Manchester United’s poor run of away form continued as they failed to hold on to three points against Birmingham.
Dimitar Berbatov managed to give United the lead, but Lee Bowyer scored a controversial equaliser at the 90th minute to earn Birmingham a point. Sir Alex made just one change from the match against Sunderland, Darron Gibson coming into the squad in place of Ji Sung Park. St. Andrew’s over the past two seasons has become a tough place to win and in the midst of a thick fog, fans had their fingers crossed for a tentative encounter.
From the outset, Birmingham employed their tough-to-break-down 4-5-1 formation, and while they did not provide much threat to United in an attacking sense, the players and fans were frustrated by the lack of decent possession. They almost got lucky when Giggs attempted a cross from the right that looped towards goal, but ex-United goalkeeper Ben Foster did well to tip the effort against the post. The lack of width was evident in United’s attacks — Giggs preferred to cut-in at most times, and the interchanges between Rooney and Gibson on the right did not provide much support for the forward runs of Rafael either.
The Birmingham back-line of Scott Dann, Ridgewell, Carr and Johnson provided great support to Foster, and it was largely their collective effort that prevented United from having many clear-cut chances on goal. Wayne Rooney cut a forlorn figure in the United attack, and in contrast to the previous game against Sunderland, found nothing going his way. Interestingly, Lee Bowyer might have been sent off in the first half for a terrible challenged on Gibson, but was lucky to escape with just a yellow card.
The second half proceeded in much the same manner, although the so-far anonymous figure of Dimitar Berbatov started to influence the game more and more. Indeed, in the 58th minute, he was the one to provide the breakthrough. An impudent flick to Gibson and he set off towards the edge of the box, where after receiving the ball, took a touch and shot to swerve into the bottom corner. It was a majestic finish, and he almost got another a few seconds later after a magnificent piece of skill, but was unlucky to see his shot come off the post. His play henceforth exhibited all the attributes of a man in good form and with great confidence in his own ability.
As Birmingham pushed for a late equaliser, United started to catch them out on the break. There was one incident in particular when Gibson and Berbatov were all but clear, but Gibson’s cross was cleared away before reaching an unmarked Berbatov in the box. Zigic and Hleb were brought on as lifelines to save the game for Alex McLeish’s side, and it was the former who managed to contribute, albeit in largely controversial circumstances. A cross came in from the right, and not only did Zigic seem to foul Ferdinand, the cross also appeared to hit his arm AND Bowyer appeared to be offside before scoring. In addition, on might argue that the scorer should not have been on the pitch in the first place.
All in all, a point is certainly not the worst result by any means at St. Andrew’s — Chelsea lost here, remember — and United are still top with two games in hand. The team certainly missed the likes of Park and Nani, and many of the fans were disappointed with certain players’ performances, Rooney and Gibson in particular. It is disappointing to drop points at the final stages away from home yet again, and this is certainly something that needs to be improved upon as we enter the “squeaky bum” period of the season. Hopefully, that elusive second away win of the season will come against West Brom, who we play at the weekend.
Best Moment: Berbatov’s goal
Worst Moment: Bowyer’s last-minute equaliser
Man of the Match: Dimitar Berbatov
Written by member Sownak27