Birmingham 1-1 United
United fans across the world were left disappointed as a tough Birmingham side managed to squeeze a draw out of tight game that was sure to go in United's favor.
The start of the game looked good United, holding on to the ball longer than Birmingham and trying to cut their way forward left, right, and center. The spell of dominance culminated in an 18th minute cross/shot by Giggs which fooled Foster and struck the far post.
From then on, the game was pretty cagey. The teams were seemingly cirlcing the wagons and scouting each other out before launching some sort of attack. But after the past few games, I was feeling pretty optimistic and there was this snes that if anyone was going to come out on top, it would be United.
When we hit the break, I went downstairs for usual halftime breakfast/discussion about life and United with my dad. He said that Park would have made a difference in the game and I agree. It seems as though some kind of energy was lost tonight, and if anyone was going to bring it, it would have to be the Parkinator.
After halftime, United looked a bit more open than they did in the first half. People were making good runs and balls were getting through to the strikers well. Just before the hour mark, Berbatov backheels a pass to Darron Gibson and gets the ball back from him just inside the penalty box. With pinpoint accuracy, our favorite Bulgarian puts it too far for Foster, but just inside the post. Cue celebrations involving Berbatov, Gibson, Rooney, and some random United fan that ran onto the field. Good man.
We were feeling good, and I thought we could've gone on to win the match by at least two goals. United had several opportunities to make that happen as well. In fact, Berbatov could have had another hat-trick this year. At one point, he used both feet to take the ball round two defenders and then hit the post. Another chance went begging when Gibson's pass to an open, unmarked Berbatov was intercepted.
Captain Vidic also had a good chance to score, but his header from a Giggs corner was pushed away by Foster who's looked much better since his Manchester Derby days.
With about 15 minutes left, Birmingham resorted to a surprisingly effective tactic - goalmouth scrambles. Alex McLeish throws on Hleb, Phillips, and the Crouch-like Zigic and tells them all to stand in the box and wait for a ball in. The move almost paid off early with Gardner slicing a ricochet off Rafael into the arms of van der Sar.
Unfortunately for us, the strategy worked in the 89th minute as Bowyer gets on the end of a bounce off Zigic to make it 1-1. On first sight, I didn't see much wrong with the goal but the commentators said there wa a hint of offside by Bowyer and the BBC report is telling me that the ball struck Zigic's arm. Either way, they can't call back goals and so the game ended like that. Disappointment for United away from home, for the seventh time out of eight attempts. Not good boys.
Definitely a frustrating match for United. Perhaps it was fated the minute I forgot to write the Gameday post and Ikmal had to write it (thanks again man). Or maybe it was bound to happen after playing a game so recently and having to face a fresher Birmingham side in extremely cold conditions. Could Park have made a difference here?
Nevertheless a draw's a draw, and we have to take it optimistically. As Ikmal points out:
"St. Andrews has always been a difficult place to go to, especially in the middle of the season. When Berbatov scored, sure, it looked like it would've been a sensational away victory, but a point at this fortress isn't too bad. They've had 1 loss in 23 matches at St. Andrews, so pretty good going, I reckon. And plus, a point is enough to see us top."I guess we can look at it like that, we've got more games to play and the Birmingham trip was always gonna be a toughie.
The game was wraught with fouls and harsh challenges. The one that stood out for me though, was the ever-classy Ryan Giggs and his perfect tackle. He slid in on Bowyer, touched the ball, and then took out the man.
Berbatov looked the most likely to create today, making passes and runs that led to effective moves by United. Maybe he's just used to the extreme cold, coming from Bulgaria and all. Anywho, I digress, what was interesting about this game was that Rooney looked less enthusiastic, at least in my eyes, than Berbatov tonight. If this keeps up, then we may have a big role reversal where Rooney's the lethargic one and Berbatov is the terrier. To be fair to Rooney, he did try to do as much as he could, it just never really came off for him.
Player of the game? Hmm, no one really stood out to me, but I'm not going to be lame and say that the winner was "soccer", cause that's just an excuse for being indecisive. In light of that, I'm giving the award to Ryan Giggs who, other than his perfect sliding tackle, was a menace with his impeccable dribbling and creativity. To me, he's just perfect. My favorite player by a mile. In fact, I think this man should be knighted, don't you?
Where We Stood, Where We Stand
Looks like we're still first with two games in hand over our noisy neighbors. Other than that we're clear of our other rivals by a few points and things shouldn't look too bad now. We're back again on New Year's day for another away game, this time against West Brom. Let's turn this terrible away record around eh boys?