Manchester United 3 v 0 Middlesbrough
Old Trafford, Manchester
29th January 2005
Manchester United cruised past a weak Middlesbrough side, to get through to the Last 16 of the FA cup. And it was mainly courtesy of Wayne Rooney!
After a cruel defeat in mid-week which has saw the Reds knocked out of the Carling Cup (And led everyone in the press to bang on about the "Quadruple" for Chelsea), United fielded a strong - but weakened - side against Boro. Sir Alex, with one eye obviously firmly focussed on Tuesday nights crucial league game against Arsenal, rested Scholes, Keane, Silvestre and Saha, and took off Giggs, Heinze and Ronaldo as soon as the game had been won. That game will decide who goes into second place in the league, and it's highly unlikely that the loser of Tuesdays game has any remaining chance of winning the Premiership.
Back to the Boro game though! United started very brightly, and completely dominated the game with attacking and exciting play right accross the park. In the first half, Boro had only one chance - which was predictably wasted by Hasselbaink. With Phil Neville, Fortune and O'Shea bossing the midfield, and scrapping tooth and nail for the ball, United had a solid foundation on which the inspirational Ronaldo, Rooney and Giggs could build.
And it was in one of the early attacks that the Reds went in front. The ball was flying in and out of the Boro box as the United players took it in turns to test the Boro keeper. Eventually, the ball ended up at Ronaldo's feet about eight yards from goal. Instead of shooting, he somehow managed to get the ball across to the feet of O'Shea, who took his time to make an accomplished finish.
As has been our habit over recent months (Since Ruud's been injured), we never quite killed off the game until late on. It'd be much easier on the fans if United took the games by the scruff of the neck, and showed up the inferior opposition by whacking three in in the first twenty minutes.
But when the second goal came, it was well worth waiting for. Gary Neville played a ball through to Rooney, who had been left mysteriously unmarked by the Boro defence. Rooney took one look at the out-rushing Boro keeper, and one touch on the ball sent it whipping and curling high over Schwarzer and into the back of the net. Before this goal, Rooney was looking a bit lost - he always seems to play better when there's another striker on the pitch.
And Rooney's second goal - united's third - was just as special. Louis Saha headed a long clearance by Carroll into the airspace of Rooney, who promptly volleyed the ball high into the top corner of the net. Schwarzer had literally no chance. In fact, I'd be suprised if he actually saw the ball!
Rooney has since said that they were two of the best goals he's ever scored.
Ronaldo continued his good form, with a few dazzling runs, and countless neat touches. Hopefully his form will continue till tuesday, when he gets the chance to mesmerise Arsenals hapless defender Pascal Cygan (Toure is injured)!
Man Utd: Carroll, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Brown, Heinze (Silvestre 79), Ronaldo (Miller 72), Phil Neville, O'Shea, Fortune, Giggs (Saha 65), Rooney.
Subs Not Used: Howard, Scholes.
Goals: O'Shea 10, Rooney 67, 82.
Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Reiziger, Southgate, Cooper (McMahon 79), Queudrue, Morrison, Parlour, Doriva (Job 45), Zenden, Downing, Hasselbaink (Graham 83).
Subs Not Used: Nash, Parnaby.
Ref: S Dunn (Gloucestershire)