After scraping a draw against Spurs the previous week, United returned to the sanctuary of Old Trafford, where the reds had won all but one of their premier league games this season. Visitors Birmingham City had robbed United of a win at St Andrews earlier in the season after a controversial last minute goal from Lee Bowyer salvaged a draw, and Fergie’s men were keen to rectify this with a strong performance. United welcomed back Anderson to the starting line up, but were dealt a blow by an injury to Rio Ferdinand which could rule him out of the important game in hand against Blackpool in the week and possibly the FA cup clash against Southampton at the weekend.
Any doubts about United’s lack of cutting edge against a resolute Birmingham defence were quickly banished, as United took an early lead through Dimitar Berbatov who nodded home John O Shea’s flick on at the front post. With their gameplan unravelled early, Birmingham looked lost as United proceeded to cut them open with alarming regularity, as Rooney and Berbatov in particular looked in the mood for goals. An inevitable second arrived on the half hour mark, as a poor mistake from Roger Jonhson allowed Rooney to break and find Berbatov who cut inside and lashed home his second of the game and 17th of the season. Critics have frequently suggested United haven’t really played well this season, however this performance seemed to be the waking of a sleeping giant, and United’s third epitomised this as Rooney and Berbatov linked up sublimely, before Rooney’s inch perfect cross was smashed home by Giggs to secure the three points.
With 2 more games to come this week, United would have been forgiven for taking their foot off the gas and cruising to a comfortable victory. Instead however, United made their intentions to add to their goal tally very clear immediately after half time, as Rooney squandered a glorious chance at the back post to grab what would have been a much needed goal for his confidence. United weren’t forced to wait long however, as in the 53rd minute Ryan Giggs’s cross was steered home by Berbatov for his 3rd hat trick of the season, taking his goal tally to 18 in the process. The rout was completed 15 minutes before time, as the largely wasteful Nani converted a brilliant left footed shot from the edge of the area after being allowed to advance by the Birmingham defence. Although Nani was and has been a constant source of frustration to United fans, his role in the team is absolutely integral as he continues to provide and score goals on a weekly basis.
5 – 0 was in truth a flattering scoreline for Birmingham, with United attempting 24 shots on goal and having the lions share of possession throughout. In a crucial week for United, the convincing result and excellent performance will give a great confidence boost to the side, and hopefully will give us the momentum required ahead of the big games against Blackpool and Southampton. Traditionally United come to form at this time of the season, and hopefully this win will kick start our run in, and ensure we go on to seal number 19.