Date: 22nd August 2009 at 6:49pm
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Well, Fergie did get the response he demanded after the pathetic defeat at Burnley: United, clearly fired up by that performance and the probable dressing down they received afterwards, thrashed Wigan at the JJB.

However, before I start praising everyone – which I will do – the mistakes, the problems must be pointed out, for it’s a perfect result but not the perfect performance. United did not do everything right from start to finish and the final score is distinctly flattering.

Once again, we were not compact enough in midfield. It’s my pet mania, yes, but I believe that central midfield’s the most important part of any team – look how hard a mediocre Liverpool team pushed us, just because of their midfield axis which was annoyingly solid and compact. Well, we are short in this area and Paul Scholes once again showed that if United are to dominate the midfield he must not be in the team.

There was also the profligacy of the first half. We missed easy chances, we made too many bad decisions in front of goal and there wasn’t enough movement in attack, we were way too static. These are, unfortunately, problems which keep coming back to haunt us and unfortunately it’s because of the players’ quality.

But bemoaning the lack of quality after a 5-0 win would be churlish so I won’t do that. Still, it must be made clear that we didn’t become world beaters just three days after a disastrous result. No. But goals change games and we scored two in quick succession while Wigan could have equalised in between. We were fortunate, we were granted the luck we had been denied at Burnley.

I’d also add that the opposition played a more open, attacking game which obviously suited us. And Fergie’s team selection was miles, miles better and that was vital.

First, the selection of Darren Fletcher. Until Hargreaves isn’t back, he’ll simply have to play every game in my opinion. He gives stability and shape to the midfield, without him opponents just glide past that area of the pitch. He was great today, breaking up attacks regularly, harassing opponents, distributing the ball efficiently – and he deserves a lot of praise for the latter as it’s one of his weaknesses, actually.

Secondly, the inclusion of Dimitar Berbatov. For me, the Bulgarian justified Fergie’s faith in him so far this season: he was very good against Birmingham and he changed our football at Burnley, we became infinitely more dangerous once he was on the pitch. At Wigan, he was at the heart of our best moves, linking well with Rooney and even with Valencia and Nani. His goal was a magnificent piece of marksmanship, in a difficult situation – that’s what we expect of him.

Antonio Valencia, omitted from the starting eleven at Burnley, was back and had a really good game. He does a lot of defensive work and he’s courageous and skilful enough to take on defenders and beat them, to dribble past them. He also demonstrated that he’s a great crosser of the ball, finding Rooney’s head with a pinpoint effort, thus contributing to the opening of the floodgates.

Nani, another player who wasn’t there in the starting XI at Burnley – also had a good game, assisting and scoring one. He was more direct, did not dribble when a pass would have been a better choice and his crosses were mostly accurate. His pass to Michael Owen before the fourth goal was satisfyingly precise, well-timed and penetrating – he also had the patience to wait for the right moment.

Rooney was lucky and lethal but perfectly deserved his brace; Owen might pick up some much-needed confidence after a difficult but excellently executed finish, even though it was hardly a crucial goal. Defence was relatively solid although as I had indicated Wigan could have scored a couple of goals at least. But another big positive was the performance of Ben Foster who thwarted them repeatedly, not only by pulling off excellent saves but by rushing out with perfect timing and catching crosses with confidence and authority.

And we were ruthless in the second half which is a pleasant rarity for United. We did not let Wigan off the hook, we finished them off, albeit with the aid of luck, when we had the chance. That is the biggest positive of the afternoon, considering how the last two games panned out.

Now only a little consistency required: scoring five goals is impressive any time but if we score one goal in the next two games then today’s good work will matter little…