Scot who was missed on Wednesday
Valencia 8 – Did well against his old side, always managed to get past his man and put in great cross for first goal
Berbatov 9 – Always thinking and alive to what was going on around him. Great display
Rooney 9 – Had a number of missed chances in the first half but didn’t let that get in the way of a fine second half show
(Owen) 7 – Proved just how lethal he can be in front of goal.