Following last weekends FA cup frivolities, United returned to league action with a clash against Lancashire rivals Bolton Wanderers. Having suffered two consecutive defeats in the league, and now lagging 3 points behind leaders City, United knew that victory was essential in order to maintain their title bid. Having returned to action in dramatic circumstances last week, Paul Scholes was handed his first start upon return to the club alongside Michael Carrick, in one of only 3 changes to the United line up.
With City only playing on Monday night, United knew a victory would take them to within goal difference at the top of the table, and began the game intent upon righting the wrongs of their previous league performances. A sumptuous 40 yard ball from Michael Carrick to Danny Welbeck created the opening chance of the game for the reds within 5 minutes, the England striker however was well thwarted by Bogdan in the Bolton goal. Concerted United pressure was beginning to tell, as Antonio Valencia continued to impress on the right wing giving Bolton left back Ricketts a torrid time. A delightful interchange between Welbeck and Valencia put the latter clear on goal, only for Zat Knight to clumsily bundle Welbeck to ground handing United the chance to open the scoring from the spot. Up stepped Rooney, but his spot kick was splendidly saved by the inspired Bogdan, diving away to his right to deny Rooney for the second time in a week, and leaving United frustrated.
With half time looming however, the moment all in attendance were waiting for arrived, as Rooney’s cross found Paul Scholes free at the back post, and the United midfielder rolled back the years to finish expertly and send Old Trafford into a rapturous chorus of ‘He scores goals.’ Having seemingly broken Bolton’s spirit, United looked to consolidate their lead in the second half and add to their goal’s for tally. However, Bolton were dogged in their resistance, whilst offering little in the way of attacking threat, making for a nervy second half for the reds. Valencia’s cross to Rooney seemed to have presented the perfect opportunity to kill the game, but Rooney on the stretch could not divert the ball towards the gaping goal, in an afternoon of frustration for the United talisman. Instead, it was United’s rising star, Danny Welbeck, who settled the matter 15 minutes from time, latching onto Rooney’s through ball and slotting home past the onrushing Bogdan, a just reward for yet another fine performance.
A final flurry from the reds threatened, as the magnificent Valencia tortured the Bolton back four with pace, power and decisive delivery, but it was the cultured left foot of Michael Carrick which added the gloss on to United’s victory, slotting home from 20 yards into the bottom corner and capping a fine performance. 3-0 represented a good day’s work and a professional performance against what were in truth a hapless Bolton side, as United embark upon a run of 8 crucial games which will likely decide the fate of the reds season.
Lindegaard – 6 Spectator for most of the game.
Rafael – 6 Enthusiastic attacker, good clearance off the line.
Ferdinand – 6 Handled N’gog competently.
Evans – 6 Relief to have proper centre back.
Evra – 7 Very confident performance.
Valencia – 8 MOTM Tortured Ricketts all afternoon, textbook display of wing play.
Carrick – 8 Superb performance, dominated the game.
Scholes -6 Well taken goal, looked rusty otherwise.
Nani – 6 Failed to make same impact as Valencia.
Rooney – 6 Looked frustrated throughout game.
Welbeck – 8 Intelligent movement and build up play.
Giggs – 6 Added extra dynamism to midfield.
Hernandez – 5 Did little of note.
Park – 6