Manchester United eased through to the 4th round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory over West Ham in a game that was used by Sir Alex to rotate his squad and bed in several players returning from injury.
In fact, only Rafael and Hernandez can really claim to be match fit from United’s starting XI. Lindegaard took his place in net, behind Rafael, Smalling, Jones and Buttner. Nani and Anderson returned from injuries in midfield alongside Giggs and Valencia, with Rooney and Hernandez up front.
While the game itself was short on clear cut chances, the goal United did score was as simple as they come. Anderson played a perfect through ball into the path of Hernandez who beat the offside trap and squared to Rooney for a tap in. The scouser would later blast a penalty over the bar, and otherwise looked like, well, he was returning from an injury.
This lack of match sharpness was quite understandably a running theme through the team. Nani looked fantastic at times, but had wayward touches, as did Anderson who only lasted his customary 70 minutes. Valencia still isn’t quite looking himself and relies on the dynamic play of Rafael behind him to distract his attacker with under or overlapping runs. Lindegaard continues to fill me with dread every time he kicks the ball out – frequently into touch or to the opposition, and even misplaced a 15 yard pass along the ground tonight and every time i see Buttner play i’m more convinced he falls asleep in every lesson on defending, and is instead a ‘quite-good-back-up-wannabe-left-winger’.
All of the above can be addressed, to a degree, with playing time though (and some penalty practice in the case of Rooney) so tonight’s game should be viewed in a positive light for all, especially so for Smalling and Jones who were absolutely superb at the back.