23/11/2009 09:51, Report by Stewart Gardner, MUTV
Relaxing day at the office
At last, a game at Old Trafford where you don’t end up a nervous wreck! We’ve grown used to biting fingernails this season and enduring gut-wrenching tension in most of our home games.
We’ve prayed for as much stoppage time as possible against City, Sunderland and CSKA Moscow, we’ve been utterly desperate for the ref to blow the final whistle in the games with Arsenal and Bolton and we’ve shifted uneasily in our seats as the Reds just about got over the line against Birmingham and Wolfsburg.
But on Saturday, it was bliss for those of a nervous disposition. We had the cigars and deckchairs out long before the end. How much injury time was going to be added on? Who cares? The job was done with a quarter of the game still to go. Frankly, the Old Trafford experience would be a pretty dull one if every game was like that. But now and then, an autopilot victory is exactly what’s required.
I was delighted that Darren Fletcher showed yet again what a crucial player he has become for United. He must have endured a couple of rough weeks. Firstly he was wrongly booked for diving against CSKA Moscow, then wrongly penalised for tackling Ashley Cole in the Chelsea game and then to top it all he captained Scotland to a 3-0 defeat against Wales. But at Old Trafford on Saturday, he produced a typical all-action performance and scored perhaps his best ever United goal.
Credit too must go to Antonio Valencia who seems to have become an automatic pick on the right side of midfield. He’s got pace, strength and trickery and is improving with every game. And he’s already got four goals for United – more than half the total number of goals he scored in his Wigan career – a real bonus.
And didn’t it feel good to keep a clean sheet? Despite severely depleted defensive resources, United looked rock solid at the back. Last season’s incredible run of 14 consecutive clean sheets started this time a year ago and was the building block for another