Team: Kenny, Taiwo, Hill, Ferdinand, Onuoha, Diakite (Wright-Phillips), Derry, Taarabt (Smith), Mackie, Buzsaky, Bothroyd (Campbell)
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Gabbidon, Young, Zamora
I took the coach up with my Dad and Brother, getting on at the Target roundabout. We left there for Manchester at around 7.30am, feeling that it was either going to be a trouncing, or that we’d sneak a point. Obviously we were wrong, but on the way back everyone seemed fairly satisfied with the overall Rangers performance (with some fair criticism of Bothroyd and a bit for Buzsaky too), but all to a man were singing the praises of the back-four and keeper, as well as Diakite.
There was a rather amusing moment at the service station on the way home, when a coach full of Man Utd fans got off and had a group photo. We were, naturally, about half-way home by this point. It seemed that they were taking our chant of: ‘We’ll Race You Back to London’, rather seriously ! We arrived back in Northolt at around half-eight, satisfied that we were still out of the bottom three, and hoping for a rescinding of Derry’s red card, still bemoaning United’s fortune and Young’s cheating. All in all though, a good trip and I for one am glad I went. Roll on next year’s visit !
A 20th league title for Manchester United will be a sweet achievement for the club, but this victory left a bitter taste in the mouth. Just as the talk should have been about another outstanding performance by the peerless Paul Scholes and United marching closer to an eighth successive victory, it was dominated by Ashley Young and a penalty that should have never been, a red card and accusations that the winger had dived.
The officials erred, with assistant referee Ceri Richards somehow failing to see that Young was clearly offside when Wayne Rooney threaded a pass through to him while referee Lee Mason was fooled into giving the penalty and compounded the error by sending off Rangers captain Shaun Derry. It was injustice after injustice after injustice for the visitors, a triple whammy of mistakes and claims of a blatant piece of cheating by Young, who needs to examine his own behaviour.
The incident will fuel the conspiracy theories surrounding the treatment of the so-called ‘big teams’ by officialdom, especially as, in United’s last home match, Fulham were denied a far clearer penalty when Michael Carrick appeared to catch Danny Murphy. United did not concede then and did not concede on Sunday, collecting a fifth successive clean sheet.
With six matches to go, and an emphatic points advantage, they appear to be a juggernaut careering towards that title, with Scholes at the wheel. Here, as so often since his surprise return in January, the 37 year-old was imperious. He scored a fine goal, also, astonishingly 18 years after he last scored against Rangers, but the most incredible statistic is that United have dropped just two points since he re-joined their ranks. He has helped them claim 34 points out of 36 available. Talk of playing for England in the Euro 2012 finals had seemed fanciful.
Now it would be a travesty if he decided against doing so. What had appeared, in truth, an act of some desperation has proved to be a masterstroke with Scholes ‘retirement’ nothing more than a sabbatical. Scholes’ effect on this United team has been mesmeric, transforming a side holding onto the coat-tails of Manchester City to one that is now in the ascendancy and pumped full of relentless belief and increased energy and guile. City’s own implosion has accelerated everything, but United have been primed to capitalise and Scholes has been their orchestrator, their general, their heartbeat. He left the field after 74 minutes, to a richly-deserved standing ovation, after a performance that was gilded by a goal – one of those fulminating drives from outside the penalty area that he has trademarked over the years.
It had appeared that Rangers came for damage limitation with neither Bobby Zamora, with a lingering virus, nor Joey Barton, who is close to suspension, risked ahead of crucial contests to come, starting with Wednesday’s home match with Swansea City. Their game plan for containment was ripped up inside a quarter-of-an-hour when Derry brushed against Young – it had appeared a slight trip, but that was not the case – and the England international went to ground with stunning ease.
Rooney drove the penalty powerfully to goalkeeper Paddy Kenny’s right for his 29th goal of the season and it was, so early, game over. Down to ten men with so long to play, Rangers would have feared an avalanche of goals. But manager Mark Hughes has got his side well organised, resilient and clearly believing in themselves. On this evidence, and with those key games to come, Rangers certainly have enough to avoid relegation. They did not capitulate; they did not throw in the towel and, despite United’s inevitable domination, there were a few jabs of resistance with Adel Taarabt breaking out on occasions and only denied, after a slip by Rafael da Silva, by a timely block from the impressive Jonny Evans.
Still United, of course, racked up a host of chances and one worry for Sir Alex Ferguson must be Danny Welbeck’s inability to convert them. He side-footed wastefully over from Young’s clever back-heel and then, more alarmingly, shot weakly at Kenny when he was put clear by Rooney. At times, United were guilty of overplaying with Ferguson rightly complaining that they had slipped into a “comfort” zone because of their early goal – and man – advantage, but they, also, twice struck the woodwork while Young guided a close-range header wide.
First Scholes found Rafael with a wonderfully chipped pass, only for the defender’s shot to ricochet off Kenny, who went to ground early, and then up and against the crossbar. Later, Carrick collected a square pass from Patrice Evra and shot powerfully from 30 yards, beating Kenny only for the ball to cannon back off the inside of the post. By then, United had scored their second.
Taarabt was at fault by miscontrolling a clearance on the edge of his own penalty area for the ball to run to Rafael who quickly fed Scholes. The midfielder advanced and from 25 yards struck a dipping drive that tore past Kenny to end any lingering doubts about the result. It was apt that he made such a contribution – but it did not erase the controversy surrounding his team-mate Young and that penalty.
Jason Burt – The Telegraph
I went up with Mark and Dan, good banter on the way up. We parked up and saw a few Rangers fans on the way to the ground, everyone expecting the worst, but hoping that it would end in a good day for the R’s. Now anyone who moans about our ticket office should try getting one at Old Trafford on a match day. Jokers I tell ya !!!
I will sum the game up like this, you know the craic regarding their first goal and it was a joke. Also, one other thing, how the hell did Rooney stay on the pitch ? That tackle, even from my seat, was a red as clear as the red shirt that the linesman was wearing. United fans are idiots of the highest order. In the ground they sing that stupid song: ‘We’ll Never Play You Again’, like we don’t know that we are in danger of going down. I have to say that I have never seen so many simpletons in one place at once. They are armchair fans to the core and showed by the fire drill with still 10 minutes to go. The title almost in the bag and off they rush…..to stand outside and take pictures !!!
As for Rangers, what can you say ? Never really had any chance with that line-up United had on the sidelines. Yes they did boss the game before the red card, but also we had Derry and Diakite chasing them and making it hard for them to do very much. Keeping eleven on the pitch is a must for us anytime with that kind of game plan.
Right moan over, what I also learned was how to spot Man Utd fans in our section. When you play them you are not playing a football club, but a brand and that the referees’ and linesmen/women would rather give them an easy ride than risk the hairdryer from Fergie.
And lastly, our fans are still the best in the land.