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Man United 1 Rovers 2


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Match Report by Scotty

The team news before the game was greeted with complete shock and surprise. It seemed Hughes had picked virtually every attacking player we had to play away at Old Trafford!! Bellamy and Dickov up front, Tugay in the centre, Bentley on the right, Gray at left back - all incredibly attacking.

And we started well. For the first ten minutes we took the game to United and looked sharp. We competed well in midfield and always had an outlet ball thanks to Bellamy's intelligent running down the channels. We created a couple of half chances as well but failed to put them away.

But United soon came back at us and, for the next 20 minutes or so, gave us a bit of a going over really. They created chance after chance, not just half chances either, but thankfully their finishing was awful and most of their shots failed to hit the target. But even during this period we weren't out of the game and we managed to create two gilt-edged chances on the break.

The first saw Bellamy running down the right wing and hitting a tremendous cross towards Dickov in the middle. Unfortunately the ball bounced up to an awkward height and all Dickov could really do was throw himself at the ball with a diving header. As a result he couldn't direct as well as he'd like and Van de Sar made a comfortable save. The second chance found Bentley, after a bit of a scramble, in yards of space in the area with just the goalie to beat. It was a good save in the end but Bentley should really have scored.

No worries though as shortly afterwards we did score. Pedersen whipped in a free-kick from the right touchline, a number of players tried, and failed, to get a touch, and the ball drifted gloriously into the far corner of the net.

We saw the rest of the half out fairly comfortably and went in at half-time with the lead.

Hughes tried to shore things up a little at half-time by replacing Tugay with Mokoena, but we all knew that United would come out firing and that's exactly what happened. The introduction of Rooney in particular sparked a spell of United pressure, we failed to hold onto the ball long enough to relieve the defence, and eventually United got their equaliser. A great turn and shot from Rooney was spilled by Friedel, and Van Nistlerooy followed up with a simple tap-in. A rare mistake by Friedel, but why didn't any of our defenders anticipate the rebound?

The thing that impressed me most about this Rovers performance was the way we reacted to the equaliser. Instead of sitting back and clinging on for a point we rolled our sleeves up and took the game back to United. We started passing and running with the ball again, Emerton (on as sub for Bentley) in particular made a difference and gave us an outlet ball, our full-backs continued to push on and link up with the attack, and we genuinely looked the better team again. As a result we fully deserved our winner.

A cross from the right was half-cleared by United's defence, but we kept the pressue on and forced Scholes to give the ball away on the edge of the area. Gray slipped a pass to Pedersen who rocketed a great shot into the roof of the net from another tight angle. It's becoming his speciality.

We saw the game out fairly comfortably after that and got a win at Old Trafford for the first time in my lifetime.

Let's start at the front. Bellamy was fantastic - my man of the match. He makes some fantastic, intelligent runs and his pace is always a threat on the counter-attack. He works his socks off as well and never let the United defence settle all game. Dickov also worked hard and was ok generally, but still didn't look as sharp as he should. He probably needs a couple more games before getting back to his best.

Bentley did a lot of good things on the ball, should have scored, and used possession well. He seemed to tire in the second half though and was replaced by Emerton - who made a real impact. On the other flank Pedersen had a great game. Apart from his two goals he looked a threat throughout, linked up well with the forwards, and was tidy on the ball.

In the centre Savage did what he always does, worked hard, scrapped for the ball, broke up opposition attacks, and generally unsettled United. Tugay was fairly quiet imo and was subbed at half-time for Mokoena, who defended well in the second half.

Our full-backs attacked superbly throughout and linked up with the forwards at every opportunity. However, I thought both defended poorly at times and United were allowed to put far too many crosses into our box, especially in the first half. Nelsen was, yet again, great in the centre of defence and impresses me more with every game. His partner Zurab also played well, took a couple of knocks for his trouble as well, but battled bravely on for the cause. He's composed on the ball as well and was often the start of our counter-attacks.

Friedel made a mistake for United's goal, but also made a couple of great saves at vital times.

All in all it was a fantastic, totally unexpected, victory. The way we achieved it though was the real surprise. We took the game to United and gave them as good as we got. Sure, they could, and probably should, have scored more goals than they did, but then so should we. Now that we've got our forwards fit, it seems that Hughes may have decided that attack is our best form of defence. If he has it could be an exciting rest of the season.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, O'Shea (Bardsley 57), Ferdinand, Silvestre, Richardson, Fletcher (Rooney 55), Smith, Scholes, Ronaldo, van Nistelrooy, Park (Giggs 69).

Subs Not Used: Howard, Miller.

Booked: Ronaldo.

Goals: van Nistelrooy 67.

Rovers: Friedel, Neill, Khizanishvili, Nelsen, Gray, Bentley (Emerton 75), Tugay (Mokoena 45), Savage, Pedersen, Bellamy, Dickov (Reid 63).

Subs Not Used: Kuqi, Enckelman.

Booked: Savage, Bentley, Bellamy.

Goals: Pedersen 33, 81.

Att: 67,765

Referee: P Dowd

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