17/10/2009 17:00, Report by Nick Coppack
United 2 Bolton 1
For once, United fans were delighted there were no late goals at Old Trafford.
After cruising through the opening 60 minutes and creating enough chances to have hit double figures, Sir Alex's men ended the match clinging on to a narrow advantage and weathering a barrage of Bolton attacks.
There was a collective sigh of relief when Mark Clattenburg finally blew for full-time, followed by a chorus of “United, top of the league” from the Stretford End. Indeed, despite the visitors’ best efforts and a Matthew Taylor goal 15 minutes from time, an early Zat Knight own goal and Antonio Valencia’s first strike for the Reds netted the three points and ensured United’s top-dog status after Chelsea’s earlier defeat at Aston Villa.
With Wayne Rooney sidelined with a calf injury sustained on England duty, Sir Alex turned to Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen to lead the line against 13th-placed Bolton. It was the first time the pair had started for the Reds and it took just four minutes before United were in front. Owen played a part in the goal, glancing Patrice Evra’s cross before the ball bounced off the hapless Knight and into his own net.
Sir Alex had made wholesale changes in midfield after the Reds’ abject performance against Sunderland a fortnight ago. Anderson and Michael Carrick were preferred in the centre, with Antonio Valencia and Ryan Giggs on the flanks. Anderson was particularly effective, battling well for possession and using the ball intelligently when he invariably won it. When he’s in the mood, the Brazilian’s pass-and-move game is a joy to watch.
Perhaps the most notable change came in goal, where Edwin van der Sar returned between the posts. The Dutchman hadn’t made a competitive appearance since May’s Champions League final after injuring his hand in pre-season and was given a rousing cheer when the teams were announced prior to kick-off.