So Manchester United wins another trophy, Rooney scores another match-winning header and Michael Owen gets injured. What’s new?
Wayne Rooney‘s seventh headed goal in eight matches won United the League Cup against Aston Villa, and he’s only scored four headers in his entire career before this season. He said he’d been working on his heading ability pre-season. Who knows what other part of his game he can improve on next season?
A lot of credit for Rooney’s recent productivity in front of goal should go to Antonio Valencia. His excellent delivery from the right wing has supplied many of Rooney’s goals in the last few matches, and it was the same in the League Cup final. He didn’t get a lot of luck running at the solid Stephen Warnock, but nevertheless sent in several dangerous crosses, including an excellent ball to the far post to find a completely unmarked Rooney who headed against the post.
Michael Owen showed he has the predatory instincts, if not the physical ability, to match Rooney when he expertly swept home the equaliser. Of all people, Dimitar Berbatov tackled Richard Dunne on the edge of the Villa penalty area to provide Owen with the loose ball, which he neatly half-volleyed into the bottom corner of the net on his first touch.
Speaking about the sloth that is Dimitar Berbatov, he had one of his more industrious games last weekend. It was probably the one game this season where those fancy flicks and tricks of his were accompanied by some actual playing and running. Long may that continue.
Villa however, had some star performers too, and gave United a good run for their money early on.
Gabriel Agbonlahor‘s pace brought Villa their first goal, sprinting beyond Nemanja Vidic to force the United defender to conceded a penalty. It could’ve been worse for Vidic, as his embarasssment could have been compounded by a red card as he seemed to be the last man. It shows that Agbonlahor’s pace, strength and desire is good enough to unsettle even the best defenders.
But Villa’s star man was undoubtedly James Milner. His blend of graft and craft in the centre of midfield would be better complemented with proper defensive midfielder, but paired with Stiliyan Petrov, they looked a bit lightweight defensively, and allowed United plenty of space in front of the back four. Nevertheless, he was an absolute class act on the ball, and very hardworking off it.
In terms of potential World Cup squad members, I think Milner and his teammate Ashley Young‘s names should be right up there. Their ability to operate in more than one position makes them ideal back-up for the first XI, and they aren’t short of quality either.
Man of the Match for me, however, was Park Ji Sung. He covered every blade of grass, and was a constant thorn in Villa’s side. He tackled, dribbled, ran and passed excellently for the entire time he was on the field. It was like having two left wingers – one for attacking and one for defending. Absolutely frightening.
He almost capped an outstanding performance with a goal, a sweet volley that rattled the post. Once his near misses start turning into goals, the little South Korean will truly be a defender’s nightmare. He’s been struggling for form and games since returning from injury, but if he keeps coming up with performances like that, he will be indispensable to United’s title push.