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Lessons Learned from Manchester United's Draw with Bolton

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Following a succession of two away draws, Manchester United were determined to earn their first three points on the road, playing Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium. Sir Alex made a host of changes from the League Cup side that beat Scunthorpe, basically starting with the same eleven as in the win against Liverpool. A bit of a North-West derby this, but it was the away fans who were making all the noise at the start of the match.

The match started brightly for the team in red, with Giggs looking particularly lively down the left. Fletcher and Scholes were running the show in midfield, with the former making a number of late runs into the box, causing alarms in the Bolton defence on more than one occasion. Nani looked threatening on the right side as well, but keeping in tune with the weekend’s theme, it was Bolton who took the lead after sustaining the early pressure. Set pieces would always pose a danger to United, and it was from a corner that Zat Knight scored from, sticking out his right foot to a floated ball in. Evans and Evra looked suspect for the goal, the former for being on the wrong side of Knight, and the latter for being positioned poorly at the post.

This goal served as some sort of wake-up call for United, and they went close immediately after, but Giggs hit Nani’s grounded cross straight at Jääskelainen. There was another heart-in-the-mouth situation for the United defence, when Kevin Davies headed down a long ball, but Elmander failed to make any contact with the ball just in front of van der Sar. Nani then became the hero of the moment. Picking up the ball from within his own half, he drove forward, and side stepping three Bolton defenders before shooting into the bottom corner from 18 yards out. Rooney came close soon after, but his well-struck shot went over the bar. Disappointing to be level at half time considering the chances, but positives could be taken that Rooney had played better in this game than anytime before this season.

The second half started with more pressure from Bolton, Kevin Davies causing more and more problems to Evans. Elmander came close, once again from a Kevin Davies knock down, but lashed his shot wide. Sir Alex took off Rooney and brought on Macheda to bring some more physical presence to the United side. Uncharacteristically however, United were caught on the brake and after failing to deal with the initial cross, Martin Petrov cut in and smashed into the net via a deflection off Darren Fletcher. An unfortunate goal to concede, but that’s the price the team had to pay for failing to be alert in defence. Elmander then had another chance to put the game beyond United, after a mistake by Evans, but flicking past Vidic, managed to blaze his shot well over the bar.

Michael Owen was brought on to play the role of “supersub”, and certainly did so, heading home a Nani freekick to bring the score to 2-2. This left many fans wondering why he had not been brought on earlier, especially considering his good performance in the League Cup. There was only three minutes to be added on, but there were no more chances to be had. Just a point then, and yet another two points dropped, which seems worse seeing as both Arsenal and Chelsea failed to register any points the day before. But it is a good result against a physically challenging Bolton side, playing a different kind of game under Owen Coyle. The major concern, yet again, will be the standard of defending, which seems a mile off the peak that it reached two seasons ago. Evans and Evra don’t look as sharp as they were last season, and let’s hope something is sorted out before the tough Champions League match away to Valencia.

Best Moment: Owen’s equaliser

Worst Moment: Petrov’s goal giving Bolton the lead for the second time

Man of the Match: Nani

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Written by Sownak27


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