Manchester United 2 v 0 Birmingham City
Old Trafford, Manchester
5th February 2005
Manchester United secured three points on Saturday, and edged closer to the top of the table as title-rivals Chelsea could only draw with Manchester City! That leaves us only 9 points adrift with 12 games to go (And Chelsea have to play United, Arsenal and Barcelona!)
After the dramatic and emotional tie against Arsenal last Tuesday, this game against Birmingham threatened to be one of our typical shabby displays - we have a nasty habit of winning massive games but losing the following "Easy" games against the likes of Portsmouth and Southampton.
And United didn't look much like the side that thwarted Arsenal's ambitions of retaining the league title. This United lacked creativity and urgency for much of the first half, as if the team were still hung-over from the party on Tuesday. Only Roy Keane seemed to be as alert as ever, and he alone broke down most of the Birmingham attacks - though they still hit the bar.
United were wearing black arm-bands in rememberance and respect for the Manchester United players (and officials) who died in the tragic Munich air crash on February 6th 1958. We will never forget them.
Nil-nil at the break meant that the team got a deserved motivational speech from Sir Alex! And United looked better for it. The extra hunger added a whole new dimension to the side, with classy quick-passing football starting to shine through. Now it was only a matter of time before the goal would come.
And, fittingly, it was Roy Keane who finally scored. His fiftieth goal for the club was similar to the goals he used to score in his early days at the club: He charged from midfield, got the ball in space from a cheeky back-heel by Ronaldo, ran into the box, and blasted it home hard and low.
With the pressure lifted, United started to play a more free-flowing brand of the game - Birmingham had to try and attack United, and Rooney and Ronaldo could work their magic to conjure a goal with all the extra space at the Birmingham end!
Ronaldo and Rooney were both involved in the second - and deciding - goal. Ronaldo charged towards the keeper when he had the ball at his feet from a back-pass. The keeper bottled it, and belted the ball at Ronaldo, with the ball taking a deflection right to the feet of Rooney. Rooney needed only one touch to lob the keeper from twenty yards.
Next up for United is away at Man City. Hopefully we'll get through International week without many injuries, and we can give the Blues of Manchester the whipping they deserve! Nine points is nothing!
Man Utd: Carroll, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Brown, Heinze, Ronaldo, O'Shea, Keane, Giggs (Phil Neville 82), Rooney (Miller 82), Saha (Fortune 68).
Subs Not Used: Howard, Bellion.
Goals: Keane 55, Rooney 78.
Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Melchiot, Cunningham, Martin Taylor (Tebily 81), Clapham, Pennant, Nafti (Carter 72), Johnson, Gray, Pandiani, Blake (Morrison 72).
Subs Not Used: Kuqi, Vaesen.
Booked: Johnson, Nafti, Pennant.
Ref: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).