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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Subs thrill Sir Alex

United's second-half performance against Bolton epitomised the squad game for Sir Alex Ferguson.

Three attacking substitutes helped the Reds to claim the two-goal cushion that a lion's share of the possession merited - the first two, Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes, earning particular praise from their boss.

"If we're getting responses like Wayne's, in the squad we have, then it's terrific for the club," said Sir Alex, after rating Rooney's goal as "fantastic."

As for Scholes, the manager added: "On these hot days we feel it's better to bring on Paul as a sub when the game's cooled down a bit in the second half. I think it was his 400th league game today and he showed why he's played 400 league games at our club. Marvellous stuff at times."

Nani later became United's third sub and came close to scoring the third goal with a few decent attempts. It meant the Reds ended the second half in a more menacing manner than they had the first. Indeed, for all the champions' first-period dominance, it was Bolton who almost took a half-time lead through Fabrice Muamba.

"We were careless with our possession at time in the first half and we got caught on the counter attack," conceded Sir Alex.

"I felt we played too tightly. There were too many six-yard passes, instead of spreading the game quicker. In the second half we had far more width in our game and I'm very satisfied with how the game turned out.

"I think it was a well deserved victory. We played some fantastic football at times - we have the individuals to do that when you consider the skills of Scholes, Anderson, Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez and Berbatov.

"There is an array of talent here. We just have to garner it together and get compact teamwork out of it."

Sir Alex could shuffle his side again in midweek, for a somewhat different test in the shape of Aalborg BK away in the Champions League.

"I opted to leave Wes Brown out but he'll be involved on Tuesday," said Sir Alex. However there was some bad news for another absentee from the 18 selected against Bolton.

"Hargreaves is feeling his knee again," revealed the manager.

Berba: I'd rather win than score

Dimitar Berbatov doesn’t care if he fails to find the net… as long as United keep winning.

The former Tottenham Hotspur striker has yet to open his account for the Reds but shone in his home debut against Bolton. The 27-year-old was disappointed not to get on the scoresheet but insisted there are more important issues.

“I really wanted to score a goal,” he told MUTV. “But the three points are the most important thing and we were the better team today. We scored two goals but missed four or five chances.”

Incredibly, some critics had blasted Berbatov after just two appearances for the Reds. But the Bulgarian let his football do the talking on Saturday, with an inspired performance alongside Carlos Tevez and, later, Wayne Rooney.

“I’m happy with how I’m playing, particularly after today,” he said. “The game was good for me. I didn’t take my chances so hopefully in the future I will score.

“I think today was a big improvement from myself and from the team. I’m working really hard to help the team and so I can develop a better understanding with everyone. I’m sure that will happen.”

He certainly impressed his manager. Sir Alex was effusive in his praise for the recent arrival and heralded his ability to control the ball under pressure.

"We learned today how good Berbatov is," Sir Alex said. "You don't need to pass to him in space all the time. You can pass to him when he's marked – he's brilliant at that and he produced some great moments, as did a lot of the players. His touch was fantastic at times."

Berbatov's best moments arguably came after the introduction of Wayne Rooney on 71 minutes, a fact not lost on the Bulgarian.

“What can I say about this guy?" Berbatov said. "Wayne came on and scored a wonderful goal. In fact, when [he and Paul Scholes] came on our football improved a lot.”

Bosses bemused by penalty award

One talking point dominated the banter after United's win over Bolton - referee Rob Styles' decision to award a penalty to the Reds in the second half.

"Rob Styles has dropped a massive clanger. It was one of the worst refereeing decisions ever," said Reds legend Lou Macari, speaking on MUTV.

Bolton boss Gary Megson complained in his press conference, "It was a nonsense decision. After all the talk about technology being used to help referees, what did we come up with this summer? A campaign to show more respect to referees. How ironic."

Sir Alex Ferguson empathised with his opposite number but was naturally delighted to take the "lucky break" when Cristiano Ronaldo picked himself up after being tackled by Jloyd Samuel and scored from the spot.

"I was surprised," said Sir Alex.

"I haven't seen it again (on TV yet) but it looked to me as if the Bolton player (Samuel) got a foot on the ball.

"But Rob Styles turned down four or five for us last season, so maybe we're getting payback now. But he still owes us four!

"It was a little break for us. I still think we would have won the game okay but when the opposition are sitting in front of the penalty box and defending with the determination that Bolton showed, it's difficult to break them down. You need little breaks like that."

Manchester United Vs. Bolton Match Report

It was those familiar names – Ronaldo and Rooney – on the scoresheet once again at Old Trafford as United beat Bolton Wanderers 2-0.

And although referee Rob Styles gifted the Reds a penalty to open the scoring after an hour, Sir Alex’s men proved their superiority time and time again over the 90 minutes. As has been the case over the years, only the brilliance of Jussi Jaaskelainen in the Bolton goal kept the score respectable.

The manager made four changes to the side that drew 1-1 at Chelsea last weekend. Despite five goals in his last five starts against Bolton, Wayne Rooney had to be content with a place on the bench. He was joined there by fellow Stamford Bridge starters Paul Scholes and Jonny Evans.

Nemanja Vidic reclaimed his spot in the heart of the Reds’ defence, while Cristiano Ronaldo earned his first league start of the season. Anderson replaced Owen Hargreaves in midfield, with Sir Alex opting for Carlos Tevez up front alongside Dimitar Berbatov.

But it was Bolton who engineered the first shot on goal, Kevin Nolan firing a crisp half-volley into van der Sar’s midriff after just two minutes. The Trotters enjoyed the lion’s share of possession early on and the visiting fans were in fine voice.

Then the Reds stepped up a gear. Anderson, Berbatov and Ronaldo combined well before the Bulgarian had half a chance to head United into the lead on 12 minutes. Fletcher’s pinpoint cross found the former Spurs forward eight yards from goal but his header lacked the necessary power to beat Jaaskelainen.

United went close again after a quarter of an hour when the ‘keeper spilled Tevez’s shot into the path of Ji-sung Park. Unlike last weekend at Stamford Bridge, however, Park couldn’t direct the follow-up into the net.

Bolton’s custodian was called into action once again in order to beat out Ronaldo’s free-kick after Gavin McCann had unceremoniously upended the no.7 25 yards from goal.

Anderson was next to stretch the Finn, with a curling shot from wide of the penalty area on 34 minutes. He tipped that effort over the bar and then flung himself to his left two minutes later to keep out Rio Ferdinand’s half-volley.

Despite United’s dominance the Reds almost went into the break a goal down. Only Fabrice Muamba will know how he missed the best chance of the match, blazing wide from eight yards when he had both space and time to pick his spot.

Normal service resumed after the break, with Ronaldo’s scuffed shot hitting the post on 49 minutes. Then it was a last-ditch block that denied the Portuguese international the opener after an exquisite ball from Berbatov found Ji-sung Park in space.

Ronny did find the net on the hour, although referee Rob Styles’ decision to award United a penalty for an alleged trip on the no.7 was rather bizarre.
With Ronaldo cutting across the penalty area from the right wing, Jlloyd Samuel got nothing but ball in his attempt to stop the winger’s run. Styles, however, deemed the tackle illegal and had no hesitation pointing to the penalty spot.

When Bolton’s protests died down, Ronny calmly strode forward, stuttered in his run-up and sent Jaaskelainen the wrong way to put the Reds in front.

The goal prompted changes from Sir Alex shortly afterwards, with Tevez and Anderson making way for Rooney and Scholes.
Rooney looked particularly sharp and sparked almost from the moment he set foot on the pitch. It was hardly surprising, then, that the no.10 added a second just seven minutes after his introduction.

Ronaldo darted into the Bolton area and, with Rooney following his lead, backheeled the ball into the England striker’s path. Rooney shaped to shoot first time but sold a dummy to his marker. That made him enough time to look up, pick his spot and curl the ball neatly into the far corner.

Scholes and Berbatov both could have (and should have) added a third before the end, but it mattered little as United picked up a deserved three points. It wasn’t quite top gear but there was enough promise to suggest that’s just around the corner.

United: Van der Sar; Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Ronaldo (Nani 80), Fletcher, Anderson (Scholes 71), Park; Tevez (Rooney 71), Berbatov

Subs not used: Amos, Evans, O’Shea, Giggs

Bolton: Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, A O’Brien, Samuel; Davies, Muamba, McCann, Nolan, Gardner (Smolarek 73); Elmander (Vaz Te 67)

Subs not used: Al Habsi, J O’Brien, Shittu, Taylor, Riga
Booked: Elmander, McCann, Davies

Attendance: 75,484

Manchester United Vs. Bolton Highlights Video Clip

Manchester United [2 - 0] Bolton (Premiere League)
60' [1 - 0] C. Ronaldo (pen.)
77' [2 - 0] W. Rooney