Sunday, February 15, 2009

Derby dismissed; greater ties await

United eased through Derby County today in the FA Cup with a second-string side, led by performances from reborn old man Ryan Giggs, with confident displays from Gibson, Nani, and Evra as he returned from injury lay-off.

Sir Alex Ferguson's eye for future EPL and Champions League fixtures was clear, resting Carrick, Scholes, Berbatov, Tevez, and Vidic. United, though, where quite undaunted and played with the confidence and command their powerful squad profile justifies.

Ferguson's treatment of Scholes is most significant. The ginger-haired midfield architect has been ingratiated slowly back into the squad following a long-term injury layoff. The gaffer clearly has a partnership of Scholes and Carrick in mind as United look to steamroll over competition home and abroad in four competitions, with the Champions League as the top priority.

Anderson's inability to win the favor of his manager this season goes in contrast to the breakout influence the Brazilian enjoyed during the double-winning last season, and opens the curtains for Scholesy to feature again across European nights as he did at the Nou Camp during last season's European Cup semi-final.

Giggs is receiving praise from all corners recently, but Ferguson isn't carried away by the pageantry and realizes, through his selections, that Gigg's worth is multiplied against lesser opposition—his masterful day against Chelsea being a recent exception.

Though Sir Alex suggested Giggs would be deserving of Player of the Year consideration this term, the Welshman's number of appearances—16 overall. compared to Vidic's 34—and in which competitions he makes them—just nine in the EPL—proves his realistic worth, and Fergie's appreciation of it.

Giggs tore Derby apart at times today, but his wisdom is more suited to beguile lesser opposition, meanwhile against tougher sides his lack of speed means he might be lucky to make the starting eleven throughout upcoming landmark matches.

Other positive signs were Johnny Evans returning from his own injury absence to reaffirm himself as firm third option at center back, while Darren Gibson marshaled the midfield at Pride Park with ease as deputy for the rested Michael Carrick.

Patty Evra positively returned and started after only featuring once in January, against Chelsea, on the heels of a three-match suspension, only to become injured in that match, missing another month.

Rafael had a positive run-in, and will be a great, yet slightly naive, attacking option at right-back through the course.

United have a midweek fixture at home to Fulham in the Premier League, following it up again at Old Trafford this weekend versus Blackburn.

Both opponents should offer more opportunities for some squad rotation, but expect Scholes, Vidic, Tevez, Berbatov, and Carrick to start midweek, although some might be given consideration on the weekend as United's European fixture, away to Inter Milan, looms the following Tuesday.

Wayne Rooney is slowly returning from his own two month injury absence. He should ride the pine against Fulham and Blackburn, getting some work in before probably starting at the San Siro, partnering the Bulgarian Berba. Tevez should be getting games off and on with the England striker throughout United's potential 33 remaining matches.

The depth in Manchester United's squad, as key players get much needed rest, hasn't derailed the clinical bulldozing in recent fixtures, and portends well before a truly epic matchup of two of Europe's three on-form sides.

With a nod to Barcelona, who seem score four goals in every fixture and lead Real Madrid in Spain's domestic league by 10 points, United and Inter Milan represent the most powerful club in their respective regions both on current playing form and recent domestic history over the last few seasons.

Inter manager, likable narcissist Jose Mourinho, surely fancies himself succeeding the father-figure he continues to subtly idolize—Sir Alex—just as he surely fancies himself for any of life's positions. He might be filled with more anticipation than any other from the San Siro as the hopefully classic contest draws closer with omen for all.

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