‘We’re Man United, we do what we want’, United fans have taken to singing this season, and that was the team's mantra as the Reds, led by hat-trick hero Dimitar Berbatov, brilliantly and ruthlessly took Birmingham City apart with unopposed ease.
Berbatov sealed a hat-trick of hat-tricks in 2010/11 – the first Red to achieve that since Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2002/03 – while Ryan Giggs and Nani completed a comprehensive 5-0 win. The gap should have been much wider in a display on a par with an equally chilly day in November when Sir Alex Ferguson’s side brutally beat Blackburn Rovers 7-1.
Birmingham, already missing influential defender Scott Dann, perhaps had one eye on their midweek Carling Cup semi-final second-leg tie with West Ham, as Craig Gardner, Sebastian Larsson and Cameron Jerome were all among their substitutes. For United, Rafael’s suspension meant John O’Shea got his first appearance since the 4-0 cup loss at West Ham in November. Rio Ferdinand was also missing with a groin injury, but Chris Smalling confidently stepped in to partner Nemanja Vidic.
Otherwise, it was the team that claimed a 0-0 draw last week at Tottenham Hotspur. And while those battling qualities might have been expected of Sir Alex’s men, it was goals the Reds boss was after. This fixture hasn’t had a habit of producing them of late; in fact, neither team had scored more than once in the previous five meetings. Determined to buck that trend – and continue the Reds' fine home form – United were ahead within two minutes as Nani won a corner off Liam Ridgewell, and Ryan Giggs whipped in a cross which was flicked on by John O’Shea at the front post and turned home by Berbatov from close range at the back post.
The Reds were rampant, swarming forward and pinning a beleaguered Birmingham powerlessly into their own half with a series of rapid attacks and corners. United are not famed for being dangerous from corner kicks,