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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

West Bromwich Vs. Manchester United Match Report

A scintillating display of attacking football ensured United’s biggest win of the season at The Hawthorns as the Reds set a new defensive record of 11 clean sheets.

Goals from Dimitar Berbatov, Carlos Tevez, Nemanja Vidic and a brace from Cristiano Ronaldo sealed a 5-0 victory over West Brom, who lost their skipper Paul Robinson just before half-time.

At the other end, Edwin van der Sar kept his 11th consecutive sheet to break Chelsea’s 2004/05 Premier League record and ensure the Reds moved three points clear at the top of the table.

Reports going into the game suggested United could be without as many as 12 first team squad members. While it was certainly true to say United were missing some key performers, including Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra and Anderson, they were boosted by the return of Rio Ferdinand at the heart of the defence for the first time since the Club World Cup final last month. Ji-sung Park was also available after a hamstring strain had kept him out of the FA Cup win over Spurs, as was Cristiano Ronaldo who had been forced off with a virus in the latter stages of the cup win. Wes Brown meanwhile was named on the bench following three months on the sidelines with an ankle problem.

West Brom had injury problems of their own with ex-Red and Baggies’ skipper Jonathan Greening (knee), striker Luke Moore (hamstring) and defenders Leon Barnett (hamstring) and Jonas Olsson (knee) all out.

Having been forced to wait and additional half an hour after the kick-off was delayed due to traffic congestion, both teams seemed keen to make up for lost time.

Just two minutes in Park found Berbatov, coming in from the right touchline, but the Bulgarian’s daisycutter was straight into the grateful arms of Scott Carson. Almost immediately the home side headed upfield with Marc-Antoine Fortune winning a corner off Rio Ferdinand. The subsequent set-piece pinballed around the area, before being punched clear by van der Sar but only as far as Borja Valero whose bobbling effort was booted off the line by Michael Carrick.

A minute later Gary Neville was caught in possession by Jay Simpson, Arsenal’s on loan striker, who burst forward. Thankfully his deflected shot, which had van der Sar scrambling low down to his right, flew wide.

The action showed no signs of abating as Park fired a 7th minute shot straight at Carson after being found well by Michael Carrick. The Baggies’ stopper came to his side’s rescue three minutes later when a defensive mix-up between Pele (no, not him!) and Ryan Donk let Berbatov in. But Carson was there to smother the ball as the striker looked to lift it over him.

After a couple of early scares, the Reds were beginning to slip into gear. And on 22 minutes Berbatov slipped the ball through Carson’s legs to give United the advantage. Giggs fed the Bulgarian who brilliantly swapped passes with Carrick before calmly slotting home his 11th goal of the season and third in as many games.

The Reds were at their breathtaking best three minutes later. Giggs collected possession in his own half before powering forward and finding Ronaldo on the left. The winger continued the surge forward and found Tevez with a low centre, but the Argentine’s snap-shot went the wrong side of the post.

Soon after Gary Neville had a strong penalty appeal turned down (although replays showed Chris Brunt got the slightest of touches on the ball), while Ronaldo lifted the ball over Carson, after being put through by Giggs, but wide of the far post.

West Brom still posed a threat at the other end and Gianni Zuiverloon fluffed a good chance to draw the home side level six minutes from the break. Fortune and Vidic both jumped for the ball which fell to the unmarked Zuiverloon but he volleyed horribly wide.

Seconds later Tony Mowbray’s side found themselves down to ten men, albeit rather harshly. Park and Paul Robinson both slid in for a 50/50 challenge, but referee Rob Styles deemed the Baggies’ skipper’s attempt to win the ball as a little too malicious for his liking and promptly produced his red card. Three quarters of The Hawthorns exploded in frustration and you could understand why. Thankfully Park was quickly up on his feet after some brief treatment from physio Rob Swire.

The Reds made the most of their numerical advantage a minute before the break when Carlos Tevez doubled their lead. A Giggs free-kick from the right was inexplicably dropped by Carson allowing Tevez to pounce and blast home from three yards.

United showed no signs of letting up after the restart when Giggs found himself through on goal virtually from the kick-off, but his attempted chip sailed over.

Berbatov had a goal chalked off for offside on 53 minutes – he was… just. Four minutes later Donk smashed a scorching shot against the post after some neat interplay on the edge of the box, but United were still dominating proceedings. And they went 3-0 up on the hour-mark when Vidic stooped to head home his sixth goal of the season from a Giggs corner.

Both players were involved in the Reds’ fourth goal and what a goal it was. Having manfully held off two West Brom players, Vidic found Tevez who slipped a pass into Giggs. The Welshman could have shot, but he opted to find Ronaldo who slammed the ball home.

On 73 minutes the winger scored his second of the night, slotting through Carson’s legs after great play again from outstanding Berbatov. It was the 21st time the winger had scored twice in a game for the Reds.

Brown, Tosic and Eckersley were all given a run-out in the closing stages, during which United almost netted a sixth, but Tevez's shot was brilliantly palmed away by Carson.

The victory edged the Reds three points clear of Liverpool at the top of the table and on this form United look set to stay there for a while yet.

West Bromwich Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

West Bromwich [0 - 5] Manchester United
22' [0 - 1] D. Berbatov
44' [0 - 2] C.A. Tevez
60' [0 - 3] N. Vidic
65' [0 - 4] C. Ronaldo
73' [0 - 5] C. Ronaldo

0-1 D.Berbatov 22'

0-2 C.Tévez 44'

0-3 N.Vidic 61'

0-4 C. Ronaldo 65'

0-5 C. Ronaldo 73'