An important week for the Red Devils started at Old Trafford against survival hopefuls West Ham. A response was essential to the weekend’s miserable trip up to Everton, and that’s exactly what Sir Alex Ferguson got from his players – in a professional performance, which saw a host of chances fall for United players in a game of near domination.
The first goal, so excellently worked with the imperious Nemanja Vidic starting the move from the back eventually saw Wayne Rooney head in another goal from a Valencia cross from the right – a partnership that has immediately hit off this season.
Indeed, Manchester United‘s build up play went largely unchallenged from those in claret and blue, however take nothing away from the contributions of Park Ji Sung and Dimitar Berbatov too that led to a finely worked goal. This was almost identical to the second, with Berbtov once again the instigator of the attack, Valencia crossing and Rooney applying the finish with his head, once again showing this new added dimension to his game.
Paul Scholes bossed the field all evening, a ‘Rolls-Royce’ performance if you wish – and it was his masterful play which set up Michael Owen for the final goal. Although both may be considered past their peak, Ferguson has used them both in effective roles this season, which has very much got the best out of these two added luxuries.
Key to the win wasn’t just those involved in each goal, but the partnerships all over the field – the understanding between Evra and Park down the left wing, with the latter having freedom to roam the field, and has recently started adding a final product to his game, a major criticism of him in previous seasons. An accomplished win, but arguably a far bigger game on the weekend was still to come.
Man United 2 – 1 Aston Villa:
A trip to Wembley for many United supporters was the reward of beating rivals Man City in the previous round in a thrilling two leg semi-final.
Two immediate shocks then occurred involving two key players – Rooney and Vidic. The former, was rested on the bench initially to allow in form Berbatov and Michael Owen to start up top. Then, almost within an instance of the referee blowing his whistle, Vidic struggled with the pace of Agbonlahor and bought him down in the box. Undoubtedly, a fair decision – although Nemanja can consider himself rather lucky not to be sent off, in what seemed like a challenge that identied Vidic as a last man.
The response was prompt from United though, with Berbatov’s hard working performance paying off by forcing experienced centre half Dunne into an error, which led to Owen applying a wonderful finish, one that must have took everyone back a few years to his Liverpool and England prime. The crowd at Wembley, particularly the Aston Villa supporters were getting increasingly frustrated with the officiating, however United supporters had a case of discontent too – with Collins sliding in on Owen, a rash challenge which technically was made by the last man too. Much of the press have concentrated on Vidic’s challenge without much attention on this case, that could have seen a Villa player see red.
The ever prominent Valencia and Rooney connection sparked once more nearing the end of the game, with an almost replica goal of the mid-week ones, which saw Wayne Rooney steal the headlines once again. However, praise must be more collective for this one. Park Ji-Sung epitomized everything about United’s character, with a typically hard working performance.
Captain Evra was almost faultless, striding down the field with attacking intent, yet offered a sound performance defensively. In addition to Evra’s great display, Berbatov delivered a man of the match performance. His vision, his touches and his work ethic could only be admired as he played an influential part in many of United’s attacking movements.
Despite the long ball pressure nearing the end from Villa, with the likes of Heskey, Dunne, Collins and Carew piling in the box – United held firm and have got two Carling Cup trophies in two years running to show for it. Undoubtedly, a successful week for United with some eye catching displays from Valencia, Berbatov, Park and Rooney.