Not many teams win at the Britannia, and even fewer win beautifully against the tough Potters. Manchester United did both, to varying degrees.
Make no mistake - this wasn't a vintage performance with those rampaging wingers nor those periods of ceaseless pressure. However, it was a fluid performance with four of United's attackers in Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, Shinji Kagawa and Javier Chicarito Hernandez on the pitch at the same time. The surprise package, of course, was Rooney in midfield - a fascinating subplot for next season. United's attackers showed promise and effort, and saw out a quite comfortable victory sealed by, finally, an RvP goal!
The Potters have been "dropping like a stone", to borrow an abused adage, and this was never going to be a particularly tricky game. That said, the Britannia is a slaughterhouse for the meek, and an early Michael Carrick goal from some woeful corner defending settled quite a few nerves. For the rest of the half, United were comfortable, while not lacking in effort - the attackers eg.Kagawa and the defenders eg. Vidic, playing alongside long-time partner Rio Ferdinand, were equally fierce attacking the ball. Despite a period of pressure around the middle of the half, there was not much to write home about (except number of slips and falls by all and sundry).
The second was, well, more of the first. Scrappy stuff, with a Rooney free kick coming close before his through ball on a break led to an elegant cutback from RvP, who was brought down for a penalty. Under gusty conditions, the dutchman scored his first goal for the club since February, an absolutely beautiful low shot that gave the keeper no chance. Cue mad celebrations - something I personally have been wanting for a while - a Fergie bear hug, hifi's with Alex Buttner (?) and what not. Relief was writ large on his face, and almost immediately the cutting edge was back!
A good day - we were better than most of our recent performances for sure, against tough if not great opponents, and RvP on the scoresheet. 15 points clear with City not playing this week, and the magic number is down to 7.
Apologies guys - Technical difficulties delayed the PMR, and my part in the Live Thread.